Vedic literature describes Yajnas for our material progress and for cleansing of the environment. The word ‘Yajna’ has very wide connotations. All creative activities are included in Yajna. Shatpath Brahaman states “यज्ञो वै श्रेष्ठतमं, कर्म”, which means doing Yajna is of supreme significance. Vedic literature defines Yajna as appropriate utilization and giving respect to devas such as the 5 elements of nature, company of holy souls and giving. We will briefly describe the five compulsory Yajna to be performed by every householder:
- Brahma-Yajna, also called Sandhya (Meditation)
- Deva-Yajna, also called Havan (Fumigation by Fire)
- Pitri-Yajna (Serving the Elders)
- Atithi-Yajna (Serving the Noble Guests)
- Balivaishvadev-Yajna (Serving the Dependants)
Introduction: Deva-Yajna is also called Havan (Fumigation by Fire). In the excavations such as Mohenjo-daro and many others, alters have been found with no trace of any idols or murti, indicating that performing Havan is an age-old tradition, but murti worship is not. Both Valmika Ramayan and Mahabharat are also the testimony of the same. At multiple places, it has been mentioned that both Shri Ram and Shri Krishna used to perform Havan. Ramayan mentions that sage Vishvamitra had to take the help of Shri Ram and Laxman to help him kill the demons who were intercepting the Havan practices. Actually, Havan alters were at times research labs. For example, Sage Vashishta prepared some sort of medicine through Havan, which was given to the 3 queens of Dashrath and then they were able to conceive and the 4 brothers, Shri Rama, Shri Laxman, Shri Bharat and Shri Shatrughna were born. There are many such examples mentioned in our scriptures. Even Ravan and Meghnath performed prolonged havan and meditation to give them some sort of additional powers and tools to help them try to win wars. In recent times there are examples such as Bhopal Gas disaster. In that situation, it was noticed that apparently those who were performing regular Havan at their homes were somehow affected less adversely than the others. There are stories of much needed rains and to be able to stop the torrential rains by performance of a prolonged Havan or even cure diseases such as tuberculosis. It is very difficult to accept these claims as such or reproduce them in any predictable manner. All these are anecdotal stories, but have been mentioned so many times and at so many places including the authentic Vedic literature, that there seems to be at least some value in these. Now, I will describe the possible logic behind such claims and then mention the potential benefits from the performance of Dev Yajna or Havan.
Procedure of Yajna: Before performing Havan, it is expected that the individual, couple, family or group of people sit down comfortably and attentively with positive thinking, having in mind that God is all pervading and that they accept the presence of all-pervading God and are being protected by him as well. During the performance of Havan, Ved mantras are recited and a certain procedure is followed. After the fire is kindled, at least 3 wood sticks called Samidha are placed. Then Ghee and herbal substances with medicinal values, called Samigri are offered in the fire as well. This procedure or ritual has both spiritual and physical benefits. Recitation of Ved mantras create powerful vibrations, leads to inner peace and acts as meditation and on the physical side, scholars in this field/sages have explained that when specialized formulations of herbal substances are put in fire in certain proportions and in a certain way, the overall combination, the resultant gases or fumigate enters into the environment making the air more healthy and energized along with getting rid of many disease producing germs.
Benefits: Our scriptures have mentioned that Dev Yajna is highly beneficial for all living beings. It consists of three elements:
- Worship (देव पूजा)-we pay respect towards the almighty God
- Positive Assimilation (संगतिकरण)–we bring a number of positive things together for this purpose. Also, we assemble together to perform Havan and organize discourses on such occasions.
- b) Charity (दान)–we put in oblations of herbal substances into the fire and thus give away good things for the benefit of others.
Here is the list of potential medical benefits that have been suggested from the performance of Havan:
- Cleansing of atmosphere with fragrant medicinal herbs as they multiply many folds as they are put in fire. There have been claims of pollution reduction and reduction of global warming and noise reduction through it as well. A properly performed Havan with proper alter or Havan Kund should not produce much smoke at all.
- Controlled rains as needed as opposed to too much or too little rains. As per Manusmriti–
“अग्नौ प्रस्ताहुतिः सम्यगादित्यमुपतिष्ठते, आदित्याज्जायते वृष्टिर्वृष्टेरन्न ततः प्रजाः”।
Which means the materials when placed in Havan Kund reach atmosphere, makes rains, which is needed for crops and sustenance of life as a whole.
- Cure of illnesses: When the air, now purified and medicated through the Havan is inhaled, it helps in certain digestive and respiratory disorders and helps purify our blood as has been claimed. Cure of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis has been claimed. Until recently, it was a regular practice to burning medicinal sticks in the room in which new born and the mother were housed for several days after the baby was born to keep the atmosphere there free of germs. Use of large amounts of Samigri while performing last rights is also to make the atmosphere pollution neutral. Specific mantras have been mentioned to heal or cure certain illnesses such as eye disorders, hemorrhoids, fever, jaundice, lymphadenopathy, abortion, infectious diseases.
- Mental illness such as depression: There is no question that disciplined life with clean body and mind while following dharma will diminish chances of depression and negative thoughts. Dependence of drugs and addicting substances will be lower as well. It is only natural to think that having deep faith in all knowing, all pervading God and performance of Sandhya and Havan (when these are not being done as mere rituals) will lead to high self-esteem and self-confidence. The net result certainly will be high performance level in all walks of life. One will be a better citizen, a successful family member and useful member of society as well.
Therefore, one should perform Deva-Yajna as much as possible. This is a paramount duty at par with the studying and teaching of the Vedas.