Yagna, in ancient times was performed as an act of worship with offerings, reverence and gratitude to the gods and the pancha bhootas for our existence and sustenance. To the vedic priests, yagna was the means to invoke gods and seek their blessings and favors. They used to perform these yagnas for various purposes and at various times during the year, at the time of sowing, at the time of harvest, at the time of initiating some important social event or before going to wars. The yagna is the means of worshipping the highest God or one’s own inner self. Vedas say that Yagnas can bring about lasting solutions that the current humanity faces. The Indian ritualistic tradition advocates the application of the science of yagna to serve several purposes, the predominant objective being the fulfilment of specific desires. However, it is when a yagna is performed, not to serve individual need or desire, but for the greater good that it becomes a true vehicle of divinity.
In Modern society it is observed moral, ethical and spiritual values are deteriorating as a result there is an increase of crime, poverty, pestilence, war, famine, natural calamities. It is a fact that the incidence of performing the yagnas and other forms of sacrifices is slowly coming down in modern Hindu Society, primarily because of the influence of western education, the complexity involved in performing them and the decreasing number of priests who are well versed in the art of performing yagna according to the Vedic injunctions. But like many traditions in Hinduism, the tradition of yagnas still continues though with reduced vigor. As our tradition is slowly eroding into the waves of modernization, events like Yagnas give some hope that future generations may know that ancient Hindus were not barbaric lot as pictured in some History books, but were masters of various sciences.
The term ‘Yagna’, forming the backbone of the Vedic school of philosophy, is commonly interpreted as a religious rite and it literally meaning ‘to offer’. Traditionally, a ritualistic fire ceremony in which various herbs, clarified butter (ghee), specific wood, etc. are offered to the fire to the accompaniment of mantras chanted by the priests with a resolve or Sankalpa, a Yagna has far-reaching effects that encompass physical, psychological, social, spiritual and ecological spheres, causing purification at all these levels.
Yagna in the ancient past being the vital mode of devotion in the Vedic era, merely meant the ritual of fire worship by kindling the flames with the offerings therein by the people and no householder took food without appeasing Agni or other gods. More than being a custom, Yagna symbolizes the life and society of that era, the qualities of which ought to be practiced now.
yagna and its implications have been dealt with in great detail in various Indian scriptures. The Vedas symbolizing an unending flow of knowledge maintain that yagna is the ultimate spiritual act and by performing yagna, the aspirant becomes the manifestation of absolute knowledge. The Yajur Veda (3:63) describes yagna as the greatest benefactor of the human race, bestowing life, wealth, food, energy, prosperity and happiness. The various Upanishads deal with the significance of yagna in various contexts. In the Kathopanishad for instance, Lord Yama, the god of death, reveals the secret of the fire ritual that enables an aspirant to experience heavenly bliss and attain the highest goal in life. He says that a devotee can establish a link with the Vedas through yagna alone.
In the Bhagavad Gita, it is said that all actions, excluding Yagna, are the cause of bondage and it is only through performance of yagna that one attains liberation from the karmic bondage (3:9). yagna is also related to the act of creation by Brahma (3:10). The whole cosmos is created out of agni tattwa (the fire element), which is the greatest scientific application of yagna, establishing the fact that fire or light is the quintessence of creation.
Yagno yagna-patir-yajva yagnango yagna-vahanah ||
Yagna-bhrut yagnakru t yagee yagnabhuk yagna-sadhanah |
yagna-ntakrut yagna guhyam anna mannada eva-cha ||
"The One whose very nature is yagna, the lord of all yagnas and the Enjoyer, the one who performs Yagna according to the strict prescriptions laid down in Vedas- the One whose limbs are the 'things' employed in performing Yagna, the One who fulfils Yagna in complete and exact accord with the Vedic instructions."
“The ruler of the Yagnas, the One who performs Yagna, the One who is constant 'Enjoyer' of the perpetual Yagnas - the One receiver of all that is offered, the One who fulfills all Yagnas”
“The One who performs the last, concluding act in all Yagnas- the one who is most profound truth to be realized in all yagnas, the one who has himself become the 'food' and the One who eats the 'food”
“Yagnena yagnamayajanta devaastaani dharmaani prathamaanyaasan”
The gods worshipped yagna through yagna. These processes, therefore, become the primary dharma of mankind.
Ayur yagnena kalpantham, prano yagnena kalpantham,
vak yagnena kalpantham, Atma yagnena kalpantham,
yagno yagnena kalpantham
- May my prana, vak, atma be strengthened enabling me to perform Yagna and Yagna itself be strengthened by Yagna