The Tamil month of Thai (Jan-Feb) is significant for Tamil-speaking people. Many important festivals are held during this month, like Makara Sankranti, Thai Pongal, and Thai Amavasya. This article focuses on Thai Amavasya and its significance.

Thai refers to the month, and ‘Amavasya’ refers to the New Moon. The latter is a Sanskrit word, where ‘Ama’ means ‘together’ and ‘vasya’ means ‘to dwell’. The New Moon day in Thai month is Thai Amavasya. Amavasya day is believed to be auspicious for performing many activities, including ancestral worship.

On Thai Amavasya day, Tamil Hindus perform ceremonies like Tarpanam Shraddh and other rituals for their deceased ancestors. They also make offerings and pray to the ancestors, invoking their blessings.

In North India, the day is called Mauni Amavasya.

Importance of Honoring Ancestors

Many cultures believe that it is important to honor ancestors. The Red Indians or Native Americans, the Japanese, Chinese, Indians, and many others have festivals to honor their ancestors. They believe that our deceased ancestors watch over us and protect us from harm and that when we honor them, they are pleased and give us their blessings. Ancestral blessings supposedly have the power to transform our lives in a positive manner. On the other hand, if they are not happy with us, they can cause trouble in our lives. Hence, it is very important to remember and honor our ancestors.

Hinduism has its own take on what happens to a soul after death. Once a person dies, their soul separates from their body and begins its journey to heaven. En route, they reach Pitru Loka, the land of the ancestors. Here, the soul resides until it is time to take its next birth. While residing in Pitru Loka, the soul feels thirsty and hungry. However, as the soul lacks a body, it cannot eat or drink anything. While in this state, they need offerings from Earth that will satisfy their pangs of hunger and thirst. It is the duty of the descendants to make these offerings accompanied by the chanting of Mantras and other rituals. Such ritualistic offerings can satisfy and please the ancestors. To show their pleasure, the ancestors may bless their descendants.

The Garuda Purana, one of the 18 Mahapuranas, has a well-known section that talks about death, the afterlife, and the rituals related to them. It includes a detailed account of what happens to the soul after death, concepts like heaven and hell, and the path that the soul takes after it leaves the body. This section is structured like a dialogue between Vishnu and his mount, Garuda. It also explains the procedures for performing Shraddh (death ceremonies). The text underscores the importance of Shraddh for the departed soul’s well-being and claims that neglecting to perform them can have adverse effects on the departed soul as well as their living relatives. These ancestral rites also have a positive impact on our karma.

Significance of Thai Amavasya

Thai Amavasya is the first Amavasya in the sacred Uttarayana period. During this period, the Sun begins its northward journey in the sky. Uttarayana period is the time of dawn for the gods in heaven, and is very auspicious. So, it is an ideal time to perform the rituals of ancestor worship. If we fail or forget to perform such rituals, it can attract bad luck and cause Pitru Dosha (ancestral curse). So many Hindus choose Thai Amavasya for performing rituals to propitiate the departed ancestors and receive their blessings.

Rituals of Thai Amavasya

Thai Amavasya is a day of thanks giving. It is meant to express our gratitude to ancestors who are the reason why we exist on earth today and for the things we enjoy in life. Their contributions cannot be ignored or overlooked. It is important to remember and honor them by performing some religious rituals which are mentioned in the scriptures. They include Tarpanam, Thila Homa, Shraddh, and Pinda Daanam.

Water and sesame seeds are used for Tarpanam, while Thila Homa is a Fire ritual in which Til seeds are offered. Pinda Daanam entails the offering of rice balls (Pinda) mixed with ghee and sesame seeds. Such rituals are also essential for the deceased souls to attain Moksha or salvation. It can also have a positive impact on our karma. Shraddh refers to the rituals performed on a person’s death anniversary and includes Tarpanam, Pinda Daanam, etc.

Performing these ceremonies in holy places, seashores, and on the banks of sacred water bodies is especially auspicious. People flock to places like Prayag Triveni Sangam (Allahabad), Haridwar, Rameshwaram, Kanyakumari, and other river ghats to perform the rituals honoring departed souls and invoke their blessings. They also make donations to the needy on this occasion.

In Tamil Nadu, many people visit Rameshwaram and take a holy dip in the sea. They also perform Poojas at Agnitheertham Kadarkarai. Special prayers and Poojas are also conducted at places like Devipattinam, Kanyakumari, Sethukarai, Dhanushkodi, etc.

Benefits of Observing Thai Amavasya

Appeasing ancestors on Thai Amavasya brings the following benefits:

· It can remove Pitru Dosha (ancestral afflictions)

· It helps resolve relationship issues

· It can bring wealth, good health, success, peace, and happiness

Thai Amavasya 2024 is on February 9.