Performance of religious and semi-religious rites to propitiate one’s ancestors is part and parcel of many cultures in the world. The Hindus do it through śrāddha (death anniversary rites of departed ancestors), though its forms may vary from caste to caste. Inviting and feeding the brāhmaṇas of learning and character is not only obligatory but also considered highly meritorious since the spirits of the departed souls are believed to be satisfied with it. When these brāhmaṇas are partaking of the 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 feel immensely satisfied and happy.
Some of the hymns recommended by the dharmaśāstras to be chanted during abhiśravaṇa are:
Gāyatrī (Ṛgveda Saṁhitā 3.62.10), Rakṣoghna Mantras (Ṛgveda Saṁhitā 4.4.1-5), Pitrya Mantras (Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa 126.96.36.199), Apratiratha Mantras (Taittirīya Saṁhitā 188.8.131.52), Puruṣasūkta (Ṛgveda Saṁhitā 10.90.1), Śrīsūkta (Ṛgveda-khila), Pavamānasūkta (Ṛgveda Saṁhitā 9.1.1), Trisuparṇa Mantras (Mahānārāyaṇopaniṣad 38 to 40).
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.
See also ŚRĀDDHA.