Useful Information on Mahalaya Paksham from various sources.
Pitru Paksha (Sanskrit: पितृ पक्ष), also spelt as Pitr paksha or Pitri paksha, (literally “fortnight of the ancestors”) is a 16–lunar day period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors (Pitrs), especially through food offerings. The period is also known as Pitru Pakshya, Pitri Pokkho, Sola Shraddha (“sixteen shraddhas”),Kanagat, Jitiya, Mahalaya Paksha and Apara paksha.
From Sarma Sastrigal (email@example.com)
A ‘paksha’ is 15 days. When the Sun enters ‘kanya rasi’ (Virgo) in Krishna paksha, the period is termed as ‘Mahalaya paksha’.
It is said that our ancestors get Yama’s permission and descend from Pitru loka during Mahalaya paksha, and receive with
satisfaction the offerings of their progeny.
This year this Paksham starts on Friday, the September 20th 2013.
This is also the only paksha where we get an opportunity to offer ‘tarpana’ even to the departed souls of our choice, other than our
own pitrus. This is known as ‘karunyaka pitru tarpana’. For instance, we can do it for persons who died without issues.
At least on one day:
Persons who have lost their father can perform ‘Tharpanam’ daily. Yes, during the entire period.
Or else, one should perform ‘Mahalaya sraaddha’ at least on one day during the paksha as hiranya roopam.
Those who wish do it on only one day as Hiranya sraaddham, they can do it on a convenient day. Following days are considered
significant, one can consider, if possible, to choose a day cited here: Maha Bharani (23rd Sept), Maha Vyatheepadham (26th Sept),
Madhyaashtami (27th Sept) and Gaja chaaya (2nd Oct).
Brahmana Bojanam :
Brahmana Bojanam also is (as samaaraadhana menu) also highly recommended during the Hiranya roopa Sraaddham.
Chaturdasi & Amavasya:
Of course they have to avoid certain days, ie., Chaturdasi & Amavaasya (3rd and 4th of Oct. These days are meant for particular persons, ie., Chaturdasi is allotted for those who died in accidents and by other unnatural (durmaranam) deaths. It is said that widows and Brahmacharis can observe Mahalayam on the day of Amavaasya, the 4th.
For those who have attained ‘siddhi’ (Sanyasis) , the 1st of October (Tuesday) is recommended.
While on the subject let me point out that though it is no mandatory as such, this Mahalaya Sraaddha can also be performed as ‘Paarvana’ vidhaanam ie., with Homam. But as it may involve a lot of preparations in addition to the monetary aspects it may not be possible to perform this every year for all.Sufficient (more) space also is required. Hence, if possible, one can think of doing this, at least once in the life time.
From Shri K.Raman (firstname.lastname@example.org)