Science and spirituality: The modes of yajna and the science of kundas

July - Aug 2005

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The modes of Yajna and the science of Kunda

The process of yajna is highly efficacious to influence the physical world by producing the vibrations in the subtle realm. The science behind this efficacy is quite deep and wide. What is the purpose? What kinds of vibrations are to be generated to accomplish this purpose? Depending on these requirements, the type of yajna, the design of havan kunda (pit for preserving fire), and the karmakanda (rituals) are decided. That is why, the experts of yajna (the great sages) discovered, after a considerable research effort in this direction, the various methods/modes of yajna and several types of karmakanda. To explain these processes fully will require several volumes. In this article an humble attempt has been made to give only a glimpse.

(1) The opinion of experts (of yajna) is that Agni (fire) should be established, according to the prescribed method, in the home after marriage. This is called Smartagni. Oblations are offered in this fire daily in the morning and afternoon.

(2) Establishment of Garhapatya, Âhvaniya and Dakshinagni, in accordance with the rituals, is called SHrautadhana. The yajnas that are performed in these fires are called SHraut-karma.

(3) Darsha and Paurnamasa yajnas - The yajnas that are performed on no-moon day and full-moon day are called Darsha and Paurnamasa yajnas respectively.

(4) Caturmasya yajna - There are four 'parva'(s) (festivals) of this yajna which are performed with an interval of four months. They are, first, Vaishvadev parva on the full- moon day of the month of Phalguna; second, Varuna pradhasa parva on the fullmoon day of the month of ÂÌaÃa; third, Sakmedha parva on the full- moon day of the month of Kartika; and fourth, SHutasiriya parva on the new moon day of next Phalguna.

(5) The yajna that is performed every year in the rainy season or on the Sankranti days of summer and winter solstices is called "NiruÃh Pashu-Bandha".

(6) Âgrayana yajna - The yajna that is performed with new barley and rice grains every year during the Vasant and SHarad seasons is called Âgrayana or Navanna yajna.

(7) Sautramani yajna - The yajna that is devoted to (or performed to please) Indra is called Sautramani yajna. This has two kinds - Svatantra and Angbhuta.

(8) Somayaga - The yajna that is performed with Somalata (a kind of herb) is called somayaga. Sixteen Ritvikas perform it. The priests who accept Dakshina after the yajna are called Ritvikas. 

There are four categories of Ritvikas of Somayaga. They are (1) Adhvaryugana, (2) Brahmagana (3) Hotragana and (4) Udgatragana.
There are seven types of Somayaga. They are: (1) AgniÌtoma - The yajna that is completed after reciting AgniÌtoma Sama (a Vedic prayer) and no other Sama is recited after that, is called AgniÌtoma. Similarly the yajnas that are completed after reciting (2) Ukthya Sama, (3) Ìodasi Sama, (4) Bajpeya Sama, (5) Atiratra Sama and (6) Asoryama Sama, are respectively called Ukthya, etc. (7) the yajna in which Ìodasi Sama is recited after AgniÌtoma Sama is called AtyagniÌtoma. 

(9) Dvadashaha yajna - There are two kinds of this yajna - Satra and Ahina. The first one has sixteen Ritvikas, Âhitagni Brahmanas and they do not accept any Dakshina. The Somayaga which has two to eleven Sutyas (the havan performed, thrice i.e., in the early morning, afternoon and evening, is called one Sutya), is preceded and followed by Atiratra yajna, and which has many yajmans (participants) is called Ahina.

(10) Gavanayana yajna - This satra consists of 385 days. This has 12 Dikshas, 12 Upsadas and 361 Sutyas.

(11) Bajpeya yajna - This yajna is preceded and followed by AgniÌtoma yajna. This has Yupas of seventeen cubits. This is completed in forty days.

(12) Rajsuya yajna - Several IÌtis like Anumati, etc and several yajna like Pavitra, etc are performed herein. This yajna is completed in 33 months. Only pre-eminent rulers competent enough to perform Cultural Digvijaya can do it.

(13) Cayan Yaga - The yajna in which the Vedi (platform) is constructed by bricks is called Cayan yaga. This Vedi which has length and breadth of 10 cubits is called Âtma. In the south and north of this Vedi, two platforms each of 6 x 6 square cubits are constructed. They are called Dakshina Paksha and Uttara Paksha. The 52 x 52 square cubits platform made on the western side of Âtma, is called Puccha. Its height is five cubits and hence it is called Pancacitika Sthandila. Fourteen types of bricks are required to construct it. The total number of bricks required to make the platform of Cayan yaga is 11170.

(14) PuruÌamedha yajna – In this yajna, puruÌa (males) are tied up with the yupa (post). There are 11 yupas. This yajna is completed in 40 days. After completing this yajna, one can take the Vanprastha Âshram.

(15) Sarvamedha yajna - In this yajna, oblations of all types of herbs and grains are given. This is completed in 34 days. 

(16) Pitramedha yajna - In this obsequial rites of the deceased ancestors are performed. Here Ritvika is only Adhvaryu. 

(17) Ekaha yajna - The yajna that can be completed in one day is called Ekaha yajna. More than one hundred yajnas like Somayaga, Vishvajita, Sarvajit, BhuÌtoma®, etc which have one Sutya, have been prescribed by the scriptures.

(18) Ahina yajna - The yajnas which have two to eleven Sutyas are called Ahina yajnas. They have been described by different names in more than hundred places.

(19) Ashvamedha yajna - The great rulers who were competent enough to accomplish cultural 'Digvijay' performed this yajna. This has been called the king of yajnas. Several marvelous results are produced by this yajna both in the visible as well as the subtle world. In this yajna, a horse used to be sent for Digvijay. There are 21 yupas each of 21 cubits.

(20) Satra yajna - The somayagas, consisting of 12 to 16, 18 to 33, 35 to 40, 49,100,308 and 1000 Sutyas are called Satra. 
Depending on the form and the kind of yajna, the size and shape of the kunda (pit for preserving fire) has to be selected.  Those who possess the vision to see into the subtle realm can feel that the Havan kunda is the means of invoking the descent of Vrahatsoma (the nectar) pervading the cosmos. In the kunda, there is effulgence of divine blessings which mixes with the fumes of yajna and spreads in the entire world. Therefore, the construction of kunda is based on the number of oblations to be performed and is also dependent on the aim of the doer. 

According to the scripture ' kunda siddhi', the havaa kunda, should be of measure from an elbow to little finger for offering fifty to one hundred oblations; it should be of one cubit for one thousand oblations, of two cubits for ten thousand oblations, of four cubits for one lakh oblations, of six cubits for ten lakh oblations and of sixteen cubits for offering one crore oblations. Almost similar statements are seen in other scriptures like BhaviÌyottara Purana, SHarda Tilak and Skanda Purana.
Clarifying some more specialties of the kundas, the author of ' kunda siddhi' says -

Vedakshini yugagnayah shashiyuganyaÌÚabdhaya
StrishavoaÌÚaksha yahitarasah svarangkamita netrarÌayoakshasvarah ı
A®gulyoatha yavah khambhramiÌavah kha® pancaÌat sagarah, 
samabhrangu nayastavabhonigditavedasra ke bahavah ı

- The volumetric expansion of the kunda of size one cubit should be of 24 'angula’ (finger's breadth), that of 2 cubits should be of 34 angula, kunda of 3 cubits should be of 41 angula and 5 yava (one yava equals about one centimeter), and a kunda of 4 cubits should have the expansion of 48 angula. The other kunda sizes and their expansions are as follows:- 5 cubits - 53 angula and 5 yava; 6 cubits- 59 angula and 7 yava; 7 cubits - 63 angula and 4 yava; 8 cubits- 66 angula and 7 yava; 9 cubits - 72 angula, and 10 cubits - 76 angula and 7 yava. These are called the arms of the Catrasra kunda.

The ‘yantra'(s) sketched on the paper or that engraved on metal sheets that are used in Tantrika Upasanas, are not merely the crossed lines. They are considered as the symbols of the deities and their energy is attracted accordingly. Similarly, kundas are not designed merely for decoration but the purpose of different shapes is to attract the various currents of energies. That is why the authors of scriptures have directed to get them made by especially competent artisans. 

Among the prevailing rituals, CatuÌkona (square), Ardhacandra (semicircular), Trikona (triangular), Vritta (circular), ViÌama Ìadasra (with 6 unequal arms), ViÌama AÌtasra (with 8 unequal arms), Padma (lotus shaped), SamaÌadasra (with 6 equal arms), Sama AÌÚasra (with 8 equal arms) and Yoni kundas are employed. Their sketches may be seen at the end of this article.

' Kunda Siddhi' and SHarda Tilaka also discuss about the depth of the kunda. Accordingly, the depth upto the first mekhala (step) of the kunda should be equal to its length or breadth. It is best to start constructing the kunda in the twenty-fourth part of the depth. According to scriptures Kriyasara and Lakshana Sangraha a kunda with one mekhala is considered inauspicious, a kunda with two mekhalas gives ordinary results and a kunda with three mekhalas is supposed to be the best. Some adepts of yajna consider a kunda of five mekhalas to be the best.

These mekhalas are painted with three different colours symbolizing Satva, Rajas and Tamas. Where there are five mekhalas, five colours depicting Pancatatvas are employed. The construction of kunda is related more to geometry, geography and architecture. The persons, interested in this aspect may refer to the scriptures - Kunadsiddhi, BhaviÌya Purana, Vayu Purana, AnuÌÚhana PrakaÌa, Pancaratra Kriyasara Samuccaya, SHarda Tilak, etc.

The objective behind the variety in the designs of kunda is that, depending on the desired motive of yajna, success is achieved quickly by properly shaping the kundas and making them in appropriate directions. The scripture says -

Bhuktau-muktau thata puÌÚau jirnoddhare visheÌatah ı
Sada home tatha shantau vrita® varunadigmatam ıı

That is - In order to achieve worldly pleasure, salvation, health, rejuvenation, and peace, and for performing havan daily, a circular kunda in the western direction should be constructed. Similarly, other scriptures also write about the specificity of the direction as follows: For obstruction / astringency, Caturasra kunda  in the East; for achieving worldly pleasures, Yoni kunda in the South-east; for killing, Ardhacandra kunda in the South or Trikona kunda in South-west; for peaceful purposes, Vritta kunda in the West; for bringing distraction in one's mind, Ìadasra kunda in the North-west; for good health, Padma kunda in the North; and for salvation AÌÚasra kunda in the North-east are prescribed. Some of these are also used for achieving specific results. For example, to beget a son, a Yoni kunda; exorcise or to remove the influence of malevolent stars, Pancasra or a Dhanurjyavritti kunda; and to remove the ill-effect of Abhicara (incantation causing disease or death) Saptasra kundas are prescribed.

If it is not possible to construct a kunda for daily havan, then according to SHarda Tilaka -  Nitya® naimittika® homa® sthandile vasamacaret - (that is) - a Sthandila (a platform) of ochre or loom of area, 1 cubit x l cubit and height 4 angulas, may be made. According to scriptures, ‘Kundameva vidhanasyat sthandileva samacaret' - Sthandila has the same status as the kunda. In order to materialize the results of yajna as described in the scriptures, it is necessary to understand the rituals of yajna, the specialties of equipments used and the philosophy behind them and also to implement them in practice. 

From this point of view, Gayatri Mission’s Ashvamedha yajnas may be called unique. This should be taken as a potent means to build the environment in the subtle as well as visible realm for ushering in the new era. The scientist or an investigator or an experimenter understands all the minute details of the principles, the methods and the equipments to be used in his experiment. Similarly here is an experiment of Ashvamedha. The kundas, mandapa, karmakanda, etc i.e. every thing that is used here, are in accordance with the rules laid down by the scriptures. On one side, this will result in the materialization of beneficent results of Ashvamedha and on the other side, the training of forgotten vedic methods and traditions will also be imparted. Not only this, the Hotaganas participating in this mahayajna will really feel that they are one of the sages of the vedic period. The prized experience will always inspire them to work for the awakening and growth of —Ìitva (sagehood).

Some people brought a young man to MaharÌi Patanjali and said – "Despite the best efforts from our side, we are not able to teach this man the importance of yoga sadhana in human life. Kindly help us in this regard". The MaharÌi asked the young man to stay back in his Ashram for a few days. Several days passed. The people who had brought that man to the Ashram came to meet him there. It was indeed a pleasant surprise for them to see him completely transformed. That man, who was addicted to intoxicating drugs and sensual pleasures a few days back, was now living a life of austerity and self control. He was engrossed in deep meditation beneath a huge tree when they reached the Ashram. 

"How did this magical change occur?" – They couldn't help asking MaharÌi Patanjali. The latter humbly replied that there was nothing amazing in this. It was doe to healing and soothing influence of the spiritually suffused vibrations of this Ashram, where every inmate is a devoted sadhaka; this acts as an attitudinal therapy. Those people were well aware that the environment also plays an important role in the progress of sadhana but they could not follow what the MaharÌi meant by attitudinal therapy.  MaharÌi further explained – "An eye-specialist cures the problems of eyesight but treatment of the mental-sight, the outlook towards the self and the world…, is the job of a  —shi.  Because of the deep insight awakened by long-term sadhana, a —shi can view the hidden tendencies and nature of a person and diagnose the ailments of the mental and emotional selves. Using their spiritual powers, —shis can heal such ailments and infirmities of the inner selves of a person. The treatment and righteous orientation of one's mentality is achieved not merely by preaching and teaching but by the impact of the —shi -level sadhana ”. 

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