Yajna (Yagna), Yaga and Homa are the terms derived from the verbal root ‘Yaj’. Both the words Yagna and Yaga mean the same thing, worship in the form of offering oblations, a sacrifice unto the gods. It is also describerd as the ‘Tyaga’ (giving up offering) of a dravya (a specified material) unto a devata (a specific deity).
Homa is the act of pouring ajya (ghee) into the duly consecrated grhya or domestic fire. It is a later adaptation of the original yajnas and yagas and is more common in puja or the ritualistic worship of deities of the Hindu pantheon.
The general principle accepted by Hindu religious tradition is that the scriptures – the Sruti and the Smritis – are the final authority regarding the things beyond, the ultimate values of life. According to them, yajna or the system of sacrifices was given by God himself at the beginning of creation, to human beings and the gods (like Indra, Agni, Varuna and so on) as a link between them, to sustain each other. The human beings were to satiate the gods through the sacrifices and the gods, in return, would bestow on the human beings rains, food and other things needed to live a prosperous life, because they controlled the various forces of nature.
When a person performs Vedic sacrifices like Jyotistoma, say, to go to heaven, the potential effect of it in a subtle form resides in his soul and will give its fruit after death. This potential imperceptible power or sakti, is called ‘apurva’.
Human beings need light and heat to sustain themselves in life. The sun (Surya) and the fire (Agni) are the two sources for these. The sun is not under human control, but fire is. Perhaps it was this fact that might have induced our ancient ancestors to protect and maintain the fire with respect, and even worship it. It must have given the of a deity as a result of the intuitive experiences of the sages.
(Extracted from a book called “Vedic Sacrifices – An Outline”, by Swami Harshananda for Ramakrishna Math.)
Yajna is the form of a ritual followed in Hinduism and it is done in front of the sacred fire, by chanting the divine mantras. Yajna is a Vedic tradition, and it is also called as Homam, which is usually performed by the Brahmin Vedic Pundits or temple priests in temples, homes and also in offices during the times of festivals. By performing Yajna we are honouring the great Agni Deva, since he is the one who carries the oblations received from the fire sacrifices to the respective Vedic deities.
Yajna plays a major role in the weddings of Hindus and during temple festivals.During the performance of Yajna, divine mantras would be chanted by the priest, and in the Homa Kundam, the place where the fire burns, various kinds of food items like ghee and food grains would be kept in the fire, and it is believed that by doing the Yagna, the Vedic gods would get satisfied and would offer various boons to us. Ancient kings and sages used to perform Yajnas in order to get goodness in their lives. The system of Yajna is in practice for several millions of years, and as per legend, the great Bhakta Prahalada had done thousands of Yajnas to his beloved deity, Lord Narasimha during the Krita Yuga.
Yajnas would also be done by an individual in order to get rid from his and his family member’s problems like disinterest in the studies of his children, diseases and mental illness etc. Yajna, is also done to attain salvation.
The following are the main Yajnas or homams which would be done in the temples, homes and in offices:
1. Ganapathy Homam :- It is done to remove the obstacles in our life.
2. Sudarsana Homam :- To lead a disciplined life.
3. Lakshmi Narayana Homam:-To lead a prosperous and happy life
4. Dhanvantri Homam:- To remove our physical and mental illness.
5. Mritunjaya Homam:- To lead a long life.
6. MahaRudra Homam:- To get peacefulness in life.
7. Navagraha Homam:-Removes the ill effects of the planets.
8. Kala Bhairava Homam:-To get rid from enemy related problems in our life.
9. Chandi Homam:- To get sure success in our life.
10. Saraswathi Homam:-To study well and to score good marks in the exams.