The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'After Nimi had acted in the way described above, all the great Rishis began to perform the sacrifice in honour of the Pitris (called the Sraddha) according to rites laid down in the ordinance. Firmly devoted to the discharge of all duties, the Rishis, having performed Sraddhas, began to also offer oblations (unto the Pitris) of sacred waters, with attention. In consequence, however, of the offerings made by persons of all classes (unto the Pitris), the Pitris began to digest that food. Soon they, and the deities also with them, became afflicted with indigestion. Indeed, afflicted with the heaps of food that all persons began to give them, they repaired to the presence of Soma. Approaching Soma they said, 'Alas, great is our affliction in consequence of the food that is offered to us at Sraddhas. Do thou ordain what is necessary for our ease.' Unto them Soma answered, saying, 'If, ye gods, ye are desirous of obtaining ease, do ye repair then into the abode of the Self-born. Even he will do what is for your good.' At these words of Soma, the deities and the Pitris then proceeded, O Bharata, to the Grandsire where he was seated on the summit of the mountains of Meru.'
"The deities, 'O illustrious one, with the food that is offered us in sacrifices and Sraddhas, we are being exceedingly afflicted. O lord, show us grace and do what would be for our good.' Hearing these words of theirs, the Self-born said unto them in reply, 'Here, the god of fire is sitting beside me, Even he will do what is for your benefit.'
"Agni said, 'Ye sires, when a Sraddha comes, we shall together eat the offerings made to us. If ye eat those offerings with me, ye shall then, without doubt, succeed in digesting them easily.' Hearing these words of the deity of fire, the Pitris became easy of heart. It is for this reason also that in making offerings at Sraddhas a share is first offered to the deity of fire, O king. If a portion of the offerings be first made to the deity of fire at a Sraddha, O prince of men, Rakshasas of regenerate origin cannot then do any injury to such a Sraddha. 1 Beholding the deity of fire at a Sraddha Rakshasas fly away from it. The ritual of the Sraddha is that the cake should first be offered to the (deceased) sire. Next, one should be offered to the grandsire. Next should one be offered to the great-grandsire. Even this is the ordinance in respect of the Sraddha. Over every cake that is offered, the offerer should, with concentrated attention, utter the Savitri Mantras. This other Mantra also should be uttered, viz., unto Soma who is fond of the Pitris. A woman that has become impure in consequence of the advent of her season, or one whose ears have been cut off, should not be allowed to remain where a Sraddha is being performed. Nor should a woman (for cooking the rice to be offered in the Sraddha) be brought from a Gotra other than that of the person who is performing the Sraddha. 1 While crossing river, one should offer oblations of water unto one's Pitris, naming them all. Indeed, when one comes upon a river one should gratify one's Pitris with oblations of water. Having offered oblations of water first unto the ancestors of one's own race, one should next offer such oblations to one's (deceased) friends and relatives. When one crosses a stream on a car unto which is yoked a couple of oxen of variegated hue, or from them that cross a stream on boats, the Pitris expect oblations of water. Those that know this always offer oblations of water with concentrated attention unto the Pitris, Every fortnight on the day of the New moon, one should make offerings unto one's deceased ancestors. Growth, longevity, energy, and prosperity become all attainable through devotion to the Pitris. The Grandsire Brahman, Pulastya, Vasishtha, Pulaha, Angiras, Kratu and the great Rishi Kasyapa--these, O prince of Kuru's race, and regarded as great masters of Yoga. They are numbered among the Pitris. Even this is the high ritual in respect of the Sraddha, O monarch! Through Sraddhas performed on earth the deceased members of one race become freed from a position of misery. I have thus, O prince of Kuru's race, expounded to thee agreeably with the scriptures, the ordinances in respect of Sraddhas. I shall once more discourse to thee on gifts."
155:1 Ravana and other Rakshasas who spring from Pulastya's line are known as Brahma-Rakshasas or Rakshasas of regenerate origin.
Next: Section XCIII