Hindu Funeral Rites and Ancestor Worship 
Antyesti, Sraddha and Tarpana
Upon being established as a pitr the departed soul became fit for receiving the benefits of the numerous pitr-yajnas. The pitr-yajna is a kind of sraddhawherein one’s family ancestors as well as the general class of pitrs are worshiped. Hindu sastra prescribes a variety of such ceremonies.
Like the ekoddista rites these ceremonies involve the offerings of rice cakes (pinda), libations of water (tarpana), and oblations through fire (homa). Three rice cakes, one for each pitr, were generally employed. Some of the ceremonies were performed on specific days of the month and times of the year, namely new moon (amavasya) and during the dark half of the month of bhadrapada(pitr-paksa). For this reason they were sometimes called parvana rites. Other varieties of these ceremonies are called kamya or sometimes vrddhi-sraddhasbecause they may be performed as desired for some specific purpose.
We have made reference to the offering of libations of water during the sixteenekoddista-sraddhas. This process is called tarpana and along with the use of fire it is an essential component of the sraddha process. The word tarpana is derived from the Sanskrit root trp which means to please or to gratify. Tarpanais the act of pleasing (trpyanti pitaro yena). Specifically, tarpana is the act of pouring water through the hands with the use of sacred grass called kusa as a symbolic gesture of recognition, thanking and pleasing three classes of beings: gods, sages, and fathers. Usually the sraddha-tarpana is performed in conjunction with other rites. Water mixed with barley is sometimes poured through the hands as an offering to the gods. Water mixed with black sesame is poured through the hands as an offering to the pitrs. Different parts of the hand are used for pouring water when worshiping the different classes of beings. According to Manu, the area in the center of the palm is called the brahma-tirtha, the area below the little finger is called the prajapati-tirtha, the region at the tips of the fingers is called the daiva-tirtha, and the space between the bottom of the thumb and the index finger is called the pitr-tirtha. See the diagram. Devas should be gratified using the daiva-tirtha, rsis using theprajapati-tirtha, and pitrs using the pitr-tirtha.
During the tarpana ceremony, the sacrificial thread is worn in different positions around the shoulders and neck for worshiping the different classes of beings. A twice born is called upavitin when the sacred thread rests across the left shoulder, he is called nivitin when the sacred thread lies down straight from the neck, and he is called pracinavitin when the sacred thread rests across the right shoulder. The devas are to be worshipped in the upavitin position, the sages and exalted human beings in the nivitin position, and the pitrs in thepracinavitin position.
Similarly, different directions correspond to the different classes of beings. When offering libations of water to the gods, one turns the face towards the east, when offering to sages one turns the face towards the north, and when offering to the fathers one turns the face towards the south. These differences in thread, hand and face positions are used simply to distinguish the gods, the sages and the fathers from each other.
The general order in which tarpana is performed is as follows: First the devasare gratified, then the rsi, then the divine pitrs. After that, starting with the most recently deceased, those fathers who belong to the paternal are worshiped followed by those on the maternal side.
Later commentators attempt to explain why water is used during tarpana. Water is said to be a neutral substance, therefore it can most easily be converted into the various foods needed to satisfy the respective pitrs. For those ancestors who have entered heaven, nectar is said to be their food. For those ancestors who have entered into an animal species, grass may be their food. For those ancestors who had returned to this earthly realm, rice may be their food. Water, being a neutral substance, can easily be converted into nectar, grass or rice, etc.
The matter is also explained in another way. When a friend or relative presents food to a lady who is pregnant she eats the food and satisfies herself. At the same time the child within her womb is nourished. The food is converted into a substance suitable for the child. Similarly, when tarpana is offered to the divine fathers, they accept it by first gratifying themselves and then gratifying the fathers over whom they preside. Tarpana is perhaps the most important of thesraddha rites and can even substitute for the rest of the sraddha process.
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 The word parvana refers to certain times within the lunar cycle, namely new moon, the eighth and fourteenth lunar days (tithis). These are times especially set aside for the pitr-yajna ceremonies.
 Vrddhi means increase. Kamya means “according to desire.” One such Vrddhi-sraddha was called thenandi-mukha-sraddha because a certain class of pitrs called nandi-mukhas are evoked and asked to bring prosperity and progeny to a marrying couple.