“The moment you light a lamp, around the flame, a certain etheric sphere naturally occurs. Where there is an etheric sphere, communication is better,” writes mystic Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev in his blog. He says this is the reason why stories are narrated around campfires. By increasing the listener’s receptivity, fire increases the effectiveness of our communication. Fire also increases sensitivity and makes us more receptive to cosmic grace. That is why, traditionally, lamps are lit prior to prayers.
“Before you talk to God, you want to create the right kind of ambience, a certain amount of etheric sphere. Without that, it is as if you are talking to a wall,” Sadhguru writes in the blog. Fire creates an atmosphere that makes the communication with the divine all the more powerful. According to Vedic texts, Agni, the god of fire, is the God’s own messenger. He is believed to convey a devotee’s prayers and oblations directly to the gods themselves. No wonder fire has always been an integral part of ancient vedic rituals like yagna, havan or homa. “Agni is the first of all gods. Therefore, every Veda (except the Samaveda) begins with the Agni Sutra. While performing a yagna or a homa, Agni has two roles to play. Firstly, he helps invoke the main God. That is, Agni helps bring the gods right to worshippers’ homes. Secondly, he takes a devotees’ oblations to the gods themselves. Therefore, Agni makes it possible for the devotee to receive God’s blessings,” says retired Sanskrit professor J Srinivasa Murthy.
It is believed that these fire-based rituals are known to appease a particular deity and thereby bless the devotees with specific benefits. There are about 400 homas and yagnas, each with a different purpose. For instance, Parjanya yagna is performed to bring rain and Indra yagna for prosperity and wealth, Sanskrit professor Dr Vinay Acharya says.
When you look at the ritual with a scientific bent of mind, it is evident that the
Generally, a symmetrical fire pit (agni kund) made of copper is used for a yagna. Natural combustible substances like dried cow dung cakes and wood chips from Shami tree are used to ignite the fire. Clarified butter (ghee), milk, fruits and cereals like wheat, rice, and barley are then poured into the kund to fuel the flame. Depending on the purpose of the yagna, odoriferous substances such as saffron and musk, sweet substances like sugar, dried grapes, and honey, and medicinal herbs are used. Most importantly, while the fire burns, specific Sanskrit mantras are chanted.
Naturally, one may wonder how yagnas work. Basically, these fire-based rituals work with the two basic energies–heat and sound. While heat energy is generated from the agni kund, sound energy is produced from the reverberation of the mantras. When you look at the ritual with a scientific bent of mind, it is evident that the kund provides a controlled environment for volatile chemical processes like sublimation to take place. The inverted-pyramid shape of the kund further dissipates energy in different directions. And when mantras (which release harmonising sound waves) are chanted, sound energy reinforces with heat and chemical energy. A study published by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information reveals: “The decomposition and transformation (into vapour or gaseous phase/colloidal forms, etc.) of specific substances in the yagya-fire is a scientific method of subtlisation of matter into energy and expanding its potential and positive effects. The electromagnetic waves generated thereby compounded with the sonic signals encoded in the mantras help in intensifying and transmitting the desired benefits of yagya in the surroundings atmosphere and far beyond.”
Whether we perform
In addition to discovering the science behind these vedic rituals, several studies have also explored the benefits they offer. A study published in the Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge talks about the effect of Agnihotra (a type of yagna) on water. The study found that water can be purified if kept in a room where Agnihotra is regularly performed. Yet another research indicates that the application of Agnihotra ash on soil enhances its fertility, which in turn increases the yield. “Addition of ash results in increase in the overall bacterial flora, including the effective bacteria i.e. nitrogen fixers and phosphate solubilizers while reduction in the fungal flora was seen,” the study states. It has been found that Agnihotra fumes purify the air too. The Department of Organic Agriculture, CSK-Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University, revealed in a study that Agnihotra yagna can destroy pathogenic microorganisms present in the atmosphere.
It is clear that yagna cleanses the environment. But the ritual has this cleansing effect not only on the environment, but also us. Restoring the environment in turn heals us. In fact, the 20th century philosopher Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya is known to have said homa works on the principle of ‘Heal the environment and the healed environment will heal you.’ So, whether we perform yagnas to materialise our own dreams or to purify the environment, the rituals are sure to heal both man and nature just the same.