Kalifa Sarah Clyne
KALIFA SARAH CLYNE
On Thursday morning Geeta Seeraj and her family cooked a meal as an offering for her grandmother.
Her grandmother died 13 days earlier and the offering was for her bandara ceremony, observed 13 days after the death of a loved one.
The food the family cooked was Seeraj’s grandmother’s favourites: bhaigan choka, jhingi, eddoes choka, sada roti and coconut chutney, made just the way she liked it, with crushed bird pepper.
Like Seeraj, other Hindus across the country have spent time since September 2 cooking for and feeding their ancestors as part of Pitri Paksha, a two-week period in the Hindu calendar when they pay homage to their ancestors.
“We make the offerings to Lord Krishna so she can start her journey. We offer the foods that she like and we believe the rays of the sun would take the energy for her,” Seeraj told Newsday. “This is tradition I learned from my grandparents and they learned from their grandparents.”
Seeraj said her grandmother Ramdai was 83 and was a grandmother and great-grandmother.
“We do this to give tribute to the life and generations that came before us and to show respect to our ancestors and tradition and culture.”
Newsday asked Pundit Dave Rampersad about the tradition, which he said was brought to this country by indentured Indians, who were brought here from 1845.
Pitri Paksha, he said, is a memorial time.
“It’s a time to remember and celebrate the lives of our ancestors. It is a time to reflect on life and remember the contributions of ancestors or loved ones. It’s held in the Hindu calendar in the dark fortnight in the month of Ashwin, which is sometimes in September to October.”
The Hindu calendar is based on the moon.
“During this time we pray to Lord Krishna, who is the giver of peace (and) happiness and grants liberation and salvation. In Hindu tradition we pray to Lord Krishna during the death ceremony, so during Pitri Paksha we pray and ask him to bless the souls of these ancestors, wherever they are,” Rampersad said.
The offering for Pitri Paksha consists of water, which is placed on knotted kush grass, with the knot facing south. Rampersad said Hindus believe that is the direction the deceased go.
Families also light deyas and incense and offer pinda (rice balls) and the types of vegetarian food their ancestors would enjoy. They also add something for their ancestors to drink.
“We pray for Lord Krishna to bless their souls and provide them with food and drink and take care of their needs and then we remove the knot from the grass to signal the end.”
Rampersad said in addition to feeding their ancestors, Hindus also use the time to feed the vulnerable and may give out hampers or groceries to those in need.