Hindu Funeral Rites and Ancestor Worship 
Antyesti, Sraddha and Tarpana
3. The Purakas Rites
As we have noted, the notion of an initial subtle body, known as theativahika-sarira, was introduced during the Puranic period. As soon as the gross corporal body was burned, the soul came to inhabit this subtle body composed of only three elements: heat (tejas), wind (vayu), and space (akasa). This was the ativahika body.
The offering of the puraka rites, which involve the offering of handful size cakes made with boiled rice, sesame, honey, milk, sugar and dried fruits, served the function of step-by-step dissolving the ativahika body and gradually creating a subtle preta body. The puraka rites usually last 10 days. The order in which the ativahika body is dissolved and the preta body is created is as follows: On the first day a cake is offered and the deceased obtains the head of the preta; on the second day a second cake is offered and he obtains his ears, eyes and nose; on the third day a third cake is offered and he obtains his chest and neck; on the fourth day he obtains his stomach and abdomen; on the fifth day he obtains legs and feet; on the sixth day, he obtains his vital organs; on the seventh day he obtains bones, marrow, veins and arteries; on the eighth day he obtains nails and hair; on the ninth day all the remaining limbs and organs along with vitality are developed. On the tenth day, when the final cake is offered, the sensations of hunger and thirst associated with the ativahika body are removed. The ativahika body is finally dissolved and the preta bodied is fully developed.
In an emergency situation if the mourning period could only last one day then all the ten funeral cakes must be offered on that day. In some communities these rites are performed on the odd numbered days, but in all cases a total of ten cakes were to be offered.
The ativahika stage is said to involve great suffering due to heat, cold and wind. It is said that during this time the departed soul remains in the sky as wind without any support (akasa-stho niralambo vayu-bhuto nirvasrayah) The subsequent preta body is said to be less subtle than the ativahika body, but still more subtle than the physical body and therefore invisible to the eyes of this world.
Here is a brief description of how the puraka cakes were offered. After returning from the cremation, the nearest relatives of the deceased prepare the ground for the puraka cakes by creating a small altar and marking it with lines. Then with some stands of sacred grass (kusa) the performer sweeps the ground while naming the deceased along with the family gotra, “May this offering be acceptable to thee.” Making a cake with three handfuls of boiled rice, etc. he next says, “Let this first puraka cake restore your head. May it be acceptable to thee.” He then puts fragrant flowers, betel leaves and similar things on the funeral cake and offers a lamp and a woolen scarf to the deceased while saying, “May this lamp and woolen cloth be acceptable to thee.” He then places an earthen vessel of water and black sesame near the puraka cake and says, “May this vessel of water and sesame be acceptable to thee.”
Afterwards the puraka cakes and other things are thrown into sacred waters. The ceremony is then concluded by wiping the ground and leaving some food for crows and other such animals.
For ten successive days the puraka cakes were to be offered using a varied address each day to restore the different bodily parts.
There are many lengthy rules which prescribe who was allowed to perform these puraka rites and the other sraddhas. In fact, the right to perform thesesraddhas and the rights to inheritance were often inter-related. The general hierarchy, going from eldest to youngest within each group, was as follows: the sons, the grandsons, the great-grandsons, the sons of a daughter, a wife, the brothers, the sons of a brother, the father, the mother, the daughters, the daughter-in-laws, the sisters, the sons of a sister and finally any family relation. If no family members are available then the rites may be performed by anyone of the town or village. In making the decision who will perform the funeral rites the emotional and mental competency of a family member was also an important consideration. At any time one family member could defer his or her rights to the next member.
The period of the ten puraka rites was considered a period of mourning. It was also a time of impurity, which meant that the family members would not travel to temples or other holy places. Nor could any sacred ceremonies take place within the family. Ordinarily this time ended after the tenth day with the final dissolution of the ativahika body and the creation of the preta body. The subsequent preta stage lasted for one year. During this time sixteenekoddista-sraddhas were to be performed to maintain the preta body of the deceased and elevate the departed soul to the status of a pitrs. The last of thesesraddhas was called the sapindi-karana at which time the departed soul finally became a pitr. The timing of these sixteen sraddhas is as follows. The firstsraddha is performed on the eleventh day after death. After that twelvesraddhas are performed in each lunar month on the naksatra anniversary of the death. Two further sraddhas are performed on the six-month anniversary of the death. These are usually performed on the day before the regular sixth month and twelfth month naksatra sraddhas. The final sapindi-karana-sraddhawas performed on the day after the last naksatra sraddha. In this way a total of 16 ekoddista-sraddhas were performed.
A brief description of an ekoddista-sraddha is as follows. A clean area is selected so that the performer can face the southern direction, the realm of Yama. The area is washed with cow dung and a seat made of sacred grass (kusa) is prepared. The performer wears his sacred thread over the right shoulder (pracinavitin) and performs a series of rituals and prayers that offer water, cloth, rice cakes (pinda) and other articles to the deceased. In his left hand the performer holds a vessel containing black sesame seeds and water, and in his right hand a special brush made of sacred grass (kusa). This was called a kurca. He pours water through the kurca and names the deceased person saying (in Sanskrit), “May this ablution be acceptable to thee.” Afterwards he takes a rice cake (pinda) mixed with clarified butter and presents it saying, “May this cake be acceptable to thee.” He serves out the food with the following prayers, “Ancestors, rejoice. Take your respective shares and become strong.” He walks counterclockwise around the consecrated spot and says, “Ancestors be glad, take your respective shares and be strong.” He returns to the same seat and again pours water on the ground over the kurca while reciting, “May this ablution be acceptable to you.” The whole affair concludes with the feeding of invited brahmanas in a feeding ceremony call brahmana-bhojanam.
The process of pouring water and black sesame through kurca is calledtarpana. The food that is mixed into cakes is made of boiled rice mixed with ghee and sesame seeds. These are called pindas and they are similar to thepuraka cakes used in the puraka ceremony.
Sapindi-karana the final Sraddha
The sapindi-karana-sraddha is the last of these sixteen sraddhas that are meant to elevate the departed soul to the rank of a pitr. It is performed in a similar manner to the previous sraddha with the following additions. The performer sets out four vessels with water, sesame and fragrance. Three are for the standard hierarchy of pitrs, the father, the grandfather and the great grandfather, and the fourth is for the recently departed soul. The performer then pours the vessel meant for the recently departed soul into the vessels of the three standardpitrs. Similarly, four cakes of rice (pindas) are prepared and the cake belonging to the recently departed soul is broken up and added to the three cakes belonging to three standard pitrs. After the performance of this rite the pretabeing becomes a pitr and joins the assemblage of fathers in their abode (pitr-loka).
Releasing the bull (Vrsotsarga)
At some point during these sixteen ekoddista-sraddhas a rite involving the release of a bull (vrsotsarga) was also performed. Some commentators suggest that it should be performed on the eleventh day, in other words, during the firstekoddista-sraddhas, and others say that it should be performed on last day during the sapindi-karana-sraddhas. The rite is a remnant of the ancient rite of killing the anustarani animal. If an actual bull was not available then an image made of earth, rice or grass could serve the purpose.
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 The term ativahika has its origins in the Upanisads where it refers to those who are deployed to carry the dead to the other world (ativahe iha lokat para-loka-prapane niyuktah).
 The period of impurity would vary according to caste. Higher castes had generally shorter periods of impurity. Ordinarily the major period of impurity would last until the eleventh day. After that regular temple going would resume, but major auspicious family ceremonies such as weddings may be postponed for a year until the final sapindi-karana had been performed.
 There are 27 naksatras in a lunar month. See —— for details.
 The word pinda is derived from the Sanskrit root pind which means “to form into a ball, to mass, or to join together.” A pinda is that food which is usually made of rice mashed together with various things such as meat, sesame, ghee, dried fruits, sugar, and other condiments. More often it is just made of plain rice. According to some authorities the size of the rice cake should be as small as can easily enter into the mouth of a child of two years. According to other sources it should be one handful of size. Some sources describe it as the size of a hen’s egg. Usually three pinda are offered, one for the father, one for the grandfather, and one for the great-grandfather.