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How to perform shraadha if no Brahman is available?

Description: In countries outside Bhaarat (India), it is difficult to get a Brāhman who can perform the ritual of shrāadha. This article provides alternative methods to perform shraadha when a Brahman is not available.

 

Introduction

Sanatan Dharma (Hindu Dharma) is the oldest known religion in this world. In fact, it is not a religion; but a way of life. Today, Sanatan Dharma is mainly prevalent in Bhaarat (India). Followers of Hindu Dharma are called Hindus and many of them reside outside Bhaarat. However they still follow the teachings of Hindu Dharma. In Hindu Dharma every aspect of our life has a spiritual foundation and accordingly guidance is given on what should be done to get maximum benefit of every aspect of our life like birth, death, pregnancy, marriage, birthday, etc. 

An average Hindu may not be aware of all the guidelines to perform a ritual; however, a Brahman is a priest who helps perform all these rituals as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. In Bhaarat, Brahmans are easily available; but outside Bhaarat, it is very difficult to find a Brahman. One of the most important rites Hindus perform every year is called shraadha. By doing shraadha, the ancestors achieve a momentum to travel further in their after-death life.

So what should one do if there is no Brahman available to perform shraadha?

 

Alternative methods

Hindu Dharma is so expansive that it provides alternative methods for performing various rituals. For shraadha too, there are various alternative methods as given below. These methods are very easy and can be done by anyone who wishes to do the shraadha for their ancestors.

Method 1: If the Brahman who can perform shraadha is not available, invite any Brahman who may be available. (It can be anyone who is born as a Brahman)

Method 2: shraadha of a woman whose husband is still alive is done only in the first year by performing pinda-dān. Thereafter, her shraadha is not done till her husband is alive. Hence, on the  tithī of death of a woman or on avidhava navmī a married woman is invited and she is offered food. When offering the food, one should pray, ‘Let (name of the deceased woman) get satisfied with the food.’ When the husband of the deceased woman also dies, then regular shraadha is done for the deceased woman.

Method 3: If it is not possible for an individual to perform shraadha due to work, being afflicted by a disease or for some other reason, his son or his disciple or a Brahman can perform the shraadha on his behalf. (The offering to a Brahman should be made after washing his hands and feet ritualistically with five substances and offering him a seat.)

Method 4: If any of the above is not possible, perform shraadha in one of the following ways –

a.  Offer a pot of water*

b.  Offer some food*

c.  Offer some sesame seeds*

d.  Offer some money as dakshinā*

e.  Offer food grains as per the capacity*

f.  After bathing, perform tarpana for pitars with tilodak

Tarpaṇ

g.  Observe a fast on the tithi of the shraadha

h.  On the day of the shraadha, read out the shraadha rites

* These should be offered to a Brahman

Method 5: If any of the above is also not possible, then one can pray for the ancestors as given below –

a. Go into a forest; raise the arms and showing a blade of grass to the Divine presiding Deities such as the sun etc. utter the following - ‘I have nothing, no wealth etc. which can be used for performing the shraadha. I pay obeisance to all my pitars. May all of them be satisfied with my devotion. I have raised my arms’.

b. Go into a forest without any habitation; raise the arms skywards and shout loudly, ‘I have no wealth and no food. Please liberate me from the debt unto my pitars’.

c. Face southwards and cry.

The above prayers should be done with bhāv because such prayers appease the Deities and they bless the one who does the prayers. This yields the desired results equivalent of performing the actual ritual.

Method 6: When the shraadha rites have to be performed; but no Brahman is available, then one can place ‘darbha’  instead to perform shraadha. Darbha is a type of grass and it is a very important item in shraadha rites. Darbha attracts higher level vibrations of Absolute Air principle and lower level vibrations of ancestors to the shraadha. The food items offered to the Brahman or ‘darbha should be immersed in river, lake or sea. (Please obey the rules and regulations of Local County or council).  

Botanical Name of Darbha: Poa cynosuroides Retzius

Common Name: Grass of lucky augury, Dharbai (Tamil), Kusha (Sanskrit)

The various methods given above signify the importance of performing shraadha for the departed ancestors. By performing the shraadha, not just our ancestors get the gati (momentum in afterlife); but the ancestral problems to our family also reduce significantly.

 

Would I obtain the same benefits if shraadha is performed in the above mentioned ways in the absence of Brahmans?

When Brahmans are not available for performing shraadha, scriptures in Hindu Dharrma have given a number of alternative methods. If these alternative methods are followed with bhav, the shraadha rites will certainly bestow benefit. However, some people with a negative thought that ‘Brahmans are never available’ do not try to find them or even when a Brahman is available, continue to perform shraadha without the Brahman according to the tradition in the family. In such cases, the benefits obtained when compared with the shraadha performed as given in the scriptures, are less or none.

Source: Publication – shraadha, published by Sanatan.

  1. What is shraadha?
  2. Who should perform shraadha?
  3. When should one perform shraadha?
  4. What are the types of shraadha?
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