Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why Crows Are Given Importance During Pitru-Paksha?

The credit for today's topic goes to one of my friends, Sangeetha who insisted me to gather more information behind the Sanatan Dharma ritual, offering food to the crow, especially during the Shraadha time. In many households, food is offered to crows on everyday basis, but Shraadha day has its own unique importance. Most Hindus believe that their ancestors for whom they are performing the Shraadha, visit them to enjoy the food in the form of crows. As such, they feel very happy when the crow immediately comes and pounces on the food. This might seem very silly to some people, but those who believe such traditions take it as a blessing of their ancestors. Again, belief or non-belief is one's own individual perspective and no one else can do anything about that.

But even for believers, some questions might come in mind. Why crows particularly? Why not any other animals or birds? Could there be any specific reason for this? This is a very general article which tries to explore the answers for such questions. 

Before proceeding further, let me provide some information about Ravens. They are species which are similar to crows (though they have many differences). Interestingly, many ancient mythologies (Greek, Roman, Norse, Celtic etc.) have given some spiritual importance to ravens. Take a look...

In Indian mythology, crows and pitras are connected for varied reasons. We will see two of them here. 

The "KHA" Sound :

The sound produced by a crow is "kha". This is considered a very significant word in sanskrit. Basically, "kha" is the first consonant of Sanskrit. It has different meanings like sun, empty space, sky,ether,air, heaven, happiness, celestial sphere, Brahma etc. Refer the following link for the full list of meanings :


"Kha" is also a question word which literally means "why". Every human being has a duty to find out the purpose of his/her life. The very basic intention of a human birth is to find out the answer for three questions ; "Who am I" ? ; "Where did I come from" ? ; and "Where am I going to go after death" ? But we spend the whole life in external pleasures and attractions  and fail to adhere to the basic idea of life. On the other hand, our ancestors, wants us to constantly stick to our own soul doing self enquiry. Hence, on "pitru-paksha", we remember our ancestors through crows. While offering food to crows, we hear the sound "kha" which reminds us to do some self-enquiry. When crows are not present, we also shout "kha" "kha" and invite crows. But again, we forget the inner meaning, but give importance to the external ritual. That is why, certain strange things happen as mentioned in the following article :


"Ka" in Egyptian Mythology :

According to ancient Egyptian mythology, the soul was considered to be having three parts, the "ka" ; the "ba" and the "akh". The "ka" was essentially a person's double. It was the life force, and a person is said to be dead once "ka" departs the body. The Egyptians also buried things such as bread, beer, oxen etc... to feed the "ka" in afterlife. They also performed extensive preparation for the body (like we have death rituals in sanatan dharma) since they believed that those rituals will find a peaceful home for the "ka" in afterlife.

Refer the following links for an extensive reading on Egyptian "Ka"


The Story From Ramayana :

There is a story from the Uttara Kanda, Ramayana which reads as follows :

Once a king named Marutta performed Maheshwara Yagna. All the Devas including Indra attended the yagna. Ravana, who was an enemy to the Devas also came to that yagna. On seeing him, the Devas got frightened and took the forms of different animals to escape from Ravana. Indra took the form of a peacock, Kuber took the form of a chameleon, Varuna became the swan and Yama took the form of a crow and so on. Thus all of them escaped from the mighty Ravana. Once he left, all the Devas returned back to their original form. They also gave boons to the respective animals for saving their lives. Since yama took the form of the crow, he gave the following boon to the crows....

ये च मद्विषयस्थास तु मानवाः कषुधयार्दिताः
तवयि भुक्ते तु तृप्तास ते भविष्यन्ति सबान्धवाः

ye ca madvisayasthas tu manavaḥ kṣudhayarditah
tvayi bhukte tu trptas te bhavisyanti sabandhavah

'When human beings suffering from hunger, if you are fed / eating, those people become happy as if they have (met and fed) all his relatives (past and present).

Hence, by offering food to the crows, we are satisfying the needs of pitras who are invisible to our eyes.



  1. Any science related explanation ???

  2. As per Vedic scriptures Pujas and Shradh when done in Pitru Paksha helps nullify Pitru Dosha and blesses one a devotee with blessings of ancestors and health, wealth and happiness.

  3. Am keen to know if there are any scientific explanations for such a ritual. Is this really a part of Sanatan Dharma or grief counseling/closure techniques added on later by people. Could also be a mandatory service rendered for generating income/well being for the Brahmin/priest?

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