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By Nithin Sridhar
Pitr-Paksha (alternatively spelled as Pitru-Paksha)- the auspicious fortnight for the worship of ancestors has begun. Every year it begins on the first Poornima (full moon) after Ganesha Chaturti and ends on Mahalaya Amavasya which falls just a day before Navaratri starts. This year the Pitr-Paksha began on September 27 and will end on Oct 12.
The worship of the Devas (gods), Pitrs (Manes or Forefathers), and Rishis (the Seers) is central to the practice of the Hindu religion. When the father dies, the son performs funeral rites for the wellbeing and a safer journey of the departed soul. Similarly, the sons perform yearly rituals for the sake of departed fathers and mothers on the day of their deaths.
Apart from those specific rites that are performed for the sake of departed parents or immediate forefathers, Pitr-Paksha is a fortnight which is considered most auspicious time for worshiping and feeding, not only one’s parents and immediate ancestors, but also to any departed person be it a teacher, a friend or relatives.
Who is the Pitr?
Pitr basically refers to departed forefathers. Hinduism does not accept the theory of permanent heaven or hell. The Hindu scriptures speak about how Karma determines the journey of a particular individual after the death of his body and how the individual will eventually take a re-birth in a new body.
The scriptures speak about three paths a departed soul may take based on its actions when it was alive. Some who have lived life according to dharma and have practiced extensive devotion and meditation, then by the merit of such actions, he or she will attain Devaloka (the realm of the gods) through the northern path.
Some people who have practiced various duties and rites alone without devotion or meditation, may have to take a southern path to “Pitrloka” (the realm of ancestors/manes). On the other hand, those who live life selfishly and perform adharmic actions, may have to enter realms of hells called Naraka and suffer there for their unrighteous actions.
But, ultimately, all of them, according to their actions and its fruits, will again take birth as humans in the physical universe.
Without going into further details, it is suffice to say that, once a person dies, he discards his gross body and travels to Pitrloka in his subtle body and stays there until his karmic fruits that took him there get exhausted.
Manu Smriti (3.192) describes the Pitr as “free from anger, careful of purity, ever chaste, averse from strife, and endowed with great virtues.” Our forefathers who managed to reach there did so based on the merits of their own actions as well as due to the efforts of their offsprings’ who performed proper funeral rituals.
But, Pitrs, similar to humans, have unfulfilled desires. Many people when they die, die in misery and frustration. Most of them have strong, unfulfilled desires. These unfulfilled desires get carried even after one discards the physical body, as the desires belong to the mind, which is associated with the subtle body.
Therefore, Pitrs refer to our immediate parents who have departed, to our forefathers with whom we share a blood relationship, and in general to all ancestors who have come before us.
Why observe Pitr-Paksha?
As noted above, Pitrs refers to our ancestors. No person can take birth in this physical universe without being given birth by his/her parents. Therefore, each person owes to a debt to his parents for giving him/her an opportunity to enter this Universe. Then, the parents support their children, give them education, and help them grow up. Even though all these are done out of love by the parents, a Karmic bond and a debt is formed that the children owe to their parents.
This Karmic debt is called as “Rina” and such a bond of debt between two individuals is called as “Rina Bandha.” Now, it is not just parents who are responsible for the birth of an individual. The parents themselves were given birth by their parents. Hence, a person has a Rina Bandha with the whole family and lineage into which he or she is born.
The famous King Bhagiratha did practice severe Tapasya (austerity) to bring River Ganga on earth so that he could free his ancestors from Sage Kapila’s curse. This was his way of paying the debt to his ancestors.
In modern scientific language, a person derives his genes that are the basis of his existence from his ancestors. Therefore, there is a debt even on that count.
It is said that during the period of Pitr-Paksha, the Pitrs come down from their abodes in Pitrloka and reside near their descendants. If, one were to offer food and water and worship the Pitrs during this time, they will be very pleased and they will in-turn bless the descendants.
Manu Smriti (3.259) says that after performing Shraddha (a ritual to satiate Pitrs), the performer must pray for the blessings of Pitrs thus: “May liberal men abound with us! May (our knowledge of) the Vedas and (our) progeny increase! May faith not forsake us! May we have much to give (to the needy).”
P V R Narasimha who has prepared simple manuals for worshipping Pitrs says: “By thinking of the deceased ancestors with gratitude and trying to give them an emancipation, one is actually trying to free oneself from various Karmic predispositions that one has as a result of the Rina (Karmik debt) with several people. One can view this as an external event of satisfying and emancipating an external entity (a Pitr). Alternatively, one can view this as an internal event of satisfying and releasing an internal Karmik predisposition.”
Thus, the worship of Pitrs during Pitr-Paksha, will not only help a person to pay back his Karmic debts to his ancestors by satiating their desires, but also helps to gain their blessings that will give rise to both material and spiritual welfare. Most importantly, the worship of Pitrs will help one to purify one’s mind by reducing the internal Karmic burden.
How to observe Pitr-Paksha?
Detailed rituals and procedures have been given in the scriptures regarding the worship of Pitrs during this period. Two main rituals that are suggested are: shraddham and Tarpanam.
Shraddham or Shraddha refers to that which is done with faith. This is different from Bhakti which is devotion towards God. Shraddham refers to worship of forefathers in reverence and gratitude. The normal annual Shraddham that is to be performed annually on the day when one’s father and/or mother had died includes Homam (fire ritual), Vastradharanam (gift of cloth), feeding of proper Brahmanas, and Pindapradhanam (balls of rice etc. given to Pitrs) among other things. Some hold that, during Pitr-Paksha, a simpler version of Shraddham called “Hiranya Shraddham” which does not involve fire ritual; gifting of clothes etc. can be performed.
It is suggested that, the most auspicious day for performing this Shraddham during Pitr-Paksha is on Mahalaya Amavasya, the last day.
Tarpanam or Tarpan is another simple ritual that can be ideally practiced on almost any day throughout the year (except few days during which it has been prohibited). The practice of Tarpanam during Pitr-Paksha is especially considered very auspicious.
Tarpanam basically means “satisfying” and as the name denotes its very purpose is to satiate the gods, seers, and the Pitrs by fulfilling the karmic debts we owe them. In case of the Pitrs, the satiation is also through either freeing them from some of their cravings. The ritual includes invoking Pitrs in water, holding that water in one’s palm and then releasing the water from the palm in a specific way using mantras by which the Pitrs are freed and satiated.
These both rituals are very auspicious and will help immensely to the performer. Pitrs who are thus satisfied bless the performer with progeny, wealth, good health, knowledge, and liberation. These blessings will in-turn lighten the burden of Karma and become conductive to the practice of Dharmic lives. Therefore, everyone must remember and worship their ancestors using this auspicious period of Pitr-Paksha.
Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for lifesaving transplants.
Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but among the hurdles: A sugar in pig cells, foreign to the human body, causes immediate organ rejection. The kidney for this experiment came from a gene-edited animal, engineered to eliminate that sugar and avoid an immune system attack.
Surgeons attached the pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient so they could observe it for two days. The kidney did what it was supposed to do — filter waste and produce urine — and didn't trigger rejection.
"It had absolutely normal function," said Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the surgical team last month at NYU Langone Health in New York. "It didn't have this immediate rejection that we have worried about."
This research is "a significant step," said Dr. Andrew Adams of the University of Minnesota Medical School, who was not part of the work. It will reassure patients, researchers and regulators "that we're moving in the right direction."
The dream of animal-to-human transplants, or xenotransplantation, dates to the 17th century with stumbling attempts to use animal blood for transfusions. By the 20th century, surgeons were attempting transplants of organs from baboons into humans, notably Baby Fae, a dying infant, who lived 21 days with a baboon heart.
With no lasting success and much public uproar, scientists turned from primates to pigs, tinkering with their genes to bridge the species gap.
Pigs have advantages over monkeys and apes. They are produced for food, so using them for organs raises fewer ethical concerns. Pigs have large litters, short gestation periods and organs comparable to those of humans.
Pig heart valves also have been used successfully for decades in humans. The blood thinner heparin is derived from pig intestines. Pig skin grafts are used on burns, and Chinese surgeons have used pig corneas to restore sight.
Kidney ready for transplantation from a live donor Image credit: wikimedia commons
In the NYU case, researchers kept a deceased woman's body on a ventilator after her family agreed to the experiment. The woman had wished to donate her organs, but they weren't suitable for traditional donation.
'Good could come from this'
The family felt "there was a possibility that some good could come from this gift," Montgomery said.
Montgomery himself received a transplant three years ago, a human heart from a donor with hepatitis C because he was willing to take any organ.
"I was one of those people lying in an ICU waiting and not knowing whether an organ was going to come in time," he said.
Several biotech companies are in the running to develop suitable pig organs for transplant to help ease the human organ shortage. More than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for kidney transplants. Every day, 12 die while waiting.
The advance is a win for Revivicor, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics, the company that engineered the pig and its cousins, a herd of 100 raised in tightly controlled conditions at a facility in Iowa.
The pigs lack a gene that produces alpha-gal, the sugar that provokes an immediate attack from the human immune system.
In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved the gene alteration in the Revivicor pigs as safe for human food consumption and medicine.
But the FDA said developers would need to submit more paperwork before pig organs could be transplanted into living humans.
"This is an important step forward in realizing the promise of xenotransplantation, which will save thousands of lives each year in the not-too-distant future," said United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt in a statement.
Experts say tests on nonhuman primates and last month's experiment with a human body pave the way for the first experimental pig kidney or heart transplants in living people in the next several years.
Raising pigs to be organ donors feels wrong to some people, but it may grow more acceptable if concerns about animal welfare can be addressed, said Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center, who will help develop ethics and policy recommendations for the first clinical trials under a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
"The other issue is going to be: Should we be doing this just because we can?" Maschke said. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Transplant, Pig, Human, Kidney, FDA
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Developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, a Decision Support System (DSS) that extends the ability of the existing air quality early warning system (AQEWS) to have decision-making capability for air quality management in Delhi-NCR was launched on Tuesday.
The website for the DSS (https://ews.tropmet.res.in/dss/) is designed to help the Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) by delivering quantitative information about the contribution of emissions from Delhi and its 19 surrounding districts; the contribution of emissions from eight different sectors in Delhi; and the contribution from biomass-burning activities in the neighbouring states.
These information would assist in managing the air quality in a timely manner, a release from the Ministry of Earth Sciences said.
The need was stated by the CAQM, which was formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, during a meeting held in January 2021.
Recently, the Commission reviewed the progress made by IITM and had in principle approved the current version of DSS for air quality management in the Delhi-NCR. The IITM has also developed a new website for DSS with the entire system made operational, the release said.
Union Minister of State for Earth Sciences, Jitendra Singh, while launching the website for AQEWS on the occasion of 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' week organised by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said, "DSS is a significant contribution to 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' on behalf of MoES and IITM and suggestions are invited on this issue."
The website also has a feature whereby the users can create their own emission reduction scenarios (from 20 different districts, including Delhi) so as to examine the possible projected improvement in air quality in Delhi for the next five days.
"This information would explicitly highlight the most important emission sources responsible for the degradation of air quality in Delhi and suggest possible solutions to ameliorate the same. With a plethora of quantitative data, the AQEWS integrated with DSS could become a user-friendly tool for air-quality management in and around Delhi," the release said. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Delhi, India, Pollution, IITM, Ministry of Earth Sciences
On the first day of the two-day meeting of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders on Tuesday, discussions were held on important issues related to education and the National Education Policy-2020. Apart from senior RSS leader Suresh Soni, representatives of various organisations associated with the Sangh Parivar -- working in the field of education -- were present in the meeting in New Delhi.
According to sources, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who attended the meeting on behalf of the government, shared information related to the National Education Policy-2020 and the government's policy on important issues related to the education sector. Pradhan also shared details of the efforts being made by the government in the field of education.
Discussions were also held regarding the impact of the situation arising out of Corona and how much it has affected the education sector. In the meeting, the RSS leaders asked several questions and provided suggestions to the Union Minister regarding the education policy of the government.
According to the sources, RSS wants the policy to be implemented expeditiously. All aspects related to the policy were discussed in Tuesday's meeting. On the second and the last day of the meeting on Wednesday, special issues related to education will be discussed in which representatives of various organisations of the Sangh, Union Ministers and several BJP leaders will be take part.
Meanwhile, in order to convey its point of view to the government on various issues, the Sangh keeps on calling such coordination meetings related to specific issues, in which RSS representatives -- working in that particular area -- provide feedback to the government. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: BJP, RSS, New Education Policy, Education, India