Tarpanam is a very simple yet powerful water ritual which is done for our Gods, sages and ancestors by offering them food, rice, water and black sesame seeds to seek their blessings.
Through this ritual we can clear energy blocks and negativity and invoke the energies of our ancestors as well as thanking them for giving us the body that we have.
Pitru Tarpanam is usually done for 12 of our most recently departed ancestors; parents, grandparents, great grandparents etc and Karunya Tarpanam is performed for other departed relatives, friends, mentors, strangers, pets, creatures, trees, plants and any other life form that you wish to honor and pray for.
When to perform Tarpanam
(You can see all the below timings based on your location on the align27 app)
On the New Moon phase each month, Sarva Pitru Amavasya day (the most important day of Pitru Paksha when we honor our ancestors and dedicate the day for all departed souls), and Eclipse days are very good days to do this.
However, it can be performed on any day apart from on a Sunday that has Saptami Tithi (7th day of the lunar fortnight), on a Friday that has a Nanda Tithi (1, 6 and 11 tithis of the lunar fortnights), on a Sunday with Moon in Bharani, Krittika or Magha Nakshatra and on your own birthday. On these restricted days you can perform Tarpanam without the sesame seeds if needed.
It is best to perform this between sunrise and sunset when there is daylight and in a part of the house where you don’t sleep.
What you need to perform Tarpanam
- Raw rice or white rice flour
- Black sesame seeds for males performing (if you can’t get black sesame seeds brown or white can be used) and white sesame seeds for females performing.
- Darbha grass (known as kusa grass or dharbai). If you are unable to get Darbha grass, a local alternative grass is ok.
- Pavitram (make a ring from some of the Darbha grass to be worn on the ring finger of the right hand). If you are unable to do this you can wear some sort of a ring in its place.
- 1 coin, or gold coin if available.
- Fresh water in a wood, copper, brass or silver cup/pot (convenient for you to hold in your hand).
- A clean plate made from wood, copper, brass or silver.
- Optional: flowers or petals, sandalwood powder, a clean cloth or mat to sit on.
(If you are not able to get all the above, then sesame seeds and water are the two main things that you would need).
Preparation to offer Tarpanam
- Make a list of 12 departed ancestors, 6 from your Mother’s side and 6 from your Father’s side. (If you are unsure of their names, then it can simply be ‘Great Grandfather, or Great Great Grandmother).
- Make a list of departed souls for whom you would like to do the Karunya Tarpanam.
- Wear the Pavitram ring made from the darbha grass on the ring finger of the right hand.
- Sit on the floor facing the East zone. First pray to Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity and Remover of Obstacles and then to Lord Surya Narayana, the Lord of the Pitru ancestral beings.
- Cut the darbha grass into 6 equal pieces around 4 inches long. Each end of the pieces of grass represent the 6 generations on both sides of your family.
- Create a grid on a large plate using strands of the grass. 3 vertical and then 3 horizontal (leaving space in between like a crossword grid). Each line should contain 3 strands of grass, so since there are 6 lines, there should be 18 strands used.
- Make a paste with the sandalwood powder by mixing with a little water and spread it on the darbha grass.
- In the palm of your right hand place a tablespoon of black sesame seeds, white rice, a flower/petals, a coin and a few small pieces of dharba grass.
- Sprinkle a few drops over the offerings in your hand.
- With all your heart think of your ancestors (if you can, by name) and pray to them as you pour water over your hand.
- After some time and when you feel ready, pour the rest of the water over the right hand and let the offerings in your hand wash off completely. (You may reuse the coins for the same Tarpanam ritual that you do each time, just rinse them with water).