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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



The Essence of Yagnya

Piyaray Lal Raina

Performance of yagnya is essential part for the performance of our rituals. It has been in vogue right from Vedic times.  It was vedic people’s belief that devas who represent various elements like fire, water, air , sky and earth control the fate of human beings by providing abundance of rain essential  for cultivation of crops, children, cattle ( wealth) ,long life and after life in the heavenly abode of ancestors.  The devas ( 33 in number )could be reached for their favours by offerings of produce from mother Earth like grains ,milk and its products , honey etc.  While  all the major devas have their abodes in the heaven called dyoloka  there are some devas who live on Earth as well as in heaven.  Agni deva (fire element) lives on Earth as fire and in heaven as Sun and serves as a carrier (havya-vahana)  for carrying  oblations offered to it on Earth to heaven for the deva to whom they are offered.  We find a mention of this belief in Bhagvad gita  swhich states “ having created mankind in the beginning together with yagnya , prajapati ( the vedic concept of god who controls even devas)said ‘by this shall you propogate , this shall be the  milk cow of your desires   (3/10)Again “Cherish the devas with yagnya and  may these devas cherish you. Thus cherishing one other you shall reap the supreme good ”(3/11)              

 Although this Vedic concept developed about 4000 years back and may look obsolete in the present era yet it continues to be an essential mode of   our rituals, be it daily worship of five panch mahabut yagnyass ( worship of five great elements), samaskaras like namakarn , yagnopavit marriage and death rituals.  Performance of yagnya is also done on other  auspicious occasions like greh pravesh ( entering new house ) after recovery from an ailment  or just for  success in business venture.  Performance of yagnya is also a social event among Kashmiri Pandits. Yagnya called havan is performed on religious events such as Ramnavami  or Durga ashtami or any other date to attract maximum community members for a communal event. 

English translation of the word nearest to its objective is sacrifice. It is an act of cleaning one’s mind of all impurities cause by various types of attachments. By offering one’s possessions in sacrifice one gets mentally liberated.  A puranic story explains this.  It is said that King Yudhisthara (of Mahabharata fame) performed a great yagnya called Rajsurya yagnya when he ascended throne after  Mahabharata war was over.  All learned and wise acclaimed that yagnya was unparalled till a mongoose with one side of body in golden colour turned up and rolled over the floor , hoping that this yagnya would turn him completely golden.  It did not happen and he pronounced all performers of yagnya as liars.  Then mongoose described the reason for his judgment.  He said “Years back a terrible famine cause large scale deaths in a village. A poor brahmin, hungry for days got some flour from a nobleman to feed himself and his family.  They were preparing  bread from the flour when I entered to ask for some food.  The brahmin offered  all that they  had to me. Next day I went again there and found the whole family had died of hunger.  I rolled over the floor where a few remnants of flour on ground turned my body golden  and since then I have been looking for such a yagnya which could turn my other side golden.”

We Kashmiri Pandits perform yagnya where under we offer oblations to five deities namely Ganesh, Shiv, Narayan ,Devi and Surya by offering 1000 oblations to each one of all the five deities in one go. Besides this before the start of offerings in the firepit (yagnyakund) considerable time is taken in installing Kalash, (Varundeva as witness to the performance of yagnya) installation of  Navgrehs ( nine planets) etc which also adds to the time and effort taken  in the performance of such a yagnya.  Normally the initiation starts late in the evening and is carried to next day upto  lunch time or dinner time  when all people around are invited to participate in final oblation called purn ahuti.  After this an aarti is performed followed by shantipath for the wellbeing of all. The performance of such a long ritual is very tiring and beyond the endurance of present day generation  for whom the whole objective of yagnya is a means of  social  get togetherness rather than purification of the soul.

An ideal way out in such situation could be to undertake performance of yagnya of each deity individually on different occasions.  It would take around 4-5 hours for the complete yagnya. And one could avoid overnight stay.  It could start around 8 in the morning and finish by noon or start around 3-4 pm and complete by evening.    All the participants in the performance of yagnya could be associated physically and mentally by presenting to them a copy of 1000 recitation through which offerings are made.  It would give satisfaction to all and bring awareness of our traditions  among our community.  It may be stated here that at some places this practice is already followed. Remember all the gods to whom we make offerings are not different gods. There is only one god with different manifestations.  Another quote from Bhagwad gita will make it clear  Endowed with faith men engage in  the worship of my various forms from which they get their desires ,which are being actually ordained by Me”(7/22).

For more information on this subject please consult “ Socio- Cultural and Religious Traditions of Kashmiri Pandits” available from Uttpal Publications Delhi ( phone 9818447636)or send mail to    
Kashmiri Writers P.L. Raina


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