Hinduism is a way of human life, a path of eternal spiritual discipline, the sanatan dharma. Recognizing the needs of human beings during their lifetimes, the ancient sages have put forward a fourfold ideal to be striven for by every member of the society. This is called the purusharthas or the ends to be achieved in life. They are dharma, artha, kama and moksha i.e. duty or righteousness, wealth, bodily desires and liberation from transmigratory existence respectively. Unless some higher norms and standards are prescribed there cannot be any fairness in playing the game of life to achieve these ends and as a consequence jungle law only will prevail. It is these rules or norms that go by the omnibus term “dharma” for which there is no English equivalent. For our purposes we will interpret this term as duty or responsibility or obligation. Thus dharma is made applicable to each member of the society according to the varna to which he belongs and according to his stage in life. Hinduism believes that a human being gets purified and refined by undertaking certain rites or rituals referred to as samskaras which are generally taken as sixteen in number (sodasa-sasamskaras). The Hindu scriptures do not consider birth as the starting point of life. It goes farther back since the incident of birth is primarily conditioned by heredity and parentage. Keeping this in mind, the samskaras for a person start from the time of his conception (Garbhadhana) and end with cremation rites (antyeshthi). The antyeshthi stands for all the post-death ceremonies performed by the son of the deceased for his future welfare and to be freed from the debt or obligation he owes to his parents. These post-death rituals do not come to an end with the conclusion of the prescribed number of days of the mourning period immediately following the death but extends throughout the lifetime of the surviving son, though on a smaller scale. Apart from the ceremonies to be performed every month following the death culminating in the first anniversary of the death, Hindu Dharma prescribes that the forefathers should be worshipped thereafter also. When they leave this world it becomes the Vedic duty of their descendants (sons) to worship their departed souls on a daily basis apart from the specific days like New Moon day (amavasya), Eclipse Days (grihan), Parva Kala (Uttarayana, Dakshinayana), Pushkara Days, on the specific day (thithi) of their death, on visiting any Theertha Kshetras etc. Among these rites the important ones to be undertaken by the son in honor of his deceased parents and forefathers are Tarpan on every newmoon day (Amavasya), Shraaddh on each anniversary of the deceased and most importantly the rites to be performed during the Pitrupaksh. :: RUNA TRAYA: CONCEPT OF THREE DEBTS :: A discerning person will naturally seek an answer to the question why at all these rituals are required to be performed. Hinduism answers this query when it says that every person who is born is under five runas or debts to his manes and others from whom he derives benefit as a member of the society. They are called pancha maha runas (five great debts) to clear which he has to undertake pancha maha yajnas (five great sacrifices). They are 1. deva yajna (sacrifice to the gods), 2. pitru yajna (sacrifice to the manes or forefathers), 3. rishi yajna or brahma yajna (sacrifice to the sages learned in the Vedas), 4. nriyajna (feeding the visiting hungry human beings) and 5. bhuta yajna (feeding the animals). There were no schemes of loan waiver or writing off of the debt in those days. It was considered that by performing these sacrifices daily, the householder is actually repaying the debts to the divine beings and the society from whom he has received help and sustenance. They also help him in offsetting the sins he might be committing knowingly or unknowingly during his daily life. Among these the first three types of debts viz.1. debt to the gods (deva runa), 2. debt to the forefathers (pitru runa) and 3. debt to the sages (rishi runa) are given priority which is called runa traya. The idea of three debts under which every human being is born has been found in the Rig Veda (8.32.16; 6.61.1), Taitriya Samhita (22.214.171.124) and the Satapatha Brahmana (126.96.36.199). The first type of debt is repaid by the performance of yajnas or Vedic sacrifices to the gods; the second by marrying according to dharma, begetting successors and doing shraaddhas to the deceased ancestors and the third by study of the Vedas. We are concerned in this essay with the rituals relating to the deceased forefathers for clearing pitru runa.