Mahabharata's Karna has a connection with Pitru Paksha—Find out how!
The Pitru Paksha, also known as Pitri Paksha or Shraadha is a time period as per Hindu lunar calendar when we pay obeisance to our ancestors (dead). This is a 16-day long period when we offer food, water and perform a special puja for the departed souls and seek their blessings. This year the period of Shraadh commenced from September 16 and will last until 30th of this month.
There are several legends associated with the Pitru Paksha, but the most interesting one and perhaps the lesser known one is the one which mentions Karna from Mahabharata.
The legend goes like this. After Karna breathed his last in the epic war of Mahabharata, his soul took abode in heaven (swarg). However, he was only offered gold and other precious jewels as food to eat. When he couldn't bat his hunger for long, he went to lord Indra—lord of Swarglok and asked him why is he not getting proper food to eat but jewels instead.
Lord Indra was quick to reply, 'You only donated all your gold and precious jewels while you were alive'. He added that you never offered food to your ancestors or performed Shraadha ceremony. After knowing this, Karna told Indra that he had no knowledge about feeding the ancestors, so he has never offered any food in their name.
However, Karna was given an opportunity to make amends and so he was allowed to go back to earth for 15 days in order to perform the Shraadha of his ancestors and offer food-water in their name. This is the same period which is now widely revered as 'Pitru Paksha'.
Also, some believe that in certain legends in place of Lord Indra, Yama Dev (god of death) is mentioned.