Tarpana also Tarpan (तर्पण in Sanskrit, ತರ್ಪಣ in Kannada) is a term in the Vedic practice which refers to an offering made to divine entities. Tarpana refers to the act of the offering as well as the substance used in the offering itself. Tilatarpana (तिलतर्पण in Sanskrit, ತಿಲತರ್ಪಣ in Kannada) is a different but associated term, which is sometimes confused with Tarpana. Tilatarpana is a specific form of Tarpana, involving libation, which is offered to the Pitris (deceased ancestors) using water and sesame seeds during Pitru Paksha or as a death rite.
(ii) Instances of welcome Tarpana are:
- (a) For Goddess Mahalaxmi, “आर्द्रां ज्वलंतीम् तृप्ताम् तर्पयन्तीम् “ (ArdrAm jvalantIm trptAm tarpayantIm) (Sri Sukta, Verse 4) which means One who is satisfied and who satisfies those who offer Her Tarpana
- (b) For Goddess Lalita Tripurasundari, “बिंदु तर्पण संतुष्टाम् पूर्वजा त्रिपुराम्बिका” (bindu tarpaNa santushtAm pUrvajA tripurAmbikAm) (Sri Lalita Sahasranama Stotra, Verse 178, Nama 974) which means One who is satisfied by just a single drop of Tarpana
(iii) Cow's milk (raw, unheated, and unpasteurized), water, sugar, saffron, cardamom, borneo-camphor, etc. are mixed and used as the offering according to the requirements.
(iv) One Tarpana (or Arghya) is offered for the recitation of every ten moola mantras and one for part thereof.
(i) Tilatarpana is the Tarpana (or Arghya) offered to Pitrus (departed ancestors) by male descendants who do not have a living father.
(ii) This is offered at the first annual shraddha (death anniversary) and during subsequent annual shraddhas, amavasyas (new moon days), sankramanas (solar ingresses), eclipses, and during visits to selected holy places of pilgrimage.
(iii) Method of offering Tilatarpana:
- (a) Black til seeds (black sesame or gingelly seeds) are used along with water as the offering.
- (b) The yagnopavita (sacred thread) is to be worn in the opposing position (i.e., on the right shoulder, which is termed as prAchInAvIti, प्राचीनावीति in Sanskrit).
- (c) A pavitra (ring) made of grass should be worn on the ring finger of the right hand.
Posture of hand while offering Tarpana
The posture of hand while offering Tarpana varies for offerings made to devas (Gods, Goddesses and Navagrahas), rishis (sages) and pitrus (departed ancestors).
- (a) For devas, the offering is made to flow over the four fingers of the right hand other than the thumb.
- (b) For rishis, the offering is made to flow on the area of the left side of the right palm between the wrist and the little finger.
- (c) For the pitrus, the offering is made to flow over the right side of the right palm and the thumb of the right hand.
Reasons for using Sesame (Gingelly) for Tarpana
Sesame is a small seed storing energy and hence considered a favorite of all Devas, Shani (Saturn) and pitrus. Lord Ganesha is commonly offered pancha-kajjaya, a delicacy made using sesame. Lord Shiva is worshipped with sesame seeds (tilakshata). For Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, Goddess Laxmi and Goddess Saraswati, sesame seeds are used in any of their favorite eatables and offered to bestow their special favors on the worshippers. Besides, it is used as a homa dravya (an ingredient in the fire offerings) in many havans and homas. Therefore, tila (sesame) and tilatarpana should not be decried as inauspicious.
Reasons for offering Tarpana
It is believed that one’s pitrus will be eagerly awaiting for tarpana on all the above-mentioned occasions. If no offering is made, they will return to their places disappointed, and the descendant misses their blessings which he would have received, if he had performed his filial duties.
- "Indian Hindu devotee performs "Tarpan",". Hindustan Times. Oct 2010. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
 Tarpana Vidhi Vidhana, authored by Sri Gunjur Ramachandra Sastry, published by Srinidhi Prakashana, Bangalore 560053 INDIA