What Is The Story Behind Mahalaya Amavasya?

 The Mahalaya Amavasya is considered an auspicious day in the Hindu calendar. Known to be a time to pay respects to ancestors, this 15-day (Mahalaya Paksha) period is observed in reverence ending with the most important Mahalaya Amavasya day itself. Amavasya, a no-moon day, is seen as the day to offer prayers to beloved deceased family members to seek blessings by observing partial fasts and performing mahalaya tarpanam.


But what is the real story behind this festival related to ancestors and moonless nights? What is the Mahalaya Amavasya's significance in our lives? Read on to know more:


The Story behind Mahalaya Amavasya

As per the Mahabharata, there once lived a skilled warrior named Karna, who was also the older half-brother of the Pandavas. The entire Mahabharata revolved around the fight between the Pandavas and Karna. However, the story of Mahalaya Amavasya stems from Karna- specifically, from his life after death.


When Karna died at the hands of a fatal attack by Arjuna, his spiritual self went to heaven. There, he was offered a plethora of sparkling jewels, gems and gold to feast on. Karna was surprised at the offering but was reminded during his tenure of life that he had donated tons of jewels and gold to the poor out of his kindness- but never did he donate food. He immediately resorted to making amends and prayed fervently to Lord Yama (the God of death), requesting to grant him a chance to return to Earth for 15 days. Karna intended to perform Shraadh followed by donating food and water to the needy, as an act of respect to his ancestors. These 15 days are known as the Pitru Paksha, known to be a time when our ancestor's souls are closest to the Earth, roaming. Acknowledging these souls with rituals and rites is believed to bring blessings from them for peace and prosperity to the lineage.


Offering Mahalaya Tarpanam is also part of the offering ritual and is an age-old process starting from the times of Rama. In simple words, Tarpanam means an offering of something in gratitude to ancestors to appease them. It includes the ritual rite of offering balls of rice, sesame seeds and water. It is believed that our ancestors get pleased and experienced Moksha while dissolving our negative karma. It is important to note that in order to perform these rituals, there are Mahalaya Amavasya timings to be followed- often starting in the early hours.


The Mahalaya Amavasya Significance

Setting all folklore aside, the festival is meant to invoke a sense of gratitude in the believer for all their forefathers and ancestors have contributed. Without them, the next generation wouldn't exist nor thrive. The significance of these 15 days, including the no-moon Mahalaya Amavasya 2022, is nothing but a reminder of how the past meets the present for a moment of gratitude or homage for all that was and is now.


The ritual of Mahalaya Amavasya reminds us to respect and pray for the souls of our ancestors and forefathers because, without them, we would not exist. This ritual instils a habit of paying homage to those who have passed and is the right way to express gratitude to the earlier generations who have done so much for our benefit.

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