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Agnihotra (अग्निहोत्र) is a Vedic yajña (ritual or sacrifice) performed in orthodox Hindu communities. It is mentioned in the Atharvaveda (11:7:9) and described in detail in the Yajurveda Samhita and the Shatapatha Brahmana (12:4:1). The Vedic form of the ritual is still performed by a small number of Vaidiki Brahmins in South Asia. Modern versions of the Agnihotra are promoted by various individuals and groups as a non-sectarian ritual for the healing and purification of the atmosphere and as a primary source of vibhuti or sacred ash.
The Vedic Agnihotra
Agnihotra is a tatpuruṣa compound (samāsa), meaning an offering (originally, of milk) into Agni (Latin ignis, etc.) or consecrated fire. It finds earliest mention in the Atharva Veda (1000 BC), vi 97,1, (source Monier Williams) though pouring into the ritual fire was known as early as in the Ṛgveda (c. 1400 BC) and it the closely related Zoroastrian religion (Yasna Haptaŋhāiti).
The central part of the Agnihotra consists of making two offerings of milk into the fire exactly at, slightly before, or even after the time of sunset and sunrise, along with Vedic mantras that relate the fire and the sun to each other: 'agnir jyotir, jyotiḥ sūryaḥ svāhā' in the evening, but the reverse 'sūryo jyotir, jyotir agniḥ svāhā' in the morning. This preserves the sun over night, which is also one of the interpretations of the ritual given in the Samhitas and Brahmanas. .
This small rite is surrounded by a large number of additional actions and is followed by the worship of the three (or five) sacred fires (agny-upasthāna). The ritual is performed by a Brahmin priest for his own or the benefit of a sponsor (yajamāna). The Vedic Agnihotra takes about 15 minutes in current performances.
There is a simplied version of the Agnihotra in the Grihyasutras and in later post-Vedic texts.
Performance and contemporary meaning of the Agnihotra (simple interpretation for common understanding)
Agnihotra – Agnihotri - Yagna (Yajna)
‘Agnihotra’ is a sacred tradition started by the ‘Rishis’ of ancient India. It is now considered by some as the worship of the Lord Yajna Naarayana. ‘Agnihotra’ then means worshipping the Lord Vishnu - Aadi Naarayana - riding on the divine serpent and controlling the infinite cosmos, only by will.
‘यज्ञो वै विष्णु:’ (शतपथ ब्राह्मण 1|1|2|13)
The Sanskrit word for worship is “Upaasana” – ‘Upa’ (Near) ‘Aasana’ (Sitting) - Upaasana means sitting near the Lord. One who is initiated either by Guru or by the command of the Lord Himself to worship the sacred Fire by offering into it, is known as ‘Agnihotri’, and his ‘Upaasana’ is known as ‘Agnihotra’.
In this view, ‘Agnihotra’ is the aggregation of - meditation, remembering the name of the Lord, act of devotion, surrender and Yoga. It is performed in the Vedic manner. Only a worthy person is selected as ‘Agnihotri’ by the Lord.
In Agnihotra, the evening ‘Yajna’ performed by the ‘Agnihotri’ is offered to the Lord Agni Naarayan and the morning ‘Yajna’ is offered to the Lord Suurya Naarayana (Sun).
The vessel or place which contains the sacred fire is known as ‘Kunda’. There may be one ‘Kunda’, three ‘Kundas or five ‘Kundas for ‘Agnihotra’. ‘Agnihotri’ has to prepare ‘Yajnashaala’ according to proper measurements on the basis of the calculations given in the Vedas. The ‘Yajna - Kunda’ and the ‘Vedi’ (altar) must be in the centre of the ‘Yajnashala’, representing the form of ‘Yajna Purusha’. Thus, ‘Yajnakunda’ is the very mouth of the Lord into which sacrificial things are offered in the morning and in the evening everyday, according to the Vedic methods. The inner part of ‘Yajnashaala’ represents the Universe. ‘Yajna Kunda’ is considered the centre of the Universe.
अयं यज्ञो भुवनस्य नाभि:| (ऋग्वेद 1|164|35)
Qualities of Agnihotri
The one who performs Agnihotra daily with faith and full trust in the Almighty can be called an Agnihotri. The one who means it when he says "idam, na mama" ((O Lord, all this is) Yours, NOT mine) is a true Agnihotri.
Agnihotra – Daily (Nitya) Yajna System
Agnihotri first performs ‘Sandhyaa-Vandana’ etc. then makes ‘Sankalpa’ of doing the Yajna and wakes the God up with motherly care by uncovering the ‘Bhaasma’ (Ashes) from the sacred fire [that continues from the day of the ‘Praagatya’ when the ‘Aadi Purusha’ (first person) of that Agnihotra Paramparaa (tradition), first invited (lightened) the Lord Agni by Vedic Method.] Then ‘Golas’ (dung balls) are offered to Yajna Naarayana. Then ‘Aahutis’ of ‘Samidh’, Ghee, ‘Jav-tal’ are offered to the Agni. After the act of offering ‘Aahutis’, the excellences of the Lord are sung through the ‘Mantras’ of ‘Shaanti Suukta’, ‘Purusha Suukta’, ‘Suurya Suukta’ from the ‘Yajurveda’. Flowers and Tulsi leaves are offered to the Lord. Then the Lord Naraayana, with four hands, is meditated on.
यस्यै देवतायै हविर्गृहीतं स्यात्, तां मनसा ध्यायेत्|
Then waving of lights (‘Aarti’), offering flowers – ‘Mantra Pushpaanjali’ by reciting excellent ‘Veda Mantras’, circumambulation – ‘Pradakshina’, prayers are lovingly offered to the Lord. Then this performed Pujaa is dedicated (Arpana) to the Lord ‘Mahaa Vishnu’. Finally, the ‘Agnihotri’ makes the Lord sleep by covering the Agni with ‘Bhaasma’ (Ashes).
A person must visit ‘Yajnashaala’ with good thoughts and noble desires because the desire of a person gets fulfilled in this sacred place. Noble thoughts and meditation on the Lord are highly desirable for a person who visits the ‘Yajnashaala’. After the worship of the Lord Yajna Naaraayan, the Lord Shiva (Mahadeva) is worshipped.
On every first day of Shukla Paksha and Krishna Paksha the ‘Agnihotri’ gets his head completely shaved – ‘Mundana’. Such dear hair is to be offered to the dearest Lord as a mark of intense love for the Lord. Removing hair is considered as an act of repentance that makes a person free from sins.
The ‘Agnihotri’ has to perform three ‘Yajnas’ daily. They are ‘Deva Yajna’, ‘Pitr Yajna’ and ‘Manushya Yajna’.
The worship of the Lord is ‘Deva Yajna’. Loving services rendered to father, mother, the elderly and the respectable people is ‘Pitr Yajna’ and service to humanity through mass feeding, through establishing and helping ‘Paathashaala’, schools etc. or any social service is known as ‘Manushya Yajna’. The ‘Agnihotri’ may be busy with all these activities for the whole day along with the sweet remembrance of the Lord.
Nourishing the World by Agnihotra
अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भव:|
यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो यज्ञ: कर्मसमुद्भव:|| (गीता 3|14)
अग्नौ प्रास्ताहुति: सम्यगादित्यमुपतिष्ठते|
आदित्याज्जायते वृष्टिर्वृष्टेरन्नं तत: प्रजा:||
(मनु समृति 3|76)
The scarified offering is known as ‘Aahuti’. These ‘Aahutis’, going to the Lord Sun, which in turn form clouds, give rain and make the earth wet for giving food-grains and the creatures of the world are nourished by food. Thus, the ‘Agnihotra’ is meant for nourishing the world.
अग्निहोत्र समो धर्मो न भूतो न भविष्यति|
यज्ञैराप्यायिता देवा......यज्ञा: कल्याणहेतव:| (विष्णुपुराण 1|6|8)
All Devas nourished by Yajnas….Yajnas are for good.
In Shukla Yajurveda, there is a talk between the Yajamaana and the Deva (Indra) indicating the relation between Humans and Devas.
Yajamaana to Indra -
‘वस्नेव विक्रीणावहा इषमूर्ज& शतक्रतो|’
(शुक्ल यजुर्वेद 3|49)
O Indra! Let we exchange the Havih (Objects offered to lord) and phala (the fruit in reward of the Havih). I am giving you Havih, you give me phala.
Indra to Yajamaana –
‘देहि मे ददामि ते नि मे धेहि नि ते दधे|’
(शुक्ल यजुर्वेद 3|49)
“You first give Havih then I will give you phala.”
Another Mantra in Veda clarifies that when Devas are satisfied (trpta) then they satisfies the Yajamaana.
तृप्त एव एनमिन्द्र: प्रजया पशुभिश्च तर्पयति|
Thus, By giving Devas humans can get. As said by the Lord Krishna Himself in Gita,
देवान्भावयतानेन ते देवा भावयन्तु व:|
परस्परं भावयन्त: श्रेय: परमवाप्स्यथ||
Having pleased the Devas by sacrifices, the Devas will please you and thus mutually pleasing one another you will achieve the Supreme.
सर्वं यज्ञमयं जगत्| (कालिकाउपपुराण 31|40)
Items offered in Agnihotra - Yajna:
‘Agnihotra’ rituals require the objects of offering like Barley, Sesame, Ghee, Dry fruits, ‘Kamal Kakdi’, the powder of Dung of Bull/Cow, ‘Samidh’ (pieces of small branches of wood with specific measurement) from Mango tree, Pipal tree, Palash tree or from any tree having flowers/fruit in place of Palash (Khakhar) tree. ‘Samidh’ may not be taken from thorny or dry trees.
Deva Yaaga, Pitr Yaaga
The Yajna starting from the evening of the first day of the Lunar month - the first evening of the white period – Shukla Paksha - to the morning of the first day of Krishna Paksha is known as ‘Deva Yaaga’ (Paurnamasa Ishti) and the Yajna from the first evening of the black period – Krishna Paksha – to the morning of Shukla Paksha is known as ‘Pitr Yaaga’ (Darsha Ishti).
The morning Yajna of the first day of the white period – Shukla Paksha and the morning Yagna of the first day of the black period – Krishna Paksha are special Yaagas known as ‘Ishti Yaaga’. For the Ishti Yaaga, rice is cooked in milk, which is known as ‘Paayasa’. ‘Aahutis’ of ‘Payasa’ are offered to the Lord and some portion of the ‘Paayasa’ is to be fed to a cow. The offering prepared from the flour of Barley is known as ‘Purodaash’. ‘Aahutis’ of ‘Purodaash’ are to be offered to the Lord Agni according to the Vedic rituals. As a mother lovingly feeds her child with small mouthfuls, the ‘Agnihotri’ also is supposed to feed the Lord with such ‘Aahutis’ with intense motherly love, care and concentration. After the act of offering ‘Aahutis’ the routine Puja is performed.
‘अग्निर्हि देवानां मुखम्’ (शतपथ ब्राह्मण 3|7|4|10)
After the act of offering ‘Aahutis’ the routine Puja is performed.
There are several family institutions in India which follow and perform the above forms of "Agnihotra" and such persons are addressed as "Agnihotri". Shri Krishna Ashram  is one such place in Gujarat where Shri Yajnyanaaraayana has been worshiped by an Agnihotri family for last 100 years.
Resuscitation of Vedic 'Agnihotra'
It is said that the message of Agnihotra in its most ancient form was rejuvenated and given to the world by Paramsadguru Shree Gajanan Maharaj of Shivpuri, Akkalkot in India and as such, Shivpuri is said to be the birth place of Agnihotra in its modern form, for the present Age. Shree Gajanan Maharaj is believed to be a yogi-seer and is addressed by all His devotees as “Shree”. Thousands of devotees from all over the world are said to visit Yadnya (Yajna or Yagna) Nagar Shivpuri in Akkalkot as it is known.
Agnihotra (Homa) consists of making two offerings to the fire exactly at the time of sunrise & sunset along with two small Sanskrit mantras. Agnihotra is regarded a process of purification of the atmosphere as a cumulative effect of various scientific and sonic principles harnessed to give rise to an unparalled purifying and healing phenomenon. The benefits, both spiritual and mundane, that accrue to sacrificers is said to be enormous.
The modern form of Agnihotra (Homa) is a simplified version, sometimes accompanied by daily (nitya) karmas (duties) such as Sandhyavandanam and Samidhadanam. It can also be a kAmyakarma (optional obligation, not performed continuously) as mentioned in Manu or Yagnavalkyasamhita.
Though the Agnihotra ritual was originally performed exclusively by upper caste married men, accompanied by their wife, the modern form it is open to both genders and all varnas and castes. What is required is an attitude of devotion (bhakti) and faith (sraddhA, śraddhā).
The process of Agnihotra (Homa) consists of making two offerings to the fire exactly at the time of sunrise & sunset along with the chanting of two small Sanskrit mantras.
The offerings consist of two pinchfuls of uncooked rice grains smeared with a few drops of cow's pure ghee (clarified butter). The fire is prepared out of dried cowdung cakes in a small copper pot.
First, one takes a small piece of the cow dung cake and place it at the bottom of the pyramid pot. Then starts arranging the other pieces of cow dung cakes around it neatly.Then put some cow ghee at one end of small cow dung piece,then light it with matchstick.The piece of cow dung is lighted with fire then put it in pyramid pot.(originally "pure" fire was produced by the churning of a fire stick on a base plate, or transferred from such pure hearths.) If necessary, a hand-held fan can be used so that all the pieces are fully ablaze.
Two pinchfuls of clean, unbroken rice grains (raw) are grasped on one's left palm or in a small dish. These rice grains are smeared with a few drops of cow's pure ghee, and then divided in two parts. Keep an eye on your watch and sooner its needle touches the exact sunrise time, start uttering the first mantra 'Sūryāya svāhā' ("oblation unto the Sun"). While you start saying 'Svāhā' offer one part of the rice grains to the fire. Continue and complete the mantra's first line 'Sūryāya idam, na mama' (this belongs to the Sun not to me).
Start uttering the other line of the mantra, 'Prajāpataye svāhā' (oblation unto Prajapati, Lord of all Created beings), while offering the other part of the rice grains to the fire after saying and go on to complete the mantra, 'Prajāpataye idam, na mama' ('this belongs to Prajapati, not me'). Concentrate on the fire till the offerings are fully burnt.
The morning Agnihotra concludes here.
In the evening before the Agnihotra time, remove very carefully the morning Agnihotra ash from the pot and put it in a bag or box specially kept aside for it. Repeating the morning process, prepare a fresh fire from the cowdung cakes in the pot. Also prepare two equal parts of the cow ghee smeared rice grains for the two offerings.
Exactly at sunset time, accompanied by the chanting of sunset Agnihotra mantras - 'Agnaye svāhā' (Oblation to Agni, Fire) offer the first part after saying 'Svaha' and complete the mantra by saying 'Agnaye idam, na mama' ('this unto Agni, not me').
Similarly, uttering the second line of the mantra offer other part of the rice grains to the fire after saying 'Prājapataye svāhā' and complete the mantra uttering 'Prajāpataye idam, na mama'. Concentrate on the fire till the offerings are fully burnt.
This concludes the evening Agnihotra.
- Agnihotra ( Pyramid-shaped ) Copper pot
- Copper Dish
- Copper Spoon ( Long )
- Copper fork
- Cow's pure ghee
- Local sunrise - set timings yearly chart of your place
Modern Agnihotra (Homa)
EVENING AGNIHOTRA MANTRA:
Agnaye Swaaha, Agnaye idam na mama!
Prajapataye Swaaha, Prajapataye idam na mama!
MORNING AGNIHOTRA MANTRA:
Suryaya swaaha, Suryaya idam na mama!
Prajapate Swaaha, Prajapataye idam na mama!"
- Fire Sermon
- Step by step instruction
- Pancha Sadana or Five Fold Path
- Why Agnihotra?
- ↑ H.W. Bodewitz. The daily evening and morning offering (Agnihotra) according to the Brāhmaṇas. Leiden : Brill, 1976
- ↑ Shri Krishna Ashram Information - www.shrikrishnashram.org
- ↑ Paramsadguru Shree Gajanan Maharaj - Website
- ↑ "Kesari" Newspaper -Solapur Edition, 18 July 2005
- ↑ "Yajnya: First aspect of the fivefold path" Times of India, National Coverage, 28 May 2009 
- Shivpuri - Birth Place of Agnihotra in Modern Form
- Shri Krishna Ashram - Ancient Agnihotra Institution (100 Years)
- Panchasadhan Prachar Kendra, Pune
- World Agnihotra Centers
- How to perform Agnihotra
- Agnihotra way of Life
- World Agnihotra Therapists
- Agnihotra in Switzerland
- Shree, Life and Work - Werner Metzger
- Homa/Agnihotra (Archived 2009-10-25)
- Yajna bali- Devadakshiña
- Madhav Ashram, M.P. India
- Free Agnihotra Timings Software from Vedic Societyhi:अग्निहोत्र