What is Mahalaya Amavasya?

This happens to be the New Moon day, which is observed on the last day of the 15-day period called Mahalaya Paksha. This fortnight is important for those who wish to appease their ancestors in the month of Ashwin (mid-Sep to mid-Oct). It is also called Sarvapitri Amavasya or Pitru Paksha Amavasya. The day is ideal for offering Tarpanam (ancestral rituals) to your departed ancestors.

On this day, the Sun and Moon exert their gravitational pull on earth. This causes the energy of all creatures on earth to rise to a higher level. The sacred texts claim that offering Tarpanam on this day is very auspicious and meritorious. Those who are unable to offer Tarpanam on any or all of the 14 days of the Mahalaya Paksha, can do so on this powerful New Moon. This day is also best for offering Tarpanam to those who die an unnatural death caused by weapons or accidents.

mahalaya amavasya

Legends behind Mahalaya Amavasya

In the epic, Mahabharata, it is said that when Karna died and his soul went to heaven, he was given gold and jewels as food. Karna was feeling confused and questioned Yama about the reason for the suffering he underwent. Yama’s reply was that Karna had donated many things including wealth to others when he was alive, but he had never offered food to his departed ancestors. The fact was that Karna did not know who his ancestors were when he lived. He was actually the son of Kunti, mother of the Pandavas, and the Sun god. But, Kunti had abandoned him as soon as he was born. As he was unaware of his origins, he could not offer Tarpanam to his ancestors. So Yama allowed Karna to go back to the earth for a 15-day period (Mahalaya Paksha) so that he could offer food and water to appease his ancestors. Having performed the ancestral rituals, Karna returned to heaven.

How to observe Mahalaya Amavasya

On Mahalaya Amavasya, Tarpanam can be offered at one’s own home or at sacred Powerspots decreed by sacred texts (Kasi, Rameshwaram, etc.). People usually make an offering of rice balls mixed with black sesame seeds which are fed to the crows and animals. This ritual is called ‘Pind Daan.’ One can also make the favorite dishes of one’s ancestors and feed them to a pious Brahmin. This is called ‘Pitra Bhoj.’ Others may spend their day reading the Holy Scriptures and sacred texts like Garuda Purana, Bhagavat Gita, etc. Food and clothes are also donated to the poor and needy.

Benefits of observing Mahalaya Amavasya

The benefits of offering Tarpanam to one’s departed ancestors on Mahalaya Amavasya include:

  • Satiating the restless souls of your ancestors and helping them attain salvation
  • Solving problems related to money, health, relationship, and career
  • Get blessings of good fortune and a prosperous life
  • Removing bad karma accumulated from not offering Tarpanam in the past
  • Removing ancestral bad karma and get success in all efforts