1. Remember your ancestors on their death tithi: Grandparents, parents, and other elders of the family don’t want much from you either during their lifetime or after it. All they want is to feel loved, cared for, and respected. And a few moments of your time where they have your undivided attention. On their death tithi during the pitru paksha, clean their photograph (should be done every day, if you have kept it out), put a garland of fresh flowers/chandan flowers, and light a ghee diya in front of it. Spend some time thinking about them and praying for their soul’s moksha. Tell your children or other young people in the family who may not have had the chance to spend time with them about them.
2. Do tarpan: During the shradh period, it is believed that offering water to the ancestors brings peace to them and to you. Ideally, it should be done every day in the pitru paksha. But if you are not able to do it, then you should do it on their death tithi and on sarva pitru amavasya. The process of offering water to the ancestors is very simple. Get up before sunrise, take a bath and wear clean clothes. At sunrise take water in a copper pot, add rice grains, and some black sesame seeds. Stand facing the south direction and pour water in the name of your ancestors. After doing this, prepare fresh food to feed the cow, crow, dog, and a brahmin.
3. Do Pind Daan: Pind daan is a special offering of dumplings made with cooked rice and black til. It is offered to crows in the name of the deceased ancestors. This is done on the 12th day of the death of the person, on their barsi (a year after the death), and when they are being inducted into the shradh. It can also be done on their shraddha tithi during the pitru paksha. Ideally, it is done on the banks of a holy river or in Gaya under the guidance of a pandit. But if it is not possible for you to travel, you can do it in your home with the help of a pandit and by following the proper rituals. It is believed that pind daan helps detach the departed soul from worldly attachments and liberates their soul from the cycle of rebirth and death. It also benefits you by bringing you their blessings, happiness, good health, and removing obstacles from your path.
4. Invite a brahmin home for lunch: On their death tithi during the pitru paksha, invite a brahmin for lunch at your home. Make sure the invitation is conveyed with the utmost regard and in a timely manner. Prepare a complete meal consisting of certain basics such as a gravy, a dry vegetable, kheer, puri, and any other item that your ancestor liked. Lentils are to be avoided for such meals. Before laying out the feast for the brahmin, offer it to your ancestor and take out a portion each for a cow, a crow, and a dog. And, before consuming it, remember to take out a gograss (a bite from your plate for the cow).
Along with food, on this day, you must also give the brahmin clothes and a Dakshina and bid them farewell with respect.
5. Offer donations to the less fortunate: Offer donations of food, clothing, and money to the less fortunate. If the departed person had a pet cause or charity that they favoured then you can donate to it in their name. In addition to these items, you can also spend some time in an orphanage, old people’s home, or a hospital in the memory of your ancestor.
6. Practice celibacy: If you are the person carrying out all the rituals and pujas for the shradh during the pitru paksha or offering tarpan, then it is mandated for you to practice celibacy during the pitru paksha. You must avoid indulging in any kind of physical intimacy during this period.
7. Consume fresh and sattvic food: Food both that you consume and that you offer to the departed souls is an important part of pitru paksha. Hence it is important to keep your place of cooking - kitchen clean. Avoid bringing any non-vegetarian item in the house or cooking any non-vegetarian dish during the period. Take a bath before you prepare the food. And use only fresh ingredients for cooking. Try to prepare food that is light and healthy. Avoid using onion, garlic, and lentils such as rice, masoor, black urad, hing, chana, jeera, mustard etc. in your cooking during the pitru paksha. You must also avoid consuming alcohol, cigarettes, and any other addictive items such as tobacco etc.
8. Maintain cleanliness: It is believed that the ancestors visit the homes of their family during the pitru paksha. So you should keep your home and yourself clean to make them feel welcome and happy. Clean your home early in the morning and take a bath and wear clean clothes. You must also take care of personal grooming. While most people who observe the pitru paksha do not cut their nails, shave, or have a haircut (women avoid going to the beauty parlour for any procedures) during the period, it is advisable to cut your nails and have a haircut before the period starts so that you can look clean and tidy.
9. Avoid starting new ventures or any auspicious activity: This is a period of remembrance and seeking forgiveness for your sins or deeds which may have caused grief to your ancestors. So it is advisable to avoid starting new ventures, business, joining a new job, buying or selling property, or purchasing a new vehicle. It is also advisable to avoid keeping any auspicious functions like engagement, wedding, or any other ceremony during this period.
10. Maintain good behaviour: The shradh period is for honouring the life and the memories of your ancestors. So the most important thoughts during this time should be their memories, their stories, and prayers for their well-being. You must avoid any activity or behavior that will distract you from this. It is believed that ancestors visit their family in different forms during the pitru paksha, so try not to fight, argue, cheat, or hurt anyone during this time. Conduct yourself with dignity and give respect to every being you meet - small or big. Speak well of all people, behave gently with everyone, and spend your time doing your work and listening to/chanting mantras.