Pitru or Pitri Paksha is an important event for Hindus. In the Lunar month of Ashwin (Krishna Paksha), Pitru Paksha or Pitri Paksha is observed. This is observed in a fortnight where followers of Hindu religion offer food to their ancestors. This includes several pujas, rituals, and charity activities. It is also believed that paying homage to those who have passed away during Pitru Paksha helps them attain liberation or moksha.
Story of Karna and Pitru Paksha
This is believed that giving food and water to our ancestors helps us in different ways because these reach to the departed soul and they become happy. There is an interesting story related to Karna. When the legendary donor Karna died in the epic Mahabharata war, his soul transcended to heaven, where he was offered gold and jewels as food. However, Karna needed real food to eat and asked Indra, the lord of heaven, the reason for serving gold as food. Indra told Karna that he had donated gold all his life, but had never donated food to his ancestors in Shraddha. Karna said that since he was unaware of his ancestors, he never donated anything in their memory. To make amends, Karna was permitted to return to earth for a 15–day period, so that he could perform Shraddha and donate food and water in their memory. This period is now known as Pitru Paksha.
Mahalaya is marked on the last day of Pitru Paksha. It is celebrated in the states of Karnataka, Odisha, Tripura, and West Bengal. It is believed in the Hindu Mythology that Goddess Durga was created on this day by Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheswar to defeat the demon king Mahishasura. Therefore, devotees mark this day as the arrival of Goddess Durga to Earth from Kailash Parvat with her divine powers. On the day of Mahalaya, the sculptors only make Goddess Durga’s eyes and fill colours in them. They also perform a special puja before this.
Story of Mahishasura
Hindus believe that the demon king Mahishasura was blessed with a boon that no god or human could kill him. After he received the blessing, Mahishasura attacked the Devtas, and after losing the war to him, they had to leave the Devlok. All the Devtas, along with Lord Vishnu, worshipped Adi Shakti to save them from the wrath of Mahishasura. It is believed at this time, a divine light came out of the bodies of all the Devtas and took the shape of Goddess Durga.
The war between Maa Durga and Mahishasura lasted for nine days, and then she killed him on the 10th day. Maa Durga is considered the goddess of power, and Durga Puja is celebrated all over the country with much pomp and fervour. Devotees pray to the goddess during these ten days as it is believed she comes to Earth to bless her people.
Sarva Pitru Amavasya
Mahalaya also marks the last day of Pitru Paksh and is also known as Sarva Pitra Amavasya. Many people remember their ancestors on this day and offer Tarpan or Shraddha to make their souls happy. It is said that on Mahalaya Amavasya morning, first ancestors are given farewell and then in the evening Maa Durga comes to earth and stays here to bless people.