A Homam is a ritual where offerings are made into a sacred fire. The root word of the Homam is ‘ha’ which means ‘offering’ or ‘sacrifice’ in Sanskrit. In northern regions of India it is called havan and in southern India it is called homam, but the meaning and the procedure is same everywhere. Homam is performed in almost every significant event or ceremony of a Hindu household life. It is an important religious and spiritual practice among Hindus. There are different kinds of homam depending on the purpose and the presiding deity of the homam.
Agnidev or fire god. Then herbs, twigs, fruits, grains and ghee are offered into fire chanting the appropriate mantras. The smoke that comes out of the fire is spread far and wide. This purifies the atmosphere. At the end everyone circumambulate the fire and offer obeisance. The dust of burnt ashes is applied on the forehead. Now-a-days homam is not seen just as some ritual. It is seen in scientific perspective. In science of consciousness homam are seen as powerful tools to tune the consciousness of the performer to Supreme consciousness. In the presence of fire the energy fields of one’s body called kundalini are enlightened and nourished.
Yagam is called Yagnam. In Hinduism, Yagya is a ritual of sacrifice derived from the practice of Vedic times. It is performed to please the gods or to attain certain wishes. An essential element is the sacrificial fire - the divine Agni - into which oblations are poured, as everything that is offered into the fire is believed to reach the gods. As the name of the service, the term yagya is linguistically cognate with Zoroastrian (Ahura) Yasna. Unlike Vedic Yajna, Zoroastrian Yasna has "to do with water rather than fire" (Drower, 1944:78; Boyce, 1975:147-191).
A typical Hindu marriage is a yagya, because Agni is supposed to be the witness of all marriages. Brahmins and certain other castes receive a yagyopavita "sacred cord" at their upanayana rite of passage. The yagyopavita symbolizes the right of the individual to study the Vedas and to carry out yagyas or homas.
There are 400 yagyas described in the Vedas. Of these, 21 are deemed compulsory for the Twice-Born (Dvijas: Brahmin, Ksatriya and Vaisya). They are also called nityakarmas. The rest of the yagyas are optional, which are performed kamyakarma (for particular wishes and benefits). The Aupasana is not part of the above list, but is also compulsory .Out of the 21 nityakarmas, only the Agnihotra and the Aupasana are to be performed twice daily, at dawn and dusk. The remaining ones have certain allotted frequencies over the course of the year. The more complicated the yagya, the less frequently it is performed.
The most complex ones need to be performed only once in a lifetime. The first seven yagyas are called pākayagyas "cooked sacrifice", the second seven haviryagyas "oblation, burnt offering", and the third seven are called somayagyas "Soma sacrifice".Seven are paka Yajñas (aṣtaka, sthālipāka, parvana, srāvaṇi, āgrahayani, caitri and āsvīyuji). They involve consecrating cooked items.
Seven are Soma Yajñas (agnistoma, atyagnistoma, uktya, shodasi, vājapeya, atirātra and aptoryama). The yāgā that involves the extraction, utility and consumption of Soma (in the general sense nectar, but extract of a particular tree specifically) is called a Soma Yajña. Others are usually referred to as haviryañnas.Seven are Havir Yajñas (agniyādhāna, agni hotra, Darśa-Pūrṇamāsa, āgrayana, cāturmāsya, niruudha paśu bandha, sautrāmaṇi). They involve offering havis.
Five are the panca mahā Yajñās.Four are Vedavratas, which are done during Vedic education.
Remaining sixteen are one-time samskāras that are done at different stages in life. They are garbhādhānā, pumsavana, sīmanta,jātakarma,nāmakaraṇa,annaprāśana... upanayana,keshanta, snātaka and vivāha,nisheka,antyeshti.
These are specified by the gṛhya sūtrās.Some gṛhya sūtrās like Vaikhanasa prescribe 2 more samskaras like Vishnu bali and Pravasagamana/Pindavardhana.
Yagyas such as Putrakameshti (for begetting sons), Ashvamedha (to rule), Rajasuya (royal consecration) etc. are among the 400 which are not compulsory.
· 8 years ago