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Shraddha


Shraddha is the Hindu ritual of inviting people to feasts in the name of the deceased. Traditionally sons or relations of the deceased observe shraddha. But one can hold the shraddha even of oneself before one's death. Shraddha can be of three types: adyashraddha, abhyudayika or brddhi shraddha and sapindikarana. The early shraddhas are held after purification from defilement and lasts for 11, 15 or 30 days depending on the caste. During the period, relations of the deceased only take vegetables, protein-less food, and sunned rice without salt. Sons of the deceased shave their head on the day prior to shraddha and observe various rituals. On the day of the obsequies, they treat relations, neighbours etc to a feast prepared according to their means. In the past, moneyed people invited thousand of guests to shraddha feast. But this has changed. People also donate clothes and other items to Brahmins and relations.

Shraddha, observed to seek blessings from the ancestors prior to marriage or upanayana (holy thread ceremony), is known as brddhi shraddha. The sapindikarana shraddha is held a year after one's death. There are three other types of shraddha: shraddha observed on some occasions like Mahalaya (new moon of the Bangla month Ashvin) or marking the death falling on some special occasions is known as parvana shraddha (festival obsequies). Food is usually offered to the manes (pindadan) in the name of three generations on parvana shraddha. The shraddha meant for a single person at a time is known as ekoddishta shraddha (obsequies for one)

There is another type of shraddha called Anvashtaka, but this is not observed widely. It is thought that it is proper to hold shraddha at the altar of vishnu in the holy place of Gaya. The rich in most cases observe the shraddha of their parents in Gaya. shulapani's Shraddhaviveka and Raghunandan's Shraddhatattva are considered authoritative texts regarding shraddha by Hindus in Bengal. [Suresh Chandra Banerjee]