Homa (also known as homam or havan) is a Sanskrit word which refers to any ritual in which making offerings into a consecrated fire is the primary action. At present, the words homa/homam and havan are interchangeable with the word Yagna. Homas are an important religious practise in Hinduism, where they part of most of the Sanskar ceremonies, Buddhism (particularly the Tibetan and Japanese Vajrayana traditions) and Jainism.
Although a consecrated fire is the central element of every homa ritual, the procedure and items offered to the fire vary by what occasions the ceremony, or by the benefit expected from the ritual. Procedures invaribly involve -
- the kindling and consecration of the sacrificial fire;
- the invocation of one or more divinities; and,
- the making of offerings (whether real or visualized) to them with the fire as via media, amid the recitation of prescribed prayers and mantras.
The consecrated fire forms the focus of devotions; it is often maintained on specific types of dung, wood, dried coconut (copra) and/or other combustibles. The fire-altar (vedi or homa/havan kunda) is generally made of brick or stone or a copper vessel, and is almost always built specifically for the occasion, being dismantled immediately afterwards. This fire-altar is invaribly built in square shape. While very large vedis are occasionally built for major public homas, the usual altar may be as small as 1 x 1 foot square and rarely exceeds 3 x 3 feet square. Again, whereas major altars at public events may include a hollowing of the earth to create a relatively deep pit, usual altars involve no such excavation and indeed rise only inches above the ground.
Beliefs and practices
In all events, the arrangement is centered in the middle of a space, which may be either outdoors or indoors. The principal people performing the ceremony and the priests who instruct them through the rituals seat themselves around the altar, while family, friends and other devotees form a larger ring around that center. The length and procedure of a homa depends on the purpose to which it is performed; many different types of homas exist, and the following list is only illustrative.
Homa ritual in Shingon Buddhism
The homa ritual, transliterated as goma (護摩) is performed often in Shingon Buddhism. The homa, often invoking the deity Fudo Myoo, was adopted by the Esoteric tradition as a ritual not only for making secular requests and blessings, but also for burning the 108 passions and for seeking wisdom. The ritual is required as a basic practice for Shingon priests.
Some common homas
Homa rituals have been performed by Vedic priests for several millennia. The following is an illustrative list of a few such homa rituals:
|Aayushya homa||to ward of evil influences present in a child's life immediately following its birth, thereby ensuring longevity|
|Dhanavantri homa||for good health|
|Durga homa||to cancel negative energies; for self-confidence|
|Gayatri homa||to facilitate positive thinking and subsequently performing good karma|
|Kritya Pariharana||to counter the effects of black magic|
|Ganapathi homa||to overcome obstacles|
|Lakshmi Kubera homa||for wealth and material prosperity|
|Mangala Samskarana homa||to celebrate auspicious events; to attain Moksha|
|Mahadevi homa||for the stimulation of a marriage and for marital felicity among those already married|
|Navagraha homa||to appease the Nine planets and limit the evil influences in one's horoscope|
|Punyahavachana homa||for the naming of a child|
|Sudarshana homa||for success in an undertaking|
|Vastu homa||a house-warming; to encourage good Vastu (energy in buildings)|
|Vidya homa||to benefit students; to facilitate learning|
|Vishwa Shanthi homa||for universal peace and harmony, as also harmony between the self and the universe|
|Viraja Homa||purification rites performed as part of the formal ceremonies by which a person takes the vows of renunciation (Sannyas), thereby becoming a Sanyasi (monk)|
The purification rites of the Viraja homa ritual also apply to the formal ceremonies by which a Hindu monk takes up the vows of renunciation (Sannyas), thereby becoming a Sanyasi. The procedure is a part of the full Sannyas Diksha monastic initiation ceremony. After the Homa, the monk receives the ochre robes the characteristic dress of Hindu monks, from his teacher (guru).