Pitri, aka: Pitṛ; 10 Definition(s)

Introduction

Pitri means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit term Pitṛ can be transliterated into English as Pitr or Pitri, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Hinduism

Natyashastra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

Pitṛ (पितृ, “father”).—One of the Eleven Hands denoting Relationships.—(Instructions:) Following the last hand, the right hand is held as Śikhara; indicating father or son-in-law.

(Source): archive.org: The mirror of gesture (abhinaya-darpana)
Natyashastra book cover
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Natyashastra (नाट्यशास्त्र, nāṭyaśāstra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition (śāstra) of performing arts, (nāṭya, e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nataka) and poetic works (kavya).

Purana

Four classes of Pitṛs:

  1. the Agniṣvātta Pitṛs (may the bands of Agniṣvátta Pitṛs protect the eastern region),
  2. the Barhiṣad Pitṛs (may the Pitṛs who are known as Barhiṣads protect the southern region),
  3. the Ājyapa Pitṛs (may the Ājyapa Pitṛs likewise protect the western region),
  4. the Somapā Pitṛs (may the Somapá Pitṛs protect the northern region)

Nine classes of Pitṛs:

  1. Viśva,
  2. Viśvabhuj,
  3. Ārādhya,
  4. Dharma,
  5. Dhanva,
  6. Śubhānana,
  7. Bhūtida,
  8. Bhūtikṛit and
  9. Bhūti

Six classes of Pitṛs:

  1. Kalyāṇa,
  2. Kalyatākartṛi,
  3. Kalya,
  4. Kalyatarāśraya,
  5. Kalyatāhetu and
  6. Anagha.

Seven classes of Pitṛs:

  1. Vara,
  2. Vareṇya,
  3. Varada,
  4. Puṣṭida,
  5. Tuṣṭida,
  6. Viśvapātṛ and
  7. Dhátṛ.

Five classes of Pitṛs (being destroyers of sin):

  1. Mahat,
  2. Mahātman,
  3. Mahita,
  4. Mahimāvat and
  5. Mahābala

Four classes of Pitṛs:

  1. Sukhada,
  2. Dhanada,
  3. Dharmada and
  4. Bhūtida besides

There are thus thirty-one classes of Pitṛs, who pervade the entire world.

(Source): archive.org: The Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa

1a) Pitṛ (पितृ).—A class of celestials belonging to the group of sacred fires;1 worshipped for continuity of family line;2 married jointly a daughter of Dakṣa,3 blessed Jyāmagha with a son;4 drink the svadhā of the moon and worship him on the new moon day: groups of—Saumya, Kāvya, Agniṣvātta and Bārhiṣada;5 their role in the universe.6

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa I. 2. 27; IV. 1. 63; Vāyu-purāṇa 65. 49-52.
  • 2) Bhāgavata-purāṇa II. 3. 8; Vāyu-purāṇa 75. 7-35; 81. 8-20.
  • 3) Bhāgavata-purāṇa IV. 1. 49.
  • 4) Ib. IX. 23. 39.
  • 5) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 23. 39, 58, 71; 13. 6, 31; 8. 14-15.
  • 6) Vāyu-purāṇa 71. 15-34, 45-67.

1b) Sons of Angiras and Svadhā.*

  • * Bhāgavata-purāṇa VI. 6. 19; 10. 17.

1c) Pūrvadevatas; are of three categories; Pitṛs, Pitāmahas and Prapitāmahas of the forms of Vasus, Ṛudras and Ādityas according to sacred tradition;1 milked the cow-earth in a silver vessel; Antaka acted as milk-man and Yama, the calf; the essence was svadhā;2 Yama king of their loka.3

  • 1) Matsya-purāṇa 17. 36; 19. 3.
  • 2) Ib. 10. 18-19.
  • 3) Ib. 11. 20.

1d) General account of;1 created out of the satva element and their active time was sandhyā: married svadhā drink the last kalā of the moon: of three classes— Saumyas, Barhiṣadas and Agniṣvāttas;2 from Viṣṇu;3 their relations with gods and sages.4

  • 1) Vāyu-purāṇa ch. 56.
  • 2) Vāyu-purāṇa 56. 8; Viṣṇu-purāṇa I. 5. 35-6; 7. 27; II. 12. and 13.
  • 3) Ib. V. 1. 17.
  • 4) Vāyu-purāṇa 62. 21.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Dharmashastra (religious law)

Pitṛ (पितृ):—It has been said that ‘ one shall offer balls to the Pitṛs.’ Now the question arises—Who are these ‘Pitṛs ?’ The term ‘pitṛ’ has several meanings, and denotes ‘progenitor’;

  1. it is used in the sense of the relative term, ‘father’;
  2. it is also used in the sense of one’s father and other relations that have died before.
  3. Further, the term ‘pitṛ’ also denotes a particular Deity ; and in this sense, it would stand for an unchanging eternal being.

The term ‘pitṛ,’ thus having several meanings, the Text proceeds to specify what is meant by it in the present context. (See the Manubhāṣya verse 3.220)

(Source): Google Books: Manusmṛti with the Manubhāṣya
Dharmashastra book cover
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Dharmashastra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharmaśāstra) contains the instructions (shastra) regarding religious conduct of livelihood (dharma), ceremonies, jurisprudence (study of law) and more. It is categorized as smriti, an important and authoritative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

Itihasa (narrative history)

Pitṛ (पितृ) is a name mentioned in the Mahābhārata (cf. IX.44.6, IX.44.49, XIII.116.1, XIII.115) and represents one of the many proper names used for people and places. Note: The Mahābhārata (mentioning Pitṛ) is a Sanskrit epic poem consisting of 100,000 ślokas (metrical verses) and is over 2000 years old.

(Source): JatLand: List of Mahabharata people and places
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Itihasa (इतिहास, itihāsa) refers to ‘epic history’ and represents a branch of Sanskrit literature which popularly includes 1) the eighteen major Puranas, 2) the Mahabharata and 3) the Ramayana. It is a branch of Vedic Hinduism categorised as smriti literature (‘that which is remembered’) as opposed to shruti literature (‘that which is transmitted verbally’).

General definition (in Hinduism)

Pitṛ (पितृ) common from the Rigveda onwards, denotes ‘father’, not so much as the ‘begetter’ (janitṛ), but rather as the protector of the child, this being probably also the etymological sense of the word. The father in the Rigveda stands for all that is good and kind.

(Source): archive.org: Vedic index of Names and Subjects

The Pitris (Sanskrit: पितृ, the fathers), are the spirits of the departed ancestors in Hindu culture. They are often remembered annually. The Pitṛs are most primeval deities and they never cease to exist. The manuṣyāḥ pitaraḥ (ancestors of human beings) can attain the same level of the divine Pitṛs and live with them in heaven by righteousness. They are reborn at the end of every thousand mahayugas and revive the worlds. From them all the Manus and all progeny at the new creation are produced.

The most complete accounts about the Pitṛs are found in the Vayu Purana and Brahmanda Purana and both are practically identical. The account in the Harivamsha is shorter but agrees closely with them. The similar but brief accounts are also found in the Matsya Purana and Padma Purana. According to these accounts there are different classes of the Pitṛs and they have different origins, forms, grades and abodes. A broad distinction exists between the devāḥ pitaraḥ (divine Pitṛs) and the manuṣyāḥ pitaraḥ (Pitṛs who were deceased human beings). Some of the Pitṛs dwell in the heavenly abodes while other dwell in the netherworlds. The former who dwell in the heaven were considered as the gods and the gods were also considered as the Pitṛs.

There are seven classes of the devāḥ pitaraḥ (divine Pitṛs), three of them are amurtayah (incorporeal) while the other four are samurtayah (corporeal). The three incorporeal orders of the Pitṛs are Vairajas, Agnishvattas and Barhishadas. The four corporeal orders of the Pitṛs are Somapas, Havishmanas, Ajyapas and Sukalins (or Manasas)

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

In Buddhism

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Pitṛ (पितृ, “father”).—According to the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XIV), “all beings obtained the mind of equanimity (samacitta) by thinking of one another with the feelings one would feel (for example) for one’s father (pitṛ)”.

In the course of innumerable generations, all beings have been one’s father (pitṛ), mother, elder brother, younger brother, elder sister, younger sister and relative. Furthermore, according to the true nature (satyalakṣaṇa) of dharmas, there is no father or mother, no elder or younger brother; but people who are submerged in the error of self believe in their existence and thus there is the question of father and mother, elder and younger brother. Therefore it is not a lie when, by virtue of a wholesome mind (kuśalacitta), we consider one another with the feelings we would feel (for example) for a father (pitṛ).

(Source): Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
Mahayana book cover
context information

Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

Languages of India and abroad

Sanskrit-English dictionary

Pitṛ (पितृ).—m. [pāti rakṣati, pā-tṛc ni°] A father; तेनास लोकः पितृमान् विनेत्रा (tenāsa lokaḥ pitṛmān vinetrā) R.14.23;1.24;11.67.

-rau (dual) Parents, father and mother; जगतः पितरौ वन्दे पार्वतीपरमे- श्वरौ (jagataḥ pitarau vande pārvatīparame- śvarau) R.1.1; Y.2.117.

-raḥ (pl.)

1) Fore-fathers, ancestors, fathers; नूनं प्रसूतिविकलेन मया प्रसिक्तं धौताश्रुशेष- मुदकं पितरः पिबन्ति (nūnaṃ prasūtivikalena mayā prasiktaṃ dhautāśruśeṣa- mudakaṃ pitaraḥ pibanti) Ś.6.24.

2) Paternal ancestors taken collectively; अध्यापयामास पितॄन् शिशुराङ्गिरसः कविः (adhyāpayāmāsa pitṝn śiśurāṅgirasaḥ kaviḥ) Ms.2.151.

3) The Manes; R.2.16;3.2; पितॄणामर्यमा चास्मि (pitṝṇāmaryamā cāsmi) Bg. 1.29; Ms.3.81,192.

(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

Relevant definitions

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