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By Swami Harshananda

Pīṭha literally means ‘seat’.

In a general sense, it means a thing upon which one sits. However, in a technical sense, it indicates the pedestal of an icon.

The shape and the size of a pīṭha depend upon the style of the temple such as nāgara, vesara or drāviḍa and also the posture of the image. It is square for a seated[1] image. It can be rectangular or circular or even oval, if the image is in the sthānaka[2] pose.


The height of the image may be 12 aṅgulas or just 7. In the case of Śivaliṅgas, it should be 4 or 5 times the diameter of the cylindrical shaft. Iconographical works describe pīthas of several designs such as bhadrapīṭha or padmapīṭha which give enough scope to the sculptor to exhibit his skills. The word pīṭha is sometimes used to indicate a Śaktipīṭha, a place of pilgrimage connected with Śakti or Mother-goddess. If it is used as a suffix, it gives different meanings. For example:

  1. Balipīṭha - sacrificial altar
  2. Śāradāpitha - the monastic center of Advaita Vedānta at Śṛṅgerī, Karnataka
  3. Others


  1. Seated image is called āsīna.
  2. Sthānaka means standing.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

By Swami Harshananda

Pitrgāthā literally means ‘song of the manes’.

In religion, the pitṛs[1] have always been respected. Normally, once a year, the descendants are expected to pay homage to them through religious rites known as Śrāddhas. It seems that, even as the descendants are eager to appease their pitṛs, the pitṛs too hanker for such appeasement.

The Matsyapurāṇa,[2] one of the eighteen Mahāpurāṇas, contains an interesting piece, depicting such hankering. This has come to be known as the Pitrgāthā or the Song of the Manes. It is to be chanted as a part of śrāddha ceremonies, thus making the brāhmaṇas invited for food listen to it. The gāthā expresses the desire of the pitṛs to get good food in the śrāddhas, receive oblations of water in holy rivers and get a śrāddha performed at the holy pilgrim centre Gayā in Bihar. They will bless their descendants who perform the following:

  • Donate a milch-cow and a deerskin to a good brāhmaṇa
  • Set free a bull to roam about as it likes
  • Donate gold or cow or a piece of land to a deserving and needy person
  • Perform public service activities such as digging a well for drinking water and raising a nice garden

However, they are pleased immensely if their descendants become scholars in the scriptures and great devotees of Lord Viṣṇu.


  1. Pitṛs means the forefathers or manes.
  2. Matsyapurāṇa 204.3-17
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore