Friday, 13 October 2017

Spiritual Significance Of Homam (Havan - Fire Ritual)

Hinduism is one such religion which has a ritual for almost every occasion in a person's life. Be it the birth of a child, marriage or buying a new house, there are certain rituals which have to be followed without fail. One of the basic rituals which is followed in almost all the Hindu occasions is the Havan or Homa. A Havan is a sacred ritual in which offerings are made to the fire. Fire is the central element of a Havan. Fire has been regarded as God in the Hindu religion. Hence, the offerings made to the sacred fire is said to purify the surroundings as well as the individuals. The sacred fire is supposed to be the link between human consciousness and the cosmic consciousness. A Havan is performed with the aim to achieve material as well as spiritual success.

According to the scientific theory, matter can neither be created nor destroyed. It can be only transformed from one form to another. Therefore whatever is offered to the fire in a Havan is transformed from a material form to non material form and is said to directly reach the divine spirits. A Havan is directed at awakening of the auspicious energies and getting rid of the negative energies surrounding us. The sacred mantras chanted during Havans create a particular vibration which wards of the evil forces and energies and ushers in the positive forces. Havan is symbolic of sacrifices that a human being makes in front of God to attain spiritual bliss. The energies which are aroused through Havan fills an individual with a positive thinking. It is through the fire element that all other five elements of the body is balanced. Hence, the Havan requires individuals to participate with deep faith and bonding with the concerned deity presiding the Havan.


Steps to Perform a Homa:

1. Pavitra Dharanam:

At the start of the Homa, the performer as well as the other people who are participating in the Homa, pray for the cleansing of their heart and soul and seek divine blessings of their ancestors and other divine beings.

Having prayed thus, they wear a ring made of Darbha grass,on the ring finger of their right hand, which is known to repel negative energies.


Specially made vessels called Panchapatras are set aside filled with water. (Note: during a Homa, iron or steel vessels are not to be used because of their low spiritual energies. Silver, copper, or a mixture of 5 metals is best preferred.) Water is taken with the left hand with a special copper spoon called "udraneeya" on to the cavity of the right palm and sipped three times chanting the names of Lord Vishnu. This practice is to purify one's body and mind and is then followed by "siromarjanam" wherein the performers of the ritual take water in the udraneeya and sprinkle water on their own heads with their right thumb. The mantra chanted here means, "Whatever be the state of my body; sacred or unsacred, by the very chanting of the divine names, I sanctify this body of mine in order to obtain auspicious energies."
One must make sure the Achamanam must be performed facing the east or the north and never facing the west or the south.

The following twelve names of the Lord should be uttered, touching each limb of the body with a particular finger (the priests will specify upon the finger to be used). This signifies that all the senses are dedicated to the service of God. When the senses are made introspective instead of going outwards to the external objects, the natural bliss of the soul will be manifested. The names to be chanted are:
Kesava/ Narayana/ Madhava/ Govinda/ Vishnu/ Madhusoodhana/ Trivikrama / Vamana / Sridhara / Hrishikesa Padmanabha/ Damodara

3. Ganapati Prarthana/ Mahaganapathy Pooja:

In the Hindu scriptures, the elephant headed God, Ganesha is always worshipped in the beginning of any ritual, and for his blessings to ensure that the whole procedure would move smoothly unhindered by any external obstacles at any stage. Lord Ganesha is invoked into a conical figure made by mixing turmeric powder and water. Turmeric is considered very propitious and auspicious; and is therefore used to represent Lord Ganesha. Thereafter, a method of worship involving sixteen steps is performed to please Lord Ganesha. This is called "Shodashopachara" Pooja. All these steps are symbolical representations of the various forms of expressing reverence like offering the deity a golden throne to be seated, washing his feet, washing his hands, offering him water to drink, ceremonial bathing with sacred waters, offering new clothes, anointing him with sandal paste and other perfumes, adorning of jewels, worshipping with flowers, offering of fragrant incense, lighting the lamp, offering food, fruits and sweet drinks, chanting his praises, offering Aarthi and finally prostrating to him and seeking his blessings.

Prayer to be chanted while praying to Lord Ganesha:
"Suklam Baradharam Vishnum Sashivarnam Chaturbhujam Prasanna vadanam Dhyayet Sarva Vighnoposhantaye"

4. Kalasha (Sacred Pot) Pooja:

This is a very important step towards the Homa, for it is here that we invoke the main deity of the Homa. If it is a Subramanya Homa, Lord Muruga is invoked; and in a Kala Bhairava Homa, Lord Kala Bhairava is invoked. The deity is invoked, energized and adored in the Kalasha, which is a sacred copper pot filled with water. A coconut is placed over the Kalasha surrounded by 5 or 7 mango leaves. This Kalasha is further decorated with flowers and a cloth is swathed over it. It is then placed facing the North- Eastern corner of the Homa or the sacrificial pit.

The significance of Kalasha is that it absorbs all the positive energies generated during the Homa. The divine water (with immense healing powers) in the Kalasha is then sprinkled upon and distributed to the participants at the conclusion of the Homa.

5. Sankalpa, declaration of intent:

The Sankalpa is the most important part in a Homa. The entire ritual is carried along with the strong will and wish of the participants. Each Homa is performed for a definite purpose; and it is this purpose that the performer and participants clearly hold within their minds as they take Sankalpa.

It is at this time that the participants of the sacred Fire Ritual get to pray for their wishes like "God, grant me with power, knowledge and riches", "Let the Almighty bless me with a good married life and a well matching spouse", and so on...


6. Avahanam/ welcoming the Deity:

Avahanam is that stage of the Homa; wherein the Lord is formally and ritualistically invited to the premises of the Homa. Mantras are chanted to invite that particular Deity with immense dedication and godliness.

7. Agni Pratishtapanam and Dhyanam:

Here, the sacrificial pit is sanctified by chanting mantras, even before the Fire God Agni is invoked. Sticks from selected trees are only used for Homas. Mostly, the sticks (Samidh) of the Pipal tree are used.

Amidst mantra chanting, the performer gently blows the red-hot Samidh and the fire mounts up. Thereafter, ghee (clarified butter) is offered and the participants meditate upon Lord Agni. The success of a Homa very much depends upon how the participants relate to the fire god Agni, because he serves as the medium between this mortal world and the other mystical worlds.

It is at this stage that the main deity; may it be Lord Siva, Vishnu, Muruga, Ganapathy, Hanuman or so are meditated upon. The priests will make sure that the Homa is being performed abiding to the ancient scripts and conventions. Flowers are offered at each invocation of a new mantra; usually signifying the glorification of the Lord's attributes!

8. Namaskaram/ obeisance:

The denial of one's ego and surrender is part of the ritual as the devotee does a full Namaskaram (prostrating in front of the Homa pit).

9. Naivedyam/ Offering Food:

Towards the end of the Homa, Naivedyam is offered to the Lord. Usually it includes a Payasam (kheer), cooked rice, and other savories prepared for the holy function.
This is symbolically offered to the Lord first and only after this part of the ceremony do people consume the food.

10. Aarthi, Offering of Lights:

The aarthi is the final part of a Pooja where in a camphor is lit and waved to the idol of the deity to the accompaniment of the brass bell. After it waved in the direction of the idols, all the members of the family take turns to almost touch the flame with deep reverence.

11.Purnahuti/ Conclusion:

The Homa is concluded with a Purnahuti, Aarthi and offering the Thamboolam to Lord Agni. While the priests continue with the last of the mantras, the fire in the pit calms down and turns into a gentle flame.

12. Visarjana, dismissal-farewell:

Just as we so ritualistically and formally invited the God to the premises; we thank him for blessing us and also bid him on his farewell back to his abodes.

Thereby, we conclude to say that a Homa is an act of complete surrender and reverence to the Lord in which people may opt to pray for their welfare or for the world's as well.

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