Vedic Yajna or Homa- An Inseparable Part of Hinduism
Auspicious Role of Agni
Agni (fire) plays an auspicious role in Hindu rituals, ceremony or festivals. In fact, Agni is worshipped as a powerful deity in Hinduism since Vedic period of this religion. Most of the Vedic religious or social activities were performed giving importance on Agni Deva. As per a source, almost fifty percent Vedic rituals were performed with the beginning of Yajna or Homa (offering to Agni Deva). It is also called Havan or Agnihotra. In fact, Vedic Yajna or Homa is an inseparable part of Hinduism.
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Purifying and Nourishing Effect of Yajna
The first word used in the Rig veda is ‘Agni’ (Hymn 1.1 is addressed to Agni). So, it is easily understood how much importance was given on this deity in Vedic age. In Vedic science, Yajna or Homa had a purifying and nourishing effect not only on a religious performer but also on his sorrounding atmosphere. Following the Vedic panchang, the devotees performed Yajna or Homa. ‘Vedis’ (altars) of different geometrical measurements and architectural designs were constructed for this purpose. The mantras of the Vedas were recited and sacrifices were made to the gods for the desired benefit. Offerings such as ghee, rice, dry fruits, honey, herbs, wood etc. were offered to the sacred fire while reciting Sanskrit mantras. The significance of the mysterious mantras of the Vedas was often not understood by the common people. However, in the Vedic age, the Aryans used to pray two things by practising Yajna or Homa. These two objects were – Shree and Dhee. Shree means wealth, strength, glory, etc. and Dhee means knowledge and wisdom. In the Shukla Yajurveda(19.9), it is said-
tejo-asi tejo mayi dhehi
viryam asi viryam mayi dhehi
balam asi balam mayi dhehi
Ojo-asi ojo mayi dhehi
manyur-asi manyum mahi dhehi
saho-asi saho mayi dhehi
Meaning: “You are the energizing radiance, that fierce, may You infuse in me. You are heroic vigour, that mettle, may You infuse in me. You are power, the might, that strength,
may You infuse in me. You are vitality, the vital potential, may You infuse in me. You are the fiery zeal, that passion, may You infuse in me. You are the Will to succeed, that preservance, may You infuse in me.”
Bhagavad Gita and Yajna or Homa
Bhagavad Gita and Yajna or Homa are closely related. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter:10, Verse:23) Lord Krishna has said-
“Amongst the Rudras know me to be Shankar; amongst the demons I am Kuber. I am Agni amongst the Vasus and Meru amongst the mountains.”
There are eight Vasus (land, water, fire, air, space, sun, moon, and stars) in the universe. Amongst these, Agni (fire) is the most sacred and powerful. Agni gives warmth and energy to the rest of the elements. Thus, Lord Krishna mentions it as his special manifestation in the verse.
Yajna or Homa in Post-Vedic Period
In the post-Vedic period of Vedanta philosophy, these activities of Yajna or Homa were opposed as Vedic performances of Homa and Yajna were made mainly to expect materialistic wealth and happiness. Vedanta philosophy gave importance mainly on Moksha (the salvation of soul). It also said that Moksha should be the sole object of devotion. Yet the Vedic tradition of Yajna or Homa (watch video) is still seen in different Hindu rituals. The devotees of Vaishnava sect strictly follow the rituals of Yajna along with their other religious performances.
Importance of Yajna
Agni (fire) is the most powerful of all the mahabhutas or five great elemets (ether, air, fire, water, earth). It has a very important role in every sphere of Hinduism. So, the tradition of Yajna (offering to Agnideva) is seen not only in Vedic age but also in all ages of Hindu religion. Different negative opinions have been imposed on this Vedic tradition of Yajna or Homa in different ages but most of the Hindu devotees still think it a very effective and scientific ritual of Hinduism.