Agnihotra, Dev Yajya, Havan
Havan, also called Agnihotra or Deva Yajya, is our second daily duty.
We all want to improve ourselves spiritually, physically and socially. We all want material wealth, health, knowledge, long life, peace, prosperity and spiritual enlightenment. We all want so much! Yet, while we dream and acquire material things throughout our life, one fact of life is that our mere presence in the world continuously affects the earth, nature and the atmosphere. Our factories, industries, machines and automobiles – and even our canned foods and cosmetics – all have a definite negative impact on nature.
There is also the ‘natural, unavoidable’ pollution from our body. Fortunately, the Master Designer of this wonderful Universe has, with Divine foresight, given to us the panacea to this unavoidable pollution – The Vedic Ritual known as Havan!
The Havan, with its mantras and offerings are so designed that while our desires are addressed, there is also purification of the body, mind and the environment.
As one of man’s daily duties, the Havan ceremony has proven to be the source of achieving what science is yet to master: purification of the air. Our yajyas (sacrifices) of combining a physical purificatory act with a spiritual petition to God for individual prosperity cannot be equalled.
However, in practice, these types of wood may be impossible to acquire – and in some places, difficult to use. Many have adopted the use of cotton wool, pine cones, pitch-pine, and other types of wood.
We may want to look for wood that has medicinal properties and a healthy smell (when burning).
According to various sources, 105-108 different herbs and shrubs are mixed together to make samagri. These ingredients are all of four classifications:
- Fragrant items: The scriptures recommend the use of fragrances and fragrant flowers like saffron flower (keshar), agar5, tagar6, chandan (sandalwood), ilayachi, nutmeg, etc.
Other fragrant dried flowers may be used – especially those with medicinal qualities.
- Health-related (Nutritious) items: ghee, milk, fruit, roots, cereal rice, wheat, urada. Grains are a wide representation of this category.
- Sweet items: sugar, honey, dates, etc
- Medicinal and anti-bacterial: Soma, etc
Generally, there are approximately 70 items in the mix that is purchased. It leaves us to add the dried fruits, sugar, rice, barley, Black til, and other grains and fruits that could not be added and packaged.
In some cases, special ingredients are cooked for the offering. These include kheer (rice cooked in milk & sugar), cooked rice & urada, sweetmeats like laddoo, mohanbhog, etc.
The havan kunda is specially built for its purpose. Ideally, the base is ¼ of the top[efn_note]For example if the top four sides are 12 inches each side, then the bottom (pit) should be 3inches per side.[/efn_note]. This creates a shape that assists the burning of items – but also funnels the smoke and heat vertically so that those around are not uncomfortable.
The four positions around the havan kunda are brahma, hota, adhvaryu and udgaataa. Typically these four persons are four priests, each versed in various Vedas and other scriptures.
- The Brahma typically overlooks the process – much like a Guru. He guides the process and can stop and rectify if it is not going correctly.
- The hota overlooks the performance and the physical aspects of the ritual. This includes maintaining the fire, undertaking the flow of the physical acts, etc.
- The Adhvaryu assists the Hota and ensures that nothing disturbs or upsets the yajya. (Dhvar means to disallow violence or disruption).
- The Udgaataa recites all the mantras in a melodious voice. Called Udgaataa because everyone can join in the chanting of mantras.
The yajmaan (hosts of the yajya) should sit West facing East. In current practice, the yajmaan sits as the Hota.
- The Eternal Tree: Palash (Butea Frondosa). Palasha is a famous Ayurvedic herb, used since the times of Sushruta. It is also called – Flame of the forest tree or Dhaka. It balances Vatta and Pitta. It acts as a natural diuretic; is useful to treat abdominal distension as in ascites, liver and spleen disorders; used in Ayurvedic treatment Chronic fever, Oedema, toxic condition and slow poisoning, Malabsorption syndrome, Gastro-enteritis, anorexia, Dyspepsia and internal abscess.
- Shami is known as mimosa suma. It is a repellant for rodents and other creatures as well as medicinal treatement for a number of illnesses including venereal diseaes and gastrointestinal disorders.
- The Banyan tree (national tree of India) has intricate roots and seeding systems. It is known for its wide trunks and spread. Each and every part of this tree has its own unique medical uses. The bark and seeds can be used as a tonic to maintain body temperature and treat diabetes. Roots are used to strengthen your teeth and gums. The sap treats external skin bruising and inflammation. It is used as hair treatment.
- Bilva (Aegle marmelos) is known as bael, golden apple, stone apple, wood apple, bili. Its fruit is edible and leaves are used in salads. It is used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, piles, oedema, jaundice, vomiting, obesity, pediatric disorders, gynecological disorders, UTI
- Agarwood has a complex and pleasing smell. It is one of the most expensive woods currently since it has been abused and depleted.
- Tagar, also known as crape jasmine, moonbeam or carnation of India. It is a member of the oleander family