Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
As we observe the World Environment Day, the need to preserve the earth’s environment has never been as pressing as it is now. The environmental imbalances brought about by rising sea levels, natural catastrophes, increased level of carbon emission and air pollution is having a major bearing on our health and productivity. Such has been the deteriorating level of air quality that respiratory diseases are on the rise in urban areas, and the sale of air purifiers and masks sky-rocketing. Nine of the ten most polluted cities in the world are in India. Several studies, including that from the WHO and Cornell University point to the adverse impact of air pollution on children’s health, with newborns in India being among the most impacted. Thus, in order to secure a good health for our near and dear ones, purifying our environment becomes paramount.
So, the moot question is – what can people in such places with high levels of environmental pollution do? Initially, they can start to purify their own houses with the help of eco-friendly practices. Here, we talk about the ancient practice of agnihotra, which could be adopted as a natural mode for purifying not only our homes, but our surroundings as well.
What is Agnihotra
The concept of Agnihotra is not alien to us as we must have come across yajnas being performed in temples or at homes on special occasions. Agnihotra, a special type of yajna, is an ancient practice which involves preparing a special healing fire and is performed twice a day – during sunrise and sunset. Agnihotra helps in purification of one’s surroundings and dates back to the vedic period wherein brahmans used to perform agnihotra while pronouncing chants from the verses of the Rigveda and Yajurveda.
What Studies Have To Say
Several international studies have documented the positive impact of Agnihotra on the atmosphere. One of such studies was done in the 1980s at a Warsaw university in Poland. It showed that the bacterial count went down, after Agnihotra. After 12 hours of performing Agnihotra, less than 10 per cent of the original bacterial count was remaining.
Some other studies done in Fergusson College, Pune; Vikram University, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, and at North Maharashtra University, Jalgaon showed marked reduction in Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) and in the oxides of Sulphur and Nitrogen in air. This assumes significance as both RSPM and SPM are considered harmful for our respiratory system.
Dr. Ulrich Berk from Germany shares an astonishing finding on the positive impact of Agnihotra ash on drinking water. Berk advises one to add Agnihotra Ash to our drinking water. The ash removes pathogenic bacteria from water, and helps in purifying it. An impressive experiment done by Dr. John Matlander of Cuenca, Ecuador further elucidates this finding. Experiments indicate that Ash and fumes from Agnihotra, and even just proximity to Agnihotra fire can help purify water. Improvement in the water quality on the banks of India’s Narmada river was also observed within three days of adding the Agnihotra ash to the water body.
How To Perform Agnihotra
Agnihotra is a simple yet effective ritual and could be done hassle free at home weekly or even on a daily basis. While anyone can perform agnihotra, most important consideration to be kept in mind is the timing of the agnihotra. It should be performed during sunrise and sunset for best results. One can go through the panchang (Hindu calendar) of that particular day to know about the exact time of sunrise and sunset, and keep all the preparation ready beforehand.
Essential Items Required for Agnihotra:
* Dried Cow Dung
* Small sized Copper Pyramid Pot
* Pure cow ghee (unsalted)
* 2 pinches of unpolished rice
* Matches for igniting fire
*Take a small square piece of dried cow dung cake and place it at the bottom of the copper pyramid pot.
*Place two cow dung pieces horizontally and two pieces vertically such that a hollow space is created in the centre of the copper pot
*Take another piece of dry cow dung and apply cow ghee to it.
*Ignite the fire at appropriate time (ideally five minutes before sunrise/sunset).
*Take few grains of unpolished rice in your left hand and apply a few drops of pure cow ghee to the rice and mix well.
*Divide the smeared rice into two portions.
During time of sunrise, chant the morning mantra:
Sooryaya Swaaha Suryaya Idan Na mama / Prajapataye Swaaha Prajapataye Idan Na mama
As soon as you utter swaaha in the first mantra, take one portion (one pinch) of the rice and offer it to the fire. Similarly, after uttering swaaha in the second mantra, offer the remaining rice to fire.
Concentrate on the healing fire until all offerings are fully burnt. The morning Agnihotra concludes.
Now, at the exact time of sunset, chant the below mantra as follows:
Agnaye Swaaha Agnaye Idam Na mama|Prajapataye Swaaha Prajapataye Na mama|
Similar to morning ritual, after uttering swaaha both times, offer the two portions of rice mixture to the fire.
Sit in silence after you perform the process in the morning and/or evening.
Benefits of Agnihotra Homa
*Agnihotra helps in purifying the air and surroundings. The copper pyramid pot used in the process generates negative ions, and help clear the air of various hazardous particles. Furthermore, the cow dung and pure ghee act as natural disinfectants and reduce bacteria and toxicity in the air and surroundings.
*Agnihotra not only helps in reducing pathogenic bacteria and other pollutants in the air, but also purifies water resources in the surrounding areas. Agnihotra homa ensures healthy air and pure drinking water – thus providing a strong foundation for good health.
*The chanting of the Agnihotra mantra activates special vibrations. Mantras are said to have a positive effect on every aspect of human life and surroundings.
*Chanting of Mantras in the homa help calm the mind and relieve mental stress.
*The magnetic field created by Agnihotra neutralizes the negative energy and intensifies the ‘prana’ and positive energy in the house. This is also considered good in removing obstacles obstructing our progress
*The unpolished rice offers a balance of ying-yang effect and releases several ethereal oils. The smoke generated from the homa binds harmful radiations in the air and neutralizes the radioactive effect.
*The homa on the whole purifies blood and benefits circulatory system.
*Chanting and concentration during Homa is found to renew brain cells too
*Participation in homa regularly also helps rejuvenate the skin over a period of time
*The ash left after the homa could be offered to plants, and helps in nourishing the plant
A clean and healthy environment is an important precondition for ensuring good health. Thus, by starting with our homes and cleaning up the air and water through ancient practices like the Agnihotra, we can reduce or at least prevent some of the greatest health risks posed to us by environmental pollution.
(With inputs from The Art of Living’s Vaidic Dharm Sansthan)