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During pithrupaksha, we keep food for crows assuming our ancestors will come and have in the form of crows. So one day we become ancestors too. So do we all take birth as crows after death?

In that case, the crows population should keep growing, but we see very minimal. Whats happening?

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The ancestors roam around in the form of crows. Or another way to put it is ancestors come in the disguise of crows to accept the offerings.

Quoting from Baudhayana Dharmasutras Praśna II, Adhyāya 8, Kaṇḍikā 14:


  1. Let him who feeds (Brāhmaṇas at a funeral sacrifice) cause them to hear successively the Rakṣoghna Sāmans, the Yajus-formulas (called) Svadhāvat, the Ṛk-verses (called) Madhu, and the (texts called) Pavitras.[5]

  2. Having invited on the day before (the Śrāddha), or just in the morning, virtuous, pure (men), such as Trimadhus, who know the Vedāṅgas and the sacred texts, who are not related by marriage, nor members of the same family, nor connected through the Veda, at least three, (but always) an odd number, the (sacrificer) makes them sit down on prepared seats, covered with Darbha grass, facing the east or the north.[6]

  3. Then he offers to them water mixed with sesamum seed, adorns them with scents and garlands (and says), 'I wish to offer oblations in the fire.'[7] When he has received permission (to do so), he heaps fuel on the sacred fire, scatters Kuśa grass around it, performs (all the ceremonies) up to the end of the Agnimukha, and offers three burnt oblations of food only, (reciting the following texts): 'To Soma, accompanied by the manes, Svāhā!' 'To Yama, accompanied by the Aṅgiras and by the manes, Svāhā!' 'To Agni, who carries the offerings to the manes, who causes sacrifices to be well performed, Svāhā!'

  4. He shall make these three oblations with food only which has been sprinkled with the remainder of the (clarified butter).[8]

9. Let him give a cake of food to the birds.

10. For it is declared in the Veda, 'The manes roam about in the shape of birds.'

  1. Next he touches the (other food) with his hand and with the thumb,

It does not imply that all these ancestors have taken birth as crows.

Note that the above translation uses the word "birds" but the following translation of the same verses uses the word "crows" in place of birds.

After they have given him permission, he puts wood into the sacred fire, spreads sacred grass around it, completes the rites up to the Agnimukha, and offers three oblations of that very food in the fire, saying: To Soma, who has absorbed the ancestors, svadha! Homage! Svaha! To Yama, accompanied by Angirases and ancestors, svadha! Homage! Svaha! To Fire, who conveys the offering, who makes the offering flawless, svadha! Homage! Svaha! 8 The above three offerings should be made only with food that has been sprinkled with the remaining ghee. 9 He should give a lump of rice to crows, 10 for it is stated: ‘Ancestors roam about in the guise of crows.’ 11 Then he touches the remaining food with his hand and thumb, reciting these formulas

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    The term 'vayasāṁ' is used in the two ślokas. Govindasvāmin's commentary specifies that the term here refers to kāka (i.e. crow). "vayaśśabdena iha kākā gṛhanti" archive.org/details/dli.ernet.476505/page/n325/mode/… So, the second eng. translation (which I think, is by Olivelle) of the two ślokas given by you, is more proper.
    – Bingming
    Jan 29 at 4:46

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