When was the First Vedic Homa done? – I
by Jayasree Saranathan on 23 Oct 2023 9 Comments

Vedas are timeless, but Vedic culture has a time of genesis. Since Agni upasana is the basis of the Vedic culture, the time period of the use of Agni for worship marks the beginning of the Vedic culture. Vedic Homa which is fundamental to Vedic culture was mis-interpreted by the Aryan Migration Theorists claiming that the Homa was brought to Bharat by the ‘Aryan’ Europeans. Without knowing that the beginnings of the Vedic Homa are enshrined in our scriptures, we are putting forth reactionary responses. Instead, we must put forth our native version that someone from among us in a distant past had performed the first ever Vedic Homa, which spread throughout Bharat and beyond. This is a study of the first Homa.


Agni as basis of Homa

Agni is the basic element needed for the Homa. Vayu Purana [chapter 29, Part I] lists the progenies of Agni by stating the first manifestation of Agni and how it sprang up in different ways in due course, for different purposes. This is repeated in the Mahabharata in Vana Parvan, by sage Marka??eya to the Pandava brothers. Basically, Agni is recognized as the mental son, mind-born of Brahma, the Creator God.


This suggests that what is naturally existent in Nature is termed as the mental son of Brahma. How the naturally existing fire came to be ‘harvested’ by man is recounted in a story form by Bhi?ma to Yudhi??hira from his arrow-bed in Anusasana parvan in the Mahabharata. The decoding of this story reveals the incredible knowledge possessed by the ancient sages of Bharat – even a glimpse of this is not possible in the European Urheimat from where the so-called Aryan migrants emerged.


Agni, mental son of Brahma

The story is about how Agni, lord of the Universe and son of Brahma, was not sighted in the beginning. Scientifically it is true that fire was not seen when the earth was completely immersed in water in early times. The deities in their search for Agni sighted a frog popping out of the water and asked it whether it had seen Agni. The frog replied in the positive saying that it had jumped out of water on being scorched by the Agni residing in the nether worlds. Indeed, the submerged landforms were warm due to the hot core of the earth.


The story goes that on hearing the frog revealing its location in the bottom-most regions of the earth, Agni got angry with the frog and cursed it to be deprived of the organ of taste and moved to hide itself in the Asvattha tree. The mention of the Asvattha tree signals a time when landforms appeared and were covered with vegetation. The deities searching for Agni thanked the frog for revealing the presence of Agni under the water and blessed it to retain the tongue, which however makes incoherent noises.


The Asvattha tree becoming the home of Agni is indicative of fire getting ignited by the trees in the dense forest. The dry woods of the forest on rubbing against each other on a hot windy day caused forest fires, which is figuratively told as the Asvattha tree hiding the fire or Agni. Known as Ficus religiosa, this tree is native to India, China and SE Asia and not other parts of the world. This distribution of the tree seems to convey that the knowledge of fire originated in the Asian Tropics before any other place in the world. Further development of the story seems to reinforce this inference.


To the deities trying to see Agni, the elephant said that Agni was in the Asvattha tree. This caused Agni to shift its place once again and this time it went to hide in the Sami tree, after cursing the elephant to have a tongue that bends backward for having spoken about its hide-out. The deities, pleased with the elephant in their search for Agni, blessed the elephant to be capable of eating anything.


The next traitor was the parrot residing in the Sami tree. It revealed the presence of Agni in the Sami tree. Enraged, Agni cursed the parrot to have the tongue turned up. However, this curse was modified by the deities and sages by blessing the parrot to have a sweet voice. By now the deities and sages got a glimpse of Agni in the Sami tree and obtained Agni from the tree. The tree was also used for religious purposes.


Two revelations from this story


1] Tongue, the organ of taste and speech, is the focus of attention in the story. All three animals, the frog, the elephant and the parrot suffered a defect in the tongue on account of Agni’s curse. At the mundane level, only knowledge of the use of Agni satisfies the tongue, the organ of taste. The food cooked in fire is relished by the tongue. At the sublime level, the same organ is vital for recitals and chanting in the worship of Agni in Homa.


The reference to some kind of rectification of the curse in the story, being centred around the faculty of speech, suggests that the one who protects Agni, can do so with a powerful organ of speech or his speech becomes powerful by Agni upasana. The Homa and recitals are inseparable. They go hand in hand.


2] The perception of Agni in different places follows a scientific pattern of how heat started getting manifest as fire. The Asvattha and Sami trees are pan-tropical, suggesting the emergence of the knowledge of making fire in the hot tropics. The shift from Asvattha and Sami seems to imply the spread of the knowledge of fire around the globe.


Botanically known as Prosopis cineraria, the Sami tree grows in many places including deserts, and is said to be fire-resistant. This was symbolically represented as fire residing in the tree. The initial knowledge of obtaining fire was perhaps learned from forest fires, by friction among trees. Thus, fire or Agni became the natural or mind-born son of Brahma. 


Sons of Agni

Agni, the son of Brahma, gave birth to three sons according to Vayu Purana that devotes a complete chapter on the genealogy of Agni. The three sons were Pavaka, Pavamana and Suci or Saura referring to Sun. Pavaka was the first son of Brahma. It is obtained from Vaidyuta, meaning lightening. His son Brahmaudanagni was famous by the name Bharata. This being the name of our country, let us digress a little to know what Bharata means. Bharas is the root word meaning ‘cherishing’, ‘holding’, ‘bearing’ etc.


An elaboration of this meaning appears in Vi??u Purana in the context of the child Bharata getting accepted by Du?yanta as his son, on the word of Sakuntala. When Du?yanta was advised by the sages to accept Sakuntala, they said, ‘Cherish thy son, Du?yanta.” On the one side Sakuntala had spoken the truth, on the other Du?yanta accepted it and decided to ‘cherish’ the child. Therefore, the child came to be known as Bharata. The descendants of Bharata were Bharata-s.


Bharata as the name of Agni is expressed in Satapatha Brahma?a as one carrying offerings to the deities. Bharata is that which cherishes when cherished. It bears those who take care of it. That name appearing for Agni, the grandson of Brahma, gives us the first clue why Agni, the cherished Agni or the Agni that cherishes those who cherish it, became the name of this land. Only the land of Bharat ‘cherished’ Agni beyond the common-place use of satiating the tongue by taste but by worshiping deities with the aid of Agni.


The other son, Pavamana is obtained by churning. This seems to refer to deliberate churning to obtain fire by the act of friction. This is different from eruption of fire in Nature and discussed in the story described earlier. Such fires in Nature are caused by the heat of the sun.


The third son Suci is referred to as Saura, the fire from the sun. In the progeny of Suci, i.e., the Sun, the hero of our story on Vedic Homa was born! He was Adbhuta.


The lineage is Suci -> Ayus -> Mahiman -> Savana -> Adbhuta. All these fires trace their beginning to the Sun, perhaps through forest fire on hot sunny days. Now the crucial question: Agni was the father of the three, Pavaka, Pavamana and Suci; then who was their mother? Vayu Purana informs us that Svaha was their mother. They were born by the marriage of Agni with Svaha!


Who was Svaha?

Svaha is the term chanted while making the oblations in the Homa fire. Without Svaha, no oblations are made. Therefore, the marriage of Svaha with Agni can only refer to the first ever time the practice of offering oblations into fire was started. This signals the birth of Homa culture that forms the basis of the Vedic culture.


The story of Svaha and her marriage with Agni is narrated by sage Marka??eya to the Pandava-s in Vana parvan of the Mahabharata. ‘Svaha’ was the daughter of Dak?a. (Being the daughter of Dak?a Prajapati implies that she (it) has an inevitable existence in Nature). She wanted to marry Agni. That Agni was Adbhuta, the descendant of Suci.


The story of Svaha’s love for Adbhuta contains some secrets about the time of the first Vedic Homa and the first performer of that Homa. Adbhuta is the name of the fire born to Savana, coming in the lineage of fire induced by the sun’s heat. The etymologies of the names of his ancestors reveal a gradual development in the use of fire. From Suci the sun, Ayus was born. The naturally occurring fire caused by excessive heat of the sun seems to have been kept alive for long, by which it got the name Ayus. Vayu Purana says that Ayus is consecrated in animals. It could mean the heat in the body of the animals.


From Ayus, Mahiman was born, implying that man learned the power of fire and started using it for improving his life. His son was Savana who was used in cooking and sacrifices. The fire used for cooking flesh was known as Savana whose remnant or extension was Adbhuta. A clear picture of the nature of Adbhuta emerges from the progeny of Adbhuta. It was Vivici, the grandson of Adbhuta who eats the offerings in expiatory rites of sinners! So, Adbhuta comes in the chain of growing or maintaining fire used for cooking flesh and food for degraded ones, implying those who consumed anything as food.


Marka??eya says that Adbhuta became the household fire which points to primitive times when man used fire regularly for heating and burning the prey he captured for food. The story continues to state that Adbhuta started becoming lustful of the wives of the seven sages of the Sapta rishi Mandala. The narration which is entirely metaphorical starts giving some celestial secrets from this part onwards.


The fire Adbhuta desiring the rishi-patni-s speaks of some lowly nature. This perhaps meant that fire could not rise very high as if to touch the sky (the rishi-patni-s) due to various natural causes. The population might have dwindled. With not many to nurture the fire, Adbhuta was perhaps feeding on dirt and filth at that time. Adbhuta retired to the forest with the idea of destroying himself. This fire was about to die in the forest, says the story, which reiterates that not many people were around or not much food / flesh was available for eating.


This could refer to a time of less heat as happened during the Ice age when the left-out fire after cooking flesh (in the forest) was dying on its own. A forest offers good food for fire, but by stating that Adbhuta went to the forest to destroy himself, it indicates that the climate was not hot enough to trigger Adbhuta fire, born of the Sun. It means the sun was cold. Such conditions prevailed during the Ice Age that came to an end 12,000 years ago.


At that time, Svaha started taking a liking for him, which, going by the chant of ‘Svaha’ in the homa during offerings, refers to Svaha trying to nourish the fire! But Adbhuta was not interested in her. He was thinking of the rishi-patni-s only. Svaha decided to gratify her desire by fooling Adbhuta. Each day she impersonated one of the wives of the Sapta-rishi-s and cohabited with Agni. Over six days she impersonated the wives of six sages and collected the semen in a golden lake. She could not impersonate Arundhati due to her ascetic merit, says Marka??eya. This is allegorical of the celestial position of Arundhati, found not deviating from following Vasi??ha! From the semen of the Agni collected by Svaha, in the guise of the wives of six rishi-s, Skanda was born with six faces!


(To be continued …)

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top