Some Scientific Aspects of Yajna - Environmental Effects

Mar - Apr 2003

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There are two basic energy systems in the physical world: heat and sound. In performing yagna, these two energies, namely, the heat from yagnas fire and the sound of the chanting of the Gayatri and other Vedic Mantras, are blended together to achieve the desired physical, psychological and spiritual benefits. The fumigation, vaporization and subtlisation of specific substances in the yagna-fire constitute a verifiable scientific method of sublimation of matter and expansion of its colloidal state, generates ions and energy with positive effects in the surrounding atmosphere through the specific sonic waves of the mantras.

Fumigating Substances Used in Yagna:

In order to get an idea of the various chemical changes that take place during the performance of yagna, it is essential to know the various substances used and offered in the yagna-fire. These can be broadly classified into two types: wood (samidh), and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs (havan smagri)[1, 2].

Wood: Wood has to be dry and free from dust, insects and worms. Wood is cut into small pieces of varying sizes called samidhs depending upon the size of the altar or pit (kunda) in which the yagna is to be performed. Santalum Album (sandalwood), Aquilana Malaccensis and Valeriana Wallchii (borax wood or agar and tagar), Cedrys Libani (cedar or deodar), Mangifera Indica (mango), Butea Frondosa (flame of the forest or palsha), Aegle Marmelos (bengal quince or bilva), Ficus Religiosa (the holy fig or pipal), Ficus Bengalensis (banyan or bargad), Proposis Spicigera (sponge tree or Shami), Ficus Glomerata (wild fig or gular) are considered appropriate for this purpose.

The havisya or havan smagri should be prepared with a proper combination of the following. Odoriferous Substances: These are usually saffron, musk, agar, tagar, sandalwood powder, cardamom, nutmeg, javitri and camphor; Substances with Healing properties: clarified butter (ghee), milk, fruits, lin seeds, and cereals like wheat, rice, barley, various millet, gram, peas, etc; Sweet Substances: sugar, dried dates, resin, honey, etc; Medicinal Herbs: These are used as per the specific requirements. Some commonly used herbs are Tinospora cordifolia (tinospora/guduchi or giloya), Bacopa Monieri (bacopa or brhmi), Convolvulus Pluricaulis (shankh pushpi), Mesua Ferrea (cobras saffron or ngkesar), Glycyrrhiza Glabra Bois (liquoric root or mulhati), Red Sandalwood, Terminalia Bellirica (beddanut or bahed), Dry Ginger, and Terminalia Chebula (chebulic myrobalans or harada). Different combinations of these and/or other special herbs are used for the treatment of specific diseases through yagna-therapy.

Products of Combustion:

The interpretation of the process of combustion in a yagna on a scientific basis is rather difficult due to the following reasons:

(i) The properties of substances, which are used here vary;

(ii) The conditions under which combustion takes place inside the yagna-fire are very sensitive to the shape of the kunda and the type, quantity and arrangement of wood etc;

(iii) the variation in the temperature and thermodynamic effects is quite significant from the top to the bottom of the kunda and it also depends upon the shape and size of the latter. The products of combustion depend on the factors like

(a) The nature of substances used and their proportions;

(b) Temperature attained;

(c) Controlled supply of air and

(d) Interaction amongst the various products formed.

Distillation of Wood:

Besides the complete combustion of the cellulose material of wood, it is also subjected to distillation. This happens due to the way samidhs are arranged in the kunda (also called yagna kunda or havan kunda)2 and the levels of temperature and air supply which prevail in it.

Vaporization of Odorous Substances:

The temperature attained by the kunda varies between 250C and 600C, while in the actual flames it can rise as high as 1200C to 1300C. At their boiling points, the volatile constituents vaporize and their gaseous forms get diffused. Also, when cellulose and other carbohydrates undergo combustion, steam is formed in copious quantities by the combination of the hydrogen of the decomposed organic molecules with the oxygen. This is how the substances like thymol, eugenol, pinene, terpinol etc., are dispersed to in the surroundings and the aroma of a yagna can be smelt at a considerable distance. In addition to steam, smoke is emitted in large quantities and solid particles existing in a decomposed state offer sufficient scope for its diffusion. Thus smoke also functions as a colloidal vehicle for the spreading of volatile aromatic substances. This process depends on the inside and surrounding temperature and on the direction of the wind.

Combustion of Fatty Substances:

The fatty substances used in yagna are mainly ghee and other fatty substances of vegetable origin. Ghee helps in rapid combustion of cellulose of wood and keeps the fire alight. All fatty substances used are combinations of fatty acids, which volatilize easily. The combustion of glycerol portion gives acetone bodies, pyruvic aldehyde and glyoxal etc. The hydrocarbons produced in the reactions again undergo slow combustion and as a result methyl and ethyl alcohols, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, formic acid and acetic acids are formed.

Photochemical Process:

The vaporized products diffused in the atmosphere are also subjected to photochemical reactions in the sunlight. They undergo photochemical decomposition, oxidation and reduction reactions. To some extent even CO2 is also reduced to formaldehyde as follows: CO2 H2O 112,000 cal = HCHO O2 From an environmental angle, the reduction of CO2caused by yagna as explained above and the liberation of oxygen cannot be overemphasized. Similar kinds of other useful reactions take place in the presence of specific radiations from the sunrays. This may be perhaps the reason it has been recommended that yagna should be performed during sunlight.

Inverted Pyramid Shaped Yagna Kunda:

The word pyramid means the fire in the middle. This meaning is closely associated with the inexplicable energies emanating from its center and shape. The pyramid shape is widely known to generate and store a special energy field, which possesses bacteriostatic properties. The inverted pyramid shape of the agni kunda allows controlled generation and multidirectional dissipation of energy. It acts as a generator of unusual energy fields and spreads them in its surrounding atmosphere. Apart from the pyramid shape, some other special symmetric geometrical designs are also used according to the kind of energy fields and the cosmic currents one wishes to generate by the yagna. Specific types of kundas are recommended for different kinds of yagnas. The shapes and properties of the common agnihotra pot and some yagna kundas are illustrated in reference no. 3 cited below.

Chanting of Sanskrit Mantras:

The power of sound vibrations has since long been acknowledged in the field of science. With substantial amplification these vibrations can penetrate the energy spheres at the subtle and cosmic levels. All the alphabets of the Sanskrit language are endowed with special impulsive phonetics, which send out harmonious wave patterns when pronounced. With the advent of spectrographic techniques and instruments like the Multichannel Tonograph and Retrometer, it has now become possible to study the sound effects of mantras in relation to yagna. The patterns of chanting of the mantras are so designed that they latently contain the essence of the music or the quintessential sound of the torrent of life-sustaining energies emanating from the cosmic energy center of the corresponding mantras. (The cosmic energy center associated with the Gayatri Mantra is the Sun). The chanting of these mantras produces vibrations, which are soothing to human mind and all plant and animal life. These vibrations also help in spreading specific energy waves in the surrounding atmosphere while the oblations are offered[3-5].

Purification of Environment by Yagna:

The huge industrial complexes, rapid urbanization, deforestation, air and water pollution, ozone-depletion, radioactive wastes etc., have disturbed and destabilized the natural harmony of human, animal and plant life cycles. The ecological imbalance caused by these criminal acts of the so called civilized man has resulted in a disastrous threat, not only to the human survival but, also to life as a whole on our planet.

Experimental studies show that the incidences of physical ailments, sickness and/or diseases become less in the houses where the yagna or agnihotra[3] is regularly performed because it creates a pure, hygienic, nutritional and healing atmosphere. It renews the brain cells, revitalizes the skin, purifies the blood and prevents growth of pathogenic bacteria. Agnihotra is basically a healing process. "Heal the atmosphere and the healed atmosphere will heal you", says Dr. Madhukar Gaikwad[6]. The medicinal fumes emanating from the process of agnihotra have been observed by researchers in the field of microbiology to be clearly bacteriostatic in nature, which eradicate bacteria and micro-organisms, the root causes of illness and diseases. This must be the reason why the incidence of physical ailments, sickness and diseases becomes less in the households where agnihotra is regularly performed.

Purification of environment through the constituent electrically charged particles of the substances fumigated in yagna is an obvious byproduct of this process. The observations of some distinguished scientists (as reported in the reference nos. [2-5]) are noteworthy in this regard. According to Dr. Hafkine, the smoke produced by burning the mixture of ghee and sugar kills the germs of certain diseases; inhaling it from some distance induces secretion from certain glands related to the windpipe that fill our heart and mind with relaxation. "Burning sugar and its smoke has a significant effect in purifying the atmosphere. It kills the germs of T.B., measles, smallpox and cow-pox"  remarks Prof. Tilward. A Russian Scientist named Dr. Shirowich mentions that  "if cows ghee is put into the fire, its smoke will lessen the effect of atomic radiation to a great extent". He also related this process to yagna.

Particularly effective results with respect to the elimination or reduction in radiation were achieved through yagnas fire and ash. These observations are made by Dr. L. Matela Anatoninhowska of Poland after using P.S.I. techniques[2]. Even without going into detailed chemical bacteriology, it appears highly probable that performing yagna leads to the purification of air in view of the following (as reported in the reference nos. [2, 5]):

Removal of Foul Odors:

As already stated, under steam volatilization, the various volatile oils get diffused in the surrounding atmosphere along with steam and smoke. Since these oils have distinctly good smells, the foul odors are automatically neutralized. This aroma can be effortlessly smelt in the surroundings when yagna is performed. It is due to the diffusion of substanceslike thynol, eugenol, piene, terpinol and oils of sandalwood, camphor and clove.

Removal of Bacteria:

As stated under products of combustion, the partial oxidation of hydrocarbons and decomposition of complex organic substances produce formaldehyde, which is a powerful antiseptic. It is also interesting to note that the germicidal action of formaldehyde is effective only in the presence of water vapor, which is also produced in large quantities in yagna. The use of formaldehyde sprays for disinfecting of walls, ceilings etc., is common and such an effect is automatically produced when yagna is performed. The oxidation of hydrocarbons produces formic acid and acetic acid, both of which are good disinfectants. Use of formic acid for preservation of fruits and that of acetic acid in preserving vinegar is a common practice.

The antiseptic and antibiotic effects of the smoke of yagna have also been examined by conducting laboratory experiments on rabbits and mice and it has been established that smoke emitted in yagna is a powerful antibiotic. Agnihotra ash is also found to purify and cleanse the water, making it fit for drinking[6].

Removal of Insects:

There are non-bacterial parasites like flies, ringworm, dice fleas etc., which are normally difficult to deal with since bacteriocides which can be used against them are also harmful to other living organisms. Such insects are generally immune to ordinary reagents. However they either get killed or are driven away when they come in contact with volatile oils like camphor, which are diffused in the environment during the performance of yagna.

Effects on Plants and Vegetation:

The disinfection of air is not only useful to animal life but it also helps plant life. The aromatic substances, which get diffused in the air through Agnihotra offer protection to plant life against harmful organisms. This ensures a healthy plant growth. Agnihotras atmosphere and ash can be used as adjuvants in the natural farming methods  also known as the agnihotra farming methods. It is a holistic concept of growing plants in pure and healthy atmosphere and balancing the ecological cycles by performing agnihotra (yagna) in the middle of the farm and using the yagna-ash as a fertilizer. Several experiments have been conducted in the East European countries on the use of yagna ash in soil treatment. These, too, have shown positive effects and potential applications in Agriculture[7].

Role of CO2 Generated in Yagna:

The wood and fossil burning in atmosphere is always controversial because of the generation of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and a consequent increase in the green house effect. On this basis it can be argued that yagna also produces CO and CO2. It should be noted here that the way in which the samidhs are burnt in yagna is a process of slow combustion. It is not comparable to the burning of coal in the factories or household fire or running of steam engines etc, where oxygen is sucked in large quantities and CO2 is emitted likewise. In the slow combustion process that takes place in yagna, a small quantity of O2 is utilized and CO2 is emitted in a quantity that poses no threat to the environment. In fact whatever CO2 is generatedis readily absorbed by the surrounding plant life and vegetation and thus the CO2 cycle is strengthened[5].

Another important fact to be noted is that CO2 produced in yagna is not free CO2. It is mixed with the vapors of other aromatic oils and antiseptic products. It acts as a vehicle in transporting such products to the surroundings. The use of CO2 as a cerebral stimulant to assist patients suffering from lack of ventilation is a common practice in the medical field. Its use in controlling and curing many mental disorders is also known to medical science. Small amounts of CO2 inhaled by the persons performing yagna act as a stimulant for inhaling more and more aromatic fumes which helps in curing mental disorders.

Results of Some Recent Experiments:

A group of scientists led by Dr. Manoj Garg, Director, Environmental and Technical Consultants in association with the experts from the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board had conducted experiments during the Ashwamedha Yagna at Gorakhpur, U.P. These experiments were set up at about 20 meters east of the Yagnashala. The samples of 100 ml each of water and air collected from the surroundings were analyzed, using high volume Envirotech APM-45 and other sensitive instruments for testing water and air pollution. A summary of their results as reported in Akhand Jyoti, Sept. 97 p.22, (ref no. [1]), showed an average reduction by 75% in the level of Sulphur Dioxide and about 10% in Nitrus Oxide; and Over 70% reduction in bacteria in water samples in the surrounding area. Several medicinal minerals were present in the ash (bhasma) of yagna. The average level of carbon monoxide was found reduced from 117 p.p.m. to 0 in some of the experiments conducted on domestic yagnas at IIT Bombay (unpublished results); There are some more ongoing experiments on recording different gas levels and respirable particles are currently ongoing, being conducted by some visiting scientists at Brahm Varchas Research Center of Gayatri Teerth, Shantikunj, Hardwar.

Yagna, thus, appears to be a promising scientific, cost effective, eco-friendly method to counter the ever-increasing deadly pollution of the environment and purify and enrich the environment with healthy ingredients. May the environmental scientists and the experts of the Vedic Science of Yagna come together to enable its global expansion. The Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya at Shantikunj, Hardwar is venturing to be a pacesetter in this regard.


1. Selected Articles from Akhand Jyoti (Aug. 84, July & Aug. 92, March 93, Sept. 97). Publisher, Akhand Jyoti Sansthan, Mathura.

2. Fumigating Substances used in Yagna  article published in the proceedings of the Ashwamedha Yagna held in Montreal, Canada (26 to 28 July, 1996).

3. "The Integral Science of Yagna". Book Published in 1998 by Yug Nirman Yojna, Mathura.

4. Yagnas Scientific Interpretation  article published in the proceedings of Ashwamedha Yagna held in Montreal, Canada (26 to 28 July, 1996).

5. "Does Yagna Add to the Prevalent Pollution?"  article published in the proceedings of Ashwamedha Yagna held in Montreal, Canada (26 to 28 July, 1996).

6. "Agnihotra: The Message of Time"  Paper by Dr. Madhukar P. Gaikwad. (Presented in the National Symposium on Unification of Modern and Ancient Sciences, held in Andheri, Mumbai on April 30, 1995).

7. Personal Communication with Dr. Vasant Rao Paranjape (


1. Sublimation (in chemistry): The process by which a solid is converted, on heating directly, into a gas, without going through a liquid state. Only a small number of solids sublime; e.g. carbon dioxide, CO2 and Iodine, I2. Some solids that do melt to form a liquid still evaporate quite rapidly if kept below their melting-points; e.g. Iodine and sulphur. This is also sublimation, and can be used as a method of purification.

2. Kunda (Agni-Kunda or yagna-kunda): The pit or small metallic vessel of a special design for yagngni.

3. Agnihotra (Havans or homam): Small-scale yagna that could be performed every-day at home.

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