Each society, nation and culture has their own way to express thankfulness as well as to remember their ancestors. The unique idea of rna (alternatively rina) has been part of Indian tradition. Many translate it as ‘debt’ but the true essence of it is duties and obligations for ‘honoring’ others’ gifts in our lives.
There are three type of rnas which ensure continuation of the traditions of the saints by certain mandatory practices. These are rishi-rna, or obligations to the seers and teachers, deva-rna, obligations to the manifestations of divine power, and pitri-rna or obligations to the ancestors. There are specific activities and ceremonies performed for each of these rnas as duties. One is expected to remember the divine forces, rishis (seers) and the ancestors. This also ensures that the seers are remembered and understood so they continue to take birth in future, teachers are respected and supported for education to flourish and finally, by taking care of family and next of kin pays homage to the ancestors.
During this pitripaksha (the fortnight of the father), it is said that the souls of the departed yet unborn ones come down to earth and our prayers relieve these ancestors from any pain. It also leads them to higher realms of existence or makes them free while leaving blessings behind for the living ones. The rituals for remembering the ancestors is called tarpan – millions around the world are performing this today, the Mahalaya, the last day of the pitri-pakasha and most auspicious day. While other rnas may not be overlooked, the Indian soldiers have also performed a special tarpan in a different way – to observe two rnas simultaneously – pitri rna – those who have departed to protect the people and land , including all the soldiers who made supreme sacrifices for their country – the desha rna (duties toward the country)!
And the world welcomes Devi Durga as the matri-paksha (the fortnight of the mother) starts! And this is the time for all humans to remember that we are here because of so many gifts given to us from the birth and we must think of doing some activities to support the well-being of the entire creation.