Performance of Shraad for the Departed:
Srimad Bhagavatam 7.14.20-23
catasrishv apy ashtakasu
masarkshani yutany api
chravanas tisra uttarah
ayane -- on the day when the sun begins to move north, or Makara-sankranti, and on the day when the sun begins to move south, or Karkata-sankranti; vishuve -- on the Mesha-sankranti and on the Tula-sankranti; kuryat -- one should perform; vyatipate -- in the yoga named Vyatipata; dina-kshaye -- on that day in which three tithis are combined; candra-aditya-uparage -- at the time of the eclipse of either the moon or the sun; ca -- and also; dvadasyam sravaneshu -- on the twelfth lunar day and in the nakshatra named Sravana; ca -- and; tritiyayam -- on the Akshaya-tritiya day; sukla-pakshe -- in the bright fortnight of the month; navamyam -- on the ninth lunar day; atha -- also; kartike -- in the month of Kartika (October-November); catasrishu -- on the four; api -- also; ashtakasu -- on the Ashtakas; hemante -- before the winter season; sisire -- in the winter season; tatha -- and also; maghe -- in the month of Magha (January-February); ca -- and; sita-saptamyam -- on the seventh lunar day of the bright fortnight; magha-raka-samagame -- in the conjunction of Magha-nakshatra and the full-moon day; rakaya -- with a day of the completely full moon; ca -- and; anumatya -- with a full-moon day when the moon is slightly less than completely full; ca -- and; masa-rikshani -- the nakshatras that are the sources of the names of the various months; yutani -- are conjoined; api -- also; dvadasyam -- on the twelfth lunar day; anuradha -- the nakshatra named Anuradha; syat -- may occur; sravanah -- the nakshatra named Sravana; tisrah -- the three (nakshatras); uttarah -- the nakshatras named Uttara (Uttara-phalguni, Uttarashadha and Uttara-bhadrapada); tisrishu -- on three; ekadasi -- the eleventh lunar day; va -- or; asu -- on these; janma-riksha -- of one's own janma-nakshatra, or birth star; srona -- of Sravana-nakshatra; yoga -- by a conjunction; yuk -- having.
One should perform the sraddha ceremony on the Makara-sankranti [the day when the sun begins to move north] or on the Karkata-sankranti [the day when the sun begins to move south]. One should also perform this ceremony on the Mesha-sankranti day and the Tula-sankranti day, in the yoga named Vyatipata, on that day in which three lunar tithis are conjoined, during an eclipse of either the moon or the sun, on the twelfth lunar day, and in the Sravana-nakshatra. One should perform this ceremony on the Akshaya-tritiya day, on the ninth lunar day of the bright fortnight of the month of Kartika, on the four ashtakas in the winter season and cool season, on the seventh lunar day of the bright fortnight of the month of Magha, during the conjunction of Magha-nakshatra and the full-moon day, and on the days when the moon is completely full, or not quite completely full, when these days are conjoined with the nakshatras from which the names of certain months are derived. One should also perform the sraddha ceremony on the twelfth lunar day when it is in conjunction with any of the nakshatras named Anuradha, Sravana, Uttara-phalguni, Uttarashadha or Uttara-bhadrapada. Again, one should perform this ceremony when the eleventh lunar day is in conjunction with either Uttara-phalguni, Uttarashadha or Uttara-bhadrapada. Finally, one should perform this ceremony on days conjoined with one's own birth star [janma-nakshatra] or with Sravana-nakshatra.
The word ayana means "path" or "going." The six months when the sun moves toward the north are called uttarayana, or the northern path, and the six months when it moves south are called dakshinayana, or the southern path. These are mentioned in Bhagavad-gita (8.24-25). The first day when the sun begins to move north and enter the zodiacal sign of Capricorn is called Makara-sankranti, and the first day when the sun begins to move south and enter the sign of Cancer is called Karkata-sankranti. On these two days of the year, one should perform the sraddha ceremony.
Vishuva, or Vishuva-sankranti, means Mesha-sankranti, or the day on which the sun enters the sign Aries. Tula-sankranti is the day on which the sun enters the sign Libra. Both of these days occur only once within a year. The word yoga refers to a certain relationship between the sun and moon as they move in the sky. There are twenty-seven different degrees of yoga, of which the seventeenth is called Vyatipata. On the day when this occurs, one should perform the sraddha ceremony. A tithi, or lunar day, consists of the distance between the longitude of the sun and that of the moon. Sometimes a tithi is less than twenty-four hours. When it starts after sunrise on a certain day and ends before the sunrise of the following day, the previous tithi and the following tithi both "touch" the twenty-four-hour day between the sunrises. This is called tryaha-sparsa, or a day touched by some portion of three tithis.
Srila Jiva Gosvami has given quotations from many sastras stating that the sraddha ceremony of oblations to the forefathers should not be performed on Ekadasi tithi. When the tithi of the death anniversary falls on the Ekadasi day, the sraddha ceremony should be held not on Ekadasi but on the next day, or dvadasi. In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana it is said:
If one performs the sraddha ceremony of oblations to the forefathers on the Ekadasi tithi, then the performer, the forefathers for whom the sraddha is observed, and the purohita, or the family priest who encourages the ceremony, all go to hell.
agnih -- fire; jyotih -- light; ahah -- day; suklah -- the white fortnight; shat-masah -- the six months; uttara-ayanam -- when the sun passes on the northern side; tatra -- there; prayatah -- those who pass away; gacchanti -- go; brahma -- to the Absolute; brahma-vidah -- who know the Absolute; janah -- persons.
Those who know the Supreme Brahman attain that Supreme by passing away from the world during the influence of the fiery god, in the light, at an auspicious moment of the day, during the fortnight of the waxing moon, or during the six months when the sun travels in the north.
When fire, light, day and the fortnight of the moon are mentioned, it is to be understood that over all of them there are various presiding deities who make arrangements for the passage of the soul. At the time of death, the mind carries one on the path to a new life. If one leaves the body at the time designated above, either accidentally or by arrangement, it is possible for him to attain the impersonal brahmajyoti. Mystics who are advanced in yoga practice can arrange the time and place to leave the body. Others have no control -- if by accident they leave at an auspicious moment, then they will not return to the cycle of birth and death, but otherwise there is every possibility that they will have to return. However, for the pure devotee in Krishna consciousness, there is no fear of returning, whether he leaves the body at an auspicious or inauspicious moment, by accident or arrangement.