Amavasya is the Indic name for a new moon. The word "Amavasya" is common to many Indian languages especially Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Oriya and Gujarati.

The fortnight containing the new-moon is considered auspicious by Hindus. They believe that during this period, the offerings they make, reach their late forefathers. Every month, the new-moon day is considered auspicious and poojas are made. However, no travel ought to be scheduled the first day of the new moon, as travel without moonlight in the ancient times was forbidden.

The dark fortnight of Aswayuja (September-October) is known as the Mahalaya Paksha or the fortnight specially sacred for offering oblations to the departed ancestors. The last day of this period, the new moon day, is considered as the most important day in the year for performing obsequies and rites.

The renowned hero of the Mahabharata, Karna, when he left the mortal coil, ascended to the higher worlds and the great charity he had done here was returned to him hundredfold. But, it was all gold and silver; there was no food, as he had not done any food-charity! He prayed to the god of death. So, he was sent back to Earth for fourteen days, to make up for this deficiency.

For fourteen days, he fed Brahmins and the poor, and offered oblations of water. On his return to the higher regions, he had food in plenty. It is these fourteen days that are commemorated in the Mahalaya Paksha. Due to the grace of the Yama, it has been ordained that offerings made during this period benefit all the departed souls, whether they are connected to you or not.


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