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Homam,Havis,Yajna and Yaga

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Tue Jan 30 1996 - 19:23:43 PST

Sri Rangaswamy posted a very informative article 
on Sudarsana Homam . Homam,Havis , Yajana and Yaga
are closely related terms dealing with a Sacrificial /sacred act
with offering to Gods through the medium of Fire(Agni). I will 
comment for the record on their individual connatations and provide
additional details on these terms and their .Vedic Significance.

YAJNA  in the broadest sense has been defined as a sacrificial rite
or spiritual offering made  generally in fire.

Grahasthas are expected to observe the following daily Yajnas:

1.Bhootha Yajna, an oblation or offering to all of the created beings
with whom we share this earth.

2. Pitru Yajna: Obesquial offerings in the form of libations of water to the 
decesed ancestors. 

3.Deva Yajna: Sacrifice to Sudarsana , Lakshmi Narasimha, and others
through oblations offered in fire with Veda Mantras or Bijaksharams. This 
is commonly called HOMA.

4.Manushya Yajna: Athiti Satkaaram or hospitality to guests or strangers ,
who visit one.

5.Brahma Yajna: Teaching and recitation of the Vedas 

In Bhagavd Gita, Bhagavan declares that He is of the Japa Yajna among the
various Yajnas. Here reference is to the Mantra Japam of one's Ishta Daiwatam
or Upasana Murthy or the Sacred Ashtaakshara Maha mantram.

YAGA is generally associated with elaborate performance of fire sacrifices on 
a large scale ( Vaajabheyam, Poundarikam, Aswamedham et al ) >Special priests
with expertise in Vedic Injunctions(Vidhis) such as Advharyu (officating
Hotr(for Rg Vedic Recitation), Udgaata(Sama Vedic passage reciter ) and Brahman 
(Presiding priest , often employed at a Soma Yaga) are involved in the
conductance of these Yagas. The Number of priests can go as high a s16 in

HOMAM is generally a small scale "Yaga"  and is performed at home as opposed to
Yagas , which take place in a public place with attendance of a large group of
Some times the scriptural passages are recited in the format of a Homam .
Examples of 
such Homams are the Purusha Sukta Homam and Bhagavat Gita Homam. Agni is 
involved and sacrificial offerings are made to propitiate Gods or the Sacred
associated with the Vedas or Bhagavan. 

HAVIS is the term used for the oblations offeed to the God, which are tossed
reverence into the Fire. Havis generally is an oblation of burnt offering. It
can be
clarified butter also. Agni is the medium , which carries the Havis to the
Gods. Havyapaaka: is the oblation coked with butter and milk. 

Purvamimamsa Sutras of Jaimini go into great detail about the various aspects
(the vessels to be used, the different priests, et al ) of  the Yagas .

The Vishnu Sahasra Namas (971-982) deal with the Yajna swaroopam of 
Sriman Narayana.The Naamas and the meanings as intrepreted by Parasara 
Bhattar and translated by Professor Srinivasaraghavan  are as follows:

971:  Om Yajnaaya Nama: He is Himself the sacrifice (Japa-Yajna) for those 
who wish to attain Him , But who do not have the wherewithall
 to acquire the Dharma to worship Him.

972: Yajna Pathi: He gives the fruit of the sacrifice done to please Him.

973: Yajvaa-- He who performs the sacrifice for those , who are unable
to do a Yajna.In the Vaishnava Dharma in the Aswamedha parva , Lord 
Krishna says: " o Yudishtra, for the purification of those ( who are unable 
to observe the daily rites ), I am myself doing the Yajna at both dawn and dusk 
every day. I never  fail in carrying out this vow of Mine."

974: Yajnaangah: He who has the sacrifices of others as an accessory to
 what He is doing.

975: Yajna-Vahana : He helps those ,who perform the sacrifices by investing
them with the necessary power , faith and equipment to perform them.

976: Yajna Bhrt : He, who brings about the completion of the sacrifice.

977: Yajna krit: He,who created the sacrifice.

978: Yajnee: He for whose sake the sacrifices are done.

979: Yajna bhuk: The enjoyer or the protector of the sacrifice.

980: Yajna saadhana: He who is an accessory to the sacrifice.

981 : Yajnaanta krt : He who produces the fruits of the sacrifice.

982: Yajna guhyam: He, who is the secret of the sacrifice.

The Namaa "Yajna Guhyam" is very elaborately commented upon by 
Parasara Bhattar this way: " Though Bhagavan is not in wants, He accepts
the offerings made in a  sacrifice as though He has been long expecting 
them and enjoys them. Thus, He feels satisfied and also satisfies those,who do 
sacrifices. This is understood only by the wise , who know the injunctions ,the
means and the fruit of sacrifices ,but not by those who have only a superficial
knowledge. Hence the name of HIM as  the Secret of the Sacrifice."

"All the Vedas and all that has to be learnt , all the Sastras and all
sacrifices ,
and all worship--All are Sri Krishna. O Kings! Those, who know Krishna 
correctly in this way ,may be considered to have completed successfully
 all sacrifices."

"All the shining luminaries in the world ,the three worlds and three
guardians of the Worlds ,the three fires and the five offerings in them 
and all the Gods--All are Sri Krishna ,the son of Devaki."

Yajna Varaha Murthy and Srimad Bhagavatham
The relation between Bhagavan and the Yajnas is described
by Srimad Bhagavatham.

The third Canto of Bhagavatham in the verses 13 to 35 
describe the body of the Lord as made up of the various 
utensils used in the Yajnas, the ceremonies and all the Havis .
In this description, the Havis known as Purodasam is  seen
as the stomach of the Lord , Praachityam(Brahma's havis) as
the mouth of Yajna Varaha Murthy. Bhagavatham also 
describes the 7 Soma Yajnas(Agnishtomam,Atyagnishtomam,
Ukthyam, Shodasi, Vaajabehyam, Atiraathram, Abthoryaamam)
as taking the parts of Skin, Flesh, Metas,Bones,Majjai, Blood and 
Suklam . The total view of the Yajna Varaha Murthy is that of a 
Yajna without the affiliation of the Soma Creeper (Latha) . 

Blessed indeed are those, who can do Homam in one form or other ,
while understanding the significance of them and their intimate relationship
to the Lord .