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Pindadana – Food Offerings To The Ancestors – Pinda Daan

Pindana, or Pinda Daan, refers to the ‘offering of rice balls’ to departed ancestors during obsequial rites and the annual Shraddha ceremonies. The pindas are made of boiled rice mixed with black sesame grains and are placed on darbha grass while being offered to the dead.

During Shraddha, the pindas are to be offered, separately, to the three paternal ancestors – the father, grandfather and great-grandfather and their wives – who are treated as the deities of the Shraddha. As to the size of the panda, it is stated in parvana shraddha, the panda should be of the size of an undried myrobalan (amalaka) fruit, and of the size of bilva fruit in edoddista shraddha; in nava-shraddha, when offered every day during the days of impurity following death, the panda should be bigger than in the preceding ones. About the final disposal (pratipatti) of the pindas, several views are held. The middle one of the three panda offered to the paternal ancestors is to be eaten by the wife of the performer of the Shraddha if she is desirous of an offspring. The other two pindas should be cast into water or in fire, or they may be eaten by a Brahmin who has suddenly developed an aversion for food, or by one who has been suffering from a serious disease. When a shraddha is performed at a place of pilgrimage (tirtha), the panda should be cast into the sacred water. It is also stated that one can attain heaven by giving pinadas to cows, acquire intellect and fame by casting them into water, and long life by offering them to birds.

On the question as to what the principal item in Shraddha is, there are three views. According to one view, the feeding of Brahmins is the principal thing; according to the second view, the pindadana is the principal part and the feeding of Brahmin is subsidiary to it. The third view holds that both rites are to be equally accepted as principal. It is observed that since the performer offers panda in honor of his ancestors and the Brahmins are invited to receive those pindas on behalf of the ‘ancestors’, the acceptance of the rice balls is of secondary concern. From another point of view, pindadana includes three kinds of actions – offering of rice balls into the sacred fire (agnau karana), feeding of Brahmins (Brahmin bhojana) and scattering of the same on the altar made for Shraddha (pindanirvapana).