I have seen in many puja and rituals sesame seeds being used with milk. Scriptures also mention its usage in certain rituals. So what's the importance of sesame seeds? Why they are used?
Offering sesame seeds (tiltarpan) to departed ancestors
- Significance and meaning: ‘Trup’ means satisfying others. The word ‘Tarpan’ has been formed from the root word ‘Trup’. Offering water to God, Sages, ancestors’ soul and human beings and satisfying them through it is called tarpan.
- Objective: The objective of performing tarpan is that God, deceased ancestors’ souls etc whose names are pronounced while performing Tarpan, should bestow happiness on us.
Tila tarpan means offering sesame seeds mixed in water to the deceased ancestors’ souls. Black sesame seeds should be used for Shraddha. If sesame seeds are not available then gold or silver should be used.
• Sesame seeds are the favorites of deceased ancestors’ souls.
• By usage of sesame seeds, the demons do not obstruct the ritual of Shraddha.
Reference : forumforhinduawakening
The ritual of offering sesame seeds (til-tarpana)*
Due to an increase in spiritual purity (sāttviktā) on Akshay Tritiya, on average there is a 60-70% chance of feeling good and 30-40% chance of experiencing distress due to departed ancestral souls. By sincerely offering sesame seeds (til-tarpana) with devotion and spiritual emotion (bhāv), the debt unto God and ancestors reduces to some extent as God and the ancestors are pleased. They bestow their blessings on the seeker for his spiritual progress and obstacles in his personal life are removed
- Offering sesame seeds (til-tarpana) to Deities
Method: First invoke the Deities. Take a plate made of copper or any other spiritually pure (sāttvik) metal in your hands. Then invoke Deity Brahmā and Shrī Vishnu or Deity Datta (who is combined form of both of them) and invite them to arrive in the plate. Then have spiritual emotion (bhāv) that the Deities have actually arrived in the subtle. Take sesame seeds in your hands with the spiritual emotion (bhāv) that the principles of Lord Vishnu and Deity Brahmā are in these sesame seeds. Then have the spiritual emotion (bhāv) that you are offering them at the feet of the Deities.
Effect: When sesame seeds are offered at the feet of Deities (who have arrived in the subtle), they absorb the spiritually pure (sāttvik) frequencies emitted by the Deities. Subsequently when water is offered, the spiritual emotion (bhāv) of the person offering it, is invoked. Due to the bhāv state, sāttviktā absorbed by the sesame seeds is received by the person offering it, in greater amounts. From this, we can understand that God is desirous of spiritual emotion (bhāv). When we offer our ego and spiritual emotion (bhāv) to God, He rewards us with abundance.
- Offering sesame seeds (til-tarpana) to departed ancestors
Importance: On this day, spiritual purity (sāttviktā) is received from the higher positive spiritual planes (lok). A lot of embodied souls (jīva) from the nether region (Bhuvalok) come near Earth to get the benefit of this spiritual purity (sāttviktā). Most of them are our ancestors. Due to this, there is a higher probability of an increase in our distress on this day. We owe our ancestors a lot of debts and God expects that we repay these debts. Hence it is advised to offer sesame seeds (til-tarpana) to ancestors on this day, so that they can move on in their after-death life.
Method: In another plate, we should invoke our departed ancestors. Before offering sesame seeds to ancestors, we should pray to Shrī Vishnu and Deity Brahmā so that their principles are absorbed by the sesame seeds. Then we should have the spiritual emotion (bhāv) that our ancestors have arrived in the subtle and we are offering sesame seeds and water at their feet. Then after two minutes, offer the sesame seeds (charged with the Divine principle) and unbroken rice (akshatā), to ancestors by releasing water slowly over the sesame seeds placed on our palms so that the seeds fall into the plate. We should pray to Deity Datta or Deity Brahmā and Shrī Vishnu to elevate our ancestral souls so that they can move-on in their after-death life.
Effect: Sesame seeds have a higher capacity to absorb spiritual purity (sāttviktā) and they remove the spiritually impure component (Raja Tama). While offering sesame seeds(til-tarpana), based on the spiritual emotion (bhāv) of the worshipper, the black covering around the symbolic subtle body of the ancestors (arrived in the plate) is removed and the spiritual purity (sāttviktā) in their subtle body increases. Thus they gain the energy required to move-on to the next spiritual plane (lok). The benefits of this are that the seeker gains spiritual purity (sāttviktā)by offering sesame seeds to God and if his spiritual emotion (bhāv) is 40% or more, then God creates a subtle protective covering around him. Due to this the seeker offering sesame (til-tarpana) to ancestors gets protected from any distress. This helps to reduce the overall distress due to ancestors*** by 5-10%.
- The spiritual experience of a seeker related to (til-tarpana)
Experiencing strangulation while performing the ritual of til-tarpana mentally
On the morning of April 19, 2007, while travelling by train, I was reading the special Akshay Tritiya edition of Dainik Sanatan Prabhat (the daily Sanatan newspaper). Then I started performing the ritual of offering sesame seeds (til-tarpana) mentioned in the article, mentally. All the rituals mentioned in the article were done by me, with spiritual emotion (bhāv). Then when I started inviting the ancestors for the offering (tarpana), I felt strangulated. I immediately prayed to Shrīkrushna to 'please destroy the subtle sorcerer (māntrik) troubling me, with Your Divine weapons.' After the prayer I felt some golden rays striking and being absorbed by my neck and I started feeling better. Then I completed the remaining rituals. After the completion of all the rituals, I experienced that the black covering around me had been destroyed.
- Mr. Nandkishore Narkar, Kalwa, Thane.
If I may: Wikipedia says that the sesame is a small seed storing (vast) energy and is the favorite of Lord Siva (and others) for this reason. It makes sense to me that a deva would like a seed and that sesame seeds were handy at the time the ritual began. True a stone and anything else can be pleasing as well but if that's the favorite, I have no argument.
To add to the previous answers, here is another interpretation:
"Q: What is the signifiance of Mahalaya Amavasya?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Actually this Amavasya is dedicated to the departed souls. When you leave this body you are guided into another world by a set of Devas or Angels. Pururava, Vishvedeva - these are their names. They come and guide you from one level to another level. Mahalaya Amavasya is the day when you remember all the departed souls and thank them and wish peace for them.
There is an ancient tradition in which the family members take a few sesame seeds and little bit of rice, and then they think of their ancestors and say, ‘May you be contented, may you be contented, may you be contented.’ They say this three times and then they drop the little grains of sesame seeds with some water.
The significance of this ritual is to tell the departed that – If you still have some desires in your mind, know that they are like sesame seeds. They are not significant, just drop them. We will take care of them for you. You be free, happy and contented! There is huge universe in front of you. The universe is infinite, so look forward and go; drop whatever is pulling you back. This is called Tarpana.
Tarpana means bringing satisfaction and fulfillment to the departed. It is done to tell them to be contented and move further. Water is the symbol of love. To give anyone water means giving love. In Sanskrit, Ap means water and it also means love. And in Sanskrit someone who is very dear is called Apta. So, in their memory, you give them water as a symbol of love and life and that is why this is called Mahalaya Amavasya. On this day think of all your ancestors.
In Vedic tradition, three generations on the mother's side and father's side are remembered, and all others friends, relatives, and anyone who has crossed over to the other side. Think of them and tell them to be satisfied. Usually in their memory, people also do some charity, by giving food to some people and to animals..."
Black sesame seeds are used during pind daan because it increases the chance of crow pecking the rice ball (white in colour) by 50%. Pecking of rice balls (pind) by crow is considered essential so that we can be sure of presence of subtle energies (our revered pitras) around us. Crows are usually considered to be vigilant of these subtle energies which our bodies are unlikely to feel.