By Swami Harshananda
Piṇḍapitṛyajña literally means ‘sacrifice to the manes by offering rice balls'.
Performance of the śrāddhas or obsequal rites in honor of the dead ancestors, generally of three generations, is an ancient custom. It has its origin in such Vedic rites such as the piṇḍapitṛyajña. This rite is generally performed one day prior to the Darśa sacrifice by an āhitāgni. The procedure is similar to that of the pārvaṇaśrāddha.
Three piṇḍas have to be offered in the afternoon to the pitṛs or forefathers. The rice has to be cooked over dakṣiṇāgni and sprinkled with ājya or ghee. At the time of offering the piṇḍas the performer has to wear his yajñopavīta in the prācīnāvīta form, i.e, on the right shoulder, hanging on the left side, below the left arm. Offerings are to be made in the dakṣiṇāgni to gods and Agni as kavyavāhana, carrier of offerings first. Reception rites to the pitṛs, prayers to them followed by namaskāra or obeisance are some of the other rites.
- Āhitāgni means the one who keeps the Vedic fires duly established.
- Piṇḍas means rice-balls.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore