Do you have Deities at home?
This the 38th question that Yaksha poses to Dharmaraja Yuddhistir. He asks:
Who is the common guest to all human beings?
To this Yuddhistir replied, the common guest to all human is indeed Agni Bhagawan. In Vedic terms, performing any auspicious task translates as propitiating Agni Bhagawan, for his blessings yield auspicious results. It is a common norm that in the presence of Agni, (that is when the flame is shining bright), food-articles are rendered at his service. This is a gesture that satisfies the deity and benedicts one with the desired results. This process is called Homam.
In our Puranas and Itihasas, we have heard kings performing fire sacrifices to beget children (Putra Kameshti Yajna). So, the priests commencing such rituals arrange for a massive Homam-Kunda to ensure that the fire is shining throughout the ritual and does not blow off. If the flame is burning low it means that the deity hasn’t been installed yet. Therefore, when the flame of the Homam-Kunda is burning low, one mustn’t offer anything.
Homam is initiated during occasions of kalyanam (marriage ceremony), garbhadanam (ritual observed at the time of pregnancy), or griha pravesham (inaugurating your new house). Without fire being ignited on auspicious occasions, none of the rituals are brought to completion.
Practices to keep in mind during homam
1) It is said that while performing homam, one must exclusively attend to Agni Bhagawan and not leave the ritual unfinished. The host performing the yajna must be present in all phases to render services to the revered guest. Once the sacred Agni (fire) calms and turns off, the host is allowed to carry on his other chores.
Why is this important?
We must keep in mind that Agni Bhagawan is a deity and not mere flames as what our senses perceive. He is a living guest who has come to bless the host with the results of his desires. Just like we do not attend to our petty chores after inviting an important guest (like our boss for dinner), we must attend to Agni Bhagawan by offering gifts, mantras and ghee as instructed by our priest. Keeping the flame ignited throughout the auspicious ritual, without allowing it to turn off is a crucial aspect, determining the success of the ritual.
2) We must not disrespect the sacred fire by: placing slippers near the homam-kunda, offering unsanctified (half eaten, tasted, stale) articles in the sacred fire. Keeping this point in mind is extremely crucial as negating this will yield contradictory results. Taking that one step further by inquiring about the source of articles can gift the host with multiple benefits.
Why is Agni important?
According to the answer of Dharmaraja, Agni devata has been given the first and foremost position of the guest qualified to accept first-hand services of the host. All other guests are placed at a secondary position. Attending to the needs of the latter without paying heed to Agni Bhagawan yields no benefits. He is the most superior of all guests as he accompanies individuals throughout their important phases of life. Be it marriage, garbhadanam, griha pravesham, or any devata homam, Agni devata is a default guest, a relative as he is made a witness of all actions/rituals one performs. In this way, he becomes an intrinsic member of the family.
In the material world, on some occasions important invitees or relatives are not able to make their presence felt due to other priorities but it is Agni Devata alone who commences all auspicious rituals. For rituals exclusively dedicated to a specific deity or a Devata (like Mitra or Varuna, Hanumanji, Dhanvantari or any other form of God) it is only through the medium of the homam kunda that the Yajna is brought to fruition. Ahooti (articles) offered in the fire reaches the Devata for whom the Homam is being conducted. Through homam, both the deity of worship and Agni Devata are pleased.
The next question is:
What is nectar?
This question has a contextual reference and cannot be taken literally as the Yaksha very well knows that nectar obtained from Samudra Manthan (or churning of the ocean) was delivered to the Devatas. This question refers to the nectar available to man and to which Yuddhistir replied: Soma (Chandra Dev or moon God) is nectar who is present in the milk of the holy mother, cow.
Benefits of Cow’s milk
Cow’s milk is indeed nectar for man. It proves to be the best medicine for the diseased and a sumptuous treat for the healthy folks. This can be well understood by the following example. A man suffering from ‘pitam’ or excess production of bile consumes milk to cure it but the same man once cured can feast on milk in the form of sweets, chocolates and other delicacies! Since infants, we have sucked milk from our mothers and as time progressed, cows held the position of our mother by providing her precious milk.
1) Children who suffer from malnutrition, if consistently fed with cow’s milk can regain their nutritional requirements over a period of time.
2) Mothers suffering from lactation insufficiency seek cow’s milk because it is the most suitable supplement for mother’s milk. Scientific research has proved that cow’s milk has all the necessary micro and macro nutrients required to promote child’s growth. Soy, almond, goat, buffalo or any other domestic animal milk cannot equate the benefits of cow’s milk. In the spiritual parlance, cow is deemed as sacred and her milk has satvik properties which is most suitable for infants and people across all age groups. It is similar to mother’s milk and requires least filtration. It is safe for children to consume. On the other hand, buffalo’s milk has excess fats which can be life threatening for infants as their digestive tracts are yet to mature. Due, to the exceptional properties of cow’s milk, cows are called ‘Gow-mata’ or ‘mother cow’.
Benefits of Panchagavya – A blessing to mankind
3) Panchagavya: Cow products offer various magical benefits for the internal body system as well as for external, bodily beautification. Panchagavya is an extraordinary solution made up of 3 directly available cow products (milk, cow’s urine, cow dung,) plus 2 products derived from cow’s milk that are (curds and ghee). A mixture of these 5 cow products create Panchagavya. It has benefitted many people with it being an organic body cleanser that sweeps toxic substances from the digestive tracts and strengthens immunity. Also, it nourishes skin and hair adding to the beauty of the person. The Gow mutra alone has innumerable benefits which is multiplied when consumed with other exceptional cow products! Panchagavya plays a vital role in the proper functioning of brain, nerves and other body parts.
In a nutshell, cow milk has got all the medicinal properties required for man to live a healthy life and for this reason, cow’s milk is called Soma or nectar.