Yajna literally means sacrifice, devotion, worship and offerings referring to prescribed rituals performed in front of sacred fire with Mantra-s offering oblations and libations. Yajna, literally means ‘to extend graciously’, constitutes fundamental premise of Vedic wisdom having far-reaching proceeds encompassing physical, psychological, social, spiritual and ecological dimensions, purifying all.
Indeed, Yajna is the abiding principle that sustains entire creation, unifying power that links creatures with the Creator, microcosm with macrocosm. Yajna symbolizes the very purpose / mission of human life that is benevolence and service unto fellow beings. Yajna rituals are known as Karma-Kanda in Veda-s other than Jnana-Kanda, also known as Upanisad. Mimansa school of Sanatana philosophy too, primarily focuses on rituals of Yajna extensively. Yajna continues to play pivotal role alongwith Agamic rituals in Hindu way of life such as Upanayana, Pani-Grahana, Antyesti etc. Five elements constitute essence of Vedic wisdom pursuit of which causes attainment of Moksa i.e. ultimate emancipation – Yajna, Dana, Tapa, Karma and Svadhyaya. Yajna may be solemnized to purify atmosphere, Dana dissolves attachment, Tapa leads to realization of aspirations, pursuit of Niskama Karma causes self-purification and Svadhyaya begets ultimate emancipation.
Yajna was ordained by Prajapati Brahma to be the foremost means to achieve whatever one wishes to during long-drawn process of cosmic creation. He declared Yajna to be like Kamadhenu, to be pursued with unmitigated devotion invoking all faculties of one’s cognition and action. No other language has a perfect equivalent of the word of Yajna as it carries within itself intense spiritual import and cosmic phenomena. It is generally understood as ‘sacrifice’ or offering of oblations into sacred fire in a Vedi i.e. a platform raised for the purpose. Vedic interpretation of Yajna varies considerably. Root of the word Yajna is Yaja signifying congregation of four constituents –
Yaja Dhatu Patha Bhawadiga,
Yaja Deva Puja devotional services and intense affinity among particles,
Sangati Karana unifying and working together,
Dana to engender something beneficial
Yajna has been described in detail in various scriptures. Among these are Veda-s, Upanisad-s, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Srimad Bhagavatama and other Purana-s. Yajura Veda, regarded as Veda of Yajna-s, qualifies it as Sthatmaya Karmana implying “Yajna is the most auspicious deed done for profound benefits for masses.” Creation of the universe is purported to be a proceed of Yajna as expounded in Purusasukta of Rgveda and Srimadbhagvadgita (VIII / 3), “…by confining Himself in Prakrti, He solemsied Yajna so that universe may come into existence.” During Vedic era, Yajna used to be enacted to consolidate co-existence, harmony and partaking with celestial deities. Yajna is regarded as the very centre of universe, “ Yajnaha Bhuvanasya Nabhihi” as well as denoted as Nadabrahma, “Yajnena Vacahpadaviyamayana”.
Upanisad-s deal with the significance of Yajna in various contexts. Kathopanisad reveals Yajna that enables an aspirant to experience heavenly bliss, highest mission of human life. Even miracles can be accomplished through prescribed Yajna-s.
Srimadbhagavad Gita expounds Yajna as the cosmic law of cause and effect in action. All actions excluding Yajna-s, cause bondage and Yajna alone liberates from that. As enshrined in the wisdom of Gita, Yajna is one of the Vibhuti-s of Param Brahma if solemnized in the spirit of sacrifice selflessly.
Mahabharata is replete with instances to establish, Yajna was an essential errand for monarchs and emperors. In Santi Parva, numerous instances of Asvamedha Yajna being solemnised have been described. Dusyanta completed 100 Asvamedha Yajna-s, Bhagiratha performed several more while Yudhishthira too conducted that after being crowned as Cakravarty Samrata.
Ramayana and Ramacaritamanas depicted King Dasaratha performing Putresti Yajna counselled by Maharsi Vasistha. He was later blessed with four sons with the eldest being Sri Rama.
Ravana was a great scholar who accumulated power, wealth and prosperity through Yajna-s. Demons were always engaged in desecrating Yajna-s being solemnised by sages. Meghanada would have remained invincible had not Hanumana desecrated and disrupted his Tantra Yajna. Sri Rama too, organised Rajasuya Yajna after He was crowned as the King.
Eighteen Mahapurana-s too, inspire all to perform Yajna-s. In Kurma Purana, Bali worshipped Visnu through Yajna; in Narada Purana, Asvamedha Yajna is performed by King Bahu while Bhavisya Purana mentions Rsi Cyavana being propitiated by Asvini Kumara-s through Yajna. Subsequently in Purana-s, every selfless Karma of piety dedicated to the deprived, was declared Yajna.
Srimad Bhagavatama describes entire creation coming into existence through Yajna. King Ambarisa performed several Asvamedha Yajna-s to attain celestial beauty and splendour. However, Amabrisa became absolutely bereft of desires ultimately confirming, Yajna ultimately purifies entire inner being.
In ancient Bharata, Yajna was an integral errand of everyday life. No householder accepted food without appeasing Agni or other deities. Purana-s too, extolled glory of Yajna.
Yajna is the collective way to repay to nature that bestows upon us unrestricted abundance of all kinds with a sense of gratitude. Niskama Yajna i.e. selfless / unattached Yajna belongs to the highest order and it’s proceeds go all the way to restore cosmic equilibrium wherever and whenever disrupted. It involves offerings of specified organic substances as oblation into sacred Agni accompanied by recitation of Mantra and incessant devotion. Rhythmic recitation of Mantra-s causes specific Spandana into atmosphere to engender aspired proceeds.
Sakama Yajna is solemnised with a specific desire in mind as Samkalpa. However, Yajna is not merely restricted to offering of oblations into Havana-Kunda i.e. fire receptacle. It is a multifarious deed undertaken collectively. Broadly speaking, Nitya and Naimittika are the two types of Yajna-s out of which Nitya is conducted daily while the other one, on specific occasions only. When Soma is offered as oblation into Yajna-Agni, it brings about tremendous purifying / recuperative effect on atmosphere.
Agnihotra is a Nitya-Yajna solemnized at dawn and dusk, two important circadian biorhythms of Prakrti and simplest form of Yajna.
Paka Yajna wherein food is offered as oblation, is a daily ritual for householders; Havi Yajna involves offering of non-food oblation into the sacred fire as sacrifice; Brahma Yajna entails dedication of body, mind, emotions and wealth to Param Brahmatma;
Deva Yajna involves offerings to various Deva-s like Siva, Indra, Varuna, Sakti; Pitri Yajna calls for obeisance to be extended unto ancestors; Nri Yajna is extending services to humanity and Bhuta Yajna is about appeasement of species of lower orders.
Gomedha Yajna “Gow” is Gacchati Yo, Yaya Va i.e. that what moves or by what other things move implying cow / domestic animals capable of pulling ploughs, moving earth or soil. Medha means Asrugrahane Dhatupatha Kawvadigan i.e. to beget quickly. In contemporary context, even a tractor may be called Gow !! Gomedha Yajna improves agriculture and animal husbandry and Gomedha encompasses entire spectrum of agriculture and husbandry activities including research, cross-breeding to improve genetic stock etc.
Silpa Yajna is conducted for betterment of industries under the category of Silpa. Vedic word Visvadeva solemnizing various Yajna-s means various Silpa specialists in different disciplines of technology extending their expertise.
Asvamedha Yajna Asva means horse, symbol of power and horse-power in contemporary context. These are undertaken to raise man-power for wars and calamities. Undisputed sovereign monarchs were qualified to conduct an Asvamedha Yajna spanning two years. Royal horse symbolising sovereignty of the King, was sent to all kingdoms. Those who bowed to the sovereignty allowed the horse to pass through. Capturing the horse amounted to challenging sovereignty that led to fierce battles. If the horse returned unscathed, sovereignty of the monarch was established.
Rajasuya Yajna was an integral constituent of the political and administrative system to establish as to who was entitled to govern a state. It was performed at various stages of governance to evaluate state policies and activities, complaints entertained and remedial measures undertaken. The Yajna ensured close interactions between ruler and ruled.
Vajapeya Yajna It was undertaken with the specific objective of preserving harmony within the state. It was essentially a conclave of erudite scholars, sages and spiritual mendicants to exchange views and perceptions on various contemporary issues leading to policy formulation and implementation.
Viswajita Yajna The Yajna was persued with the objective of unifying entire humanity into one single international community through love and compassion.
Eco-equilibrium is the cardinality of healthy, prosperous living which Yajna seeks to consolidate and promote. Entire Yajna consisting of Mantra recitation, oblation into sacred fire etc. purify ambient environment significantly.