Pitru Paksha Shradh: Why Is Black Sesame Offered To Ancestors?
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The 16-day long period of Pitru Paksha or Shradh, is a time for families to pay respects to their ancestors by performing sacred rituals and engage in pious activities like annadana – distributing food and making donations. As part of this period that occurs after the Bhadrapada Purnima, one of the rituals involve offering pinda dana – or serving the ancestors cooked rice and black sesame seeds. Symbolic for the reason that the seeds represent detaching from negativity externally as well as within, black sesame is believed to evoke dead ancestors during this time of inauspiciousness.

Black sesame seeds are also offered by being sprinkled in water to the departed, who are believed to be wandering in a zone between earth and heaven – known as the pitruloka. When specific hymns are chanted during the course of the rituals, ancient traditions indicate that the energies from the chanting activates the energy of the seeds, which allows the ancestors to descend and accept the offerings. Observers of this tradition refrain from engaging in landmark activities like marriage, buying or selling property or indulging in luxuries around this time.

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It is believed that those who follow these rituals and perform them each year, facilitate the liberation of the departed ancestors, freeing them from the cycle of birth and death. As per Hindu mythology, black sesame seeds are also constituted as an offering that pleases Lord Yamraj – the guardian of the hellish planets. In astrology, the offering of black sesame seeds during pitru paksha is also meant to appease the planets that cause disturbances – namely Rahu, Ketu and Shani, thereby eliminating any trigrahi doshas.