5. Vedic Funeral Rites

“Place me in that deathless, undecaying world, 
where the light of heaven shines in everlasting luster . . . 
Make me immortal in that realm . . . where the worlds are filled with light; 
in that realm of bliss let me realize my immortality.”
- Rig Ved Samhita

“Those who have given up the performance of shraddh, tarpana 
and other religious rites . . . should wake up now. 
They should start doing these ceremonies from now. 
It is not too late now. May you all obtain 
the blessings of your ancestors 
through performance of anniversaries
 and other rites and regular ancestor worship!”
- Swami Shivananda

“Dead bodies should be cremated because that minimizes 
the craving of the soul to get back into the body. 
The last possession has been given away.” 
- Neem Karoli Baba, Miracle of Love by Ram Das

Scroll Down for: 
1.   Cremation Rites - Agni Sanskar
2.   Immersing Ashes - Asthi Visarjan
3.   Funeral Rites - Antyeshti Kriyas
4.   Unusual/Accidental Death - Narayan Bali Yagya
5.   Delayed Funeral Rites - Rahee Kriyas
6.   Monthly Observances - Mashik Shraddh
7.   New Moon Observances - Amavasya
8.   Yearly Observances - Varshik Shraddh
9.   Family Purificatory Observances
10. A Few Do’s and Don’ts
11. Sacred Sites for Funeral Rites

          Every culture has rituals to honor the departed with uplifting thoughts and prayers, but the Vedic Tradition delineates specific stages of transition for the departing soul. This section gives a general idea of what to expect in a Vedic funeral. It is not necessary to understand all the details. Just make clear to the pandit that you want best quality puja ingredients and a complete funeral performance - with NO shortcuts! Then just witness the ceremonies in the simplest awareness, appreciating the expertise and care that is conveyed to the departed soul. The main ingredient in the yagya is the nourishing attention of those who are involved. 

          These rites may have little or no meaning for one who passes away with mind fixed on an enlightened Guru or God. The departed soul is drawn to eternal bliss by the purity of his or her life - regardless of funeral rituals. Nevertheless, even the most enlightened masters have these ceremonies performed for the upliftment  of their devoted friends and family. 

In an ideal world the body would be cremated within hours of passing and immersed into flowing water on the following day. The 13 day funeral rites would commence immediately. But today that is nearly impossible.

The next best option is to cremate and immerse the ashes as soon as possible and to begin the 13 day rites as soon as possible. At the very least the last five days of the 13 day rites must be observed. That means the 8th to the 13th day performances should be done. If they cannot be done on those specific days, then the rites should be performed on ANY 5 days after death. Ideally family members should preside over the ceremony or a brahmin who has been invested with the sacred thread. The brahmin is protected from pollution by his sacred thread and daily observance of trikal sandhya vandana.

1. Cremate Body as soon as possible during daylight hours. 
Same day as death is ideal. The Vedic ideal was 90 minutes (2 muhurthas) after death!

2. Immerse Ashes into flowing water at a beautiful, natural setting.
The sooner the better. Don’t keep ashes in home.

3. Perform 13 Day Antyeshti Funeral Rites as soon as possible after death:
10 Days   - Das Gaatra rites restores the subtle body of the departed soul.
11th Day - Ekaadasha gifts to nourish the restored spirit (pret).
12th Day - Sapindi Karana establishes dharmic status of the departed soul as a pitri, rather than a confused and frustrated pret (aimlessly wandering spirit).
13th Day - Pitri Sthapana nourishes the departed soul and all the ancestors while celebrating the soul’s journey to the next world. 
Each month - Mashik Shraddh are monthly offerings to nourish the departed during the journey to the next world. (Mas means "Month." One earth month = one pitri day.)
After One Year - Varshik Shraddha celebrates the departed soul arriving in Yama Loka. (Varsh means "Year." One earth year = 12 pitri days.) Yama is the judge, who "decides" where the soul should go: 1) to pitri loka, the abode of the ancestors to await future births, or 2) back to Bhumi Loka (earth), or 3) to Brahma Loka until the end of creation, or 4) to Vishnu Loka or Shiva Loka - depending on the soul’s karma.

4. Observe Narayan Bali Yagya on 11th or 12th day Antyeshti in case of unusual or unnatural/accidental death - or for death of child between 2 and 16 years old, (because the child’s body had not fully matured). No rites are needed for children under 24 months.

5. Observe Rahee Kriyas, if Antyeshti rites have been delayed or omitted. Rahee Kriyas condense the offerings of the first ten days of Antyeshti Kriyas into two days and conclude with the usual 11th, 12th, and 13th days rites. Some pandits may try to do all Kriyas in one day, but this is not complete. 

6. Pandits may recommend Til Homa as a quick offering to aid the ancestors, but this fire sacrifice is actually meant for relatives who committed suicide due to extreme duress, and continue to be in a state of distress. Whether or not Till Homa is offered, the Rahi Kriya offerings are necessary.

7. Funeral customs vary throughout India. For example, mahatmas and gurus often are not cremated; they are entombed in salt or immersed in holy rivers. Sometimes the funeral ceremony for brahmacharis and saints may continue for 16 days rather than 13 days. Also cremation ceremonies are optional for sanyasis, who have cremated their bodies symbolically during their initiation rites. Nevertheless, for thousands of years these funeral rites have uplifted departed souls and family and friends.

1. Cremation - Agni Sanskar
         The Atharva Ved Shastras and Grihya Sutras describe in detail the cremation process. Preparation of the cremation site and offerings require the guidance of knowledgeable pandits. The deceased’s body should be washed, sprinkled with Ganga water, tulsi water, and turmeric water, anointed with chandanam (sandalwood), and wrapped in fresh white cloth. Keep fresh flowers with the body until the time of cremation—even in the morgue. 

         Have the body cremated as soon as possible after it is moved from the place of death. Traditionally the body was cremated within 90 minutes (2 muhurthas) from the moment death, ideally during daylight hours. This frees the soul from clinging to the old familiar body. This is no longer possible, so pandits may include prayaschit offerings to atone for a “late” cremation, and also if death occurs during inauspicious timings (such as at night or krishna paksha, or dakshinayana paksha, etc.)

The Funeral Procession
         As the procession proceeds to the cremation ground, participants chant “Jai Sri Ram” or “Ram Nam Satya Hai”. There is also a tradition to offer Pancha Pinda daan - five pinda balls (rice balls) to the local laws of nature on the way to the cremation site. Shava pinda is offered at the place of death. Paanth pinda is offered when leaving home. Khechar pinda is offered on the route to the cremation at a major intersection. Bhoot pinda is offered whenever the funeral procession pauses to rest. Sadhak pinda is offered at the cremation ground.

         The eldest son (or other relative) leads the funeral procession to the cremation ground. The body is placed on the cremation pyre with head to the south. The presiding family member sprinkles water with kusha grass and tulsi leaves to purify the cremation area, and then drops ghee around the face of the deceased. The body is circumambulated counter clockwise - starting from the head in the south - three times. Rice and black sesame seeds are dropped on top of the mouth of the deceased after the third round. Throughout all these rites the pandit may recite mantras. The officiating family member (or representative) places sandal and aloe wood sticks on the body and ignites the fire/furnace with camphor and kusha grass - without facing the body. If the body of the deceased is not available, a ‘Putala’ body made of kusha grass can substitute for the actual body. 
         Funeral parlors will respect special requests, such as accepting items to accompany cremation. For example, ghee, sandalwood, camphor, and aloe wood may be placed on top of the body at the crematory. For resources see Section 6 Cost and Materials.
         Water is offered to Surya, the Sun. The procession moves away from the fire, and the Karta (the officiating family member or friend) sprinkles water on himself and on the funeral participants chanting mantras.

         In North India participants stay at the cremation until the body is completely burned. In South India participants abandon the cremation site without looking back, as soon as the pyre is lit. It takes about two hours to cremate a body, but at least one day is necessary for the ashes to cool. Cremated remains are typically bone fragments, because the body is 75 percent water, which evaporates.

         After the cremation, the family offers prayers while facing south. Then the youngest son (or other relative/family representative) leads the procession home, followed by the elders. The family returns home, bathes, and cleans the home, and touches the five elements for purification.

For extra credit, some traditions recommend to: 
  • Place a water pot and lamp in the home where the body died or hanging from a peepal tree. Change the water daily. Offer a ghee lamp to the tree.
  • The family should not prepare meals on the day after the cremation. Relatives may bring food.
  • The family should not leave home during the 13 days of funeral rites after death except to gather ashes and immerse in river. Some family members will remain at home for a month. The most orthodox Hindus will not leave their neighborhood for a year.
  • Mourning should diminish after a few days. Only joyful thoughts about the departed soul should be encouraged.
  • Collecting the bones and ashes traditionally is done on the day after cremation. When collecting the ashes, Asthi Sanchayan Pinda (rice balls) are offered.
  • If there is no river for immersion near to the cremation site, then hang the ashes on a tree outside the house. In South India this is typically a Jackfruit tree. 
  • Ideally within ten days the ashes are immersed in a river. It is not recommended to keep a relative’s ashes around the home indefinitely.
NOTE 1: If you want your body cremated, then leave explicit instructions. A close family member should sign a letter acknowledging the desire to cremate - especially if one is living in a foreign country. This should be notarized. The police authorities and embassy in foreign countries may not allow cremation without such explicit instructions.

NOTE 2: If a rudraksha or tulsi mala was worn by the deceased, do not burn these in the cremation fire. Instead immerse them with the ashes in flowing water. 

NOTE 3: If you belong to the Parsi faith or the Bon Po tradition of Tibet, you have another option. In a “Sky Burial” the priest chops up the body and feeds it to vultures. 

NOTE 4: If the body is not available a ‘Putala’ (doll) body of kusha grass may be cremated in place of the body with all due rites.

2. Asthi Visarjan - Immersing the Ashes
         One of the most valuable offerings that you can make to a departed friend or relative is to immerse his/her ashes as soon as possible into flowing water in a beautiful, natural setting. Any holy river or the ocean is good for immersing ashes, but Ganga Ji is especially highly regarded. Bits of gold, fruits, flowers, and coins should be offered with the ashes. 

         From Anushasana Parva of the MahaBharata, Bhishma tells Yudhishthira: “Those creatures whose bodies have been sprinkled with the sacred waters of Bhagirathi (Ganga Ji) or whose bones have been laid in the channel of that sacred stream, do not fall away from heaven at any time . . .. By holding that sacred stream, touching it, and bathing in its waters, one rescues one’s ancestors to the seventh generation, one’s descendants to the seventh generation, as also other ancestors and descendants. By hearing of Ganga, by wishing to repair to that river, by drinking its waters, by touching its waters, and by bathing in them a person rescues both his paternal and maternal races. By seeing, touching, and drinking the waters of Ganga, or even by praising Ganga, hundreds and thousands of sinful men became cleansed of all their sins. They who wish to make their birth, life, and learning fruitful should repair to Ganga and gratify the pitris and the Devas by offering them oblations of water. The merit that one earns by bathing in Ganga is such that the like of it is incapable of being earned through the acquisition of sons or wealth or the performance of meritorious acts . . .. 

         “The man of righteous conduct who with rapt soul thinks of Ganga at the time when his prana is about to leave his body succeeds in attaining to the highest end. That man who dwells by the side of Ganga up to the time of his death adoring Her with reverence becomes freed from the fear of every kind of calamity . . ..”

         NOTE: If there is no opportunity to take the ashes to India within a few weeks or months of cremation, it is better to immerse the ashes sooner in a nearby beautiful, natural setting, rather than wait indefinitely. If the departed soul has specifically requested that his/her ashes be immersed in Ganga Ji, then that request should be honored as soon as reasonably possible. In general, do not wait indefinitely to decide what to do with ashes. Also in some traditions ashes are not immersed on a Friday. 

         A simple ceremony for immersion of ashes may include: offerings to the departed soul, feeding cows, feeding Brahmins, and taking a ritual bath. After performing the immersion ceremony, one should leave the site without looking back. A more elaborate immersion ceremony may include detailed preparation of ashes with Sanchayana Havan offerings accompanied by chanting of mantras. These procedures and the corresponding mantras are given in the book Hindu Antyeshti Samskar. Such detailed steps are rarely observed. In general, simply accept the guidance of a trusted pandit, and go with the flow.

3. Antyeshti Kriyas
         Antyeshti rites are necessary to prepare the departed to receive offerings of nourishment. Without these funeral rites the departed might feel handicapped. Imagine that the soul is in the emergency room of a hospital. The sooner that proper medical attention is given, the better. The Antyeshti Kriyas offer vital support to the soul in transition. They are essential before any further treatment can occur. In most cases rehabilitation cannot begin until the basic functions have been restored to the subtle body. Even if these rites are delayed for years or decades, the Antyeshti Kriyas are the first and foremost treatment to aid the departed. 

         If the circumstances of death are unusual, accidental or violent, then intensive care treatment is necessary to pacify the departed soul. In such cases of unnatural death, Narayan Bali Rites are prescribed to accompany the Antyeshti Kriyas. See Point 5 below.

         The first 10 days of Antyeshti rites are called the Das Karmas or Das Gaatra Bidhi. These ten days lay the foundation for all other rites. When the soul leaves the body, it is in the form of a disembodied spirit, called a pret. It must regroup its pranas and senses to move on comfortably. Otherwise the disembodied spirit (pret) may feel handicapped, confused and frustrated. The Antyeshti rites facilitate the regrouping process, so that evolution can continue smoothly. These rites can be done at any time after death, but the sooner, the better. If the Antyesthi rites cannot be organized right away, then at least some recitations for atma shanti (peace of the soul) should commence, such as Vishnu Sahasranam and Gita Path. 

         In the same way as a newly conceived human embryo requires 9 months to form in the womb, the disembodied soul requires 10 days to ‘regroup’ its subtle body (Linga Sharira). On each of these ten days, the soul recollects one of its ten indriyas, i.e., the five gyan indriyas (sensory organs) and five karma indriyas (organs of action). Garuda Purana describes the reconstruction of the subtle body over the ten days as: Day 1)  the head. Day 2) face, Day 3) upper torso, Day 4) lower torso, Day 5) legs, Day 6) internal organs, Day 7) energy channels (nadis), Day 8) alimentary canal, Day 9) reproductive organs, and Day 10) all the vital energies begin functioning together. If death has been peaceful, and the proper rites are observed, this process can be effortless and peaceful, like an uncomplicated surgery procedure. 

         During these ten days a pandit guides the closest family member through the ten karmas with mantras and offerings of pindas (balls of barley flour, ghee, honey, sesame seeds, milk and water. A friend or another pandit can substitute for a family member, but the closer the relation to the deceased, the better. 

         Daily satsang – gatherings of friends and family - in the room where the deceased lived or died - is beneficial to recall the virtues and happy memories of the departed. Recitations of Shanti Path bring Atma Shanti – peace to the departed soul. Meditation, Vishnu Sahasranam, the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Sukta, Purusha Sukta, Sama Veda, Garuda Purana and other Vedic recitation are nourishing during the 13 days immediately after death. Different pandits may suggest different recitations, but all have value. The main thing is the attention of the participants. Shiva Purana describes how the soul witnesses and enjoys the funeral activities during this time 

10 Day Overview:
         Each morning for 10 days family members prepare the Balikram offerings of pinda balls, flowers, kusha grass, etc. and offer them to the departed. Offer pinda balls on a bed of kusha grass set on a small raised platform in the southeast corner of the departed’s residence, or beside a river or lake, or under a Peepal Tree or other holy place. But not in a temple where Devas are worshipped. Always keep funeral rites separate from Devata worship.

         Pinda balls made of barley flour are offered to a photo of the departed family member decorated with flowers facing south. Foods prepared by the immediate family of the deceased should not be shared with others during these 10 days. After offering the pindas to the departed soul, the pindas are immersed in a water body with prayers to Yama. Always follow the pandits lead. He may also recommend to:
  • Offer a deepa (ghee) lamp to the deceased and keep it burning continuously throughout the Antyeshti Kriyas.
  • Offer deepa and water to a peepal tree every day.
  • Offer pinda daan every day from first to the tenth day.
  • If it is not possible to offer pinda daan each day, then "Give three (pindas) on the third day, two on the fifth day, two on the seventh day, two on the ninth day and one in the tenth day.” 
  • If the Antyeshti rites begin after several days, all the pindas for the preceding days can be offered on the day that the rites commence. See Point 4 - Rahee Kriyas, below.
  • After offering pinda daan on the tenth day, shave hair, prune nails, bathe, and change into new clothes and new sacred thread (yagyo paveeta).  
  • Offer Homa (fire offerings of Shanti Havan and Aaananda Havan) on the tenth day.
  • Listen to Garuda Purana every day if possible, or at least from the 3rd, 5th, 6th, or 7th day. 
The 11th day - Ekaadashah
         When the soul has reconstituted its subtle body, then it is ready to move on to higher worlds. Therefore, the eleventh through the thirteenth days celebrates the departing soul’s elevated status with gifts to the departed (Pret Sayadhan). The newly established pitri is now able to fully enjoy its restored subtle body, so this is the time to offer a meal and gifts to the departed. 

         Sapindi Karan Shraddh: This is the first of sixteen monthly shraddhs, which  a pandit performs throughout the year. One Shrāddh is performed each month on the appropriate tithi (lunar day of passing), plus four other "seasonal offerings on appropriate muhurthas during the next year. The Ekaadashah offerings bestow the status of pitri on the deceased and enable the deceased to accept the main Sapindi Karan gifts on the 12th day. The current custom is to perform all sixteen shraddhs on the 11th and 12th days, but ideally the shraddhs are performed fresh each month throughout the year on the deceased's tithi (lunar day of passing).

The 12th day - Dvadashah or Sapindana Parivartan 
         Three generations of ancestors are invoked - father, paternal grandfather, and paternal great grandfather. In this Samyojana ritual the departed is symbolically reunited with forefathers and reestablished on the evolutionary path. The soul is considered a respected elder. He is no longer a wandering spirit, but begins the purposeful journey of higher evolution. 

         The main pandit makes offerings of 16 valuable accoutrements for the departed soul’s comfort in the year ahead, including wheat, rice, spices, salt, clothes, bedding, shoes, umbrella, cloth, gold (a small coin or ornament is customary), barley, sesame, all the usual puja ingredients, including panchratna (five gems or metals), and ghee lamps. (365 cotton ghee wicks may be lit in a clay pot for a dramatic effect symbolizing light each day of the coming year). These items are assembled by the pandits, and offered to the deceased. After the ceremony the offered items are given to the pandits with dakshina.

         The highest gift that can be given on this day is a cow to a deserving brahmin. If it is not convenient to give a live cow then this Vaitarani Gau Dhan is usually a gift of a small silver bull statue with cash and/or cow feed. The belief is that nothing is so helpful to cross the treacherous river between this world and the next.

         Bhagavad Gita, Garuda Purana, and Shanti Mantras may be recited through the 12th day. Also Dvadasha-Vishnu-Aradhana may be performed with 12 Pundits honored as the 12 forms of Vishnu. They perform Veda parayana (recitation) and are offered a meal with dakshina, puja vessels, dhoti and kurta, fruits, flowers, etc.

         12th day Sapindi Karana is praised in Skanda Purana for benefiting many generations of the departed soul’s ancestors and descendants. The most elaborate rites may include:
  • Yajaman (relative or sponsor) now faces east rather than south,
  • Japa of Gayatri mantras for the pitris,
  • Puja and japa for Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Yama, and the departed soul, ideally with silver murthi (statue) for Brahma, gold murti for Vishnu, copper murti for Rudra, iron murti for Yam and lead murti for the departed,
  • Puja for Sapt Rishis,
  • Panch Kalash puja for Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Yama, and the Departed Soul (five metal or clay pots filled with ghee, wheat, kumkum, water and ghee),
  • Vishnu Tarpan for pitri tripti,
  • Vaishnav Shraddh = 16 pinda dhan for departing soul,
  • Sayya Dhan offerings for all the pitris, such as a bed cushion, linens, clothing, food, shoes, and umbrella. Once offered, these gifts are given to deserving Brahmins, in addition to gifts of gold and silver,
  • Gift of Brahmin bhojan (and dry goods),
  • Pandits make final havan (fire) offerings to the Panch Devatas,
  • Meal, clothing and dakshina (payment) to the Brahmins.
  • Pandits observe phalhari diet (of fruit and dairy) during the yagya, and receive Dhoti, Kurta and dakshina after the yagya.
  • Expect to pay about $500 for this yagya including puja samagri (ingredients). 
The 13th Day - Trayodasha or Pitri Sthapana
         The “Establishment of the Pitris” (ancestors) is performed at home or under a Peepal tree or near a sacred river or lake. Three generations of ancestors are honored and requested to watch over the departed soul on his or her journey to the next world.  Ceremonies include:
  • Ganesh Puja, Graha Shanti, Peepal Puja, 
  • Havan offerings for purification.
  • Offering food to thirteen Brahmins,
  • In Nepal, Wednesday and Sunday are NOT considered appropriate days for this event; so Sthapana may be done on the 12th or 14th day.
         On the 13th day the family and friends of the departed soul are free from the doshas (impurities) of the death process. This is the most auspicious time to feed all well-wishers, and especially Brahmins as a way to celebrate the soul’s journey to the next world. This is also called Shubhas Vikaranam - when the family of the departed is welcomed back to society, so that they may resume their traditions of Deva worship and visit their local temple to give thanks for the funeral’s success. Nevertheless, the officiating family member or representative who has performed the funeral rites may not enter a temple of Devata worship for one year. If a non-family member, friend, or hired representative has acted as (surrogate putra kriya) officiating son of the deceased, he may not visit temples for the next 45 days.

4. Rahee Kriyas for Delayed Funeral Rites
         In some cases the funeral may be delayed for weeks or months or even years. Either the body may not be available, or the responsible family members may not be available, or the financial resources may not be available at the time of death. In all such cases of delayed funeral rites, Rahee Kriyas are prescribed. 

         The Rahee Kriya is an abbreviated form of the Antyeshti Kriya. It is a 5-6 day program consisting of the 9th through the 13th days of Antyeshti Kriyas. All the nourishing pinda offerings that are normally made during the first ten days of Antyeshti rites are made on the first two days of Rahee Kriyas, followed by the final 3 days of the standard Antyeshti Kriyas (the 11th, 12th, and 13th days of normal Antyesthi rites. This is prescribed when the Antyeshti Kriyas have been omitted or delayed for any amount of time after death. It provides a valuable boost to the departed soul.

5. Narayan Bali Yagya for Unnatural Departure

         “The Narayana Bali Yagya is a special rite performed in all cases of abnormal death, such as death by fasting, by animals, by arson, by a curse, by cholera or any disease, suicide, fall from a height, drowning, death by snake bite, by lightning, and by murder. This yagya is required in any cases where there has been no cremation, no tarpana (water offerings), no Shraddh (pinda offerings), and no asaucham (austere observances).”
                  - Garuda Purana 40:4-12.

         “The Narayana Bali should be performed by Brahmins in the Ganga, Yamuna, Naimasa and Puskara in a tank full of water, in an eddy of pure water, in a cow shed, in a house or in a temple in front of Lord Krshna’s image.”
                  - Garuda Purana 40:14-15.

         “Five Brahmins should be invited and arghya given to them. They should be learned, of good conduct, most excellent in their family, free from physical decrepitude and noble. Never should they be contemptible.”
                  - Garuda Purana 40:31.

         Narayan Bali Yagya is performed if death is due to unnatural, unusual, or violent causes (akal mrityu) - or if the body has been mishandled after death. It is also performed for child’s death, because children between the age of 4 and 16 have died before their body’s are fully matured. (Children under age 3 need nothing more than cremation.) 

         This yagya brings special relief in the case of unusually stressful death experience. It can be done in a single day and is said to release the soul from all 64 types of death obstacles. The Mukh Acharya (head pandit) guides other pandits chanting Narayan Sukta and Vishnu Sahasranam, and performing japa and havan. Garuda Puran describes the rules and requirements. It is usually performed on the 11th or 12th day of the Antyeshti Rites.

         NOTE: In South India Til Homa serves the same purpose for ancestors who have not had proper funeral rites. Til (sesame seed) is the foremost ingredient in any ancestral offering. BUT Til Homa should be reserved for distressed souls, who have committed suicide, have had no funeral rites, and are in urgent need of salvation. It is not for everyone.

6. Monthly Rites After Death - Mashik Shraddh
         It is important to record the tithi (lunar day) when the soul departed the body. On the anniversary of the death tithi (lunar day), every month for the next 12 months, the family invites the pandit to offer a water pot and pinda balls (rice, etc.) to the deceased. The pandit and other Brahmins are fed and offered Dakshina (cash gifts). 

In addition to the 12 lunar months, 4 pindas are offered for the 4 uunam periods: 
     First uunam day is any day between 27 to 30 days after death. 
     Second uunam day is between 41 to 45 days after death.
     Third uunam day is between 170 to 180 days after death.
     Forth uunam day is between 340 to 355 days after death.

         Ideally, these monthly rites continue throughout the year, but they are often omitted in favor of one grand ceremony on the 11th or 12th day after death to make offerings for all twelve months at once. In this short cut, pandits will make offerings of 16 rice balls (pindas), 16 ghee deepaks (lights), water, rice, sesame and other puja items. In this way, nourishment for the deceased is provided for all the 12 lunar months plus the uunam days. Ideally these offerings are made throughout the year, but better to leave the details to the pandits. Just witness with nourishing attention on the departed soul. 

7. One Year After Death - Varshik Shraddh - Judgement Day 
         After one year, family members sponsor a Varshik Shraddh on the tithi (lunar day) and the lunar month when the soul departed. The family feeds and honors Brahmins and well-wishers. On this day, the departed soul’s karma is cosmically computed. Vedic texts paint a picture of the departed soul arriving before Yama Raj, the Judge. In Yama’s court, the Chitra Guptas (karmic accountants) inform Yama of the merits and demerits of the soul’s life on earth, and Yama sends the soul to reap the fruits of his or her actions - wherever is best suited for further evolution. Offerings are made to all the ancestors at a Shraddha ceremony - either at home or on the banks of a holy river. Recitation of Ganga Sahasranam, Vishnu Sahasranam, and/or Bhagavad Gita at this time is auspicious.

         The Srimad Bhagavat Saptah Yagya is the supreme yagya any time after one year. Pandits recite the Srimad Bhagavatam Maha Purana in Sanskrit for seven days (ideally in a temple or beneath a Peepal tree, which is sacred to both Sri Krishna and Lord Shiva). A ‘Vyasa’ (narrator) explains the stories in the local language to the assembled guests. Other pujas and recitations also resound throughout the yagya. Each day food is prepared for guests. On the final day, gifts of food and other items are distributed to brahmin guests. This ceremony may cost between $1000 and $20,000 depending on the number of Brahmins who participate, and the extent of the food given to guests. Frequently families will combine their resources to sponsor this maha yagya for their ancestors.

         The Eckah Bhagavat yagya is a special Vedic yagya performed after one year as a less expensive alternative to the Bhagavat Saptah Yagya. It is a complete reading of the 12 chapters of Srimad Bhagavatam by 12 brahmins all in one day, instead of 7 days. Each pandit reads one chapter, and it includes a bandhara to feed the brahmins and guests.

         Yearly Shraddh rites can continue annually on the tithi (lunar day) of passing. In addition, these Shraddh rites are especially valuable when performed during Pitri Paksha - the waning moon before autumn Navaratri - krishna paksha of Ashwin. 

8. Amavasya - New Moon Offerings
         Amavasha is another timely day to make offerings. One day of the pitris is equal to one lunar month on earth. The dark half of the month (waning moon) is equal to the day of the deceased; the light half of the month (waxing moon) is equal to night for the deceased. Therefore, in addition to the death tithi, a suitable time for offering Shraddh is on the new moon (Amavasya) day each month, which corresponds to noontime (lunchtime) for the departed. Bathing in the morning, eating moderately, preparing a feast for honored guests, and feeding crows, cows and dogs from leaf plates are auspicious parts of Shraddh. 

9. Prana Shudhi for Purification of Family Prana
         Close relatives observe aasaucha (impurity observances) for at least the 13 days of Antyeshti rites. The most orthodox Hindu families will continue many of these austerities throughout the entire year after death, as a way of sharing the 'inconveniences' that the departed family member may encounter after death. 

         Sons observe the most strict aasaucha for their deceased parents. This includes: celibacy, eating only one meal per day, refraining from salt, spices, fried foods, oils, and meat. Avoid touching others. Male relatives shave their heads on the 10th day of antyeshti to remove the impurities associated with death. They refrain from using beds or chairs. They sleep on the floor (with or without a sleeping pad) with head pointing to the North, feet to the South. Mourners abstain from traveling, visiting temples, performing any other rituals, or celebrating any other functions (such as marriage) during this period of 13 days. Wearing plain, white fabric, sitting on wool blankets, and wearing straw sandals and mats are other forms of austerity to honor the deceased. 

         During this time it is absolutely necessary to abstain from visiting temples; focus only on the welfare of the departed ancestors; not on Devata functions. Care for the departed is more important than Deva worship at this time. When the pitris are happy, they can bless their descendants even more than the Devatas. Otherwise the discomfort of the pitirs can create problems for the descendants.  

         This period of aasaucha observances usually begins on the day of death and ends after the 13 day Antyeshti rites have been completed. IF the Antyeshti rites are delayed for several days after death, then the aasaucha observances may last more than 13 days. (Day of death + x days before Antyeshti rites + 13 days Antyeshti rites = (x+13) days of Aasaucha family observances.) 

         If there is a delay for more than ten days between the day of death and the start of the Antyeshti rites, then the aasaucha observances often are delayed until the beginning of the 13 days of Antyeshti rites, and only observed for those 13 days. If there is a delay of the Antyeshti Kriyas for several months or years after death, then Rahee Kriyas can be performed. The aasaucha observances are much less strict during the 6 days of Rahee Kriyas. See Point 4. Rahee Kriyas, above.

         The aasaucha observances are also much less strict if the person performing the kriyas are not a blood relative, but a friend of the family or a pandit performing the ceremonies. 

10. A few Do’s and Don’ts for Shraddh
         The Antyeshti Sanskar (Funeral Rites) and Shraddh rites are elaborate ceremonies, which require skilled pandits. The rules and regulations for nourishing the departed soul are similar to sending a care package to another country. If the package is sent through an authorized courier, delivery is assured. The address, custom’s forms, and registration must be accurately filled out, and the postage must be correct. Otherwise delivery may be jeopardized. Similarly with Shraddh, if something is overlooked, the desired results may be lacking. 

         For the Shraddh rites, you will need to provide the pandits with your Jyotish information: Lagna, and Moon Sign (Rashi) and Moon Nakshatra, as well as your gotra, which for most westerners is “Kashyap Gotra” in North India. In South India pandits will invoke “Kausika Gotra” for westerners who are unsure of their gotra. 

         Bring the names and photos of as many ancestors as possible on both parents' sides of the family, because they will all be honored in the ceremony. If the memory of your ancestors is lively in your awareness, the effect will be greater. If you don't know all your ancestors names, no problem; they will be honored anonymously. Pandits make the final offering in the ceremony for all unknown ancestors.

         The Shraddh rituals are described elaborately in Agni Purana, Garuda Purana, Kurma Purana, Padma Purana, Vishnu Purana, Manu Smriti, Grhya Sutras, and Srauta Sutras. Padma Purana declares that Ghrita Shraddh performed with Ghee (clarified butter) at holy places (tirthas) multiplies the benefits of ordinary Shraddh performances. Pindas made of barley flour (jhao), sesame seeds (til), juggary (gur), and ghee are the best. Always finish Shraddh with a meal and gifts to Brahmins.

         Following are a few scriptural recommendations, which give some idea of the precision required at Shraddh. These points are referenced in Section 13 - Quotes from Scripture.

Who Performs the Rites? And How?
         According to the Vedic tradition, the Kartaa is a family member or friend or hired representative, who performs the Antyeshti rites. The pandit/purohit only advises and guides the Kartaa. The pandit/purohit does not perform the rites directly. The priest only assists the Kartaa who is performing the Antyeshti rites. First the priest chants a mantra, then the Kartaa repeats the mantra and makes the offerings. These mantras are outlined in the book Hindu Antyeshti Samskar available from Amazon.com. Also Final Sanskar Rites.

         Following is the order of responsibility for officiating over a relative’s funeral rites.

         For honoring a deceased male relative, the priorities are: the eldest son, next eldest son, youngest son, son’s son, adopted son, daughter’s son, wife, daughter, younger brother, brother’s son (eldest to youngest), father, elder brother, mother, daughter-in-law, sister, sister’s son, son-in-law, friend. 

         For honoring a deceased female relative, the priorities are: eldest son, younger son, youngest son, grandson (son’s son), adopted son, grandson (daughter’s son), husband, daughter, husband’s younger brother, husband’s brother’s son (eldest to youngest available), husband’s father, husband’s elder brother, husband’s mother, daughter-in-law, husband’s sister’s son, friend. 

Transfer of Authority 
         The Kartaa is a male relative or friend. If the designated person (above paragraphs) is a woman or a minor son/daughter, then the funeral functions are delegated to a male Kartaa who actually performs the rites. 

         At the commencement of the ceremony, the designated family member gives 2 or 3 kusha grass to the Kartaa. The Kartaa keeps the kusha on his finger or tied to his clothes and keeps them tied until the end of the ceremony. This ritual symbolically authorizes the Kartaa to perform the rites. 

         IMPORTANT. If the Karta is a blood relative, he must not enter temples for one year after the funeral rites. If he is a surrogate family member, i.e. a friend of the family, he should abstain from temples for 45 days. Other relatives will only observe the 13 days of abstinance.

Other Fine Points:
  • Each Tithi and each Nakshatra has a special significance and particular benefits for the deceased. The 14th tithi (chaturdasi) and Ardra nakshatra are inauspicious for Shraddh. If death falls on either of those days, then pandits should do Shraddh the day before or the day after.
  • Shukla and Krishna Paksha (waxing and waning lunar fortnights) on death anniversary are both good for Shraddh.
  • 10th to 13th tithis are excellent. 
  • Amavasya (new moon) is best day of all. Especially during eclipse.
  • Afternoon Shraddh is always better than morning.
  • Shraddh is auspicious at any time and place when performed at most holy sites.
  • Manu has said that Shraddh performed with a copious measure of sesame gives inexhaustible benefits. 
  • Best food offerings include sesame seeds, payasa mixed with ghee, flesh of rhinoceros, the potherb called Kalasaka, the petals of the Kanchana flower, and meat of the goat. Shyamaka rice, sugarcane, bamboo shoots, and brinjals are excellent for pitri rites, 
  • Even a little water, roots, fruits, meat, and rice mixed with honey become inexhaustible when offered on the lunar anniversary of the day of death.
  • Pindas made of barley flour (jhao), sesame seeds (til), clarified butter (ghee), honey, and juggary (gur) are excellent.
  • Do not offer garlic, onions, carrots, radish, and other unpleasant smelling or odorless foods. 
  • Do Not offer milk of buffalo, deer, ewes, or single horned animals. 
  • Shraddh rites are not for entertaining friends and family. Bhandara feedings are for honoring guests that are neither friends nor foes, but are indifferent or neutral. Sadhus in an ashram or brahmin students in a Gurukulam are worthy recipients.
  • Don't wear yellow clothes at Shraddh.
  • Brahmacharya (celibacy) is necessary during Shraddh performance. 
  • Devas and pitris always prefer copper vessels for offerings; other vessels yield meager results.
  • Shraddh is spoiled by onlookers who are dishonored or unholy, as well as birds, pigs, or dogs, and by puja materials touched by calves or sick people. 
  • Ghee should be liquid, not solidified. 
  • Sprinkling water mixed with clay consecrates ingredients.
  • Scatter yellow mustard seed and black gingelly seeds. 
  • Do not add ordinary salt to rice balls. Sea salt is best. 
  • Wash thoroughly before Shraddh. Keep one pot for washing and one for achamana. 
  • Do not wear yellow clothes to Shraddh.
  • Wear simple white clothes. Discard after 12th day rites are completed (after hair is shaved/trimmed).
  • Do not wear iron jewelry, such as Shani (Saturn) rings to pitri rites. 
  • Do not touch bones, dogs or unclean people.
         The most elaborate description of death and the afterlife is in Garuda Purana, which goes into elaborate detail about the rules and regulations for successful Antyesthi rites. It also describes the consequences of one’s actions - for better or worse - including the immense bliss of the various heavens and the intense horrors of various hells. It includes chapters on the best gifts to alleviate past transgressions. The Purana is an effective motivation for everyone who hears it to act benevolently in all situations. 

11. Sacred Sites for Shraddh Rites
Vedic texts prescribe three types of ancestral offerings: 
  1. Tarpana consists of simple offerings of water and sesame to the deceased. Tarpana offerings can be made any time and any place, and are especially valuable in all holy places of pilgrimage.
  2. Pinda are more elaborate offerings of rice balls. 
  3. Shraddh includes both of these offerings plus gifts to deserving Brahmins. 
         Making offerings to ancestors at almost any holy tirtha will multiply the effects of the ceremony. Vayu Purana lists the 324 most auspicious sites for performing Shraddh. Of these about 84 are recognizable in this age, and 12 are most active. Three auspicious places for performing Shraddh in the center of “Arya Varta” (between the Himalayas and the Vindhya Mountains) are: Gaya (Bihar), Prayag Raj (formerly Allahabad), and Benares. These are described as the three Pillars of Heaven.

         Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Kuru Kshetra, are three other auspicious and easily accessible sites north of Delhi. Hari-ki-Pauri Ghat in Haridwar, and Triveni Ghat in Rishikesh are the main sites on the Ganga in the Himalayas for Shraddh and Ashti Visarjan (immersion of ashes).

         Seven sacred places in India are revered for their liberating nature. These are called the ‘Sapta Moksha Puris.’ These ‘Seven Cities of Liberation’ include Haridwar and Benaras on the River Ganga Ji, Ayodhya on the Sarayu River, Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, Ujjain on the River Shipra, Puri on the Bay of Bengal, and Mathura on the River Yamuna.

         Padma and Matsya Puranas extoll Shraddh in the following Tirthas: Gaya, Prayag, Amarakantaka (Madhya Pradesh), Varaha Parvata, River Ganga, Varanasi, Ganga Dwara (Haridwar), Pradhasa, Bilvaka, Nila Parvata, Kuru Kshetra, Kubjamra, Bhrigutunga, Mt. Himalaya, Kedara, River Falgu, Naimisharanya, River Sarasvati, Pushkara, Sri Saila, Bhadra Karnaka, River Vetravati, River Godavari etc. Vishnu Dharma Sutra lists many other places where Shraddh is exceptionally effective.

         Gaya gained preeminence among holy Shraddh sites after Brahma performed a yagya there on the advice of Vishnu. Brahma told the presiding Brahmins at Gaya: “Brahmins of Gaya, as long as the sun and the moon exist, you will continue to depend on the Gaya Tirtha for your sustenance. Whoever comes to Gaya and gives offerings to you and performs the due rites for the souls of the departed, the souls of a hundred generations of his ancestors will be transferred from hell to heaven where they will obtain final beatitude.” (Agni Purana, Chapter 144) 

Kuru Kshetra
         A few hours drive north of New Delhi is the site where the great Mahabharata war was presided over by Sri Krishna. This is considered one of the most auspicious places for warriors to fall in battle. They are assured of heaven. It is also one of the most auspicious places for Shraddh on new and full moons, and especially on eclipses. The benefits to the deceased are said to be inexhaustible.

Prayag Raj
         Prayag Raj (formerly Allahabad) is described in the Puranas as the “waist of the Lord Vishnu.” One who bathes there in the confluence of the Yamuna and Ganga, gains the benefit of ten Ashvamedha Yagyas. (auspicious, difficult yagyas) (Mahabharata, Vana Parva, Chapter 84, Shloka 35) Further, Agni Purana, Chapter 211, states that anyone who gives away anything in charity at Mahaprayag, performs Shraddh, or recites sacred mantras gains benefits of an imperishable nature. There are about 70,000 tirthas in the world and Mahaprayag is said to possess the presence of all the tirthas. Thus, it is revered as the best of all tirthas.

         There is a unique tradition of Shraddh at Badrinath, north of Jyotirmath. Bhairav performed Shraddh here for Brahma. Bhairav manifested as a fierce form of Shiva to humble Brahma. Bhairav cut off Brahma’s fifth head and incurred the sin of Brahma Hatya; therefore Bhairav had to perform great penance. He was finally freed from his sin at Brahma Kapal Kund at Badrinath. Shraddh here is said to be the most powerful anywhere. This is the “head” of pitri propitiation. “If you do the pinda Shraddh at Badrinath you never need to do it again.” In fact, a reversal of the benefits is said to occur if one offers pinda (rice balls) anywhere else after the Badrinath Shraddh. The reason is that the offerings at Badrinath are Maha Bhog Prasad of Lord Badri (Vishnu). There is no higher offering. Further attempts to satisfy the pitris are unnecessary and indicate a lack of Shraddha (faith). Offerings of water (tarpana) can be made to the pitris any time, but once having offered pinda at Badrinath or Gaya tirtha, the pitris (forefathers) should not be invoked again for that purpose. They depart satisfied, once and for all. 

         In order for Shraddh to be effective at Badrinath (or any holy place), Antyeshthi Kriyas or Rahee Kriyas must be performed properly in advance. In fact, most Brahmins wait to perform the Badrinath Shraddh later in life - after performing many annual Shraddhs.

Papanashini Beach, Varkala, Kerala
         This magnificent beach north of Trivendram, Kerala is not only one of India’s most beautiful swimming beaches, but it is one of the most revered places in South India for shraddh. The sand and surf and restaurants and guest houses are a delight. An ideal place to remember ancestors. A special delight from November to March.

In Nepal
The most sacred sites for Shraddh in Nepal are the Uttar Bahini sites. One is close to Kathmandu. The other more pristine sites are several hours outside of the Kathmandu Valley.