The Agnistoma Somayaga in the Shukla Yajurveda

by Madan Haloi | 2018 | 109,416 words

This page relates ‘Part 1: Meaning and Significance of the word Yajna’ of the study on the Agnistoma Somayaga as described in the Shukla Yajurveda (dealing with Vedic Rituals). The Agnistoma sacrifice (lit. “praise of Agni”) connects god with men and is performed in the spring season. It is the model of all the Soma sacrifices and forms a large and complicated ceremony preceded by four preliminary ritualistic days. This thesis deals with all the details involved in the Agnistoma sacrifice.

Part 1: Meaning and Significance of the word Yajña

The religion of the Vedas is basically a sacrificial religion. In the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa, it has been said that the purpose of the mantra texts is to speak about the rituals being performed. In other words, the purpose of the Mantras becomes fulfilled in revealing the nature of the rituals in which these Mantas are employed.

Over and above this when this happens the rituals too attain their complete forms and become enriched

etadvai yajñasya samṛddhaṃ yadrūpasmṛddhaṃ yat karma kriyamāṇamṛgabhivadati.[1]

A similar statement is also available in the Gopatha Brāhmaṇa where it is said:

etadvai yajñasya samṛddhaṃ yadrūpasmṛddhaṃyat karma kriyamāṇamṛgyajurvā abhivadati.[2]

Vedic religion has its root in polytheistic nature worship. Vedic society was an agricultural society. So, the Vedic people, for their livelihood had to depend on nature. They were partly benefited and partly harmed in their day to day life by the natural forces such as the sun, the wind, the rains, the fire, the storm etc. They always had fear from such natural powers that hampered smooth running of their daily life and that led them to feel the need of co-operation from the natural phenomena. Consequently to please the natural forces there began nature worship. In this process they personified natural phenomena like the fire, the sun, the wind, the clouds etc. and invoked them in the forms of different nature gods. The Vedic people began to worship the gods by offering them different types of materials as oblation so that the gods may be pleased and may in return be benevolent and sympathetic towards their worshippers. Seeing the importance of fire in day to day life, the Vedic people offered their oblations in Agni, the nearest god of men. The fire god is supposed to be the bearer of oblations to the gods[3]. Again the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa glorifies the fire god as devapātra i.e., the vessel of gods. So oblations are offered in fire for all the gods[4]. The fire god in course of time became representative of all gods.

The Vedic people believed the fire god as the mouth of all the deities

agnirmukhaṃ prathamo devatānām.[5]

This method of worship of the Vedic people is known by the word yajña i.e., sacrifice which simply implies sacrificing of materials to a deity.

The Sanskrit term yajña has been derived or explained in different ways. According to Pāṇini, the word yajña comes from the root yaj with the suffix naṃ and the root yaj has three meanings viz., devapūjā, saṅgatikaraṇa and dāna

yaj devapūjāsaṅgatikaraṇadāneṣu bhvādigaṇaḥ.[6]

According to Pāṇini, Yajña is worship of god where something is offered and which unifies different things or which creates a concord between the gods and their worshippers. Yajña is an act of saṅgatikaraṇa. It establishes a link between god and the sacrificer, between the earth and heaven, between the visible and invisible. It unifies the sacrificer, the priests, the gods, the earth, the heaven, people of different communities and different material at the same time.

By performing a sacrifice, the performer attains union or closeness with the deity, attains the same form and same place of the deity whom the sacrificer offers

etāsāmeva taddevatānāṃ yajamānaṃ sāyujyaṃ sarūpatāṃ salokatāṃ gamayati…/[7]

It may be stated in this context that in the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa, it is said that when a sacrificer performs a ritual, he himself becomes the sacrificial paśu and is meant to be offered as oblation. This not being possible he offers an animal in his stead[8]. To say in other words, the animal is offered as a representative of the sacrificer and through this animal offering the sacrificer achieves saṅgati with the deity.

In Yajña, dāna means offering of oblation to the deity. But, dāna does not mean a simple act of giving to the deity. In sacrifice, dāna denotes giving up of one’s ownership over the materials to be offered by saying-idaṃ na mama.[9]

According to the Nirukta, the word yajña comes from the root yaj to worship or from the root yāc to seek something or because Yajña is saturated or filled with yajuṣ Mantras.

Yajña is led to its successful completion through the recitation of the yajuṣ formulae. In the Nirukta, it is said

yajñaḥkasmāt?prakhyātaṃ yajati karmeti nairuktāḥ/yācñyo bhavati iti vā/yajurunno bhavati iti vā yajuṃṣyenaṃ nayanti iti vā/[10]

According to the nairukta ācārya Aupamanyava, Yajña is characterized by the use of several Ajinas i.e., skins of black antelope -bahukṛṣṇājina iti aupamanyava[11]. Thus, according to Aupamanyava, the word yajña may be derived from the word ajina.

Sāyaṇa defines Yajña thus

devatoddeśena dravyatyāgaḥ yajñaḥ[12] .

It means that offering of oblation to the deity is Yajña. Same view is expressed by Kātyāyana in the Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra. According to Kātyāyana, Yajña needs only three factors and these are dravya, devatā and tyāga. He defines Yajña as follows -dravyaṃ devatā tyāgaḥ.[13] Here, dravya means materials to be offered to the deity and Karka in his commentary states that the materials are objects like vrīhi, yava, paśu etc.

Deity is the one whom the sacrificer worships and tyāga means utsargakriyā i.e., giving up the materials to the deity. Karka says thus

vrīhiyavapaśvādi dravyam/ yā yatra codyate sā tatra devatā/tasya dravyasya devatāṃ prati yā utsargakriyā sa yāgaḥ/[14]

The first verse of the Ṛgveda which is applied in the Āgneyakratu of Prātaranuvāka gives us an approximate idea about the nature of Vedic sacrifice.

The verse in which Agni is invoked runs as follows–

agnimīle purohitaṃ yajñasya devamṛtvijaṃ hotāraṃ ratnadhātamam//[15]

(I invoke Agni the priest of the sacrifice the god, the ṛtvik, the hotā and the best bestower of wealth.)

From this verse, one may extract the following points regarding Vedic Yajña

(a) Yajña is a method of worship.

(b) Yajña needs Agni who facilitates the offering of oblation. He is the receptacle of all offerings. Sāyaṇa while commenting the afore mentioned verse says–yathā rājñaḥ purohitaḥ tadabhiṣṭaṃ sampādayati tathā agnirapi yajñasyāpekṣitaṃ homaṃ sampādayati.[16]

(c) It is through the help of Agni that the gods are supposed to come to the sacrifice. Hence, Agni is called hotā i.e., inviter of the gods.

(d) The deity invoked in a ritual is the bestower of sacrificial fruits. Hence in the verse, the fire god is mentioned as ratnadhātama. Sāyaṇa explains the word thus–yāgaphalarūpāṇāṃ ratnānām dhārayitāraṃ poṣayitāraṃ vā /[17]

(e) The afore mentioned verse indicates that the invocation of the deity brings in boons to the sacrificer for the sake of which he invokes his god.

Yajña is an effective means for gaining desired objects of the sacrificer. It is in Yajña where oblations are offered. In the Śatapatha Brāhmana oblation i.e.,āhuti is sometimes identified with Yajña[18] and sometimes with the soul of Yajña[19].In order to fulfil all desires through offering oblations in sacrifice, the sacrificer prays as follows—

āhutayaḥ me kāmān samardhayantu…/[20] .

Commenting on this line, Mahīdhara says–

āhutayaḥme mama kāmān abhilāṣān samardhayantu pūrayantu…/[21]

In the Vedic era, people performed Yajña in order to attain both worldly and heavenly blessings. Yajña belongs to the Karmakāṇḍa of the Veda. In the Taittirīyabhāṣyabhūmikā, Sāyaṇa has defined the meaning of the Veda thus

iṣṭaprāptyaniṣṭaparihārayoralaukikamūpāyaṃ yo grantho vedayati sa vedaḥ.[22]

It means that Veda refers to that text which gives man the unworldly means for attaining the desired objects and for avoiding the unexpected situations of human life. The Veda does this through the institution of Yajña. Hence, in the ultimate analysis, it means that in reality it is Yajña which is the alaukika means of attaining one’s desires.

In the Āpastambīyaparibhāṣāsūtra, Āpastamba has said:


Kaprdisvāmin comments the line as follows

niḥśreyasakarāṇi karmāṇyāvedayanti vedāḥ/mantrabrāhmaṇay-orvedanāmadheyamiti samākhyā/ tābhyāṃ hi mantrabrāhmaṇābhyāṃ-niḥśreyasakarāṇyāgnihotradarśapūrṇamāsajyotiṣṭomādīni sāṅgāni karmāṇya-vabudhyante pratīyante/[24]

Every human being expects to attain heaven after death and the

Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa says that the daily performer of sacrifice goes to heaven. It says as follows

aharaharvā eṣa yajñastāyate, aharahaḥ santiṣṭhate, aharahareṇaṃ svargasya lokasya gantyai yuṅkte, aharaharaṇena svargaṃ lokaṃ gacchati, tasmāt aharahareva yuñjāta aharaharvimuñcet.[25]

In the Taittirīya Saṃhitā, there is a statement which shows that the performer of Darśapūrṇamāsa goes to the heaven eṣa vai devaratho

yaddarśapūrṇamāsa.[26] It is said that even the gods attained their divine status and glory through Yajña—

yajñena devāḥ imāṃ jitiṃ jigyuḥ/[27]

Sāyaṇa explains the word jitiṃ as svargajayam.[28]

The Aitareya Brāhmaṇa equals Yajña with a strong vessel which helps to cross the ocean of worldly existence

yajño vai sutarmā nau/[29]

In the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa the Agnihotra sacrifice has been directly identified with a boat sailing to heaven

naurhavā eṣā svargyā yadagnihotram /[30]

But, at the same time, in the Gopatha Brāhmaṇa, it has also been said that if one impures Yajña or has not offered, Yajña does not help him to cross the perils of the world

aniṣṭayajña na taranti lokān /[31]

It means that Yajña helps the human beings to cross over the worldly miseries of life and to attain heaven after death.

Yajña has the power to pervade all the things. It extends its effect all over the three worlds. Hence, Yajña has been identified with Viṣṇu.

The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa says—

yajño vai viṣṇu.[32]

The Aitareya Brāhmaṇa also expresses the same view by saying-viṣṇurvai yajñaḥ.[33] In the Vedas, the word viṣṇu is used in the sense of all pervasiveness. The word viṣṇu is derived from the root viś having the meaning of pervasiveness. Viṣṇu, one of the solar deities is depicted as covering the three worlds by his three strides-idaṃ viṣṇurvicakrame tredhā nidadhe padam.[34] Thus it is clear that Viṣṇu is the solar deity having the power to pervade the earth, the middle region and the heaven. The reason behind the comparison of Yajña with all pervading Viṣṇu is this that the effect of Yajña does not stay in a fixed or limited area. Its effect goes from the earth to the atmospheric region and then finally to the heaven.

Hence, Mahīdhara says

lokatraya vyāpī yajña ityarthaḥ/[35]

It influences all the living beings. Again, the god Āditya extends his greatness in the form of sun’s rays and heat etc. over the three worlds. Hence, the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa refers to Yajña as Āditya -sah yaḥ yajño’sau ādityaḥ.[36] A hymn of the Ṛgveda[37] narrates the all pervading nature of Yajña through the story of Devāpi and Śantanu. As stated in this hymn, during the periods of drought, vrṣṭikāma Śantanu performed Yajña in his kingdom where Devāpi played the role of priest. As soon as Devāpi performed the sacrifice, the sacrifice reached out to heaven and brought down the blessings of the gods in the form of rains from the atmospheric region which inundated the earth and saved the kingdom from drought. Performance of Yajña on the earth means to provide food to the gods[38]. Because, Yajña itself has been said to be the anna of the gods. Without food no one can live. The gods are supposed to obtain their food from the earth when human beings perform Yajña. Being pleased the gods in return

extend their grace to the human beings in the form of blessings which are the fruits of the rites performed by men. From this view point, Yajña can be conceived to be a process of taking and giving in between the human beings and the gods. If there is no Yajña on earth, no offering goes upwards from the earth. The consequence of it is no blessing from the region above the earth will come downwards. From the datum found in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, it is believed that the gods live depending upon the earth where sacrifices are performed.[39] The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa clearly describes the link made by Yajña in between earth and heaven.It says that when one performs Yajña on the earth, he produces sacrificial fires which produces smoke and this smoke goes to the upper region and takes the form of clouds which creates the rains.[40] After getting rain, the earth becomes productive and produces anna for living beings. This too shows that Yajña was looked upon by the Vedic people as the method of bringing rainfall to the earth.

The sacrificers pray to the god Parjanya to rain on the earth whenever they need—

nikāme nikāme naḥ parjanyo varṣatu…/[41]

In the Veda, Yajña is looked upon as a means of creation. It is a process of killing and regenerating. It has already been stated that in Yajña, oblations are offered in fire and as a result of these offerings the fruits of the rituals are born. It happens due to the grace of the deities. As per the belief of the Vedic people, the oblation offered in the fire gets transformed into the fruits of the ritual by the grace of the deities. To focus on the idea of killing and regenerating in a Yajña, the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa derives the word yajña from the root yañja. In the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, it is stated that when somābhiṣava i.e., soma pressing is done, it is killed. After Somābhiṣava when offering of soma is made it is reborn as the fruit of the sacrifice.Thus being offered as oblation, it is born.

It is stated as follows

atha yasmāt yajño nāma / ghnanti vā enametad yadabhiṣunvanti/tadyadenaṃ tanvate tadenaṃjanayanti / sa tāyamāno jāyate /sa yan jāyate tasmadyañja, yañjo ha vai nāmaitad yad yajña iti/[42]

Sāyaṇa commenting on this statement says as follows

abhiṣaveṇa hatam enaṃ somaṃ tanvate sambharaṇagrahaṇahomādinā vistārayantīti yāvat, tadeva tasya punarutpādanam/ saḥ somaḥ tāyamānaḥ san jāyate, ato yan paramparayā āhutibhāvaṃ gacchan jāyate punaḥ punaḥ sambhavati / ato yan jāyate iti yañjaḥ/ato vastuto jañjaḥ iti tasya nāma, tadyajña iti parokṣeṇa vyavaharati/[43]

Another clear reference to this idea of killing and generating through Yajña is available in the same book. It is known by all that creation starts from destruction.When there is creation there is destruction. This general idea can be compared with Yajña. In Yajña, before going to offer, sometimes oblations are pressed, sometimes directly killed and sometimes cooked or threshed by ulūkhalamuṣala. In Soma sacrifice, king Soma is pressed and thus it is killed, in animal sacrifice the animal is killed by the Śamitṛ. In Haviryajña where vrīhi, yava etc. are used threshing and boiling are done[44]. Through these acts of pressing, killing boiling etc. the materials chosen for making the offerings are made worthy of the ritual. By drawing out the essence of the materials through these acts the priests as it were, prepare the retas (having the power of generation) which is offered in the fire which is the yoni of the ritual.

The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa says—

taṃ hatvā yajñaṃ agnāveva yonau retabhūtaṃ siṃcati/ agnirvai yoniryajñasya/ sa tataḥ prajāyate/[45]

It is to be noted that in this passage the materials offered in the Yajña have been identified with Yajña itself.

Sāyaṇa comments on the line as follows—

abhiṣavasaṃjñapanāvahananaiḥ tam uktavidhaṃ yajñaṃ hatvā agnirūpāyāṃ yonau retabhūtaṃ kāraṇarūpatāmāpannaṃ siṃcati prakṣipati …/agireva khalu yajñaya yoniḥ utpattikāraṇam/…/ saḥ ca retabūta’gnau sikto yajñaḥ / tataḥ tasmāt yonyātmakād agneḥ prakarṣeṇa jāyate/[46]

Thus in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, Yajña is explained to have the powers of killing and generating. This process of destruction and re-creation can be observed in Mother Nature. Every day seeds from the trees fall on earth and get merged in it and become decomposed. In due course of time these decomposed seeds re-appear as saplings. The saplings do not appears until and unless the seeds get decomposed.[47] Apart from these, the Ṛgvedic Puruṣa hymn clearly says that the universe comes out from Yajña.

This hymn states that gods performed Yajña offering puruṣa as oblation—

yajñena yajñamayajanta devāḥ/[48]

From this Yajña the whole universe consisting of the four Vedas, the metres, the four castes, the moon the animals etc. were born

tasmāt yajñāt sarvahutaḥṛcaḥ sāmāni jajñire / chandāṃsi jajñire tasmāt yajuḥ tasmāt ajāyanta// tasmāt aśvāḥ ajāyanta ye ke cobhayataḥ/gāvo ha jajñire tasmāt jātā ajāvayaḥ // [49]

So, Yajña can be said to be the exchange of things between man and god.

The Ṛgveda as well as the Vājasaneyī Saṃhitā simultaneously glorify Yajña saying it to be the cause of the universe -ayaṃ yajño bhuvanasya nābhiḥ/[50] Mahīdhara while commenting on the Vājasaneyī Saṃhitā, states that the word nābhiḥ means kāraṇam and bhuvanasya means prāṇijātasya[51]. As stated in the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa,without progeny one cannot claim to be complete[52] and it is Yajña which makes man complete. Because, from Yajña all beings including humans are born.[53] Moreover in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa it has also been said that if one establishes the sacred fires for sacrifice at the appearance of the Rohiṇinakṣatra, he gets progeny because the god Prajāpati got progeny doing the same[54].

Yajña is the source of Ṛta-yajño vai ṛtasya yoni[55] says the Śatpatha Brāhmaṇa. Ṛta is the cosmic law or natural order of the cosmos under which the world functions. It keeps the universe in equilibrium or in order. Ṛta governs the activities and controls the powers of all natural forces.

According to the Veda, a child is born with his three debts. As soon as the child is born he is indebted to the gods, to the forefathers and to the seers. For being free from all these debts, he has to proceed in a specific order of life i.e., he has to follow āśramadharma. One can be free from the debts to the seers by observing the vow of brahmacharyāśrama i.e., study of the Vedas. By giving birth to child in the gārhasthyāśrama, one can be free from the debts to the forefathers and by performing Yajña, one can be free from the debts to the deities.

In the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, it is stated as follows

ṛṇaṃ ha vai jāyate yo’sti / sa jāyamāna eva devebhyaḥ ṛṣibhyaḥ pitṛbhyo… / sa yadeva yajeta tena devebhyaḥ ṛṇaṃ jāyate /…atha yadevānubruvīta tena ṛṣibhyaḥ ṛṇaṃ jāyate /… atha yadeva prajām iccheta tena pitṛbhya ṛṇaṃ jāyate/[56]

The Taittirīya Saṃhitā also states the same view.[57] Due to this reason, in the Vedic period, it was compulsory to study the Vedas, perform Yajñas and enter into wedlock for begetting progeny.

According to the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa one who does not worship the deities, means and the seers becomes anaddhā.[58] The word addhā is a synonymous word of satya i.e., truthand the person who follows untruth or anṛta is called anaddhā[59].

Yajña according to the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, is a means of becoming dvija i.e., second birth of the sacrificer. As stated in this Brāhmaṇa, performance of Yajña leads to a second birth of the sacrificer. A man is first born of his parents. This is his physical birth. When he performs a Yajña he is born for a second time. This is his spiritual birth. His third birth takes place after his death when his soul is freed from physical bondage.

Thus it is said—

trirhavai puruṣo jāyate/etanneva mātuścādhi pituścāgre jāyate / atha yaṃ yajña upanamati sa yad yajate tat dvitīyaṃ jāyate/atha yatra mriyate yatraitamagnāvabhyādadhati sa yattataḥa sṃbhavati tat tṛtīyaṃ jāyate / tasmāt triḥ puruṣo jāyate ityāhuḥ.[60]

According to Sāyaṇa, when the sacrificer gets consecrated for performance of a ritual the consecration is said to be his second birth.

Sāyaṇa says it as follows–

tatasya puruṣasya dīkṣārūpaṃ dvitīyaṃ janmabhavati/[61]

The Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa says that a man though he is born can not claim himself to be born until he performs sacrifice. He gets his birth in the true sense after the performance of sacrifice–

ajāto ha vai tāvat puruṣo yāvanna yajate sa yajñenaiva jāyate/[62]

It is Yajña which satisfies the gods, the priests, the sacrificer as well as all other living beings. That is why Yajña is considered to be the supreme action -yajño vai śreṣṭhatamaṃ karma/[63] Through Yajña, the gods receive oblation, the priests get fees, the sacrificer gets his desired fruits. If one performs Yajña, Yajña makes him prosperous by bestowing on him prajā, paśu vitta, gṛha etc . It may not be out of context to mention here that according to the Atharvaveda, a person who does not perform sacrifices looses his power and beauty.[64]

Hence, the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, says Yajña to be the soul of all living beings and the gods. It is stated as follows:

sarveṣāṃ vā eṣa bhūtānāṃ sarveṣāṃ devatānām ātmā yad yajñaḥ / tasya samṛddhimanu yajamānaḥ prajayā paśubhiḥ ṛddhyate/[65]

Again, the same Brāhmaṇa equals Yajña with Prajāpati, the creator of the universe–sa vai yajña eva prajāpati.[66] Both Yajña and Prajāpati have the power of creation. Anything offered in the sacrificial fire is regained. Prajāpati by offering himself to the gods created Yajña as his image.

Hence, Prajāpati is called to be Yajña—

sa devebhyaḥ ātmānaṃ pradāya athaitamātmānamasṛjata yadyajña / tasmāt āhuḥ prajāpatiryajñaḥ.[67]

Again in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, Prajāpati is said to be the soul of all.[68] Thus, the identification of Yajña with Prajāpatiassigns a unique position to the institute of Yajña in Vedic religion .

Yajña sanctifies the sacrificer. To complete a sacrifice, the sacrificer has to complete several subsidiary rituals known as aṅgayāga. As stated in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, if the sacrificer can successfully complete one aṅgayāga, then it sanctifies his one limb.[69] If it so then the completion of the whole sacrifice becomes cause of purification of the whole body of the sacrificer. Yajña is thus looked upon as a means of discarding one’s former physical qualities and there by getting new one just like a snake exchanges its old skin and takes a new one. Performing sacrifice, the sacrificer throws away his former, sinful identity and gets as it were a new form which is worthy of attaining heaven. Such a sanctified yajamāna is designated in the Brāhmaṇas as ātmayājin[70] and at the same time it is highlighted that an ātmayājin is superior to the devayājin.[71] It is known that to err is human. So mistakes may occur in the performance of sacrifices which may lead one to sins. It is anvāhāryodana which gives release from such sins. In a Yajña anvāhāryodana is given to the priests as dakṣiṇā. This anvāhāryodana satisfies the priests as well as removes the mistakes done during the sacrifice.

Sāyaṇa makes it clear while he derives the word anvāhārya by saying—

darśapaurṇamāsikaṃ havirdakṣiṇārahitaṃ naiva bhavedityanvāhāryarūpaṃ dakṣiṇāmakalpayannityarthaḥ anvāharati yajñasambandhidoṣajātaṃ pariharatyaneneti vyutpatyānvāhāryo nāma ṛtvigbhyo deyaodanaḥ/[72]

The Taittirīya Saṃhitā also contains the same opinion.[73] The Śatpatha Brāhmaṇa says that if one performs the Aśvamedha sacrifice he can be free from all sins of his lifetime. So it can be said to be an expiatory rite for the sinners.It is like medicine to destroy the results of all evil deeds. Even the performer of Aśvamedha can be free from the sin like brahmahatyā.[74]

Again, the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa says that the performer of Agnihotra sacrifice can be free from all sins done by him—

sarvasmāt pāpmāno nirmucyate ya evaṃ vidvān agnihotraṃ juhuti.[75]

It is noteworthy aspect of Vedic sacrifice that in Yajña the sacrificer invokes and offers oblation to the god not only for personal benefit but also for the welfare of all. For instance, in the last mantra of the first hymn of the Ṛgveda which is applied in the rite called Prātaranuvāka the sacrificer invokes the fire god for welfare of all thus -sacasvā naḥ svastaye[76]. The Gāyatrīmantra is another example of such prayer.[77]

Another significance of Vedic Yajña is that through it one can be free from Nirṛti i.e., the goddess of death and suffering.The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa says that if one does not perform sacrifices goes to Nirṛti-ya nainaṃ sunoti na yajati sa niṛtiṃ gacchati[78] .

Sāyaṇa explains this as follows

yaḥ puruṣo na sunoti somābhiṣavaṃ na karoti yaccha darsapūrṇamāsādibhiḥ haviryajñaiḥ na yajati taṃ niṛtiḥ pāpadevatā ṛcchati prāpnoti.[79]

Yajña has even been glorified in the Vedic texts as a means of healing from some diseases. It is seen in day to day life that diseases are born where there is change in the climate either within a season or in the junctures of the seasons i.e., ṛtusandhi. The Vedic seers prescribed performance of sacrifices in the Ṛtusandhis in order to prevent the attacks of diseases. The particular rituals performed in Ṛtusandhis are the Cāturmāsya sacrifices. This is the reason behind the declaration of the name Bhaiṣajyayajña in the Gopatha Brāhmaṇa to these sacrifies.[80] References are found in the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa regarding the treatment of animals by offering oblations to the deities. Thus to cure the horses from the diseases called upatāpa oblations are offered to Aśvins, Soma and Savitṛ[81]. Again for the healing and safety of the animals, offerings are made to the Maruts.[82]

As per Vedic tradition, it is Yajña where from the universe has come out and hence, it protects all living beings from all sides. Thus in the Vājasaneyī Saṃhitā as well as in the Atharvaveda, Yajña has been designated as viśvatodhāra.[83]

Sāyaṇa in his commentary on the Atharvavedic verse explains the word viśvatodhāra as follows

viśvataḥsaravato dhāraka avicchinnaphalaprāptyupāya yasmin…sa viśvatodhāraḥ.[84]

From the same view point, the Śukla Yajurveda Saṃhitā has named Yajña as bhujyu.[85]

Mahīdhara explains the word bhujyu as follows

bhujyu bhunakti pālayati bhūtāni iti bhujyuḥ / yajña hi sarvāṇi bhūtāni bhunakti iti śruteḥ[86].

Uvaṭa also explains the word bhujyu keeping the same meaning of Mahīdhara[87].

It has already been mentioned that a Yajña is combination of various Aṅgayāgas and apart from the ultimate result of the principal sacrifice, each aṅgayajña creates independent result which go to enrich the sacrifice. The result of aṅgayāga is called aṅga-apūrva and the final result is called parama-apūrva.[88]

Footnotes and references:


Aitareya Brāhmaṇa , 1.3.2


Gopatha Brāhmaṇa , 2.2.6:2.4.2


cf.,aśvo havā eṣa bhūtvā devebhyo yajñaṃ vahati / Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


cf.,devapātraṃ vā eṣa yadagniḥ tasmāt agnausarvebhyo devebhyo juhvati / Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Aitareya Brāhmaṇa, 1.3.2


Aitareya Brāhmaṇa , 2.3.6


Ibid., 2.1.3


As quotedby M.Bora, Facets of Vedic Religion &Culture, p.51


Nirukta , 3.4.19


Ibid, 3.4.19


Sāyaṇa on Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 1.23


Karka on ibid.


Ṛgveda Saṃhitā , 1.1.1


Sāyaṇa on ibid


Sāyaṇa on ibid.


cf.,eṣa vāva yajño yadāhutiḥ / Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


cf.,haviṃṣi ha vāātmā yajñasya/ ibid.,


Mahīdhara on ibid., 20.12


Baladeva Upadhyaya(ed.),op.cit.,p.2


pastamba Paribhāṣāsūtra., 1.33


Kapardisvāmin on ibid.


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Taittirīya Saṃhitā ,


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Sāyaṇa on ibid.


Aitareya Brāhmaṇa , 1.3.2


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Gopatha Brāhmaṇa , 1.5.25


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Aitareya Brāhmaṇa , 1.3.4


Ṛgveda Saṃhitā , 1.22.17


Mahīdhara on Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 4.6


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Ṛgveda Saṃhitā , 10.98


cf.,yajño vai devānāmannam/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,;


cf.,tata ito devān havirna jagāma itaḥ pradānādhi devā upajivanti/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


cf.,agnervai dhūmo jāyate dhūmāt abhramabhrāt vṛṣṭiḥ/ ibid.,


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 21.22


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Sāyaṇa on ibid


Sāyaṇa on Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Sāyaṇa on ibid.,


M. Bora, op.cit.,p.56


Ṛgveda Saṃhitā , 10.90.16


Ibid., 10.90.9,10


Ṛgveda Saṃhitā , 1.166.3; Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 23.62


Mahīdhara on Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 23.62


cf.,prajayāhi manuṣyaḥ purṇaḥ/ Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa ,


cf.,yajñātvai prajāḥ prajāyante/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


cf.,rohiṇyāṃ ha vai prajāpatiḥ prajākāmo’gnīādadhe sa prajā asṛjata/…bahuhairva prajayā paśubhirbhavati ya evaṃ vidvān rohiṇyāmadhatte / Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,




cf.,jāyamāna vai brāhmaṇaḥ trībhiḥṛṇaiḥ ṛṇavān jāyate brahmacaryeṇa ṛṣibhyo yajñena dvebhyaḥ prajayā pitṛbhyaḥ/ Taittirīya Saṃhitā ,


Aitareya Brāhmaṇa , 7.2.3


cf., addheti satyanāma/ tadvaiparītyādanṛtaḥ puruṣaḥ anaddhā puruṣaḥ ananuṣṭhānena anṛtro bhavet ityarthaḥ/ Sāyaṇa on ibid.,7.2.3


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Sāyaṇa on ibid


Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa , 3.14.8


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


cf., ayajño hatavarcā bhavati/ Atharva Veda , 12.2.37


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,






cf., ātmā hi ayaṃ prajāpati/ ibid,




cf., yo yajamānaḥ idaṃśiraḥ prabhṛtikaṃ madīyamaṅgamanena yajñāṃgena saṃskriyate…sa ātmayājī/ Sāyaṇa on ibid.,


cf.,tadāhuḥātmayājin śreyān devayājinaḥ / Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Sāyaṇa on Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


cf.,yadvai yajñasya kruraṃ yadviliṣṭaṃ tadanvāharyena anvāharati tadanvāhāryasya anvāhāryatvam/ Taittirīya Saṃhitā ,


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


cf.,tadetaṃ mṛtyumatimucyate / saiṣāgnihotremṛtyoratimuktiḥ / Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Ṛgveda Saṃhitā 1.1.9


Ibid., 3.12.10


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Sāyaṇa on ibid.,


Gopatha Brāhmaṇa , 2.1.19


Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa ,




Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 17.88; Atharva Veda , 12.2.37


Sāyaṇa Atharva Veda , ibid


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 18.42


Mahīdhara on ibid., 18.42


Uvaṭa on Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 18.42

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