Importance of Doing
A Tarpana Ritual by Oneself
By P.V.R. Narasimha Rao
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External rituals are meant to create
the internal visualization needed to affect desirable internal
changes in the long run. For example, one offers a full coconut into
fire as poornaahuti (complete offering) at the end of a homa (fire
ritual). That is symbolic of surrendering one’s head or ego
(sense of I-ness) to god and burning it in the fire of wisdom and
becoming free from ego. As one keeps engaging in this act again and
again, the visualization becomes stronger and stronger and ego is
One important ritual of
Hinduism is tarpana. Tarpana means “satisfying” or
“satiating”. One acknowledges the debt one has to devas
(gods), rishis (sages) and pitris (ancestral manes) and tries to
satisfy them using this ritual. Just as gods are invoked in fire in
a homa, pitris are invoked in water in this ritual, then held in the
palm and released in a specific way conducive to freeing them of some
One owes a lot to one’s
parents and ancestors. In modern scientific terms, one owes all of
one’s genetic characteristics to one’s parents and
ancestors. Each ancestor is actually present in the person as a
genetic characteristic. In karmik terms, one inherits some karmas of
one’s parents and ancestors and each ancestor is actually
present in the person as a kaarmik predisposition. The latter
approach obviously extends to multiple lives and some karmik
predisposition is inherited from the ancestors from a past life too,
though they may not be related to one in this life.
By thinking of the
deceased ancestors with gratitude and trying to give them an
emancipation, one is actually trying to free oneself from various
kaarmic predispositions that one has as a result of the rina (karmik
debt) with several people. One can view this as an external event of
satisfying and emancipating an external entity (a pitri).
Alternately, one can view this as an internal event of satisfying and
releasing an internal kaarmik predisposition.
Ultimately, it is the
latter. However, one needs to externalize first and perform external
rituals, while thinking of what it means internally. This builds up
one’s visualization and slowly brings about internal changes
and eventually the desired internal change itself.
One with living parents
also can perform pitri tarpanas for departed ancestors of this life
and previous lives. Even if one's father does the same, one's own
debts to ancestors are different from one's father's and one needs to
work on those debts.
of 2 Vital Sadhanas
Two external spiritual
sadhanas are particularly powerful, useful and recommended for every
person desirous of spiritual progress:
ritual): Gods are invoked in fire and satisfied with offerings with
mantras. Please see the homa website at https://HolyFire.yoga
for more. In the long run, a regular practice of this ritual
increases the subtle fire burning inside one’s subtle body,
burns various impediments to spiritual progress and gives clarity,
focus and stability to the mind.
ritual): Gods, sages and manes are invoked in water and their
desires are satisfied, making their emancipation (and emancipation
of one's own debts to them) easier. In the long run, a regular
practice of this ritual increases the release of various kaarmik
predispositions and weaknesses that are blocking one’s
spiritual and material progress.
Tarpana can be
performed on any day. Actually, if one has time and energy, it can be
performed everyday. In fact, it was part of daily rituals of
Hindus not long back!
If one cannot do it
daily, one can consider performing it every week or every fortnight
or at least every month. One can perform this anywhere, but it may be
a good idea to avoid any room where people may sleep regularly (as
such places have predomant tamas). It is fine to do it in any other
room of the house or the front yard or the back yard or balcony or
terrace of one’s house.
Amavasya (new Moon) day
or eclipse day or a Vyatipata yoga day or sankranthi (solar ingress
into a tropical sign) day or pitri paksha (Krishna Pratipada to
Amavasya of Bhadrapada month) are particularly good times for
There are some
restrictions. Tarpana with water containing sesame seeds (which is
needed for pitris) should not be performed:
on a Sunday that
has saptami tithi (7th day of the lunar fortnight),
on a Friday that
has a nanda tithi (1st, 6th and 11th
tithis of the lunar fortnights),
on a Sunday with
Moon in Bharani, Krittika or Magha nakshatra, and,
On these days, tarpanas
can be performed with plain water with akshatas (raw rice grains with
turmeric applied) without sesame seeds.
(1) Can one with
living father do Tarpana?
Some people believe
that one cannot offer Tarpanas if one's father is alive. This is
wrong. Suppose one is closer to one's grandfather, than one's father
is. One may have a stronger connection of genes and/or mental
conditioning to one's grandfather, than one's father does. In such a
case, one can offer more effective Tarpana to one's grandfather, than
one's father can!
Also, the nature of
connections and debts of a deceased person may be different with
different people. So, all of them can offer Tarpana and relieve of
specific connections and debts.
stems from a rigid tradition of treating father, grandfather and
great grandfather as Vasu, Aditya and Rudra and always making
Tarpanas to them specifically by names. Under that rigid tradition,
it makes no sense for a person whose father is alive to offer
In this rigid
tradition, they assume that 3 generations are always stuck in Pitri
loka. When a man in the 4th generation dies, they specifically
move the newly dead person to Vasu, previous Vasu to Aditya, previous
Aditya to Rudra and they perform a "swargarohana" (heaven
climbing) ritual for the previous Rudra.
This tradition is
arbitrary. It is possible for a person to go to heaven (or
even be liberated!) right away and it is possible for tens of
generations to be stuck together in Pitri loka. Any tradition that
assumes a rigid formula (e.g. 3 generations) is simply
Many of these customs
and traditions are more socio-cultural constructs than Dharmik
(religious) or Adhyatmik (spiritual) realities.
If one is either (a)
making generic offerings to specific relations from various lives
without specific names or (b) making offerings to specific dead
people without compulsively including father-grandfather-great
grandfather trio, then there is no need to hold back if one's father
Our website are
designed such that anybody can use them, including those with father
(2) Can women do
Women's minds are
equally (if not more!) influenced by thoughts and desires
lingering in space, that our genetic and/or karmik connections make
us susceptible to! So Tarpana that frees us from these influences is
equally important for women.
In old days, men may
have done spiritual sadhana for themselves and their wives,
while women served them whole-heartedly. These days, there are hardly
any men who do sufficient spiritual sadhana for themselves, let alone
for their wives!
In fact, whenever you
go to a pooja somewhere these days, you see all ladies doing pooja
and chanting hymns, while men sit in the living room and gossip about
gadgets, electronics, politics, films, sports etc! Women are better
off offering Tarpana to their ancestors themselves.
Women have deeper
devotion and higher caliber and inclination for spiritual sadhana
than men these days. As a society, it a utterly foolish of us
to discourage our women from doing Homa, Tarpana etc.
(3) What should
be done with the water and sesame seeds after ritual?
One can dispose of them
at the base of a tree or plant. If that is not an option, one can
dispose of in a kitchen sink or bathroom sink.
(4) Why those 3
positions of offering at the hand (mentioned in manuals for various
types of tarpanas)? What is the significance of those 3 positions?
Thumb shows ego or
sense of "I". Other fingers show various purusharthas
(purposes fulfilled by living beings).
Ring finger, middle
finger, little finger and index finger respectively show dharma
(rules obeyed), artha (work accomplished), kaama (desires fulfilled)
and moksha (freedom attained).
The 3 parts of each
finger stand for 3 gunas. Top 1/3rd shows sattwa, middle 1/3rd shows
rajas and bottom 1/3rd shows tamas. The tips of each finger shows
that purushartha under the influence of the purest sattwa.
The mounts under these
4 fingers are ruled by Sun, Saturn, Mercury and Jupiter respectively.
(various deities) and saptarshis (7 sages whose play creates deities
and worlds) engage in all purusharthas under high saattwa. To please
their highly saattwik and subtle pursuit of all purusharthas, we
offer water (stands for harmony) via the the tips of 4 fingers.
thinking and the sense of achieving something in society are shown by
the mount of Mercury at the bottom of little finger. We make an
offering to other sages and divinely inspired human beings (divya
manushayas) via that mount. This will activate logical thinking and
the sense of achievement that provokes desires (little finger) in
them and leads to the good of the world. They may build temples or
organizations, start movements and do such important missions in the
(c) The sense of
moksha (liberation) arises from the intellect/wisdom. It is shown by
Jupiter mount at the bottom of index finger (moksha). We make an
offering to pitris (ancestral manes) via that mount and via thumb.
This will activate wisdom that provokes the sense of liberation and
that affects one's sense of self (thumb).
Summary: We want
to activate wisdom and pursuit of liberation in ancestral manes,
activate desires driven by a sense of achieving some mission in
divinely inspired human beings and let deities and saptarshis do
everything with the purest and clearest sattwa.
(5) I live at the
beach, if I do the ritual directly at the sand, the offering can be
done directly on the ground or even there we have to use a plate to
colect the water oblations?
There is no issue with
offering directly in the sand.
(6) At the end of
the elaborate and simple procedure, we have a prayer starting with
"narakeshu samasteshu..." (in all hells). What is the
meaning of this prayer?
Here is the meaning of
those verses at the end of procedure ("narakeshu samasteshu ...
Whoever are placed in
various states of suffering in various hells (undesirable and lower
realms of consciousness), this water is being offering by me for
their relief, welfare and gladness.
Whoever are not my
relatives or my relative or my relatives in other lives, may all of
them be satisfied.
Whoever were born
in my lineage and stranded without someone to offer pinda and/or
without wife/children, for those is given this unlimited sesame
(Creator) to a blade of grass, various beings such as gods, rishis
and ancestral manes, may all those be pleased, including mothers and
For forgotten zillions
of lineages living in various realms of being, starting from Brahma
loka to various lokas, is this sesame water.The
bottomline: Though we often target specific groups of people and
specific individuals for offering Tarpana, we may have very subtle
and small debts to so many other beings in the cosmos, as everything
is eventually connected! Thus, a good spiritual seeker will think of
all beings and pray for their freedom.