Whenever we hear about hawan or homa, the picture of a fire emitting smoke all around comes in our mind, but in a reverential manner since it is meant for deity. We have seen or heard numerous times that by doing hawan, one invites peace to his house.
As stated by the lord in Bhagwad Gita (Chapter 5 Verse 29)-
gyatva mam shantim rchchhati||
The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.
Since the supreme personality of godhead Sri Krishna is the ultimate benefactor of all hawans, he provides the person who is doing yagya and the person for whom yagya is done both with peace and tranquility.
Homa or Hawan or Yagya, as people call it in India is a vedic tradition which is coming down or the last billions and trillions of yugas. The famous yagyas which are mentioned in the Vedic literature are Ashwamedha Yagya of Maharaj Dashratha, Rajsuya Yagya of Maharaj Yudhishthir etc.
Doing Yagya was yuga dharma (Supreme prerogative and duty) of Treta yuga and people used to see the lord being satisfied by that when he used to appear in the yagya kund.
What is hawan or homa?
Yagya comprises of igniting a holy fire using pure wood and pure cow ghee and cow dung cakes and with the chanting of mantras, the hawish is poured into the fire with the word “Swaha!”. The hawish comprises of Indian Cow Ghee and mixture of Herbs called Hawan Samagri along with some other pure materials.
- Seeing the Hawan with scientific paradigm, the ancient sages used to say that by doing yagya, Sattva gun increases which is symbolized by cleanliness, peace and purity.
- The cow ghee and cow dung cake react to release tonnes of oxygen ad other gases which make the atmosphere pure.
- The small quantities of sulpher and nitrogen oxides get rid of harmful bacteria and their inhalation causes lacrimation, which relieves the eyes of all impurities and cough which arises clears the nasal and respiratory passage.
- All the harmful microbes and pathogens are cleared due to the smoke emitted by burning of herbs which acts as a natural detoxifier.
- The natural herbal smoke purifies the mind as well as the body.
- The ash which is remaining from the Hawan kund is asked to put into plants which acts as a very good fertilizer.
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The auspicious 15 days ‘Pitru paksha’ period or shradh is a form of attachment or guilt within us that restricts us to lead a normal day to day life. It disturbs and haunts us day and night in our thoughts as we have a feeling of regret within us for the dead person. Thus shradh ceremony or any such offerings are the ways to fulfil the unfulfilled desires of our ancestors.
Certain things have to keep into consideration during this period to faithfully and ritualistically please our ancestors.
- Stand on the mat during sunrise and chant ‘Gayatri mantra’ to strengthen the position of Sun in your horoscope.
- In the south direction of your habitat, hang portraits of your ancestors and greet them with fresh flowers garland.
- Feed cows with ghee and rice balls every Saturday.
- Use of barley, Kaangani- a type of millet, peas, sesame seed and mustard in Shradh puja are considered highly auspicious and fortunate.
- Shradh karma should not be performed on land occupied by others therefore river banks and holy pilgrimages are preferred.
- Helping the poor and disabled and remembering your ancestors is an easy path to receive blessings for them.
- Respect and seek blessings from the elders at our home, as their blessings are the only way to receive peace and happiness.
- Offer regular donations to hospitals or temples in the name of our ancestors and if possible, assist in the education and marriage of orphan girls.
- Recitation of Garuda Puraan i.e. the passage of the departing soul, Nachiketa story from Upanishads and Ganga Avataran chapter from Ramayan are done to ensure the satisfaction of our ancestors.
- Perform fasting on Ekadashi and if possible organize the Agni Homa or Havan during this period.
- Gram, lentil, black gram, horse gram, barley, radish, black cumin, Bauhinia, cucumber, black gram, black salt, gourd, large mustard, leaf of black mustard and stale, rotten fruit or grain, are prohibited in Shradh puja.
- Avoid consumption of non-vegetarian food, alcohol and other such tamasic edibles along with outside food.
- Avoid starting anything new, even something seemingly as insignificant as buying and wearing new clothes, washing hair, cutting hair and even shaving are proscribed during the period.
- Important events like shifting to a new house, marriage, birth ceremonies of a child, inauguration of new business and other such significant celebrations should be avoided during this period.