Pitru Paksha Shradh 2012 dates are from 1st October 2012 - 15th October 2012 (The last day regarded as the most important day of Shradh)
In the shradh fortnight, the 'pitra' or our ancestors (dead ones) come to the earth planet.
Shradh is the period when the dead ones can be feeded by their currently living descendants.Many ancient cultures like those of the Roman, Greek, Egyptian and vedic strongly believe that this phenomena happens.The basic purpose of Shradh is to help our ancestors proceed in their life wheresoever they currently are.
Who are 'Pitras'
The pitras are our ancestors from our previous as well as current lifebirths. They are bound by their bodies because of punishment they might have received for their earlier bad karma. In their times of hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, heat, cold, the 'pitras' are helpless and do not get relaxed. In search of relaxation and alleviation, they come to earth at these times of 'Shradh' to their descendants, living on earth. Descendants of pitras are often called as karmic debtors to them.
When 'Pitras' come to Earth
The 'pitras' comes to earth during shradh period annually. Lord Ganesha's help them to get relief from their sufferings. The pitras feed and move on in their life by the offerings in the 'Shradh karma' made for them by their descendants. Or sometimes, forcefully through the positive flow of energies from their descendants who are ignorant of the rituals of shradh.
When Shradh for the ancestors is to be performed?
The date or tithi of Shradh for the particular ancestor is determined by the temple priest keeping in mind when that person died. If the date and time of their death are not known, then the Shradh can be performed for them on the last day of the Shradh period i.e before the begining of Navratri festival. The ancestors are feeded once on their day of Shradh.
Why you should perform Shradh?
The 'pitras' are the ones which have died in our current and previous lifebirths. The dead ones can be anybody in our lives which were our family members. Since the time we were born, we are taken very well care of by our mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, brothers and sisters etc. We have been raised in their arms. They have provided us everything right from food, clothes, a home, security from the harshness of life etc. They have provided us the material and spiritual support. So, naturally it becomes our responsibility to take care of them in this Shradh period which comes once a year. They are dependent on us for the food and the offerings, prayers etc. to make their sins and sufferings go away and to move on in their life.
We must also keep in mind that we all will die some day. So, if we had done 'shradh ritual' for the dead ones in our current life term, we will also be fed when we die and come in the Shradh period to our descendants or the living ones. Therefore, performing Shradh is of utmost importance and should not be left out.
Many of Your Pitras might be in Hell
Because of their karma or deeds they might have done wrong in their lifetime, the 'pitras' or our ancestors are/might be living a life of hell and they wait for their children or descendants to make them free from their grave conditions.
Once they get free from the clutches of hell, they can get a material body and when they do the positive karma, then they get progress or they move forward in their lives and they get liberty from their bad karma. It is really impossible for our pitras to make them move on in their life and get free from the bad karma without any help from their children or descendants.
Save your ancestors from the Hell
Pitralok or where our pitras live also known as the 'pitras' or 'pitrus' might be stuck as different entities like 'yakshas', 'bhoota', 'preta' etc. Yakshas are known to help us from the negative attacks from the bhuta-pretas and like. The pitras often find it hard to resist their temptation to eat, drink, etc. Because of their sins, the 'pitras' are tortured for all these. Even they are not allowed to sleep either, and they keep on doing work for literally a number of lifetimes. The Shradh period is an oppurtunity for us to repay the debts.