Prince Charles and Camilla Parker with Swami Chidananda Saraswati at Rishikesh taking part in a Yajna.
“The Brahmin spoiled himself and spoiled others. By abandoning his Dharma he became a bad example to others. Now, after he had divested himself of his dharma, there was nothing to give him distinction, to mark him out from others” — Kanchi Paramacharya Pujya Sri ChandraSekarendra Sarasvati.
By London Swaminathan
Post No. 891 dated 6th March 2014
Kanchi Paramacharya Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati Swamikal mentioned in one of his lectures that there are 400 different types of Yagas (Fire Altar Ceremonies) and Yajnas.
Following are excerpts from his talks on different occasions:
“What is a Yajna?
It is the performance of a religious duty involving Agni, the sacrificial fire, with the chanting of mantras. The word itself is derived from the root “Yaj” meaning “to worship”, to evince devotion. The performance of yajna is to please Paramatman (god) and various duties. Yajna is also called ‘Yaga’.
Three fold purpose
The Vedic sacrifices have a threefold purpose. (1) The first is to earn the blessings of the deities so that we as well as all other creatures may be happy in this world. (2) The second is to ensure that, after our death, we will happily live in the world of the celestials. (£) The third purpose is the most important and it is achieved by performing sacrifices, as taught by the Gita, without any expectation of reward. Here we desire neither happiness in this world nor residence in paradise. We perform sacrifices only because it is our duty to invoke the blessings of the gods for the welfare of the world.
Lord Krishna says,
“Keep performing sacrifices. You will attain all good fortunes. May these sacrifices of yours be the cow that grants you all you desire (Kamadhenu)”
“One is enjoined to perform 21 sacrifices. These are of three types: Paka yajna, Havir yajna and Soma yajna. In each category there are seven divisions. In all the seven Pakayajnas as well as in the first five Haviryajnas there is no animal sacrifice. It is only from the sixth Haviryajna onwards (niruda pasubandha) that animals are sacrificed.
To tell the truth, there is no sacrifice, in which a large number of animals are killed. For Vajapeya, which is the highest type of Yajna performed by the Brahmins, only twenty three animals are mentioned. For Asvamedha (horse sacrifice), the biggest of the sacrifices conducted by imperial rulers, one hundred animals are mentioned.
There are three types of sacrifices mentioned in the Atharva Veda-:
Santikam for peace, Paustikam for strength and Abhicarikam to bring injury to enemies. There are sacrifices which come independently under the Atharvaveda. According to Valmiki Ramayana Indrajit performed the Nikumbhila mentioned in this Veda.
Thevaram sung at Omampuliyur temple has good information about Yagas.
Aupasana: Aupasana begins with marriage and it is performed every day until one becomes a sanyasin or until one’s death.
Though members of the fourth Varna/caste do not wear the sacred thread they have the marriage ‘samskara’, along with it, Aupasana. Aupasana is one of the rights of this caste and it is to be conducted every day with the recitation of certain verses.
Samidhadhana : SAMIDHADHANA is performed by the student/bachelor twice a day offering sticks of Palasa tree in the fire. The rite is not continued after marriage.
Now I am adding my comments:- swami
1000 priests at a Yagashala.
400 types of Yagas
I have tried to list as many Yagas as possible by looking at various sources:
1.Maha Ganapathy Homam: To get the blessings of Lord Ganesh it is performed in the beginning of all Hindu ceremonies and new ventures. Lord Ganesh is the god for success and wisdom. He will give troubles for those who ignore s him. He is always remembered in every new endeavour, whether it is secular or religious.
2.Sudarsana Homam: It is performed to get rid of evil spirits and troubles from enemies.
3.Navagraha Homam: It is performed to pacify the Nine Planets and avoid the evil effects of planets. This is also done in all the new buildings and new houses.
4.Ayush Homam: This is performed on every birth day of a family member for healthy and long life. The first birth anniversary of every child is celebrated with Ayush Homam and lot of people are fed on that day.
5.Agnihotra: Done by the married people. During the Bhopal Poison gas tragedy nearly 3000 people died. But two people who performed Agnihotra escaped from the evil effects of poisonous gas. It was widely reported in the news papers.
6.Kushmanda homam : This homa is a Prayaschitha Homa performed to get rid of the sins done by a person. Prayaschita means atonement.
7.Samidhadhanam: Every Brahmin bachelor is supposed to do it every day with peepal or palasa sticks and ghee in the fire. It is a very short ceremony with positive mantras. They praise the Gods as the greatest, brightest, most intelligent, strongest, boldest etc and pray for the same qualities.
8.Aupasanam: Done by the married people every day in the morning and the evening. They start doing it after the birth of the first baby.
9.Mahamrutyunjaya homam : This is performed by repeating the Mrtyunjaya (Conquering death) mantra from the Rudram of Yajur Veda. A very short mantra repeated by Hindus very often. (Beginning Om Trayamabakam Yajaa mahe…..)
10.Lagu Mrutyunjaya homam: another type of the above one.
11.Vasthu homam: It is done during the construction of new houses or buildings
12. Purushasukta homam: Done with the recitation of Purushasukta from the Rik Veda.
13.Sri Sukta homam: Sri Suktam is a Vedic hymn in praise of Goddess.
14.Bhagavadgita homam :
Picture of Sri Ganapati Sachidananda in a Yagashala.
19.Sri vidya navavarana homam:
34.Ukthya yagam :
Homa Vidhanam by Anna, (Sri Ramkrishna Mutt publication, 16, Ramakrishna Matam Road, Mylapore, Chennai 600004) gives instructions to do the most popular homams.
Rudra Ekadasi: When Rudram is recited 121 times (11 priests recite it 11 times) it is Rudra Ekadasi.
When Rudram is recited 1331 times (11X11X11) it is Maha Rudram
When Rudram is recited 14641 times (11X 11X11X11) it is Ati Rudram
Sri Sathya Sai Baba performed Ati Rudram in Chennai and Puttaparthi. It was the biggest Homam done in modern times.
Sri Sathaya Sai Baba organised the biggest Ati Rudra in Chennai and Puttaparthi
30.Atirathram: Atirathram is very popular because of its performance every year in Kerala. Foreigners showed a great interest in it and recorded everything for the benefit of future generations. It was held at Panjal village in Thrissur district. The “Athiratram ritual literally means “building of the fire place and performed overnight” and usually held to propagate universal peace and harmony. It was documented about 40 years ago by US based Indologist Frits Stall (Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and South Asian Studies at the University of California at Berkley). He is no more. He recorded everything for the benefit of the posterity in 1975.
31.Aswamedham: Kshatriya rulers (kings) only did this in ancient India. A horse will be sent to different countries as the representative of the king. Whoever challenges it will have to go to war with the king. If they are defeated or pay tributes to the emperor they will be left untouched.
32.Purushamedham : It is the sacrifice of a man. But in the later times, they did it only with the dummies made up of flour, without sacrificing a man. Every ancient culture had some sort of sacrifice like this.
33.Rajasuyam: Kings do it to re establish their sovereignty. During the epic period Yudhistra/Dharma did it. During Sangam age, a Choza king did it.
34.Vajapeyam: See Kanchi Shankaracharya’s talk given above.
35.Somayagam : Details are given already.
36.Puthrakameshti yagam : Done by Dasaratha to get issues.
Puthra Kameshti Yajna is described in the Ramayana. Childless couples performed it to get children.
Yagas: More done in Rajasthan
I am adding the following from the book Vedic Culture and its Continuity (Article by Taditions of Vedic Sacrifice in Rajasthan by Dr.Vibha Upadhyaya, Department of History, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur)
No other state of India has yielded so many Yajnasthambas as Rajasthan. King Bhagavata did Asvamedh sacrifice according to Gosundi Inscription (150-100 BC).
1 day Praayaaniiya sacrifice
2 day Chaturvimsa sacrifice
3 day Abhiplava sacrifice
21 day Prishthya sacrifice
27 day Navaraatra sacrifice
36 day Pratiloma Prishthya sacrifice
48 day Ayu sacrifice
49 day Gau sacrifice
50 day Dasaraatra sacrifice
60 day Mahavrata sacrifice
61 day Udaayaniiya sacrifice
According to Katyayan seven soma sacrifices are Agnishtoma, Atyagnishtoma, Ukthya, Sodasin, Vaajapeya, Atiraatra, Aaptoyaama.
More information from other sources:
From other Hindu literatures we come to know about the following:
Agnishtoma is so called because Agni is praised or the last chant is addressed to Agni. It is performed on New moon or Full moon day.
Atyagnishtoma is obtained by adding the sodasin cup and an additional victim to Indra to Agnishtoma sacrifice.
Vaajapeya sacrifice is performed to achieve over lordship (aadhipatya) or prosperity or Svarajya. No 17 is predominant in this sacrifice.
Sahasra dakshina Triraatra: 1000 cows are given to Brahmins as donation (Dhaanam. Taitriya Samhita gives a detailed description of this sacrifice. This is a combination of Agnishtoma, Ukthya and Atiraatra.
Asvi Tri raatra: Is called so because on the second day a horse was immolated.
Aaptoyaama sacrifice is performed the whole day and extended through the next night. According to Asvalayan, those who desire good breed of cattle should perform it. Over 1000 cows are given to the performer with a chariot plated with silver to which female mules are yoked.
Atiraatra is mentioned in Rig Veda. This Soma sacrifice is finished after the day and night passed.
In Sodasin an additional victim viz. a ram is sacrificed for Indra. In Ukthya a goat is sacrificed.
Agnihotra is performed every day. When poisonous gas leaked from a factory and killed 1000 people, only the family who performed Agnihotra escaped.
Long sacrificial session for Agnihotra is also described in the Sutras.
Pundarica Sacrifice: Pundarica is another name of Vishnu. Vnaparva of Mahabharata (30-117) says It is a great Yajna like Asvamedha and Rajasuya.
Purushamedha Yajna: Yajur Veda (VS 30-31) gives details about this Yagna. It means human sacrifice. But in reality no human being was sacrificed. It was only done symbolically. Satapata Brahmana of Yajur Veda adds,
Then a voice said to him, ‘Purusha, do not consummate (these human victims): if thou wert to consummate them, man (purusha) would eat man.’ Accordingly, as soon as fire had been carried round them, he set them free, and offered oblations to the same divinities.
Human sacrifice is practised all over the world. We have references in the Bible. Tamils sacrificed their heads in front of Kali or Durga just before wars ( I have already written about it with pictures). Kabalikas sacrificed human beings. When Adi Shankara was taken for sacrifice, one of his disciples tore the Kabalika and saved Adi Shankara.
Prof.Asko Parpola adds: Only symbolical figures were sacrificed in the fire.
Picture of Narayani Amma in a Yajna
Asvamedha Yajna: A horse was slain along with 200+ different animals, birds, insects, plants etc. The king established his sovereignty over the land which the horse travelled. Anyone who challenged the horse had to fight with the king who performs this Yagna.
Coins issued for Sacrifice: Samudra Gupta of 4th century AD issued gold coins with Yupa and Asva (Sacrificial post and horse). Pandya king Mudukudumi Peruvazuthi also issued coins after Asvamedha.Terracota seals with Yupa sthamba with railings are recovered from Sambhar.
Raja Sawai Jaising performed Sarvamedha, Purushamedha, Asvamedha Yajna and Vaajapeya according to ‘Isvar Vilasa Maha Kavyam’ by Krishnabhatta Kavi. This is published in 1958.
12 year long Satras were done inside the Naimisaranya forest. Puranas were composed during theses 12 year long satras.
Yagas spreading over 100 Nights
Srautha Sutras say that some yagas were conducted from one night to 100 nights (Sata Ratra Kratu), according to R Anantakrishna Sastry in his book Maha Meru Yatra (Ariyanayakipuram, Tirunelveli District, 1936).
Purananuru verse 166 in Sangam Tamil literature gives detailed information about 21 types of Yagas. The commentators add much information on this verse. It was in praise of Punchathur Brahmin Vishnu Dasan of Kaundinya Gotra.
At Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu, Sahasra Chandi, Satha Chandi yajnas were organised by Swami Shanthanantha.
Sri Singaravelu Mudaliyar of A.Abidhana Chintamani (Tamil Encyclopaedia) gives some new information on Yagas. He gives a long list of thirty yagas. ( I have given it in full in my Tamil article)
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
(Source: Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,Mumbai, year of publication 2000, Rs 600)