The word yagna is derived from the Sanskrit root yaj, meaning to give (dãn), to unify (sangatikaran) and to perform Devapujã. A yagna is one of the oldest rituals in Sanãtan Dharma, to propitiate the deities. Yagna encompasses the attributes of welcoming (satkãr), altruism (upkãr) and unity (sangathan). Its foremost meaning is “to give.” ritual
Yagna as a rite is defined as offering oblations in the name of devas – devatoddeshena havistyãgah – while specific mantras are being chanted. The Jaiminiya sutra (4.2.27) explains that it is an act of giving up of articles to please the devas. The important rite in a yagna is offering oblations into the fire.
Yagna eradicates all sins and purifies the performer of the yagna. It bestows strength and vigour in him by sanctifying the food he eats and the water he drinks (Yajur Veda 1, 20). It induces health and happiness and increases wealth. The presiding deva – yagnasya devam – of the yagna is Agni as cited in Rg Veda’s first mantra. Agni readily secures the welfare of all – puro-hitam.
The platform for performing the yagna fire is known as vedi. The pit into which the oblations are offered is known as kund. The wood that is used as faggots (samidh) is obtained from specified trees only, from: ashvattha (Ficus religiosa),palãsh (Butea frondosa) khadira(Acacia catechu), nyagrodha(Ficus indica) and shami(Prosopis specigera). The shami tree is spiritually significant, regarded as agni-garbha – ‘mother of fire’. The ladle to pour ghee into the fire is known as Agnihotra havani, made of vaikankata wood (Flacourtiasapida).
The person who sponsors the yagna is known as yajamãn. The chief brahmin pandit conducting the rites is known as hotru or adhvaryu. He may be helped by another pundit who chants stotras. He is known as prati-prasthãtru or udgãtru. Yagnas are also commonly performed during Hindu marriage rites, with the Agni deity acting as a witness to the marriage vows
Today people perform: Rudrayãg to propitiate Shivji, Vishnuyãg to propitiate Vishnu, Lakshmihom – for prosperity, Gãyatriyãg, Ganeshyãg, Vãstuyãg – before moving into a new house (see p.186) and Lagnayãg – marriage yagna (see p.309).
For householders the shãstras enjoin the Panch mahã yagnas: (1) Brãhma Yagna (2) Pitru Yagna (3) Deva Yagna (4) Bhuta Yagna (5) Manushya Yagna (Garud Purãn 115,Manu Smruti 3/70).
While performing the yagna ritual itself, the officiating pundit requests the devotee offering ahuti – pujã materials to the deity, to utter idam na mama, meaning this is not mine (it is Your’s). Here then lies the significant import of yagna. When the possessive mama meaning mine is eradicated, ahamkãr – ego too is destroyed. Therefore Sanãtan Dharma’s lofty yagna bhãvnã exhorts that man should forsake his self-centredness, by offering himself in the service of others.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj has lived this ideal all his life. He has uplifted man from the depths of degradation onto the heights of ideal bhaktas. He has been performing the true Manushya yagna, sacrificing body, mind and atmã in the service of mankind. He lives not for himself but to give. Each second of his life is a yagna. Swamiji has truly imbibed the ultimate yagna – ãtmanivedanam, sacrificing his ãtmã to Paramatma and mankind. He is also the living embodiment of the five types of yagnas.
Yagnas in the BAPS Swaminarayan sampradãy In the past 25 years, from 1981 to 2006, BAPS Swaminarayan sanstha has performed Mahayagnas (with a total of 11,120 kunds), participated by 33,975 yajmãn couples. In 1995, during Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Amrut Mahotsav in Mumbai, a Chãturmãsyeshti Shrautyãg was performed, as stipulated in the Vedas, thus perpetuating a great Vedic paramparã.hagwan Swaminarayan and yagnas
Early during His efforts to establish Ekãntik Dharma, Bhagwan Swaminarayan performed yagnas on a massive scale, known as Mahã Rudra and Vishnu Yãg, on several historical occasions. He held a 40-day Mahã Rudra in Kariyani (Saurashtra) in 1809. He held both a Mahã Rudra and Vishnu Yãg for 18 days beginning on Makar Sankrãnti of 1809 in Jetalpur, near Amdavad. Later that year, on Posh sud Purnimã, He held a special yagna in Dabhan (near Kheda), to initiate Mulji Sharma as Gunatitanand Swami, the manifest form of Aksharbrahma.