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mahā-yajña


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A highly simplified or concentrated form of Vedic ritual through which the householder (gṛhastha) is thought to fulfill his daily ritual obligations to i) the gods (devas), ii) the ancestors (pitṛs), iii) the spirits (bhūtas), iv) other human beings (typically brahmins), and v) brahman (neut.). These yajñas, usually referred to as the ‘five great sacrifices’ (pañca-mahāyajñas)—consist, respectively, of i) devayajña—a minimal oblation (such as a stick of wood) offered into the fire, ii) pitṛyajña—the offering of food and water (the tarpaṇa), iii) bhūtayajña—the offering of a rice ball or flowers, iv) narayajña— hospitality (the offering of food) to brahmins or the twice-born (dvija), and v) brahmāyajña—recitation of the Veda (i.e. of a Vedic mantra). Seen originally, in the Brāhmaṇas and Āraṇyakas, as a way for the householder to pay off his debts, they are regarded by Manusmṛti as expiations for the necessary violence (hiṃsā) involved in householder life.

Subjects: Hinduism.


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