Hindu Funeral Rites and Ancestor Worship 
Antyesti, Sraddha and Tarpana
6. Another Form of Sraddha
I will conclude this article by mentioning a final variation to the sraddhaprocess, which is based on the ancient Pancaratra tradition whose influence can be readily seen in the Mahabharata some of the Puranas.
A follower of Visnu is enjoined to perform the sraddha rites with the remnants of food first offered to Visnu. The Padma-purana enjoins that deities other than Visnu and the fathers may be propitiated with food that has been first offered to Visnu. In that same text Narada says, “Following the ordinances of the SattvataSchool, the devotees first worshiped Visnu, the God of gods, and with the remnants of such food worshiped the fathers.” In the Brahmanda-purana it is enjoined that the father’s remain gratified for thousands of kalpas with rice cakes mixed with sacred blossoms of tulasi, prepared with the remnants of food offered with devotion to Visnu. In the Skanda-purana, Siva says, “Food should first be offered to Visnu and then the very same food should be distributed to the minor deities and the fathers.” In the Purusottama-khanda of that same text, it is stated, “For avoiding defilement, the remnants of food offered to Visnu should be mixed with the rice cakes to be offered to the fathers. Food is rendered pure when sprinkled with the waters of the tulasi and when mixed with the food offered to Visnu.” In the course of a conversation between Brahma and Narada it has been made clear that the worship of Visnu alone is capable of releasing the fathers from the suffering of hell.” It is even stated that the performance of the sraddha rite is useless in the age of Kali without first worshipping Visnu.
This series of quotations from various Puranas reflects the Pancaratrika idea that through a person’s sole reliance on Visnu all things that a human being would otherwise have to do alone could be accomplished through the grace of God. The successful outcome of the sraddha process was therefore, not dependant on the power of the ritual, the expertise of the priest, precise timing, and availability of the articles, etc. but upon God alone. This approach involved the ‘handing over’ of the fate of the soul to God.
According to this approach, food or water that is offered to the pitrs is first offered to Visnu and thereby transformed into visnu-prasada. The wordprasada means “mercy” or “grace.” Thus visnu-prasada is God’s grace. Thisprasada of Visnu is then offered to the pitrs, who now receive God’s grace instead of mere food or water. In this way, the grace of God has the power to elevate and sustain the pitrs in a manner that no human power can match. In the case of a homa or havan, a ritual performed with fire, the fire is used as the “delivery system” by which Visnu is first offered food. This food offering, which is now God’s grace, is then offered to the pitrs through the fire. It is thus Agnideva, the fire God, who acts as the link between this world and the world of the pitrs.
Psychologically this approach to the sraddha process is very satisfying to grieving family members. The invocation of God’s grace to reach beyond human endeavor is indeed powerful.
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Walker, Benjamin. Hindu World, An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism. In two volumes. New Delhi: Indus, 1968.
Shastri, Dakshina Ranjan. Origin and Development of the Rituals of Ancestor Worship in India. Bookland Private: Calcutta, 1963.
Saraswati, Swami Dayanand, translation by Vaidyanath Shastri. The Sanskar Vidhi. Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha: New Delhi, 1985.
 The Pancaratra Agamas claim to be based on the üukla-yajur-veda (which is no longer extant) and purports to be of Vedic origin. The Pancaratra Agamas are extremely voluminous. The number of texts is in the hundreds, but the most ancient and authoritative Pancaratra texts are the Sattvata, Pauskara andJayakhya Samhitas.