Reflections on an annual family ritual

Today, I performed my Mother’s annual Sraddh ceremony. It has been 7 years since she passed away. Every year I debate whether to continue the ritual or not and finally decide to carry on with the tradition.

I know for sure that my Mother — wherever she may be — would not mind if I stopped the practice. But, then why do I still keep doing it?

Over the years — I have cracked the code of the mumbo-jumbo of Sanskrit Mantras. The concept is simple. First, one prays for the departed soul invoking the Sun and Vishnu. Followed by a symbolic offering of food to the “atma”. The latter also explains the gifts of edibles, clothes etc to the Brahmin.

Coming to think of it — the same purpose would be served by going to a temple or even praying at home and then donating to a charity or giving alms to the poor. My Mother would certainly approve of that. But, also I don’t think she would mind my going through the motions of the “batsorik kaaj”, as it is called, for the following reasons:

  • It is a source of livelihood for the community priests;
  • They need to be patronised for keeping alive traditions that keeps us rooted in society;
  • It is a time for the family to come together as a unit and reinforce a sense of belonging — in an age of increasingly fragmented existence;

Finally, if at all she is still present somewhere beyond the realms of our perception, she would enjoy spending this hour with us. It is the least, I can do for her in a whole year.

However, for me, the context would have changed if there was societal pressure to perform the ceremony. I would do it only on my own terms and accord.

So, I think — ceteris paribus — I shall sit down once again next year on the same “tithi”, Inshallah!!

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