By Swami Harshananda
Abhiśravaṇa literally means ‘to face and to cause to listen’.
Performance of religious and semi-religious rites to propitiate one’s ancestors is a part and parcel of many cultures. The Hindus do it through
Śrāddha is performed on the death anniversary rites of departed ancestors and concists of rites to propitiate one’s ancestors. Inviting and feeding the learned brāhmaṇas is obligatory and also considered highly meritorious since the spirits of the departed souls are satisfied by it. When these brāhmaṇas are having their food, the performer of the śrāddha or his representative is expected to stand respectfully in front of them (abhi) and chant certain Vedic and paurāṇic hymns prescribed as suitable for such occasions, in their hearing (śravaṇa). The idea is that this helps in creating a spiritual atmosphere soaked in which the brāhmaṇas eat the food and consequently the forefathers will be satisfied and happy.
Some of the hymns recommended by the dharmaśāstras to be chanted during abhiśravaṇa are: Gāyatri, Rakṣoghna Mantras, Pitrya Mantras, Apratiratha Mantras, Purusasukta, Srīsukta, Pavamānasukta, Trisuparṇa Mantras
While chanting the hymns, the sacred thread should be worn in the upavīta fashion (hanging from the left shoulder to below the right arm-pit). The chanting should be neither too loud nor too fast.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore