We are in the middle of 16-day period of honoring and remembering our ancestors, known as Shrādh or Pitri Paksha, There is a difference in the way we give offerings to Gods versus how we give offerings to our ancestors.
Offerings to Gods through SWĀHĀ: When we chant vedic mantras and then make an offering to the fire God (Agni dev), we say “Swāhā” at the end and then give offering. Why do we say Swāhā and what does that mean? The word Swāhā comes from ‘Su’ and ‘Āhve’. Su means good and Āhve is an invitation. Hence, through Swāhā we invite the Gods who are embodiment of goodness and Dharma and request them to accept our offerings. According to Shiv Purāna, Daksha prajāpati (progenitor) had many daughters. One of them was Swāhā and she was married to Agni dev (fire God). It is said that Agni dev accepts food only from his wife Swāhā. And according to another legend, all the Gods have appointed Agni dev as their provider of food. In other words, all the Gods will accept food only from Agni dev. So this means if we want to offer anything to the Gods, a) we offer it to Swāhā, b) then Swāhā accepts from us and gives it to Agni dev and then c) Agni dev accepts that offering from Swāhā and gives it to the respective Gods.
Offerings to Ancestors (Pitris) through SWADHĀ: Daksha prajāpati (progenitor) had another daughter named Swadhā who was married to the Pitri dev (lord of ancestors). The Pitris or ancestors accept offerings only through their wife Swadhā. Hence, we use the word Swadhā instead of Swāhā when we offer anything to the ancestors. Another legend says that Swadhā devi is manas putri (mind-born daughter) of Brahmā.
Merely by chanting the word Swadhā 3 times, we can connect with that shakti, with that power who is so close to our ancestors and will clear out our karmic debt to the ancestors. One can also chant the Swadhā stotram that I have given below.
All days during this fortnight of Pitri Paksha are important for honoring ancestors but especially Ashtami (8th lunar day), Trayodashi (13th lunar day), or when Moon is in Magha Nakshatra and most importantly Amavasya (New Moon) – these days are even more potent and our offerings will reach our ancestors and we will receive their blessings.
Om Swadhā Swadhā Swadhā,
स्वधोच्चारणमात्रेण तीर्थस्नायी भवेन्नरः। मुच्यते सर्वपापेभ्यो वाजपेयफलं लभेत्॥
स्वधा स्वधा स्वधेत्येवं यदि वारत्रयं स्मरेत्। श्राद्धस्य फलमाप्नोति कालस्य तर्पणस्य च॥
श्राद्धकाले स्वधास्तोत्रं यः श्रृणोति समाहितः। लभेच्छाद्धशतानां च पुण्यमेव न संशयः॥
स्वधा स्वधा स्वधेत्येवं त्रिसन्ध्यं यः पठेन्नरः। प्रियां विनीतां स लभेत्साध्वीँ पुत्रं गुणान्वितम्॥
पितृणां प्राणतुल्या त्वं द्विजजीवनरूपिणी। श्राद्धाधिष्ठातृदेवी च श्राद्धादीनां फलप्रदा॥
बहिर्गच्छ मन्मनसः पितृणां तुष्टिहेतवे। सम्प्रीतये द्विजातीनां गृहिणां वृद्धिहेतवे॥
नित्या त्वं नित्यस्वरूपासि गुणरूपासि सुव्रते। आविर्भावस्तिरोभावः सृष्टौ च प्रलये तव॥
स्वस्तिश्च नमः स्वाहा स्वधा त्वं दक्षिणा तथा। निरूपिताश्चतुर्वेदे षट् प्रशस्ताश्च कर्मिणाम्॥
पुरासीस्त्वं स्वधागोपी गोलोके राधिकासखी। धृतोरसि स्वधात्मानं कृतं तेन स्वधा स्मृता॥
इत्येवमुक्त्वा स ब्रह्मलोके च संसदि। तस्थौ च सहसा सद्यः स्वधा साविर्बभूव ह॥
तदा पितृभ्यः प्रददौ तामेव कमलाननाम्। तां सम्प्राप्य ययुस्ते च पितरश्च प्रहर्षिताः॥
स्वधास्तोत्रमिदं पुण्यं यः श्रृणोति समाहितः। स स्नातः सर्वतीर्थेषु वेदपाठफलं लभेत्॥
॥ इति श्रीब्रह्मवैवर्त्ते महापुराणे द्वितीये प्रकृतिखण्डे नारदनारायणसण्वादे स्वधोपाख्याने स्वधोत्पत्ति तत्पूजादिकं नामैकचत्वारिंशोऽध्यायः ॥ स्वधास्तोत्रं सम्पूर्णम् ।
स्वधा, स्वधा, स्वधा