Hindus are currently in the pitri paksh period — a 14 or 15 day period of paying homage to the ancestors. During this period, Hindus are supposed to pray and make offerings for relatives who passed away. Shraddha or Shraad puja is performed. No every Hindu observe Pitri Paksha or perform shraad for ancestors. But many caribbean Hindus are observing pitri paksha and making offerings. It has been a tradition in the caribbean ever since they Indians came to te region in 1838; They have transplanted the practice in America, Canada, UK, and elsewhere.
Shraad offering can be a simple morning ritual of “offering water” to the departed of one’s lineage and kin or it could also be an elaborate puja. It is an ancient tradition going back thousands of years as prescribed in the holy texts.
Shraad puja is a ritual performed to honor and remember one’s ancestors and departed loved ones. The ritual is usually performed annually during the period of Pitri Paksh (usually in late September or October). For this year, it commenced on September 29th and will end on the new moon in mid October. Shraad is also performed at the one year anniversary after death of a relative. Some performed monthly or semiannually puja. Shraad is also performed on the ninth or tenth day after disposal of the mortal remains of a loved one and again on the 12th or 13th day. Some call it the “dead work”. The right term is shraad. And many Hindus make no offerings during shraad. This writer made offerings for three monrings to my deceased parents, grand parents, great grandparents and my sisters and aunts and uncles.
During Pitri Paksha, people pay respects to Jamraj, the Lord of Death. People are not praying or making offerings to the deceased or his soul. Rather they pray to Jamraj and make offerings to him on behalf of the decased to treat their soul with compassion and mercy. As per the holy scripture, the body is destructible but the soul remains immortal. “The soul never takes birth and neither does it die. The soul is immortal and ever existent. Neither air, water nor fire can destroy it”. Hence prayers for the soul to rest in peace. Performing Shradh during the time of Pitri Paksha is considered extremely important for the departed souls to rest in peace. The Shraddha ritual involves offering food, water, and other items. The descendants (those who make the offerings) seek the their blessings and forgiveness of their ancestors and Jamraj. The number of days to perform the ritual vary depending on the family’s traditions and beliefs. Some families may perform the ritual for a single day, while others may perform it for several days or three days or even the full two weeks. Offering of water is done at sunrise — mixed with black till (sesame seeds), white rice, and grass. Tarpan, offering of milk at particular directions and in a prescribed way, during the time of Shradh, get rids of Pitra Dosh (bad effects) on the departed souls. Tarpan is done during puja.
During Pitri Paksha, it is considered inauspicious for Hindus to pursue new undertakings. There are no weddings and no other puja. Only pitri puja is performed.