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Title: Pitṛs  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Śrāddha
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


The Pitris (Sanskrit: पितृ, the fathers), are the spirits of the departed ancestors in Hindu culture. They are often remembered annually.

The human and divine Pitris

The most complete accounts about the Pitṛs are found in the Vayu Purana and Brahmanda Purana and both are practically identical. The account in the Harivamsha is shorter but agrees closely with them. The similar but brief accounts are also found in the Matsya Purana and Padma Purana. According to these accounts there are different classes of the Pitṛs and they have different origins, forms, grades and abodes. A broad distinction exists between the devāḥ pitaraḥ (divine Pitṛs) and the manuṣyāḥ pitaraḥ (Pitṛs who were deceased human beings). Some of the Pitṛs dwell in the heavenly abodes while other dwell in the netherworlds. The former who dwell in the heaven were considered as the gods and the gods were also considered as the Pitṛs.

The Pitṛs are most primeval deities and they never cease to exist. The manuṣyāḥ pitaraḥ (ancestors of human beings) can attain the same level of the divine Pitṛs and live with them in heaven by righteousness.

They are reborn at the end of every thousand mahayugas and revive the worlds. From them all the Manus and all progeny at the new creation are produced.[1]

Seven classes of the divine Pitṛs

There are seven classes of the devāḥ pitaraḥ (divine Pitṛs), three of them are amurtayah (incorporeal) while the other four are samurtayah (corporeal). The three incorporeal orders of the Pitṛs are Vairajas, Agnishvattas and Barhishadas. The four corporeal orders of the Pitṛs are Somapas, Havishmanas, Ajyapas and Sukalins (or Manasas)

The Pitṛ-Vaṁśa (genealogy of the Pitṛs)

All seven classes of the divine Pitṛs had each one mānasī kanyā (mind-born daughter). Mena, the wife of Mount Himavat was the daughter of the Vairajas. Acchoda, the river was the daughter of the Agnishvattas. Pivari, the wife of the sage Śuka was the daughter of the Barhishadas. Narmada, the river was the daughter of the Somapas. Yashoda was the daughter of the Havishmanas was the wife of Vishvamahat and mother of Dilipa. Viraja, the wife of king Nahusha was the daughter of the Ajyapas and Go or Ekshringa, the wife of the sage Shukra was the daughter of the Manasas.[2]

See also



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