Garuḍa Purāṇa 8

Garuḍa Purāṇa now proceeds to discuss about the persons who are authorized to perform last rites and its methods. Funeral rites can be performed by the deceased’s son, grandson, great grandson, brother and brother’s progeny.  In the absence of male progeny, it is said that women can perform these rites. Annual ceremonies should also be performed to the deceased. When funeral rites and annual ceremonies are performed, all gods are satisfied and they bestow on the family of the performer health, wealth and happiness. Suppose, one does not have relatives, he should perform these rituals when he is alive. This ritual which is spread over a month is known jīvatśrāddha.

The Lord begins to speak about the necessity of performing śrāddha-s to the departed souls. A departed soul has many possible destinations.  It can become one with the Brahman, not to be born again.  It may be born as a demigod, animal, plant, etc. Irrespective of the nature of the soul’s transmigration, the piṇḍa-s offered in śrāddha ceremonies reach the transmigrated body of the soul.  For example, the soul transmigrates as a god, the offered piṇḍa becomes nectar, if he becomes a gandharva, the piṇḍa becomes an object of enjoyment; grass to animals; meat to demons; blood to ghosts; and pulses and grains in case of humans.  It is also said that it is important to offer food during such ceremonies to Vedic scholars. The piṇḍa-s offered to them become nectar to the soul.  It is also said that it is important to uphold one’s traditions as declared in Śruti-s than enquiring into the reasoning.

It is said that there is a class of manes by name agniṣvātta pitṛ-s.  They take charge of the remains of a body that was cremated. The agniṣvātta pitṛ-s carry the offerings, if made as prescribed in śāstra-s to the departed ones and give the offerings to them during their long journey to the world of Yama. The offerings are in the form of three piṇḍa-s during funeral rites or annual śrāddha ceremonies.  Irrespective of the shapes and forms, the departed soul has attained during transmigrations, the piṇḍa offerings somehow reach them.  When these manes become happy about the way in which a śrāddha ritual is performed for a departed soul, they in turn carry the food offered to the transmigrated soul, to whom a śrāddha ritual is performed.  At the time of śrāddha ritual, these manes arrive at the place where the ritual is performed and remain afloat in the atmosphere. They enter the bodies of pandits in whom the departed souls are invoked and consume the food offered to them. There are special mantras and rituals for invoking the departed souls in the body of pandits. It is also said that the lord of death, Yama sends eleven ghosts to consume the offerings made in a śrāddha ritual. Particular reference has been made about the preparation of milk, rice and sugar to be cooked and served on the day of ritual.  

It is also said that such rituals should be performed only within one’s means. Pomp, vanity and spending beyond one’s means are considered as sins and will invite curse from the ancestors and gods alike.  If one wants to avoid transmigrations, he has to realize the Brahman and become one with Him, as declared by all the Upaniṣad-s. The soul of a deceased escapes through nine holes in a body and they are pair of eyes, pair of ears, pair of nostrils and mouth in the upper portion of the body and the organs of procreation and excretion in the lower portion of the body.   Śāstra-s always consider navel as the centre of the body. If one has accrued good karmas, it is said that his soul will leave the body through any of the openings in the upper region of the body.  If one has accrued bad karmas, his soul will leave through either of the two openings in the lower region of the body. A soul with good karma enters another human body and will enjoy the benefits of its good karmas. If one is able to win over his senses, mind and speech, he wins over māyā and is not likely to be reborn.  It is also said that if one spends away both good and bad karmas, he is not reborn.  When the fruits of all actions are surrendered to the Brahman, he does not accrue karmas at all.

(to be continued)