Agnihotra
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अग्निहोत्र परमो धर्म:|  

‘AGNIHOTRA’ PARAMO DHARAMAHA

 

            
चत्वारि शृंगा त्रयोअस्य पादा द्वेशीर्षे  सप्तहस्तास्योअस्य ।
त्रिधाबद्धो  वृषभो  रोरवीति महो देवो मर्त्यां आविवेश ॥

  

 

Agnihotra – Agnihotri - Yagna

Agnihotra’ is a sacred tradition started by ‘Rishis’ and sages of ancient India. It is the worship of the Lord Yagna Naarayan. ‘Agnihotra’ means worshipping the Lord Vishnu - Aadi Naarayan - 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 “Upasana” – ‘Up’ (Near) ‘Aasana’ (Sitting) - Upasana 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 pious things into it, is known as ‘Agnihotri’, and his ‘Upasana’ is known as ‘Agnihotra’.
 
In fact, ‘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. Needless to say, only a worthy person is selected as ‘Agnihotri’ by the Lord. 
 
In Agnihotra, the evening ‘Yagna’ performed by the ‘Agnihotri’ is offered to the Lord Agni Naarayan and the morning ‘Yagna’ is offered to the Lord Surya Naarayan (Sun).

 

Types of Agnihotra
 
There are two kinds of ‘Agnihotra’ – the ‘Shraut Agnihotra’ and the ‘Smart Agnihotra’.

 

Yagna Purusha

 
The vessel or place which contains the sacred fire is known as ‘Kund’. There may be one ‘Kund’, three ‘Kunds or five ‘Kunds for ‘Agnihotra’. ‘Agnihotri’ has to prepare ‘Yagnashala’ according to proper measurements on the basis of the calculations given in Vedas. The ‘Yagna - Kund’ and the ‘Vedi’ (altar) must be in the centre of the ‘Yagnashala’, representing the form of ‘Yagna Purusha’. Thus, ‘Yagnakunda’ 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 ‘Yagnashala’ represents the Universe. ‘Yagna Kund’ is considered the centre of the Universe.

अयं यज्ञो भुवनस्य नाभि:| (ऋग्वेद 1|164|35)

 

Qualities of Agnihotri
‘Agnihotri’ should be a Brahmin, selected by God/Guru. He may be a celibate or a householder. If a householder becomes a widow or a widower, she/he cannot perform as ‘Agnihotri’. The ‘Agnihotri’ has to worship the Lord as an ideal householder. He can not beg even for his own livelihood. When his right hand remains occupied with offerings to the Lord Yagna Naarayan every morning and evening, how can he extend it for begging? In fact, the last ‘Aahuti’ of the ‘Agnihotri’ is the sacrifice of his own body to the Lord.
 
Agnihotra – Daily (Nitya) Yagna System
 
 
Agnihotri first performs ‘Sandhya-Vandan’ etc. then makes ‘Sankalpa’ of doing the  Yagna and wakes the God up with motherly care by uncovering the ‘Bhasma’ (Ashes) from the sacred fire [that continues from the day of the ‘Praagatya’ when the ‘Aadi Purusha’ (first person) of that Agnihotra Parampara (tradition), first invited (lightened) the Lord Agni by Vedic Method.] Then ‘Golas’ (dung balls) are offered to Yagna Naarayan. Then ‘Aahutis’ of ‘Samidha’, 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 ‘Shanti Sukta’, ‘Purush Sukta’, ‘Surya Sukta’ from the ‘Yajurved’. Flowers and Tulsi leaves are offered to the Lord. Then the Lord Narayan, with four hands, is meditated on.

 

यस्यै देवतायै हविर्गृहीतं स्यात्, तां मनसा ध्यायेत्|

(निरुक्त 8|22|11)
Then waving of lights (‘Aarti’), offering flowers – ‘Mantra Pushpaanjali’ by reciting excellent ‘Ved Mantras’, circum ambulation – ‘Pradakshina’, prayers are lovingly offered to the Lord. Then this performed Pooja is dedicated (Arpan) to the Lord ‘Maha Vishnu’. Finally, with motherly love, the ‘Agnihotri’ makes the Lord sleep by covering the Agni with ‘Bhasma’ (Ashes).
 
A person must visit ‘Yagnashala’ with good thoughts and noble desires because the desire of a person gets fulfilled in this sacred place. Nobel thoughts and meditation on the Lord are highly desirable for a person who visits the ‘Yagnashala’. After the worship of the Lord Yagna Naarayan, the Lord Shiva (Mahadev) is worshipped.
 
On every first day of Shukla Paksha and Krishna Paksha the ‘Agnihotri’ gets his head completely shaved – ‘Mundan’. Every one likes hair on the head. 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 ‘Yagnas’ daily. They are ‘Dev Yagna’, ‘Pitru Yagna’ and ‘Manushya Yagna’.
 
The worship of the Lord is ‘Dev Yagna’. Loving services rendered to father, mother, the elderly and the respectable people is ‘Pitru Yagna’ and service to humanity through mass feeding, through establishing and helping ‘Pathshala’, schools etc. or any social service is known as ‘Manushya Yagna’. 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 province of 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, ‘Agnihotra’ is a great religion meant for nourishing the world. It is unique because we do not find such religion in the past or in the future.

 

अग्निहोत्र समो धर्मो न भूतो न भविष्यति| 

यज्ञैराप्यायिता देवा......यज्ञा: कल्याणहेतव:| (विष्णुपुराण 1|6|8)

All Devas nourished by Yagnas….Yagnas are for good. 

In Shukla Yajurveda, there is a talk between the Yajmaan and the Deva (Indra) indicating the relation between Humans and Devas.

 
Yajmaan to Indra -

वस्नेव विक्रीणावहा इषमूर्ज& शतक्रतो|

(शुक्ल यजुर्वेद 3|49)

O Indra! Let we exchange the Havi (Objects offered to lord) and Fal (the fruit in reward of the Have). I am giving you Havi, you give me Fal.

Indra to Yajmaan –

 

देहि मे ददामि ते नि मे धेहि नि ते दधे|

(शुक्ल यजुर्वेद 3|49)

“You first give Havi then I will give you Fal.”

 

Another Mantra in Veda clarifies that when Devas are satisfied (Trupt) then they satisfies the Yajmaan.

तृप्त एव एनमिन्द्र: प्रजया पशुभिश्च तर्पयति|

Thus, By giving Devas humans can get. As said by the Lord Krishna Himself in Geeta,

 

देवान्भावयतानेन ते देवा भावयन्तु व:|

परस्परं भावयन्त: श्रेय: परमवाप्स्यथ||

(गीता 3|11)
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)
 

Pious things offered in Agnihotra - Yagna:

‘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.
 
Dev Yaag, Pitru Yaag
The Yagna 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 ‘Dev Yaag’ (Paurnamase Isht) and the Yagna from the first evening of the black period – Krishna Paksha – to the morning of Shukla Paksha is known as ‘Pitru Yaag’ (Darsh Isht).
 
Ishti Yaag:
The morning Yagna 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 Yaags known as ‘Ishti Yaag’. For the Ishti Yaag, rice is cooked in milk, which is known as ‘Paayas’. ‘Aahutis’ of ‘Payas’ are offered to the Lord and some portion of the ‘Paayas’ is to be fed to a cow. The offering prepared from the flour of Barley is known as ‘Purodash’. ‘Aahutis’ of ‘Purodash’ 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 Pooja is performed.

अग्निर्हि देवानां मुखम् (शतपथ ब्राह्मण 3|7|4|10)

After the act of offering ‘Aahutis’ the routine Pooja is performed.

 
Agnihotra tradition in times of Kings
 
In ancient times, every Brahmin was ‘Agnihotri’. To be without ‘Agnihotra’ was considered a curse (‘Shraap’).  The ‘Agnihotri’ may require a house, land for ‘Yagnashala’ and for implanting trees and plants for taking care of cows and for such other things. Kings used to appreciate and respect ‘Agnihotries’ for their divine worship. They used to look after them by maintaining their families. ‘Agnihotries’ had not to worry about their livelihood or money so they used to dedicate their lives to the service of the Lord and to the different research projects. Thus, in fact, ancient Rishis were also scientists.

 

One who maintains the ‘Agnihotri’ family for the whole year will earn 16 % (6th part) of the total merit (‘Punya’) of ‘Agnihotra’. Such was the tradition in the times of the Kings.