What is a Homa?
Have you attended a Homa or witnessed one? If you have, you may know that many Hindu occasions, especially Pujas (prayers), are incomplete without Homa or Havana.
In most of the Samskaras (sacraments), Homa is an integral mandate. This includes auspicious occasions like naming ceremony or Upananayanam, Marriage, Homa for Wealth, Knowledge and Prosperity, and for purification rituals.
So what is a Homa or Havan? Homa is a Vedic ritual conducted as part of a formal ceremony and is used to divert the negative powers and awaken positive vibrations and auspicious energies.
According to the teachings of Atharva Veda, all living beings are said to have been created from a grand eternal Yajna (Yagya). The fire ceremony is the centre of manifestation of all living creatures.
Homa is an ancient fire ceremony which was a part of daily life back in the olden days.
The Role of Fire in Homa
Fire(Agni) is the agent, and the offerings are material and symbolic. Many food items, including ghee, milk, sugar, spices, saffron, grains, coconut, seeds, petals and herbs, are put into the fire as sacrifices to feed the holy fire.
The Sanskrit word ‘Homa’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Hu’ meaning “To offer” or “To Present”.
Fire is considered as one of the five elements of existence and sacred fire is believed to drive away all negative energies around.
Fire is the main link between cosmic consciousness and human consciousness.
The Essence of Homa
The primary purpose of a Homa is to communicate with the energies of the universe. We make our Sankalpa (resolve) in the presence of various natural elements as our witness.
It is a means to purify our internal energy and environment. In the process of Homa, we are required to sacrifice our ego, selfishness, and material attachments and encouraged to be more compassionate.
During a Homa, an elevated platform is built of bricks and fire is burned using mango wood and ghee or butter is poured along with food grains, milk, incense and seeds, amongst other ingredients, while chanting mantras specifically to invoke God and seek their blessings.
The brick platform is demolished immediately after completing the ritual. The Homa is performed in the centre of a space, allowing a place for the chief celebrant, who is usually a priest and main devotees with the offerings, to sit around and perform the ceremony.
Other devotees generally form an outer circle around the fire. Sacred mantras chanted during Homa create a particular vibration that averts evil and fosters auspicious energies.
Different types of Homas are carried out on different occasions and for different Gods.
Examples include – Ganapati Homa to remove obstacles or Rudra Homa to dispel negativity in the body and mind.
In ancient times Homa was the only way to connect to God and so Homas were conducted every single day.
Ideally performed during the morning time since it is considered to be favourable for all religious activities, and the air is charged with Prana (life force) at that time.
Benefits of Homa
Homa is believed to have many purifying benefits for the body, mind, soul and the environment. During a Homa, when fire comes in contact with air, it gets purified and becomes lighter in nature.
When this light air is mixed up in the environment, it replaces the impure air and this process continues and purifies the air in turn.
The fragrance of ghee, when burnt, purifies the physical environment and its fragrance mixes with the atmosphere.
The scents from aromatic herbs & spices used during Homa remove the foul odour from the atmosphere. Together the offerings made and the specific mantra chanted help in boosting the chakras and strengthening both body and mind.
Essentially all Homas are performed with the intent of universal happiness and peace.
“Loka Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, Om Shanti Shanti Shanti"
Which means ‘May everyone be happy and may there be peace everywhere.’
Every Homa performed echo’s specific intent and effect depending on the energy it invokes.
The underlying philosophy is always an internal realization and universal harmony.