Shraadh is doing some good deeds with faith, in the memory of those who have crossed over to the other side.
The tradition started as an activity related to feeding the poor, taking care of them, and giving them some gifts. However, any good deed done in the memory of those who have passed away, like giving charity, or donation in their name, is all calledshraadh. The objective is to thank them, although they are not on this plane.
Ceremonies for the departed are followed world over. In Singapore, it is like a festival, a public holiday. Even in China, it is a very big affair.
In Singapore, the belief is, whatever you offer to the ancestors, the same is sent back in the form of blessings. So, whatever blessings people would want, they would make those things in paper, and burn them.
They believed that whatever you give away through fire, you will receive the same in the form of blessings here. E.g., if someone wants a car, or a fridge, they make a huge paper car or fridge, put it on the street, and burn it.
If they want a million dollars, they burn one million dollars of fake currency.
It is a wonder how mankind starts fooling himself or herself, and expects to receive blessings for real currency! Anyway, this has been the traditional practice.
In India, similar things happen. People pray to Bhagavati or Mother Divine, and offer a coconut. They say, ‘I will offer 21 coconuts, please let me marry the right person.’ As if Mother Divine is expecting 21 coconuts from you!
Innocent people do something to get something. It is called mannat (wish), it means you need to do something to get some favor.
For how long should shraadh ceremonies be performed?
In ancient days, shraadh ceremonies were performed until the soul was re-born. So, they would do it for 15 years, and then they knew that the soul was re-born, so they would stop doing it.
Today, since we have lost the ability to know whether they are still there or reborn, we keep doing it.
What is the Significance of Shraddh ceremony?
In the Brahmin household, shraadhis an elaborate ceremony. Women would prepare food from early morning, and only certain foods are eaten. Then the pundits would come, and perform a ceremony where the Devas (angels or gods) would be invited to bring the departed parents.
Three generations of parents would be remembered, and some rice balls would be put out to the crows. They would wait and watch from which direction the crows came, how they took the food, where it went, and if they were they satisfied?
It is like a tarot card reading; from the signs that are there, one would decipher what happened or what is happening. It is a little complicated, sometimes too complicated. The main thing would be about preparing elaborate food, and feeding people.
I think all this is man-made. Maybe there is something scientific in it. We should look in to it.
There is one ceremony called Tilla Tarpanam, offering sesame seeds with water. I think the purpose of this ceremony is to tell people who have gone across that if you still have any desire in your mind, just drop it, because the desire is as small and insignificant as a sesame seed. We, your children, are here to fulfill those desires. You drop it and move on.
In India, tilla means smallest, tarpan is to be fulfilled, trupti means contentment. So, tarpanam means be contented.
We tell the departed three times, ‘Be contented!’
The message is, ‘You have left this world. Going there, do not keep hankering. If there is any discontent, let go. Move on. This world is enormous, huge, there is so much; you go to the light and leave this bondage here. If there is any desire of yours left unfulfilled, we are here to take care of it, as your children. You be content.’
These mantras are so nice, so beautiful.
The above said content is a part of the discourse of Sri Sri Ravishankar Guruji, Art of Living.