mostly known as Havan is the central concept of Shrauta the
tradition that follows from the Shruti (Ved).
are many concepts that are based on and evolved from the concept
of Yagna. The word Yagna comes from the root-"yaj"
which means to worship. The word Yagna means sacrifice. There
are multiple synonyms of the word Yagna that convey different
aspects of this broad concept. For instance it is also called
“karma”, meaning action or the act of sacrifice
/ offering / worshiping. In the general sense it can be understood
as any action done with the sense of sacrifice, like praying,
remembering, meditating. In the specific sense it is the act
of offering oblations to propitiate a Devta.
can be classified in different ways. One of them is periodicity.
Apart from the Panca Maha Yagnas, Aupasana and Agnihotra are
performed every day. Any other Yagna is occasional – performed
fortnightly, monthly, yearly or even once in a life time. Agnihotra
is the homa done thrice a day. Darsa and Puranmas are done on
new moon and full moon days. Parvani sraddha is done once a
month. Most of the other Yagnas can be done once a year or even
in a lifetime.
Another classification is the scale of the rite. The ones like
Agnihotra are done in the house while the sacrifices like soma
yaga or vajapeya need to be undertaken at a much bigger scale
involving priests. The rites undertaken at a household level
are called grah rites. The ones performed at a collective level
are called srauta rites.
let me make it clear there in Yagna there is no animal sacrifice.
Yagnas mostly involve symbolic sacrifice and never involve a
literal sacrifice. The mantras in the Yagna are taken from Veds
and Veds itself is a wide subject having many meaning of just
one word hence, many people misunderstood the Veds and started
the "Bali" system.
samhita portion of the Ved contains the mantras used for Yagna.
The Brahmana portion of the Ved deals with Karma kanda. Specifically,
out of the four Veds, YajurVed is the primary Ved concerned
with Yagna. It is called YajurVed because it is composed of
Yajus or the mantras used for Yagna.
Hindu tradition has the Pancha MahaYagnas (Five Great Yagnas)
One of the
most central Hindu concepts is sacrifice and surrender through
acts of worship, inner and outer.
of offering ahutis to devs
of offering libations to ancestors or pitrus
of offering bali or foodstuffs to all creatures
of feeding guests
of chanting Veds, namely Rig Ved, Yajur Ved,
Sam Ved and Atharv Ved
acts of worship or sacrifice. Life itself is a jiv Yagna.
The Upanishads suggest that one can make "inner Yagnas"
by offering up bits of the little self into the fires of sadhana
and tapas until the greater Self shines forth.
The five daily Yagnas, pancha mahaYagna, of the householder
(outlined in the Dharma Shastras) ensure offerings to rishis,
ancestors, Gods, creatures and men.
of Inner Yagna :
Yagna: Also called Ved Yagna or rishi Yagna"Homage
to the seers." Accomplished through studying and teaching
Yagna: "Homage to Gods and elementals." Recognizing
the debt due to those who guide nature, and the feeding
of them by offering ghee and uncooked grains into the fire.
This is the hom sacrifice.
Yagna: "Homage to ancestors." Offering of cakes
(pinda) and water to the family line and the progenitors
Yagna: "Homage to beings." Placing food-offerings,
bali, on the ground, intended for animals, birds, insects,
wandering outcastes and beings of the invisible worlds.
"Let him gently place on the ground [food] for dogs,
outcastes, svapachas, those diseased from sins, crows and
insects" Manu Dharma Shastras.
Yagna: "Homage to men." Feeding guests and the
poor, the homeless and the student. Manushya Yagna includes
all acts of philanthropy, such as tithing and charity.
form of ritual worship especially prevalent in Vedic times,
in which oblations - ghee, grains, spices and exotic woods -
are offered into a fire according to scriptural injunctions
while special mantras are chanted.
The element fire, Agni, is revered as the divine messenger
who carries offerings and prayers to the Gods.
The ancient Ved Brahmans and the Shraut Shastras describe
various types of Yagna rites, some so elaborate as to require
hundreds of priests, whose powerful chanting resounds for
miles. These major Yagnas are performed in large, open-air
structures called yagashala.
Domestic Yagnas, prescribed in the Grihya Shastras, are
performed in the family compound or courtyard. Yagna requires
four components, none of which may be omitted: dravya, sacrificial
substances; tyaga, the spirit of sacrificing all to God;
devata, the celestial beings who receive the sacrifice;
and mantra, the empowering word or chant.
While puja (worship in temples with water, lights and flowers)
has largely replaced the Yagna, this ancient rite still
continues, and its specialized priestly training is carried
on in schools in India.
Yagnas of a grand scale are performed for special occasions,
beseeching the Gods for rain during drought, or for peace
during bloody civil war. Even in temples, Yagna has its
Agamic equivalent in the agnikaraka, the homa or havana
ceremony, held in a fire pit (homakunda) in an outer mandapa
of a temple as part of elaborate puja rites.