No Pitru Paksha for Sri Vaishnavas?

A close friend of mine, a Sri Vaishnava told me that he does not perform the Mahalaya Paksha Tharpana.

He informed me that , as an Iyengar belonging to Thengalai Sampradya, he does not do it as it is prohibited by Ramanucharya.

He told me that the other sect of Iyengars in Tamil Nadu, Vadagalai Iyengars perform the Pitru Paksha Tharpana.

As I am unable to find any authentic source on this, I am posting my views.

Those who know the subject well may quote with source.

In Hinduism there are two paths in terms of Lifestyle.

One is called Pravritti Marga and another Nivrutti Marga.

Pravrutti Marga is the leading of our daily lives , as normally do, by going after the sense objects.

Nivrutti Marga is renunciation of the sense objects.

Hinduism teaches how to live,taking into account the limitations and the frailties of Human Life including the desire to go after sensory objects for pleasure.

So Hinduism has devised the four stages of Life.

Brahmacharya, the young Celibate.

Gruhastha when one gets married begets children and goes about Life.

Vanaprastha,when one, after the son becomes capable managing the Family leaving the Family, either with or without wife to seek Reality either in the Forest or staying at Home in a detached way.

My friend quoted Visishtadvaita to support his view that one need not perform the Karmas,excepting Sandhyavanadan and Amavasya Tharpana as Sri Vaishnavism gives priority to surrender to Lord Vishnu and once one surrenders himself to God, one need not, should not perform Karma , including Pitru Paksha Tharpana.

He quoted the Sloka form the Bhagavad Gita, this is also called the Karna Mantra,,

Sarva Dharma Parijyasya Maameka Charanam Vraja,

Aham Thva Sarva Paapepyp0Mokshayisyami Maa sucha. Chapter 18

Leave all actions, and surrender only to Me.

I shall absolve you of all your sins and grant you Moksha’

I think my friend does not seem to have understood Krishna and this sloka is often misunderstood.

What Krishna says is that He shall grant Moksha and one need not perform any action(Karma)  if one surrenders to Krishna.

The surrender , Krishna means a surrender  is not a lip service but one of total Surrender,mind ,words and deeds.

By merely saying one has surrendered to Krishna does not mean total surrender.

Draupadi who wass a cousin of Krishna and an ardent devotee had to throw her arms up and pray Lord Krishna when Dhuchashana was stripping her.

Krishna did not pay heed to her earlier entreaties to save her when she held her hands to her saree: only when, she ,devoid of Ego , called out, leaving her hands off the saree, did Krishna rescue her modesty.

Such a devotion is very difficult to come by.

It needs years of practice ,Abhyasa and determination(vairagya)

This, I think we do not, posses at least I do not.

So the statement , presumably said by Ramanucharya, that one need not perform Karmas if one surrenders to Vishnu, is meant for evolved souls;such loved souls like Ramadasas,Ramakrishna Paramahamsa may and can follow this as they had lost Dehatma Buddhi, the attachment to Body.

We can not compare ourselves to these souls.

Again, while talking about Renunciation, Krishna says  in the Bhagavad Gita, those who call the,selves Sanyasis , while their Minds are after sense objects, may appear so outwardly. are only Aashaadaboothis(hypocrites)

The determination to relinquish the fruits of action even at the mental level while performing the action is called renunciation.

With such a mindset one can even be in family Life, like Janaka, father of Sita.

Therefore the non-performance of Pitru Pksha , quoting some Acharya is contrary to Vedas and as such is incorrect as Pitru Yagnya is one of the most important and mandatory Yagnya for every one.


  1. For all Srivaishnavas Brahmam is identified as Sriman Narayana, the supreme purusha with whom we can identify our relationship .

    All devatas other than Him are known as devatantaras. These include Agni,vayu etc, Indra, Rudra, Brahma etc, pitrudevatas, Gayatri, Savitri,etc, all thithi devatas including ekadasi,etc, Kama,manyu,etc- in short all related to deha or body as distinct from Sriman Narayana who is the atma of jivas. Pitrupaksha is the period of fostering pithrus who fall in this group of devatantaras.

    Smarthas who strictly follow injunctions perform Tila Shraddha tarpanam on all 15 days of the Paksha and round off with two tharpanams on mahalaya amavasya day, one for Paksha and one for amavasya.

    Vadakalai srivaishnavas follow two or three different practices prescribed by their different acharyas. They perform tharpanams on two or three thithis and also on the thithis when their parents’ theertha thithi falls. But if the thithi falls on a nakshatra under which their children, grandchildren are born they AVOID the tharpanams.

    Thenkalai Srivaishnavas follow the rule “unlimited Shraddha in serving Sriman Narayana and LIMITED Shraddha in the aradhana of devatantaras”.Devatantaras, however should be continued to be fostered as per the ajnya or command of Sriman Narayana. Reference may be made to famous Gita passages III-10-11, VII-20-23, IX-23, 25, etc.

    Thenkalai Srivaishnavas observe pitrupaksha not by tarpanam, but by additional anusandhanam of Srimad Ramayanam, Arulicheyal Nalayiram, and purvacharya srisukthis.

    On the same principle Thenkalai vaishnavas perform sraddham at Gaya for one day only, unlike some who perform for several days or repeatedly. However Vishnupadam of Sri Gadadara is one of the greatest abhimana kshetrams which falls under the category of Divya Desam.

    The golden rule is that varnasrama dharmam should be subordinate to Bhagavata dharmam . The observances should be as interpreted and prescribed by acharyas ,not by the written word. The authority is in thiruppavai “melayar seivanagal….” So there is no issue of conflict with sastras,etc.


  2. Pitru Paksha Tharpana is a naimittika karma and have to be performed. Vaishnavas have to follow nithya karma and naimittika karma but should not get attached to Kamya Karma. It is very important to do Pitru Paksha tharpana whoever it may be except for Sanyasa ashrama


  3. I wish we could keep Hinduism out of this, because to me it is nothing more than throwing powder at each other at holi and celebrating political wins. We are discussing Vaidikam, and in that line the Sri Vaishnavas uphold it to the letter. This is because our forefathers took the message in its totality, making none of the assumptions which Sankara did, in his apologetic to Buddhism called Advaita.

    Ramakrishna, Yogananda and the other “perfected souls” which are spoken did not engage in Vedic rituals for the simple reason that they all Shudras by birth.

    Ramanuja was a praised Vaidikan and Vedanta, who suggested saranagati as a means to Bhakthi yoga or an ancillary to furthering in this path. Consequently, it was limited only to the dvija communities. Its becoming a path in and of itself came about later, and was seen as a means of uniting all castes as equal in the eyes of the One True God. The Poonal, and the obligations which went with it were bodily obligations, which had nothing to do with the emotional and psychological nature of prapatti.

    To what level rituals play a role varies from family to family, person to person. I would recommend Iyers first examine the demise of their culture in the past 50 years rather than gossiping about what we Iyengars do.


      • Then why did you raise queries about a Thenkalai Iyengar’s participation in Mahayala Paksha. That is an Iyer Iyengar issue.


  4. Sri Ramesh,
    srI rAmAnjAchArya being a parama vaidhika, would never do any violation of varNAsrama dharma. Please study the history properly. All he did was, he paved the way for everyone to take to the path of liberation through vaidhika/prapaththi mArga.
    adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan


      • I see no reason for someone untrained in the study and practice of his path to make an effort to analyze Ramanuja.


  5. Sri Ramanan,

    Generally, there are three types of karmas highlighted in sAsthram for vaidhikas to perform. They are nithya, naimiththika and kAmya karma.

    nithya karma – daily mandatory rituals like snAnam, sandhyA vandhanam, etc.
    naimiththika karma – periodical mandatory rituals like grahaNa snAnam, grahaNa tharpaNam, etc.
    kAmya karma – rituals performed to achieve worldly goals. ex: jyOthishtOma is performed to go to heavenly lOkas.

    As highlighted by our AchAryas – Of these nithya and naimiththika karmas are mandatory – there are several reasons why they are mandatory. kAmya karmas are to be avoided since its contrary to the nature of a prapanna (a surrendered soul seeking eternal kainkaryam unto bhagavAn).

    Reg nithya, naimiththika karmas – there too, we must give up the ownership, doership and the fruits and do it simply as ordained by bhagavAn for vaidhikas – no specific attachment for the karmas – srIvaishNavas still do them though like all vaidhikas – but the only difference is the attitude in doing them.

    With this context, mahAlaya amAvAsyai, etc., have certain kAmya aspect in it – that is why thenkalai srIvaishNavas dont perform it. This is not something invented now – but it is the way great AchAryas (who are parama vaidhikas) have lived and is being followed by thenkalai srIvaishNavas today.

    A deeper study in rahasya granthams would give better insight in these principles.

    adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan


    • The opeartive word is Attitude.Most of us assume we have the atttitude while we do not have the specific attitude as prescribed by the Sastras.Krishna , in the Bhagavad Gita is emphatic in saying that one who outwardly gives up the fruits of actions, but clings to them mentally is an AAshaada bhuthi.As I have staed in the Post, we are not an evoved soul like Ramanucharya.This is akin to some claiming to be a Ramana Maharishi because they ask the question ‘Who Am I?’Regds.


      • there are couple of aspects here :
        * Just because we are not evolved to the level of AzhwArs/AchAryas, it does not mean that we should deviate from words. kAmya karmas are dangerous pitfalls – so, whether one is evolved or not, one should not fall into further pitfalls. For example, one may not be the most loyal wife (as defined in sAsthram – wife has lots of qualities defines her pathi vrathA dharmam), but that does not mean that she would go and seek out others saying that anyway she is not pathi vrathA according to sAsthram. Same definition applies to men also (lets not be looked at as patriarchal).
        * One wrong does not mean we should do other wrongs – just because we are not in proper prapanna nishtA, that does not mean we should deviate in other aspects also, quoting that we are anyway wrong.

        again, this conclusion of not engaging in such karmas are not decided by current day folks – they have been followed by great AchAryas who know vaidhikam quite a lot more than us.
        adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan


  6. Why to perform varshika tithi for pitrus. .and if we believe after death according to their karma they would take rebirth. .we assume they have taken rebirth or soul is remained with the god…in that case why we have to give food to pitrus on tithi day…god can take care of them..I suppose. my mind asks these questions when we do tithi…I request you to give an answer.


    • I have addressed this issue in the passsing in some of my posts..1.The Thithi we offer reaches their suksham sareera, though they have taken rebirth.2.Though every one is bound by his/her actions alone, there are certain actions which we perform are not in our control.Parents are responsible for our Bodies and we are bound to repay that debt.Non repayment of Debt generates Vasanas that bind.To shake off this one must perform the rituals for Pitrus along with Manusha, Deva and Bhutha Yagnas.Please refer my post on the baxic yagnyas to be performed.Regds.


  7. It is the duty of every Hindu to perform the Pancha Maha Yagnas

    1.Bhoota Yagna (Service to the environment)
    2.Manushya Yagna (Service to Humanity)
    3.Brahma Yagna (Prayers to Guru)
    4.Deva Yagna (Worship God)
    5.Pitru Yagna (Prayers to pitrus)

    Just like Samskaras these duties if followed will help us cleanse our minds.


  8. Ramanuja converted the forth varna people as bhramins and given them poonool but as they are not accustomed to sanskrit pronunciation they were forbidden to perform all these


    • Do you have any source regarding this? I have read multiple theories regarding conversion. One that Ramanuja converted people(belonging any caste)to Brahmins , another being he converted people only to Srivaishnava (all SVs are not brahimins) and not brahmin.


      • I am yet to research this issue and Sri Ramanujacharya.I am not, at this point of time, inclined to comment as most of the information regarding Ramanuja seems to be not founded on facts. I am studying and shall be doing a series on Ramanujacharya and Visistadvaida in detail.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.