Types of Rituals and Rites in Yajur Veda
In the Vedic Period, rituals and sacrifices or 'Yagya' was performed by the priest or 'Adhvaryu', who was proficient in Yajur-Vedic rites. A detailed account of such actions was obtained from the 'Brahmana' and the 'Kalpa' compilations of Yajur Veda, known as 'Yajur Veda Samhita'. Pushkara has said that the verse running as Manasa Kankhitam (what the mind craves for) etc, brings about the realisation of one's heart's desires, when made use of in a; 'Homa' ceremony. Such a Homa undertaken with a view to confer blessings on a particular individual, as well as the one performed for the expiation of one's sins, should respectively consist of oblations composed of barley and sesame.
Horse sacrifice, 'soma' sacrifice and sacrifices offered during important ceremonies like coronations of royal lords, wedding ceremonies, birth ceremonies and various other ceremonies were the different kinds of offerings performed according to the Yajur Veda. Out of all these sacrifices, the most prestigious sacrifice was considered to be 'Sarvamedha', wherein the person performing the sacrifice offered his belongings to the priest as his fee. This was done at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Rites in Yajur Veda comprise various forms of principal sacrifices and rituals or 'homas'. It has been said that oblations composed of paddy or white mustard-seeds, should be cast into the sacrificial fire, with the 'Mantras', whereby the performer of the Homa would attain all his objects. Such a Homa performed with a view to increase the number of one's cattle or domestic animals should consist of oblations of the twigs of an 'Oudumvara', cast into the fire with the same Mantra.
A person, wishing to have an uninterrupted supply of boiled rice, should perform such a Homa with libations of curd, while a solicitor of earthly peace, should do the same with libations of milk. A man eager to have gold in abundance should perform a Homa with oblations composed of the twigs of an 'Apsmarga' plant. A man seeking a wife, should perform the Homa with oblations of 'Jati' flowers, threaded together in pairs, while the man praying for the proprietary right in a village, should do the same with oblations composed of grains of sesames.
It has been said that a man wishing to secure the goodwill of others, should put on his nose a Tilak-mark made of yellow pigment (Gorochana), consecrated a thousand times with the proper Mantra. A repetition of the Rudra Mantras is sure to remove all sorts of misery, whether mental, physical or otherwise, whereas a Homa performed with the same Mantra, is sure to bring about the realisation of all desires, and is potent enough to work out peace under all circumstances. Rudra Homa is believed to attract the grace of Lord Shiva, and the many energies of this Hindu God. Performing this homa cleanses the environment by emitting 'prana', or life-force in the air. Many people consider that inhaling the smoke of a homa can heal ailments like asthma. If the holy ashes of the Rudra Homa are administered on the skin, one can get relief from such breathing disorders.
Similarly it has been said that a Rudra Homa performed with libations of sacrificial porridge or clarified butter, is the most soothing agent in stamping out and arresting the spread of plague or of any other epidemics among goats, horses, elephants, infants, women, men, kings or in checking any other disturbance, disease or foreign aggression, threatening or affecting a village, a town or a whole country.
Mantras as Significant Rites of Yajur Veda
A repetition of the 'Mantra', running as 'Sastin Indra', etc., removes all barriers both material and moral, standing in the way of an individual. A man, by seven times repeating the Mantra running as 'Namas Sivaha', is sure to be liberated from captivity. The verses 'Drupuda' etc., being duly repeated under water destroys all sins of the repeater.
Agni Purana narrates that similarly a due repetition of the Mantra running as 'Tasraa', etc, acts as a powerful agent in bringing about one's freedom from confinement, whereas a man, by duly repeating the Mantras, running as 'Yuva Suvasaj' becomes the master of a splendid wardrobe. A man, praying for an utter annihilation of his enemies, should recite the verses, commencing as 'Manchantu Ma', etc., while by casting into the sacrificial fire oblations of sesame dipped in clarified butter and by repeating the Mantras of 'Ma Mam Hinsi' , etc, a man is sure to keep his adversaries under a healthy control.
According to Pushkara in the Agni Purana man having practised self-control, should invoke and worship the Sun-god every day with the Mantras running as 'Asou Yastamra' whereby he would enjoy a long and prosperous life and an abundant supply of food every day.
The Purana says that a man, by performing a Homa ceremony with the two successive Mantras beginning as 'Gavo Bhaga', is sure to have a large number of horned cattle. The Mantra running as 'Pravadansha' etc., should be made use of in a sacrifice undertaken for the propitiation of one's malignant stars. Similarly, the Mantras running as 'Devabhyo Vanaspati' etc, should be used in sacrifices known as the 'Druma-yajnas' (sacrifices in connection with consecration of trees). The Mantras running as 'Tad Vishnu Paramam Padam', etc., should be deemed as the sacred Gayatri Mantra to the Lord Vishnu, a recitation whereof tends to absolve the reciter of all sins and impieties.
'Darsa Purnamasa' is a kind of sacrifice which is conducted on the first day of the new moon and also on the first day of the full moon. Both these days are considered holy by Hindus even today. Yajur Veda contains references of another sacrifice called 'Pindapitri Yajna', which is performed as a mark of respect to departed ancestors. 'Agnihotra' is the name of a certain ritual in which milk is offered daily to the sacred fire and is done twice during the day in the morning and evening. 'Chaturmasya' is another type of sacrifice prevalent in this ancient age which was offered once in every four months. 'Agnishtoma' is another sacrifice which is the easiest form of 'Soma' sacrifice. Kings performed the famous 'Rajasuya' following their accession to the throne or immediately after the expansion of their fame and glory after successful conquests and annexations. There also existed the renowned sacrifice named 'Asvamedha', the sacrifice which was performed by kings after wars.
'Agnyadhana' was another essential sacrifice performed with sacrificial fires which were immensely crucial for Hindus. The person offering Agnyadhana selected four priests, the 'Brahman', 'Hotri, 'Advaryu' and 'Agnidhra' for this ritual. Two separate sheds were created for the purpose of 'Garhapatya' and 'Ahavaniya' fires. The Garhapatya fire was lighted by after marking it withy a circle while the Ahavaniya fire was marked with a square. If required, then arrangements for a 'Dakshinagri' or southern fire were also done. After this, the priest or the Advaryu would light a temporary fire by friction of from some other sources from the village. After the purification of the sacred fireplace of the Garhapatya, the Advaryu then placed the fire over it. The sacrificer worshipped and prayed to the gods in the evening till the time when he and his wife were offered two pieces of wood, called the 'Arani'. The wood pieces were meant for the Ahavaniya fire which would be lighted the following morning. The couple offering this sacrifice had to remain awake throughout the night to ensure that the fire was aflame till the next day.
The White Yajur Veda has asserted that the dead were buried during that period. The bones of dead bodies would be accumulated in a container and then buried underground, beside a stream. The mound of the graves were built upto about knee length and covered with grass. Relatives of the deceased then bathed and left the burial grounds.
Agni Purana has said that in Yajur Veda different Mantras have been mentioned which are recited for various purposes and also a number of Homa ceremonies have been elucidated which are performed expecting various results. The Mantras, known as the great Vyahritis in the Yajur Veda should be used preceded by a Pranava Mantra. The wise should worship the gods by reciting the great 'Vyahritis', and cast a thousand libations of clarified butter into the fire in connection with the same, whereby all their sins would be expiated and all their objects fulfilled.
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