Assistant Professor, Department of Sanskrit
B.H. College, Howly, Barpeta, Assam
The performance of sacrifices (Yajña) is discussed in the Vedas. The sacrificial ceremonies are the integral part of the religious practice of the Vedic Aryans. The history of this ritualistic tradition is as old as the history of Indian culture and civilization. The word `Yajña,` is derived from the root `Yaj` with the suffix `ghay`.Life in pre- historic society was completely dependent on nature. Man was totally at the mercy of the forces of nature like the sun, the wind, the rain, the fire etc. He looked up to these elements of nature as his saviours and thus was born the deities like Śurya, Vāyu, Indra, Agni etc. Hence people offered oblations to them in a Yajña. The vedicYajña are of four types – Agnihotrahoma, Somayajña, Iti and Paśuyajñ.In the Śrautasūtra of Kātyāyana, Yajña has been defined as `dravyadevatātyāga` .Yajña is primarily made up of three factors I). dravya  II) devatā and III) tyāga.Though Yajña is a Vedic ritual, it is still relevant in modern day also. There are two basic energy systems in the physical world: Heat and Sound. In performing Yajña, these two energies, namely, the heat from Yajña’s fire and the sound of the Gāyatrīand other Mantras, are combined to achieve the desired physical, psychological and spiritual benefits.This paper has an attempt to study the impact of Yajña on human life in today’s perspective.
Key Words :YajñaVeda, Ecology
The performance of different sacrifices (Yajñas) is discussed in the Vedas. The Vedic Aryans performed these sacrificial ceremonies for religious purposes. The history of this ritualistic tradition is as old as the history of Indian culture and the civilization. The Western scholars say that the Vedic era began approximately between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. But Indian scholars don’t support the Western scholars. They argue on the basis of certain facts and figures and opine that the Vedas should be fixed between 7300 BC and 4000 BC. The Vedas are the foundation of Indus Valley Civilization and it has two broad divisions namely the Karmakāṇḍa and the Jñanakāṇḍa. The Karmakāṇḍa comprises the Mantra and Brāhmana portions of the Vedas. The Yajñas are discussed in the Karmakāṇḍas of the four Vedas.

Life in pre- historic society was completely dependent on nature. Man was totally at the mercy of the forces of nature like the sun, the wind, the rain, the fire etc. He looked up to these elements of nature as his saviours and thus was born the deities like Śūrya, Vāyu, Indra, Agni etc. Hence people offered oblations to them in a Yajña. According to Vedic theories and ancient tradition, Yajña is a sacred ritual to be performed by all humans, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, sects, beliefs .Now-a-days it is performed in different forms in almost all religions, sections and communities all over the world. Burning of candles in Christian Churches, lamps in Hindu Mandir, incense etc. in many sacred places in religious congregations clearly shows the continuation of Yajña ritual. All these rituals are performed with the intention of achieving happiness through health, wealth, peace, strength, fame and protection from natural calamities, diseases, and all unforeseen events. All desires are fulfilled with “Yajña”, hence the Vedas and other Ā’rsha Granthas lay emphasis on Yajña.

It is said in the ŚatāprataBrāhmana1 that the “ Yajña Karma is the best Karma.” The very first Mantra of ksahitā2 describes the idea about the nature of Vedic Yajña. Generally, in a Yajña the deity is invoked for the sake of wealth and the deity being pleased with the invocation grants the same to the worshiper. On the other hand, this verse tells us that Yajña serves as a means through which one may obtain desired wealth. And the first verse of Agni the god of fire plays an important role in Vedic rituals.

Through this paper, an attempt is made to study the impact of Yajña on human life in today’s perspective.

The study is based on secondary data. The data have been collected from various published sources, books, newspapers etc. However, some valuable informationhas been collected from experienced persons. Moreover some personal observation and views are added in this paper.

4.Discussion of the Study

4.1.What is Yajña?
The word Yajña is derived from the root ‘Yaj’ with the suffix ‘ghay’. ‘Yaj’ expresses three senses – devapū, i.e glorification of the deities, Sagatikaraa i.e establishing a connection between man and the gods and dāna, i.e offering of oblations to the gods. In the Śrautasutra of Kātyāna, Yajña has been defined as ‘dravya devatā tyāgaYajña is made up of three factors I) dravya i,e materials meant for offerings (havi) such as vrīhi, yava, paśu,soma etc. II) devatāi.e  the vedic deities like Agni,Indra,Vāyu etc and III) tyāga i.e the act of offering to the deities. In the Veda the sacrifice is often referred to as śvān i.e the giver of havi.

The Vedic Yajñas are primarily of four types i.e. Agnihotrahoma, Somayajña, Iti and Paśuyajña. The Karmakāṇḍa has prescribed these four types of rituals for attaining the three primary goals of material existence viz. dharma, artha and kāma. The deity is invoked by the singing of Stotras by the Sāma Vedic Udgāt. Then the gvedic priest Hot invites the deity to the sacrificial ceremony by reciting the Śastras. The Yajurvedic Advaryu performs the Yajña on behalf of the Yajamāna. The Atharvedic priest Brahmā acts as the supervisor of the entire ritual. The Yajamāna seeks to establish a connection between himself and the deity through the combined efforts of these priests. The need of the Yajamāna is placed before the supernatural forces i.e. the deities through the act of Yajña. It is found in the Aitareyabrāhma3 that in reality the Yajmāna himself becomes the paśu to the deity whose blessings he seeks. However as this cannot be done, he offers an animal in his stead and frees himself from his debts towards the deities.

4.2.The Significance of Yajña
The Veda states that a Yajña purifies a Yajamāna when he performs it with great devotion. The Śatapathabrāhmaa says that the successful completion of one Agayāga4 of a ritual sanctifies one limb of the Yajamāna. And the entire Yajña is made up of several Agakarma. When a Yajña is successfully completed by the Yajamāna, his entire body becomes sanctified. So the Yajamāna frees himself from all sins and attains heaven after his death. The Yajña itself has been identified with heaven5. In Vedic ritualistic tradition the Yajña is identified with Purua6. This Yajñapurua is none other than Prajapati himself. It has been observed in the Satapathabrāhmaa that Prajāpati is the soul of all beings7. Thus the identification of Yajña with Prajāpati i.e. the soul of the universe assigns an unique position.

One important aspect of Vedic Yajña is that in it the Yajamāna invokes and offers oblations to the deities not only for his own benefit, but also for the wellbeing of all. It is also found in the GāyatrīVerse8 that the worshiper seeks blessings of Savit for the intellectual glory of all men. The word ta is used to denote both Yajña and cosmic law in the Vedas. It governs the activities of all the forces and powers of nature. The Yajamānas are called ‘knowers of ta’. Hence it is expected that they should have the knowledge of the laws by which Mother Nature acts. Again it was believed by the seer poets of Vedic hymns that Yajña was created in heaven by Prajāpati and gifted it to human, so that men may live in peace and happiness. Manu9 performed Yajña on earth for the first time, in imitation of the Yajñas performed by gods in heaven. It is a symbolic imitation of the process of creation. The Vedic Aryans believed that men by imitating the act of creation could make their own contributions in protecting and sustaining the creation.

4.3.Yajña  and modern science
Gayatrīand Yajña are considered to be the building blocks of the divine development of the human culture and civilization. While Gayatrī encompasses the original knowledge part of the existence, expansion and evolution of the cosmos, Yajña deals with the corresponding domains of creativity and actions. The science and philosophy of Gayatrī and Yajña were thoroughly practiced and propagated by the saints and sages of yore. Because of their direct impact on the physical, mental and spiritual development of human life, the principles and practices of these fundamental components of the ancient Indian culture have relevance in the modern times too.

There are two basic energy systems in the physical world: Heat and Sound. In performing Yajña, these two energies, namely, the heat from Yajña’s fire and the sound of the Gayatrīand other Mantras, are combined to achieve the desired physical, psychological and spiritual benefits. The fumigation of specific substances in the Yajña --- fire is a scientific method of converting matter into energy and expanding its potential and positive effects in the surrounding atmosphere.
4.4.Chanting of Sanskrit Mantras
The power of sound vibrations is long since acknowledged in the field of science. These vibrations can penetrate the energy spheres at the subtle and cosmic levels. All the alphabets of the Sanskrit language are endowed with special vibrational powers, which set out harmonious wave patterns when pronounced. It is interesting to note that Dr. Howard Steingull, an American Scientist has established that recitation of GayatrīMantra produces 110,000 sound waves10 per second. In fact recitation of the GayatrīMantra during the fire-worship (Yajña) acts supplementary. The patterns of chanting of Mantras are so designed that they latently contain the essence of the music or the quite essential sound of the torrent of life sustaining energies emanating from the cosmic energy centre of the corresponding Mantras. (The cosmic energy centre a deity associated with the GayatrīMantra is Sun). Uttering of these Mantras produce vibration which are soothing to human mind, all plant and animal life. These vibrations also help in spreading specific energy waves in the surrounding atmosphere as the oblations are offered.

4.5.Purification of environment by Yajña
The industrialisation, rapid urbanization, deforestation,and modernisation of agriculture have disastrously affected our ecological balances. Air and water pollution, disturbances in the ozone layer -formation, radioactive waves etc., have destabilized the human, animal and plant life cycles. Experimental studies show that the incidence of physical ailments, sickness and disease are reduced in the houses, where the Yajña (Agnihotra) is regularly performed because it creates a pure, nutritional and medicinal atmosphere. It renews the brain cells, revitalizes the skin, purifies blood etc.

4.6.Bhopal Gas Tragedy and Agnihotra
The incidence occurred on the deadly night of December 3, 1984, when the poisonous MIC gas leaked from Union Carbide. Hundreds of people died and thousands were hospitalised. There were, however, two families ---Shri. Sohan Lal S Khushwaha and Shri. M.L. Rathore, which lived in the worst affected area, one mile away from the plant came out unscathed as they were regularly performing Agnihotra (Havan). In these families, no one died. Nobody was even hospitalized despite of being present in the area worst hit by the toxic gas. This observation proves that Agnihotra is a powerful antidote to pollution.11

4.7.Yajñopathy- Medicinal application of Yajña
Science and technology has not only improved our comfort level, but the stress, anxiety and pollution as well. Now the world is beginning to realize that the comforts provided to us by modern science and technology do not necessarily always make life easier. This has raised alarming call for rethinking and guiding the common life style. Yajña appears to be a boon of the ancient Indian sciences for achieving this purpose. In a physical laboratory, it might not be possible to demonstrate the spiritual effects of Yajña, but the physical and mental effects of Yajña s can be certainly tested, and the claims to cure physical and mental diseases through Yajña can be verified. The Brahmavarchas Shodha Sansthan (a scientific research centre in Haridwar, India) has taken up research on this aspect of Yajña.

In traditional systems of treatment of physical diseases employ medicines which are mostly administered orally. They, therefore, produce effects only after they have been digested and absorbed into the system. Such medicines may also upset digestion seriously. The same is more or less true medicines directly injected into the blood. They produce results quicker, but their adverse side effects are often more pronounced. In a Yajña, medicines and herbs are vaporized by offering them into the sacrificial fire  and they enter the human body in a gaseous form through the nose, lungs and the pores of the skin. This might be proved to be easiest, least taxing, least risky and most effective method of administering a medicine so as to reach every single cell of the body. The technique of Yajña for the treatment of physical and mental diseases does not comprise mere vaporization of the constituents or herbs to be employed, but various Samidhas are offered into the sacrificial fire of Yajña to create the desired effects. Research on all these aspects of Yajña is being conducted in the laboratory of Brahmvarchas. It might well lead to the development of a scientifically established in yajñopathy, which may find not only an honoured but a leading place in other therapies of the world like Allopathy, Homeopathy,Chromopathy, Naturopathy, etc.

The observation of some distinguished scientists is note-worthy in this regard.Dr. Hafkine has mentioned that --- “mixing ghee and sugar and burning them creates smoke which kills the germs of certain diseases and secretion takes place from some glands relate to the wind-pipe, which fill our heart and mind with pleasure.12”

Sugars present in Havishya have great power to purify the atmosphere. It kills the germs of T.B., measles, smallpox and cow-pox --- remarks Prof. Tilward.

According to Dr. Shirowich, a Russian scientist has remarked that (i) Cow’s milk contains great power of protection from atomic radiation; (ii) Houses having cow-dung covered floors enjoy complete protection from atomic radiation; (iii) If cow’s ghee is put into Yajña fire, its fumes lessen the effect of atomic radiation to a great extent.

The medicinal fumes emanating from Agnihotra have been observed by researchers in the field of microbiology to be clearly bacteriolethal in nature. These eradicate bacteria and other micro-organisms, which are the root cause of illness and diseases. This must be the reason why the incidence of physical ailments, sickness and diseases becomes less in the households, where Agnihotra is regularly performed. Even without going into detailed chemical bacteriology, it can be stated that performance of Yajña leads to purification of air. This takes place in the following four ways:  Removal of Foul Odors, Removal of Bacteria, Removal of insects and Effects on Plants and Vegetation

In simple words, Yajñais a process of give and take. Offerings are made to the deities and they bestow blessings in turn to the Yajamāna. This is how the cosmic balance and order is maintained. Underlying all of this is the unity between all forms of creation and their essential relationship with the creator i.e. the supreme soul, the Brahma realized through the process of Yajña. This relationship between the parts and the whole is interpreted as a spiritual relationship, best described by the Upaniads as:                                                              
 Pūrāt pūrnamudachyate /
(From full, the full is taken, the full has come.)

It is through the realization and application of this principle in Yajña, through a scientific method, that its benefits are reaped. There is rainfall, the air is free from pollution, and nature is replete with resources to provide nourishment to all forms of life, and human beings experience peace, prosperity and plenty.

Notes & References 
  • Yajño vai shresthatama karma.- Śatapatha Brāhmaa
  • agnimīle purohita yajñasya devamtvija..... ksahitā1.1.1
  • Aitariyabrāhmaa__2.1
  • ŚatapathaBrāhmaa__11.2.7.13
  • Svargo vai  loko yajña_Kauītakībrāhmaa.___14.1
  • Purua vai  yajña___ ŚatapathaBrāhmaa.
  • Ibid.-
  • ksahitā. III.12.10
  • Taittirīya Sahitā-11.6.7
  • The Integrated science of Yagna by Pt. Shriram Sharma Acharya, complied by
  • Dr. Rajani Joshi.pp.20-23
  • News Paper ‘The Hindu’ of 4-5-85; news item under the heading ‘Vedic Way to Beat Pollution.
  • Internet.

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