The Agnistoma Somayaga in the Shukla Yajurveda

by Madan Haloi | 2018 | 109,416 words

This page relates ‘Part 2.3: The Agnihotra Sacrifice’ 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.

[Full title: Types of Sacrifices in General (3): Agnihotra]

The Agnihotra sacrifice is one out of the seven Haviryajñas. It is called Agnihotra because here homa i.e., libation is dedicated to the god Agni and is made in the fire

agnaye hotraṃ homo’sminkarmaṇīti bahubrīhivyutpatyāgnihotramitikarmanāma/[1]

The performer of Agnihotrahoma must be a traivarṇika and a sapatnīka. According to Kātyāyana, it is a sacrifice which the householder himself or in the absence of the chief of the house, his son can perform the libations i.e., can act as the priest.

Or, the householder may engage only one priest i.e., the Adhvavryu—

svayaṃ vā juhuyāt[2].

Commenting on the sūtra,Karka says—

adhvaryu veti vikalpa/[3]

In the Yajñatattvaprakāśa same view has been expressed thus—

...yajamānaḥsvayameva juhuyāt/yadi na śakyate tarhi putrādibhiḥṛtvijā kārayet /[4]

In the Taittirīya Saṃhitā also, it has been stated thus—

tasyaitasya gnihotrasya yajñakratorekartvik[5].

But it has been made obligatory that on the new moon or full moon day, the sacrificer himself should offer the libation[6].

In general, the Agnihotrahoma is to be performed with the milk of a cow which is known as agnihotrī gauḥ[7]. But, sometimes it differs according to one’s desire. If the sacrificer is willing to attain heaven or cattle, then he should make the libation by milk, if one is in need of village, he should offers rice-gruel, by rice-grains one should make the Agnihotra libation if he is desirous of strength, curds may be the offering material if one desires powerful sense organs, ghee in used as Agnihotra libation if one desires lustre[8].

It is to be noted here that though milk is the main offering material, yet Kātyāyana states that every person is not allowed to milk the cow, The milkman must not be a Śūdra[9]. On the other hand, Āpastamba holds that alternatively a Śūdra milkman may also be permitted to milk the cow for Agnihotrahoma.

He says thus


Before offering the milk, it is heated on the burning coals taken from the Gārhapatya fire and is sprinkled with water. The Adhvaryu fills the offering ladle i.e., the sruk by pouring the heated milk from the milk pot with the dipping spoon i.e., the sruva. He does it four times. He takes his seat beside the āhavanīya fire and offers samidh to the āhavanīya fire. As stated in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa he makes the first libation to Agni on the āhavanīya fire reciting prescribed mantra[11] and the mantra of the evening libation isagnirjyotirjyotiragniḥ svāhā[12] Thereafter, the Adhvaryu makes the second libation silently to Prajāpati[13] and whatever is offered silently should be comprehended as an offering to Prajāpati[14]. The second libation is offered in a place to the north of āhavanīya fire[15]. These two are evening libations. The Adhvaryu in this way makes two morning libations also.

As stated in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa[16], in the morning, the first libation is made to the Sun god uttering prescribed mantra and the mantra runs as follows

sūryo jyotiḥ jyotiḥ sūryaḥ svāhā /[17]

The second libation is made silently to Prajāpati.

The time of offering of oblation in Agnihotra is controversial. The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa of the view that the evening offering should be made after sunset and the morning before the sunrise[18]. The Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra too says the same[19]. It has also been said in the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa that in the evening the sun enters the fire[20]. Sāyaṇa too saysit that in the evening the sun merges in the fire and before its rising stays with the fire.[21] Regarding the time of morning offering, there are two groups viz.,uditahomī and anuditahomī. Those who offer oblation after the sunset are Uditahomins and who offer oblation before the sunset are Anuditahomins[22]. The followers of Kaṭḥa, Taittirīya and Maitrāyaṇī Saṃhitā are called Uditahomins. On the otherh and, Bahvṛcaḥ, Kātīya, Chandogāḥ are called as Anuditahomins[23].

The Agnihotra sacrifice can be performed as nitya and kāmya. In case of nitya Agnihotra, it should be continued till the death of the sacrifice or he can be relived from this daily duty owing to his old age. Hence, the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, names the Agnihotra sacrifice as jarāmaryasattra[24]. The nitya Agnihotra falls under the category of daily duty. In it only milk is offered as libation. When the sacrificer performs the Agnihotra sacrifice with special desire it becomes kāmya. When it is performed to attain some desired objects then the oblation material varies from the former. The Vedic sentences such as yāvajjīvamagnihotraṃ juhuyāt/ etc. indicates the nitya Agnihotra and agnihotraṃ juhuyāt svargakāmaḥ/ etc. indicates the kāmya Agnihotra/[25]

Here one may raise a questionto the effect in this ritual that oblations are offered to Agni, Sūrya, and to Prajāpati, yet the Homa is named after Agni, why is it so? The answer to this question is that one starts this sacrifice in the evening after the completion of the Agnyādhāna rite and here the first oblation is offered to the firegod.

Thus, on the basis of the first oblation, the sacrifice is called Agnihotra

amūṣāṃ catasṛṇām-āhutināṃ madhye sāyaṃ kālīnaprathamāhuteragnidevatyatvāt tadādāyaiva sarvāsāmāhutīnām agnihotranāmatvam.../[26]

In it there are no yājyā and anuvākyā.[27]

Footnotes and references:


Sāyaṇa on Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa ,


Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 4.15. 34


Karka on ibid., 4.15.34


Cinnasvamishastri, Pattabhiramashastri (ed.), op.cit.,p.11


Taittirīya Saṃhitā , 2.3.6


cf., upavasatheniyamaḥ/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa , 11.3.4; Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 4.15.35


Cinnasvamishastri, Pattabhiramashastri (ed.), op.cit., p. 9, fn.2


Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 4.15.20-25


Ibid., 4.14.1


Āpastamba Śrautasūtra , 6.3.13


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,,30


cf., tūṣṇīmuttarāṃ bhūyasīm/,Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra ,4.14.17; cf., tasmāt manasā prajāpataye juhvati / Taittirīya Saṃhitā,


cf., sa yadupāṃśu tat prājāpatyam rūpam/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,; Sāyaṇa on Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa , I 6.3.27


cf., prathamāhuteḥ sthānāduttarasmin pradeśe tūṣṇīm dvitīyāmāhutiṃ juhuyāt/ Prākkathanam of Pattabhiramashastri, Mandanmishra(chief ed.) & Pattabhiramashastri (ed.), op. cit., Part.1, p. 6


cf., atha prātaḥ /sūryo jyotirjyotiḥ sūryo svāhā/ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,


Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā , 3.11


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,


cf., astmite juhoti/,prātarjuhotyanudite/ Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 4.14.6, 15.1


cf., agniṃ vāvaādityaḥ sāyaṃ praviśati/ Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa,


cf., agnautasmin sūrye sati…/anudito hi sūryo’gninaikībhūtovartate/ Sāyaṇa onŚB ,


sūryodayādanantaraṃ yacchākhino’gnihotramkartavyatayāvihitaṃ sa uditahomī/ tataḥ pūrvaṃ tat kurvānāanuditahominaḥ/ Cinnasvamishastri, Pattabhiramashastri (ed.),op.cit., p.9, fn. 1


Cinnasvamishastri, Pattabhiramashastri (ed.),op.cit., p.9


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ,


Prākkathanam of Pattabhiramashastri, Mandanmishra(chief ed.) & Pattabhiramashastri (ed.), op. cit., Part.1,. p.4


Cinnasvamishastri, Pattabhiramashastri (ed.),op.cit., p.10


Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra , 1.28

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