Sunday, October 23, 2011





by N. R. Srinivasan

Yajna or Yaaga or Homa, which is an ancient Vedic fire sacrifice ritual, is performed today by the Hindus religiously more out of belief than understanding. Fire sacrifice forms an integral part of all important Hindu rituals and ceremonies. Worship of Fire-god (Agni) is of great significance and is the most important of all the Hindu rites be it a marriage, child birth, death ceremony, temple festivals or daily pooja. Srauta Homas (mentioned in Srutis) are generally performed for the benefit of the world at large or the society, while Smarta Homas are performed for the well being of self and family, usually at home.
Vedas mention about 400 Yajnas. Of these Aupaasana alone was performed by all the Varnas of Hindu dharma. In practice Yajnas were performed mostly by Brahmanas and Kshatriyas. There are Yajnas mentioned to be performed by Vaisyas for good agricultural yield, for wealth etc. The priests conducting the Yajnas were always Brahmanas, the idea behind it being that if members of other Varnas were to learn mantras, practice and participate directly in the Yajnas, their duties like protecting the country and agriculture would suffer. In Aupaasana unbroken rice or grains are offered in the fire and in Agnihotra milk, ghee or unbroken rice grains are offered. In the North any Yaaga or sacrificial rite is called "Havan", which word is derived from "Aahavaneeya" (a sacrificial fire kept in homes in square shaped mound).
Upanishads also describe seven rising flames during yajna. Five Jnaanesdriyas (sense organs), mind and Intellect are represented by these flames in Viraja (devoid of raja, vi+raja=viraja) Homa, a homa prescribed in Upanishads to get oneself free from Rajo Guna (Action or Ego). These are Kaali, Karaalee, Manojava, Sulihita, Sudhoomra Varna, Spulangini and Visvaruchi. These describe the nature of the flames as the name indicates: Black, Terrible, Having the speed of mind, Very Red, Colored like Thick Smoke, Emitting Sparks and Innumerable Sparks. The yajnas also prescribe seven fagots (Samidh) which are from medicinal plants—Aswattha, Udumbara, Paalasa, Samee, Vikankata, Asanihita Vriksha and Pushkaraparna. Ghee (melted butter) that causes the flames to rise pointing upwards is an essential material in homa--It is often considered as Vyahriti (accessory) to Brahman itself. In Brahmopasana Homa which is called Vyaahriti Homa various deities including Agni are used as accessories (Vyaahriti) to Brhaman though the Homa itself is directed to Brahman. Even in Pitruyajna, the manes (Pitrus) are considered as Vyaahriti to Brhaman. The word "Swadaa" is used while offerings are made to Pitrus and "Swaahaa" while offerings are made to gods. These specific homas will be described later in detail.
Big sacrifices like Somayajnas and others meant to propitiate deities are to be conducted in the fire taken from the Aahavaneeya mound to the Yaagasaala or the hall where the sacrifice is held. Agnihotra is a Srauta ceremony (mentioned in Srutis) and is performed daily at home. Those who perform such rites are called Agnihotris. A Brahmin who conducted the Soma sacrifice by begging was called Prati Vasanti Somayaajin. "Vaaja" means rice (food) and "Peya" means a drink. Vaajapeyi sacrifice brings bountiful of crop and plentiful of water. The sacrifice is bathed in the rice that is left over. Since the rice is poured on the sacrifice like water the term Vaajapeyi is apt for the sacrifice. In olden days a Brahmin used all his wealth in performing Soma sacrifice. Much of it was spent as Dakshina to the priest and the rest for the materials used in the sacrifice. Among Namputris, until some forty years ago, at least one family out of ten performed Somayajna. Since the eldest member of the family could only conduct the sacrifice he alone had the right to property. One worshipped three Agnis is called Tretagnin or Srautin. One who performs elaborate Somayajna is called "Yajva", "Deekshit" or "Makhin". One who conducts the greatest of the Somayajnas, Vaajapeya is called "Vaajpeyin".
Vedic sacrificial practices started with an early period of hymnal poetry represented most prominently in the Rigveda reflecting the life of a vigorous, active and healthy people whose religion was simple worship of the deified powers of nature. Later, this old Vedic religious practice was converted into infinitely complex system of sacrifices and ceremonies. Most scholars would now agree that in principal we have three stages of development: 1) An early stage of use of mantras 2) A second stage of Vedic Prose concerned with the explaining of the mantras, other verbal expressions, ritual implements, etc., in an increasingly complex ritual, and with establishing mystical significance of the ritual 3) Finally the stage of the Aaranyakas and Upanishads where mystical speculation turned to questions such as the transcendental unity underlying phenomenal world, Karma and Reincarnation, and liberation, release from the cycle of Reincarnation.
Hindu scriptures say the householder must perform Pancha Mahaayajnas (five great sacrifices). In the Manusmriti (3/70) it is said: "Adyaapanam brahmayajnah pitriyajnastu tarpanam| homo daivo balibhootee nriyajnoe atithi poojanam|| The five Mahaayajnas include Brahmayajna, teaching of Vedas; Pitriyajna, devoted to forefathers (tarpana, pindadaana, shraaddha); Bhootayajna, devoted to charity; Devayajna, devoted to the Gods (Yaaga, havan, homa): and, Nriyajna or Atithiyajna, devoted to guests. Hindu householder is expected to do Pancha Mahaayajnas everyday at the right time to be happy and peaceful say the Smritis. Among them is the Devayajna in the form of fire sacrifice (homa). In earlier times families maintained a perpetual sacrificial fire in their homes. It is said in Ramayana that everyone performed Agnihotra (fire sacrifice) every day. Arya Samaj Hindus offer prayers at home chanting homa mantras and offering oblations (rice, cooked rice, specially selected wooden dried twigs, ghee etc.) to sacrificial fire. Atharva Vedic mantra (Hymn) in 19/55/3 and 9/2/6 says: "Saayam saayam grihapatirno agnih praatah praatah saumansya daata| vasoervasoervasudaana edhi vayam tvendhaanaastanvam pushema|| Agnihotrena pranude sapatnaan|| May the fire in the home give us happiness and peace in the morning and evening, a happy temperament, resolve and good health! May it give us fame and honor! May we awaken through yajna fire so that we may be robust and strong! Agnihotra promotes good health and mental contentment. It is a ladder to spirituality. Agnihotra destroys enemies.
In a Yajna we or enjoined to offer various materials in the sacred fire with recitation of mantras. Making such offerings in the sacred fire is called "Homa". Though the materials are placed in the fire it does not mean that they are necessarily offered to Agni (God of Fire). Only such materials as are placed in the fire with the chanting of mantras invoking Agni himself are meant for the deity. But oblations meant for other deities like Rudra, Vishnu, Indra, Varuna Maatarisvan (Vaayu) and so on are also made in the holy fire. Agni conveys them to the deities involved. Agni is therefore given the status of Brahmana along with Brahma the Creator among the Divines (gods).
While followers of other religions worship one God Hindus worship many deities and make offerings to them in the sacrificial fire. In Yajna offerings are made to different deities instead to the one and only Supreme Spirit (Paramaatman). The one and only Brahman are revealed as many deities. It is for the conduct of the affairs of the Cosmos that Supreme Spirit has created the various divine powers. These divinities are also in charge of the forces of nature, the feelings and urges of man. The Supreme Spirit has created them in the same way as he has created us. He fashioned us (atman) out of himself which means that it is he that came to be so many human beings; also according to Advaita philosophy. (Aham Brahmasmi—I am Brahman).
The five Mahaayajnas--Brahmayajna (chanting of Vedas and teaching them), Devayjna (sacrifices and Pooja), Pitryajna (tarpana, shraaddha), Maanushayajna (feeding guests) and Bhootayajna (offering bali or food to various creatures), with Agnihotra and Aupaasana are to be performed every day; Darsapoornimaasa (haviryajnas) and Sthaalipaaka once a fortnight; Paarvani Sraaddha once a month; the other five Haviryajnas and the seven Somayajnas are to be performed once a year or at least, once in life time. The Smritis have granted us this concession considering the most difficult Somayajna. Temples perform various yajnas from time to time like Ganesha homa, Rudra homa, Chandi homa, Sudarshana Homa, Navagraha homa, Purush-sookta homa etc.
Yajna is the performance of a religious duty involving Agni, the sacrificial fire, with chanting mantras. The word itself is derived from the root "yaj" meaning worship to evince devotion. Yajna is also called Yaaga. The definition of the word mantra is, "mananaat traayate iti mantrah"—that which protects us by repeating and meditated upon.
Yajna ritual is based mainly on worship offered through fire. A mud or brick walled trough called Kunda is first prepared. Firewood is placed in the Kunda and lit by Hindu priests. The priests sit around the fire and chant mantras. A large congregation assembles for the ritual. They bring grains from their homes and deposit them in the corner of the hall where ritual is performed. As the priests chant the mantras, each member takes a handful of grain from the stock collected and offers it to the fire with prayer. Ghee or clarified butter is also used as an offering. Thus one by one all the participants offer the entire grain to the Lord of Fire. When the grains are offered the flames shoot up. That is considered as a sign of blessing bestowed by the Lord upon the participants. When all the grains are burnt away along with the fuel the ash is distributed as prasaada (gift) to everyone. The participants of the ritual smear the ash on the forehead with three stripes and visit the nearest temple. That concludes the entire Yajna.
Samaadhi, and other Yoga practices, Tantric Sraadha and Aagamic pooja rites based on the Veda have arisen, and are being observed by many in India, and these have come to us through Gurukulavaasa and have been in practice for the past several hundred years. The present Hindu traditions, religious rites and ceremonies which are sanctioned by religious authorities and observed by all are based on Vedic Mantras. Our customs, ceremonies and sacrificial rites (yajna) have arisen from a long time and are now observed without understanding their meaning owing to the neglect of Vedic studies and scarcity of knowledgeable teachers to teach Vedas. Vedic chanting with intonations without understanding their meaning is practiced to some extent by those who wish to enter priesthood.
Alternatively, the highest truths of philosophy were dressed up in fables and stories in the Mahabharata and Ramayana so that all men may attain right knowledge. Therein Vedic terms were treated as proper names who acted as Kings and servants in the stories. The whole moral code was taught in the Bhagavad-Gita in very simple language, making Lord Krishna as the teacher. Puranas were composed in the name of Vedic Rishis and Gods to draw the masses away from the influence of atheism and materialism; also temple rites and procession of idols were introduced for the same purpose and these have made the study of Vedas hopeless by Puranic ideas being thrust in the interpretation of Vedic expressions and minds of people are engrossed in these Puranic ideas. There is a local Purana for each village or idol, and grihya (household) ceremonies have been instituted on the basis of Vedic word of mantras, unconnected with Vedic ideas. All confusion about the Vedas sprang after the neglect of their study from the time of Buddhism.
All customs and religious ceremonies which are only means to an end are now observed as ends in themselves and are considered as the only practical religion to be observed now-a-days. Puranic ideas in the interpretation of Vedic terms such as Vritra as a demon (asura), Soma as a plant, Agni as ordinary fire and Pasu (a living animal) as the victim of the sacrifice, are employed in the a sacrifice against the spirit of the mantras in the Rik-samhita. The individual who performs the sacrifice is mechanically asked to repeat the mantras without understanding their meaning. If the person knows scriptural sanctions for the observance of the Yajnas, he will find that Devayajna is also prescribed along with the Sraaddha rites. He will see then the necessity for first meditation on the all pervading Being, and then follow the course of the rites according to their significance. During the Vedic period the Ritwiks (Vedic priests) explained the hidden meaning of the Tantric observances, at the time whenever sacrifices were performed, and the significance of the sacrifice was evident to the person performing the sacrifice. Later on to understand the meaning of the sacrifice a great amount of learning and deep insight into the spiritual lore was needed on the part of many, who by force of time and circumstances had their attention distracted by worldly concerns. Ritualistic ceremonies had their form only, their meaning having been lost sight of, due to the absence of learned priests to guide properly men with busy pursuits.
Karma Marga, in its true sense, if well understood and acted upon, it leads to Jnana and hence Karma should not be left unperformed. For the proper realization of the Supreme Atman it is absolutely necessary to understand the real meaning of the various Vedic rites; but it is not to be understood, that others who are not capable of understanding such meaning or have not risen to the high standard of intellectuality should keep aloof and not perform any of the sacrificial rites; the merit or the result of its performance will be proportionate as the knowledge of the individual increases, and however poor he may be in the matter of learning, if only he has faith (sraddha), devotion and peace of mind he must necessarily rise to the higher planes, says Athaarvana Upanishad. If the religious duty is not done with Shraddha, Bhakti and peace of mind, or if it is done solely with the object of gaining Swarga, it is merely waste of money and time, such sacrifices do not help in realizing the Supreme Self (Bhagavata XI-21). These wisdom thoughts are the force behind which has kept this very ancient ritual still popular though carried out mechanically like the temple visits and pooja rituals.
It may be stated that all creation is doing a sort of Yajna, consciously or unconsciously, in acts of daily life, and contributes towards the progress of the world i.e., where there is sustenance of life, there is also self-sacrifice, and both form two poles of the ladder, for the well being of man-kind. In other words, in the physical world, the minerals, while maintaining their individuality split themselves in slow degrees, and contribute to the life of the vegetable kingdom; the lower animals live for the higher animals. And creation means gradual transformation from the lower to the higher. Man in his turn maintains his individuality and also sacrifices himself to others, consciously or unconsciously as will be seen in the relationship of husband and wife, master and servant, king and citizen etc. His duties to himself and to others are all based on this principle of self assertion and self sacrifice and natural co-operation, and this idea is comprised in the six duties assigned to man; they are: causing others to sacrifice, sacrifice, earning, gift, study and teaching.
Every now and then special Yajnas are performed in India and abroad by Hindus on a grand scale spending lots of money, time and elaborate preparations. Special sacrificial halls as described in Puranas, are built in the form of a human body like temples; the mango leaves or festoons hung in front of the doors, and the position of the sacred mandap (hall) in their midst suggests the position of the large intestines and of the heart in the body of a man. Perhaps even the performing priests do not know about their significance and the individual sacrifice needed to attain spiritual goals. The three sacrificial fires refer to heart, brain and senses; the position of Vishnu, Rudra and Brahma in old Siva temples seen in Chidambaram and Nanjangud in South India symbolically represents them. Ritualistically everything is set up very traditionally following faithfully the practice of several hundred years, though not being understood or explained. Either at the commencement or at the end organizers do not fail to mention to the assembly the enormous benefit the Yajna brings: help societies overcome personal and public obstacles, calamities, dispel harboring evil forces and vibes; promotes a sense of well being, builds strong friendship, a positive attitude among mankind, promotes the lush growth of flora and fauna, and helps the animal kingdom to flourish, ensures safety when facing danger, wins over enemies when going through critical and bad planetary periods based on astrological predictions, wards off physical and mental illness, averts accidents through machinery and weapons last but not the least, helps to overcome the fear of death, thus promoting a healthy, prosperous society. The crowd leaves after receiving the customary Prasaadam with the hope to achieve all these things in due course and then forget about the sanctity of the whole ceremony. In fact lot of meditation is needed before the Yajna and life-long pursuit afterwards towards spiritual evolution of the individual as well as the society. Yajna is only to kindle the fire of sacrifice towards spiritual evolution and just a reminder. It is a life-long Yajna and needs to be practiced every day.
The present Hindu traditions, religious rites, and ceremonies which are prescribed and observed by all are based on Vedic mantras. The religion of the Vedas was simple. The ideas of the Vedic truths are all practical and expressed in symbolic language; everything was taught orally in ancient days and remembered mentally and existed only in the remembrance of our ancestors from generation to generation by this symbolic language to turn man's attention to higher things, to stimulate the imaginative faculty and to teach him how he is hedged in by physical conditions. Their morals were simple and everything was aimed at by the knowledge of the internal working of the body. Life was considered a sacrifice. The body of a man and the whole universe were all considered as created by Devas who acted as priests in the sacrifice working the senses and were described as obtaining the wealth of Asuras (demons). The war between the Devas and Rakshasas is treated in the Upanishads as the war between the five Praanas (life's vital forces) and five senses. Gods obtained the wealth of the Asuras through Veda, or "knowledge" hence it is so called Veda. The functions of the internal organs are beyond the control of man and are done by the Devas in the body, thought the Vedic Rishis. In ordinary life when man becomes a victim of injury flesh grows of itself (due to the working of the fibroblasts) naturally, and the growth of the flesh heals the wound. This is considered as the work of Devas for the benefit of man. Important topics treated in the Vedas are:
  1. Is there a God?
  2. Can there be a conception of God?
  3. What is the necessity for such a conception?
  4. What benefits can be derived from contemplation of God?
  5. What is the most practical way for such contemplation by rich and poor alike?
The methods to obtain the knowledge of the Supreme Self are contained in the principles of Yajnas and their performance is considered obligatory on all.
The Rishis have distinguished the Eternal from the perishable and held that within an individual, the germ of the Eternal exists (RV: X-27-9). And that the realization of the Atman within must be through the mind, and the heart; as the functions of the heart and mind play an important part in man, a knowledge of heart and mind and their connection (Sushumna) with the brain is considered necessary in the Vedas and Upanishads, for attaining self control, and for meditation of and communion with the Supreme Self. Rishis also held that there is a conflict between the higher and lower nature of man in daily life, that two opposite forces Divine (devas) and Saturn (asuras) are working both in the man's mind and also outside world. The term Rakshasas has to be taken in the sense of evil forces and tendencies and therefore personified as Pasu (sacrificial animal) in Yajna. Even in temple rites and Sraaddha, customs and ceremonies, all offerings to God are treated as Pasu and no real animal sacrifice is made. In Vedic terms Pasu was not originally intended to convey an animal to be killed in literal sense.

In this conflict lies knowledge, peace of mind and happiness. The higher self of man can be developed through the control of mind and senses. Through the control of Praanaas the nervous system may be gradually induced to control the involuntary muscles and through self control or tranquility of mind, conscience or intuition may be developed so as to become a guide to intellect in taking right actions and deciding correctly in times of crisis. Sankaracharya in his commentary on Brihadaranyaka Upanishad considers Devas and Rakshasas as good and evil forces in the body. To turn man's attention to higher things, to stimulate the imagination faculty and to teach how he is hedged in by physical conditions, everything had to be taught in a concrete form. Our ancestors arranged the hymns for recital of praises of Gods and taught men contemplation of God is the only practical way by a comparison of the truths relating to the internal working of the body which goes on like outside world.
The average priests of Rik Samhita did not believe in gods and demons as in the Puranic period. The Vedic Rishis and deities are different from the Puranic Rishis and Gods; neither the deities worshipped according to Puranas, nor the Puranic stories thereof, find a mention in Vedas at all. The names of Devas are all symbolic in the Rik Samhita which is used in connection with Somayajna. The significance of the mantras has to be known according to the principles of Somayajna for correct contemplation of God who directs the intuitions. This is figuratively expressed in the Samhita as Indra's asking his friend Vishnu (deity of the heart) to help him in killing Vritra easily.
The Kunda (fire trough) represents physical body. The fire element stands for the Supreme Self. The priests sitting around represent sense organs. When stimuli from external world--color and form for the eyes, sound for the ears, taste for the tongue, smell for the nose, and touch for the skin—reach him, he sees, hears, tastes, smells and feels respectively. In being conscious of various perceptions, his mind is directed to the presence of pure Consciousness (Atman) within him. In every perception he becomes aware of the Consciousness which is responsible for his perceptions.
There is an unavoidable employment of metaphors in the hymns of the Rik Samhita to stimulate the imaginative faculty for conveying abstract conception of the Supreme Being. The Samhita deals only with Devas who are invariably invoked in sacrifices and even inanimate matter used in the extraction of soma juice, all priests and vessels are deified and spoken of as Devas. By this circumstance, the literal sense of the hymns in many places does not convey constant ideas, the expression being mystical in language. The main ideas of the Samhita according to the literal sense refer to the taste of Soma Juice by Devas and to their exploits. Why then the use of so many hundreds of hymns for offering Soma juice to Indra and other deities? The value of Rik Samhita lies in its riddles, allusions and mystic language. Many Suktas contain even repetition of ideas, being sung by many Rishis in the same strain. The Rigveda mantras are employed as the basis of performance of the ritual and Yajurveda as the basis of sacrificial rites. Vedic truths and sentiments in Rigveda are mingled together with the rites and ceremonies in Yajurveda. While Rigveda contains the mantras for recital, its Samhita contains the explanations. It is therefore necessary to study all of them together by those who want to make a religion practical in life and want to develop inner self.
Based on such studies the sacrificial ground represents the body of man. Agni is the fire of life. The placement of Soma vessels and fires as described in the Rik Samhita, Vedic Sutras and the Sacrificial Ritual Aagamas actually relates to the positions of the organs in the body of man. The functions of the internal organs of the body are beyond man's control and are supposed to be done by the Devas for the benefit of man; every offering made to God mentally is Soma oblation in the figurative sense. Soma sacrifice is only means to an end, and the knowledge of the internal working of the body enables man to control the passions in Praanaayaama: he conquers his brutal nature, Pasu (animal) and becomes unattached to the material self and attains Divine Light. Somayajna means sustenance of life for keeping the health and purity of the body and for acquiring peace of mind. And all this is considered as the functions of the Devas in the body of man. After this knowledge alone man contemplates on the Supreme truly and becomes fit for attaining Divine Light; and this is what it means in esoteric sense. Man has in himself a higher and lower nature. Everyone has to try and kill Vritra (Asura), like Indra, with the help of God in the temple of heart (RV4, 18, 4). Soma juice is offered to the deities for providing healthy activities to the mind and body. As Soma is brought from heaven, he sees that everything is given to him by the Almighty God. Many things could be achieved if many at least work together jointly if not individually, with good will, in a quiescent mind like the organs in the body. So, a sacrifice is a sacred action for admiring the creation and mysterious work of God in accordance with the laws of nature (Rita). Besides, to correctly understand Vedic rites and customs, knowledge of the Somayajna is necessary.
Soma refers to foodstuffs taken through the mouth into stomach (RV10, 76, 7; 5, 51, 7 & 8, 1, 15), passed into the abdomen absorbed in the digestive organs (Maitravaruna griha) and transformed as blood, and purified before entering the heart. Then it is circulated to all parts of the body. Soma and Agni are stated to be awake all the time in the body performing their functions (RV 5, 44, 14). As Soma juice is the blood of the body, no mortal can taste it (RV 10, 85, 3). The offering of food to minor deities around the temple corresponds to the circulation of Soma Juice from the heart to the sense organs and back, i.e., to Paavamaanaasarpana. The idea of blood still lingers in the waving of light ceremonies in vessels containing red saffron waters (aarati). The offering of food to Devas in the idols arose out of the custom of offering Soma Juice to Devas in Yajnas, where no partaking of food by the deity is meant. The building dedicated to Vishnu in old temples in South India in the heart of temple has not the entrance thereto direct from the gates but has entrance doors from the sides, is analogues to the opening of the blood vessels into the heart in the lungs of the body of man.
Western scholars think that Soma was really a juice which came to be regarded as a divine drink which bestowed everlasting life that was afterwards hypostatized and regarded as God, and a special ritual grew up with some chants under a special priest. This is a Puranic idea thrust upon the interpretation of the Rik Samhita due to lack of proper studies—lack of studying Rik Samhita and Yajurveda together and analyzing.
The neglect of Vedic studies is the indirect cause of all sufferings. There is a need to understand the significance of all our customs and ceremonies. Vedic truths and sentiments are mingled together with the rites and ceremonies and have to be distinguished by us who want to make the religion practical in life and want to develop our inner life. Let us take the five yajnas ordained in Taittariya Aranyaka. If man does the rites after knowing the significance of mantras, he will open his eyes and try how to improve the mind for contemplation of God, how to keep the mental equilibrium or induce peace of mind and how he could change his environments by inducing a calm atmosphere all around.
The earliest and most important Yajna is Somayajna. If we try to see how our customs, Aagamic and Taantric rites and Yoga practices arose, and on what sacrificial rites and Vedic Mantras they are based, the symbolic meaning of the Mantras will be clear. In prehistoric days everything was done as a rite and was given a sacrificial name. The whole Somayajna is acted like a drama. The sacrificial vessels, priests, and fires have a meaning which can only be known by a comparative study of Rigveda, Yajurveda and Srauta Prayoga. Vedic names of Rishis, rivers etc of Rigveda are not real names. Atharvaveda explains the names of the Rishis of the Rigveda Samhita. Unless we compare the Rigveda, Yajurveda and analyse them in the light of the Srauta Saastras and consistently understand the real purpose of Yajnas, the nature of Vedic Gods, fires, Rakshasas, sacrificial expressions, rivers, rishis, mountains and vessels referred to in the Rigvedic Mantras, and their application, and the true meaning of the Vedas cannot be understood. The Vedic Mantras have three meanings
  1. Adhyaatma—intuitive
  2. Aadidaiva—relating to the stories of Gods referred to in the mantras;
  3. Aadibhoota—relating to unintelligent matter both its subtle and gross form.
In order to unfold the true meaning of Vedas and the ancient religion, we should first understand the mystic Vedic language. Even well read scholars of modern Sanskrit Language find it difficult to unfold the hidden meanings in Vedic mantras which were designed for oral transmission and recitation by learned rishis, because they have not made Vedic studies under the learned Vedic scholars and go by the literal meanings based on Panini or Amarakosha (ancient Grammarian and author of Sanskrit dictionary). Further it is also necessary why various Vedas exist together with their Samhitas, Aranyakas and Upanishads. The hidden meaning of the Rigvedic Mantras are buried in the various Samhitas, Upanishads, Bhagavadgita and commentaries on few of them by the great aachaaryas, Sankaracharya, Ramnuja, Madhva and others. We should not also get confused by the Puranic stories based on Vedic texts, without understanding the purpose with which they were made and to whom they were intended for limited use. The entire morals of Mahabharata are contained in simple language in Bhagavadgita put through the divine voice of Lord Krishna (Bhagawan), which had to be later included in Mahabharata.
It is not the rays of the Sun, the showers of the Sky, The water of the River, or the Fire of the hearth, that the Vedic Rishis worshipped, but the Intelligent Energy underlying them, the power that makes them an instrument, the Superhuman Power in whom they have their Being. We should somehow arrive at this knowledge either by our own effort or by the guidance of the learned gurus. It is not possible for all of us here who have migrated from India or the future generation here, to make such deep study of Vedic literature and practice true religion. We have to depend on the guidance of true Vedic scholars and their recommendations of scriptural sanctions to make it practical to practice in life.
The light thrown by the industrious Western scholars does not show things as they are meant to be understood by studying the whole body of the Vedic literature and the unbroken tradition regarding the genuineness of interpretations. For various reasons the Western or Western educated observers cannot be expected to see things, and revolve thoughts exactly under the same angle of vision and in the same light as they are the birth-right or instinct of the genuine Vedic followers. There is hence a large field of Indian scholarship open in pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, for bringing out the truths buried in the abstruse mantras of Rik Samhita. There should also be a secular approach and not sectarian biased. In his commentary on a difficult passage in Chandogyopanishad Sankara said: "Etad hastidarsana eva jaatyandhaani" meaning that is like people blind from birth visualizing elephant. You can very well imagine what could have been the plight of Western scholars? In discussing the early history of India this is the first occurrence of a reference that keeps reminding us in attempts to discuss the early history of India, either from the perspective of literature, of religion and philosophy, or of a language or linguistics. Any attempt to establish a clear chronology of events for that period is fraught with difficulties. Partly these difficulties arise from well known fact that the sense of history making which characterizes modern Western thinking is alien to traditional India, just as it is, to much traditional Europe. But they also result from the fact that the text collections that have come down to us were composed over extended periods, during which different strands of thinking could be borrowed back and forth. European and European inspired scholarship towards the end of the nineteenth century began with scholars such as Sir William Jones, Monies Williams, Max-Mueller etc and in early stages was often colored by the ethnocentrism and worse.
Unfortunately, the studies made by many of the translators of the isolated Vedic Mantras, based on their Sanskrit language expertise has brought more harm to Hindu Society than helping them towards spiritual evolution. Based on the wrong literal translations of Vritra as asura (demon), Dasyu as asura or Dravidian, Aryans as a White race, Dasyus as a Black race, Yajna as the conflict between Aryan race and Dravidian race, Indra, Varuna and Agni as Aryan gods, Vedic religion as purely Brahmin religion, corrupting the respected word Arya to mean Aryan and Pasu as an animal to resort to in inhuman animal sacrifice, drawing conclusions from Puranic stories as historic facts to poison the minds of the public, attempts have been made to revise the Indian History without proper study of Vedas and without recognizing the historic evidences made available recently. However, the History of India continues to be the same as taught during the British days, which was designed to rule the complex Indian nation by divide and rule policy encouraging racism. No serious attempt has been made to understand the true meaning of the ancient Rigvedic Mantras and to link it with recent historic evidences of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro excavations to establish the proximity of the age of Vedas and the true origin of the Hindus. A serious study should be made bringing true Vedic scholars and historians together and arrive at meaningful agreed conditions to revise the history. The first and foremost thing is to study the Rigvedic Mantras in their true perspective and understand their meaning to undo the damage done by Western scholars who tried to master an ancient language without proper gurus.
The Vedic Mantras have their own efficacy, and the priests and the performer of the Yajna, while reciting them in earnestness, concentrate their mind, both on the ritual and its significance, and realize the omnipresence of God. The Yajna ritual is often assumed to help the performer of Yajna attain the world of heaven after death. If the person who performs Yajna fails to propitiate death, then he will again fall a victim to death in these higher worlds and thus fail to attain his goal of immortality. It is stated in Kathopanishad "He who does Yajna without understanding the meaning of Mantras, and contemplation of God, gets only a temporary benefit and it is a hindrance to his real salvation". An Adyapaka or ignorant Purohit is considered to be inferior to Saastrajna (Vedic scholar). The Yajna done without understanding is denounced as useless in the 7th Mandala of Rigveda—there the Gods too are indifferent, and none of the Vedas, with their Yajnas and ceremonies could ever secure the salvation of the worshipper, without his meditation on the Atman in man. It is stated in Chandogya Upanishad, that Jaabaali Satyakaama realized God through contemplation in peace of mind, on the sacrificial fires. The same procedure is followed, in daily prayers and recitation (Sandhyaa-Poojaa-Paaraayana) so that it might lead to Jnana and peace of mind. Every day at least one hour should be devoted to the performance of these acts, to induce a tranquil mind, giving no room for other thoughts to enter the brain at the time. Even, the performance of such an act is sufficient to improve the spiritual instinct of man. The real performance of Yajna as ordained by Saastras implies contemplation or Dhyana of God, the consecration of Soma juice etc., which makes the act more effective, and makes man live more in God, in every act, sensation or thought. Karma Marga, in its true perspective, if well understood and acted upon, it will lead to Jnana and hence Karma should not be left unperformed. For the proper realization of the Supreme Atman it is absolutely necessary to understand the real meaning of the various Vedic rites.
I would like to conclude my discourse by quoting this inspired Mantra from Aitreya Aaranyaka III 2-3: "Etam hiyeva bahvricho meemaamsamte, etameva adhvaryavah etam mahaavratham chandogah, etam divi aakaase, etam sarveshu bhooteshu, etameva Brahmetyachakshate….. etc" meaning "Him they see in earth, heaven in air, water, trees, Moon, Stars, in all beings, Him alone they call Brahma. To the all
pervading Being oblations are poured by Adhvaryu (priest). They call the one god by various names, Indra, Varuna, the refulgent Garutmaan, Agni, Yama, Maatrisva". Here the sage's soul hears or has revealed to it the Truth, at the height of the performance of the Yajna, in its inspired condition, when the mind is lifted above the narrow plane of the discursive consciousness. Thus the Truth that all the names Indra, Varuna, Mitra etc. are names of the same Being, the one Supreme Spirit under various manifestations, the oblations are to the only one Supreme Spirit, and the rest is all symbolic is revealed and declared in the Rik itself as early as if the first book of the Rik Samhita became revealed, which supports strongly about the contents of this lecture.




This lecture has been prepared by N. R. Srinivasan for the Vedanta Class at Sri Ganesha Temple by suitably extracting, abridging and editing from the following literary sources, which is gratefully acknowledged:
  1. Ramachandra Rao, S.K., Rigveda Darsana, Volume Four, Kalpataru Research Academy, Bangalore 560004, India.
  1. Srinivasn N.R., et al., Maha Sudharshana Shanti Yagna, www.
  2. Parthasarathy A., Symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals, Vedanta Life Institute, Mumbai 400006, India.
  3. Swami Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati, Hindu Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai 400007, India.
  4. Prem P Bhalla, Hindu Rites, Rituals, Customs and Traditions, Pustak Mahal, New Delhi, India.
  5. Sunita and Ramaswamy, Vedic Heritage Teaching Program, Sri Gangadhareswar Trust, Rishikesh, India.
    1. March of the Titans, Internet on Dravidian
    2. Hans Henrich Hock, Early Upanishadic Reader, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, India.





"Agnyoe vai trayee vidyaa devayajnahpanthaa gaarhpartya rik prithvee rathantra anvahaasrya pachano yajurantariksham vaamaa-devyam aahavaneeyas-saama—suvargoe-loko-brihat tasmaad-agneen paramam vadanti agnihotragam saayam praatar-grihaanaam nishkritiha-svishtagam suhitam yajnakratoonaam praayanagam suvargasya lokasya jyotis-tasmaad agnihotram paramam vadanti | Yajna iti yajnena hi devaa divam gataa yajnena asuraan apaanudanta yajnena dvishanto mitraa bhavant yajne sarvam pratishtitam tasmaad yajnam paramam vadanti"

The sacrificial fires are the three-fold knowledge; it is the Path of Devayaana leading to the world of gods. Of the three sacrificial fires Graahapatya fire is Rigveda, the earth and Rathantra Saman. Anvahaarya fire is Yajurveda, the mid-region and Vaamadevya saman. The Aaahavaneeya fire is Saamaveda, the heavenly worlds and Brihat-saman. Therefore they say that the sacrificial fires are the supreme means.

The preference of Agnihotra Homa at dawn and sunset is for the expiration of sins that are accumulated during the running of the household. It is a good Yajna and good Homa. It is the beginning of all yajnas and Kratus. It is a beacon of light to heavenly world. Therefore they say Agnihotra is supreme.
Others say that yajna or the sacrifice is the supreme means. Sacrifices are no doubt dearer to gods. The gods attained heaven by the performances of sacrifices. They drove away demons (Rakshasas) by sacrifices. Those who are hostile become friends by yajna. Everything is established in sacrifice. Therefore they say yajna is the supreme means.





The chanting of the Mantras Swaahaa and Swadhaa at each offering of the oblation in the yajna (fire sacrifice) is intended for surrendering of the Self (Aatama Samarpanam) as explained in Mahaa Naaraayana Upanishad. The Mantra Swaahaa is to be chanted while offering oblations to Gods through courtesy Agnideva (Fire God) with veneration in the sacred offering. The mantra Swadhaa is to be chanted for offering oblations to Pitrus (ancestors) for their full satisfaction through courtesy Agnideva (Fire God). Swaahaa conveys the meaning auspicious saying and Swadhaa for cheerful acceptance.

Brahma Vaivaspata Puraana elaborates on the worship of Swaahaa and Sudhaa with mythological background and explanation. Goddess Swaahaa shields against physical disability, absence of wife due to death and deficiency of progeny due to Karma on the part of the one who performs the sacrifice which are considered necessary qualities for conducting the Yajna. Goddess Swadhaa grants Tushti (satisfaction), Preeti (fulfillment) and Abhivruddhi (prosperity) to the one who performs the Yajna thus satisfying the ancestors in the Pitruloka (The world of ancestors above the earth).

In Hindu Mythology Swaahaa is the consort of Agni (Fire God). Lord Brahma stipulated all the materials needed for Yajna and also the procedure. In fact he conducted the very first Yajna among Gods. Devas felt that Agni (the Fire God), could not carry their oblations, to the desired Gods. So they approached Brahma to help them in their task. Brahma through Prakriti materialized Daahikaa Sakti (power needed to carry the oblations) in the form of Goddess Swaahaa and asked her to marry Agni to assist him in his task. Swaahaa wanted to marry only Lord Vishnu and so refused marry Agni. She was however consoled that she should in the present birth marry Agni and fulfill the task for which purpose she was created. She was also assured that in the next birth she will be born to a king and will marry the lord as desired. Agni felt the pangs of love for the seven wives of the Sapta Rishis, the celestial sages. The Goddess Swaahaa had no difficulty in visualizing the secret love Agni was nurturing in his heart through her divine powers. So she approached him seven times as one of the desired beauties of the Rishis each time. This she did seven times imposing each time as the wife of a Rishi. Agni under the spell of his blind passion was not able to recognize the imposter. When truth got revealed he thanked Swaahaa for quenching his thirst for love and at the same time saving him from the heinous crime of adultery as well as from the wrath of the Rishis. Agni accepted Swaahaa as his consort and declared that he would not accept any oblation unless her name was chanted at each offering. Swaahaa Devi accepted the pleasant task of carrying the oblations to desired Gods without any difficulty. Through him she had a son Agneya who was a divine warrior with the strength of seven sages. She had also the other three sons Dakshinaagni, Graahapatyaagni and Aaahavaneeyaagni. These are the three sacrificial fires employed in Agnihotra sacrifice.

Brahma created seven Pitrus initially. These are Kardama. Pulaha, Kulah, Bhrigu, Bharadvaaja, Marichi and Angirasa. They had seven wives who are the emanations Swadhaa Devi whom also Brahma created as Agni could not carry the oblations offered to Pitrus. Swadhaa Devi is the enricher of pitru-tripti (satisfaction of the ancestors) and Shraaddhas (ceremonies to departed ancestors). Agni undertook the responsibility to accept all offerings to Pitrus only when she was invoked in sacrifices intended for them for he could not carry them to the desired destination without her help.

It may be appropriate to mention here that from Paramaatman are born not only seven Rishis but also seven sense organs (five Jnanedriyas, mind and intellect), seven fires, the seven sacrificial fuel the seven flames and the seven worlds in which move the sense organs that are deposited by the creator in groups of seven. Agni is supposed to have seven tongues in the form of flames—these are; Kaali, Karaali, Manojava, Sulohita, Sudhoomravarna, Sphulingini and Visvaaruchi—these are based on the different colors of flames. The seven fires are: Garhapatya, Aahvaneeya, Dakshinaagni, Sabhyaavasthya, Prajaa, Hitaa, Agneedhreeyaa. The seven fagots (Samiths) are Asvattha, Udumbara, Paalaasa, Samee, Vikankata, Asaanihita and Pushkara-parna. The seven worlds are: Bhooh, Bhuvah, Suvah, Janah, Mahah, Tapah, Satya. Tirupati Lord Venkatesvara resides over seven hills about which we have talked about before. Lord Rangantha in Srirangam dwells in the middle of seven Praakaaras (surrounding walls-Sapta praakaara madhye). To these can be added: the seven psychic centers called Chakras (Mooladhara, Svadadishta, Manipura, Anaahata, Visuddha, Aajnaa and Sahasraara) and seven steps ritual called Saptapadi during marriage and seven days of the week named after seven planets. Geetaa and Durgaa Sapasatee have 700 slokas each. Number seven thus seems to be an auspicious celebrated number in Hindu scriptures.


Soma – Elixir of the Gods

Posted by The Editor | May 20, 2015 | 

“We have drunk Soma and become immortal; we have attained the light, the gods discovered. Now what may an enemy’s malice do to harm us? What, O Immortal, can mortal man’s  deception do?” – Rig Veda 8.48.3
Perhaps the most mysterious of the Vedic traditions is the ritual consumption of Soma, a drink said to grant immortality and communion with the gods. Many have been on a quest to identify its earthly counterpart. Most speculations revolve around plants that produce a stimulating and/or hallucinogenic effect. The spiritual authorities, however, reject any such speculation identifying it as a mundane drug.
In the Vedic tradition, Soma is simultaneously a plant, a person (god), and a heavenly body (the moon). It is said that Sage Atri, one of the Seven Sages of the Universe, once cried in jubilation, and from his tears of joy was born his son Soma. Tears that are shed due to anger or sadness are hot, but those shed from joy are cool. Because of this the moon was full of soothing rays. He is said to be a fair and handsome youth, one who was raised by the Seven Mothers to be a Sage and Seer.
As a plant we are told that Soma was sacrificed, crushed through stones to express the liquid.
“Freeing himself he flows away, leaving his body severed limbs, and meets his own companion here.” -Rig Veda 9.14.4
The liquid, usually described as golden or bright red, is then poured into milk which is described variously as Soma being adorned with white robes or the milk serving as a healing balm.
The taste is described as sweet, lovely, and pleasant.
But it is the effects of the Soma drink that capture one’s attention: one who consumes it enters a rapture that is exhilarating, increasing one’s vitality, creativity, and intelligence. We are told it makes one happy, mentally powerful, increase  ones sensuality and beauty, prolongs life, and even frees one of sinful reactions.
It is important to note that in the Vedic tradition the moon is intimately tied to all plant life. We learn that Soma is the vital force in all vegetation allowing the living entity to relish the taste of food.
“I enter into each planet, and by My energy they stay in orbit. I become the moon and thereby supply the juice of life to all vegetables.” – Bhagavad Gita 15.13
Experts in Ayurveda will even pick herbs by the phase of the moon in order to unlock their full healing potential. Because of this the moon is known as Annamaya (providing potency to herbs and plants) as well as Amritamaya (the source of life for all living entities).
All plant life then contains moonshine and as such simply by eating a plant-based diet one receives the benefits of the Soma juice – increased vitality, beauty, creativity, and prolonged life. But the effect is subtle and not concentrated.
A comparison can be made with that of air to Prana (life force). While air is the gross/physical attribute it contains within it the subtle energy of Prana. Simply by breathing air we all receive the benefits of Prana in not concentrated form. But the yogic practice of Pranayama is not simply to breathe air. Rather it is to stoke the internal fires to distill the Prana from the air and to concentrate its effects to expand one’s consciousness. In a similar way, all plant life contains Soma, but it requires one adept in the yogic practice to concentrate it to unlock its full potential.
In the Rig Veda we learn that Tvastar, the maker of divine implements, is the guardian of the Soma drink. He fashions a golden chalice which holds this drink for Indra the King of Heaven. Some view the moon as the cup that Tvastar made to hold Soma, with the waning of the moon the consumption and the waxing the refilling of the vessel. In time the gods ask the Rbhus to create four new drinking cups to hold the Soma so that other gods may partake.
The precision of the movements of the heavenly bodies is something the ancients keenly observed: the spinning of the earth on its axis gives us a day; the spinning of the moon around the earth gives us a month (waning & waxing); the spinning of both around the sun gives us a year. Interestingly, the moon rotates on its axis at exactly the same rate it takes to rotate around the earth. The effect of this is to cause the moon to appear as if standing still with the same face always pointed towards the earth. Another interesting fact, during a total solar eclipse the size of the Moon is exactly in proportion to block out the Sun, despite the Sun having a diameter 400 times that of the Moon. This is due to the fact that the distance between the Earth and the Sun is 400 times that between the Earth and the Moon. The odds are truly astronomical.
During the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, the forces of darkness (demons) and the forces of light (demigods) cooperated to create Amrita – the Nectar of Immortality. The Chief Minister of the demons, Rahu, through subterfuge, begins to drink some of the Nectar. However, the Sun and the Moon see through his trickery and advise Mohini, the female Avatar of Lord Vishnu of this deception. She subsequently cuts off his head.
Because the Nectar of Immortality passed through his throat his head remains immortal. Rahu (the head without a body) seeks to consume the Sun while Ketu (the body without a head) attacks the Moon. In art they are depicted as a snake. On a gross/physical level the Solar and Lunar eclipses represent the demon’s severed bodies continually attacking the Sun and Moon as revenge. On a subtle level these eclipses are inauspicious omens that portend trouble from the dark powers of the world.
It is at this point we turn the discussion in a very different direction. One of the most unusual influences on European culture is that of the Vedic god Mitra. This god, who the Romans referred to as Mithras, was a Vedic solar deity. He was very popular among Roman Emperors and soldiers alike. There are literally hundreds of temple remains scattered across the old Roman Empire as far off as Great Britain.
How did the Romans come to worship Mithras? While there is debate, it is most likely that Mithraism was brought back by Greek soldiers returning after Alexander’s invasions of the East. The Greeks and Romans were far below the Vedic standard. No doubt much of the religion was changed but a Vedic cosmological pattern was imprinted upon European religious symbolism.
The famed civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in fact wrote one essay titled “A Study of Mithraism” in which he concludes that Christianity borrowed “unconsciously” from the Mithraic tradition. Christianity evolved through syncretism with local traditions and was eventually made the official Roman religion under Constantine I (272 A.D. – 337 AD).
A few examples of Mithraic influence on Christianity include:
1) The appearance day of Mithras on December 25 was made the birthday of Jesus.
2) The Jewish Sabbath was moved from Saturday to Sunday (the Roman Solar holy day).
3) Mithras had twelve followers representing the twelve signs of the Zodiac.
4)  Mithraism had a religious ritual involving the consumption of bread and wine.
There are many scholars that have done in depth studies of the Mithraic Solar influence on Christianity. But surprisingly almost all seem to miss the Vedic Lunar cosmological pattern in Christian ritual.
For those unaware the central religious ritual of Christianity involves the consumption of bread and wine transformed into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus. This ritual is known as the Eucharist, with the bread described as the ‘host’ or flesh and the wine as the blood. Many modern Christians find the notion of continually killing of their teacher and consuming his literal flesh and blood unpalatable. As such they have instead viewed it symbolically while others have simply discarded the ritual entirely.
But a comparison with Soma provides a startling number of points of similarity.
We know that Soma is a plant while Jesus is described as a grapevine:
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” – John 15:1-2
This becomes even more obvious when we see that both Soma and Jesus are sacrificed. The grapes are crushed to produce Jesus’s blood in the cup of wine.
Both Soma and the blood wine are golden/red, sweet, and provide a gladdening effect. Both grant immortality/everlasting life. Both provide communion with God(s) and both are held in a golden cup. But, there are even more similarities.
Both Soma and Jesus are depicted clothed in white robes.
The bread, known as the host, acting as the body of Jesus, is a white circle reminiscent of the moon.
While you may think this is taking symbolism too far wait for the next few points.
During the ritual the host bread is encased in a ceremonial vessel known as a monstrance. This represents the rays of the Sun.
The glass container, holding the bread/body in the center, is known as the Luna (Latin: Moon), and the crescent metal clip that holds the host is called the Lunette (little Moon).
And so we see the Moon (host) held directly in the center of the Sun, symbolic of the Solar eclipse.
But there is more.
Many Christians believe that signs in the heavens will signal the return of Jesus:
“The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” -Joel 2:31
“The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood.” Revelations 6:12
Christians refer to these as the ‘blood moons’ which occur as a consequence of an eclipse. Unfortunately Christianity lacks a tradition of astrology and so they do not understand the maleficent effects. The Sun attacked by Rahu becomes black and the Moon attacked by Ketu appears as a golden/red cup full of blood.

There are four blood moons and one solar eclipse which fall on Jewish holy days starting from 4/15/2014 through 9/28/2015. This signals increased strife and war in the world.
But there is one final and definitive point of similarity.
The Bible was originally written in Greek the language of the intellectuals of the time. At the last supper, when Jesus picks up the bread he describes his body with one particular word:
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body (sōma | σῶμα).” – Matthew 26:26
That’s right, the word used in the original Greek for the body of Jesus is Soma. The Greek word Soma is of “undetermined” origin and refers to the body of a plant, a person (mystical/physical), as well as a heavenly body.
With all of these points of similarity we can state conclusively that the central religious ritual of Christianity is patterned on Vedic cosmology.


The Process, Mantras and Effects of Agnihotra Homam
Posted by H.G. Ranade | Aug 18, 2015 |  IndiaDivine.Org

The process of Agnihotra 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 pinches of uncooked rice grains smeared with a few drops of cow’s pure ghee.
The fire is prepared out of dried cow-dung cakes in a small copper pot of a semi-pyramid shape. The positive effects of Agnihotra are an outcome of simultaneous functioning of many subtle scientific principles such as, effect of chanting of specific sounds on the atmosphere and mind, energies emanating from the pyramid- shape, nutritional effect of burning of medicinal ingredients and the effects of bio-rhythms etc.
Agnihotra balances the cycle of nature and nourishes the human life. It creates pure, clean and medicinal atmosphere. It cleanses the negative effects of pollution.
Agnihotra is for purification and healing of the atmosphere. The atmosphere in which we live today is polluted in all respects. Many complex problems which the world witnesses today have their origin in pollution.
In today’s polluted atmosphere, we witness mass destruction of forests, disappearance of many species of plants, animals, insects, birds, disturbance in eco cycles, ozone depletion, global warming, acid rain and decreasing agricultural production. Human health is at stake. Many killing diseases like cancer and AIDS are on the rise. Increased alcoholism and drug abuse is a great challenge. Human mind is under great stress giving rise to more violence and many complex family and social problems. The list is unending.
For the Practice of Agnihotra a Few Disciplines are Observed:
Agnihotra is performed exactly at local sunrise/sunset timings.
A semi-pyramid shaped copper pot has to be used.
A small fire prepared using dried cow dung cakes.
Two pinches of uncooked rice grains smeared with few drops of cow’s ghee are offered in fire.
Two simple Sanskrit mantras are chanted while offering.
The Sunrise and Sunset Mantras:
In the morning exactly at sunrise the offerings are made with the Mantras: (While meditating on the divinity, viz. Soorya)
1. ‘Sooryaya svaha, sooryaya idam na mama’
2. ‘Prajapataye swaha, prajapataye idam na mama’ (God or divinity of creation)
And in the Evening Exactly at the Sunset the Offerings are Made With the Mantras:
 Homa while meditating on divinity fire-god.
1. ‘Agnaye swaha, agnaye idam na mama’
2. ‘Prajapataye swaha, prajapataye, idam na mama’ (God or divinity of creation)
Effects of Agnihotra:
The positive effects of Agnihotra are an outcome of simultaneous functioning of many subtle scientific principles, such as, effect of chanting of specific sounds on the atmosphere and mind, energies emanating from the pyramid- shape, nutritional effects of burning the medicinal ingredients, effects of the bio-rhythms etc. Agnihotra balances the cycle of nature and nourishes the human life. It creates pure, clean and medicinal atmosphere. It cleanses the negative effects of pollution.

Scientists Says Ancient Fire Ritual Has Positive Impact on Environment
Posted by The Hindu | Oct 27, 2015 |IndiaDivine.Org 

A 4,000 year old fire ritual conducted in the remote village in Kerala had a positive impact on the atmosphere, soil and other environment effects, according to scientists who are now ready with their findings.
The “Athirathram” ritual held at Panjal village in Thrissur district was the focus of a detailed study by a team of scientists led by Prof V P N Nampoori, former director of the International School of Photonics, Cochin University of Science and Technology.
The scientists had focused on the fire ritual’s scientific dimensions and impact on the atmosphere, soil and its micro—organisms and other potential environmental effects. The yajna seems to have accelerated the process of seed germination and also the microbial presence in air, water and soil in and around the region of the fire ritual is vastly diminished, according to a statement released by the Varthathe Trust, who organized the ritual.
The team had planted three types of seeds — cow pea, green gram and Bengal gram — on all four sides of the ritual venue at varying distances. They found that the growth was better in case of pots kept closer to the fire altar. This effect, the study says, was more pronounced in the case of Bengal gram with growth about 2,000 times faster than in other places. According to Nampoori, sound is a vibration and continuous positive vibrations through chanting, accelerates the process of germination.
“The findings would not only help dispel superstitious notions associated with Vedic rituals but also help in continuation of such tradition for the betterment of nature and the environment,” says Nampoori. He added that further research on the phenomenon were on which could prove that some bio-amplifier generated in the atmosphere because of the ritual, had a selective effect on Bengal gram.
The study focused on counting bacterial colonies at three locations — within the yajnashala, 500 meters and 1.5 kilometers from the yajnasala.  Microbial analysis made before, during and four days after the yajna revealed that the air in the vicinity of the yajnasala was pure and had very low count of microbe colonies.
The research team also found that microbial activities in the soil and water around the yajnasala were remarkably less compared to normal ground. The “Athirathram” ritual which literally means “building up of the fireplace and performed overnight” and usually held to propagate universal peace and harmony, was first documented 35 years ago by US—based Indologist Frits Staal.
Staal, currently Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley had in 1975 organized and recorded the ritual in detail with the help of grants and donations from the Universities of Havard,  Berkely and Finland’s Helsinki University. The research team conducted tests near the fire altars of the 1918 and 1956 Athirathram, still preserved in the backyards of Namboothiri homes, reveal that the bricks continue to be free of microbial presence. “It’s an indication that the effect of the ritual is long—lasting.
Studies are on to find out if other positive changes on the atmosphere are transitional or permanent,” say researchers. An analysis conducted on the dimensions of temperature from the flames of the pravargya by Prof A K Saxena, head of photonics division, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, found that the fire ball that formed during the ritual had a particular wavelength with an unusually high intensity similar to what is observed in typical laser beams at about 3,870 degree centigrade.
It may be possible to have stimulated emission at this wavelength (700 nm) and gain from plasma recombination. It needs to be studied further, he says.
The members of the team of scientists’ team at the Panjal Athirathram 2011 included experts from various disciplines and included Dr. Rajalakshmy Subrahmanian (CUSAT), Dr. Parvathi Menon (M G College, Thiruvanathapuram), Dr. Maya R Nair (Pattambi Government College), Prof Saxena (Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore) and Prof. Rao (Andhra University). The scientific team members were supported by Zarina (Research Scholar, CUSAT), Ramkumar (Biotechnologist), Asulabha (Biotechnologist) and a number of postgraduate, graduate and school students.