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Do vedic yajnas really produce rain?

Updated on December 2, 2009

We continue to see the importance accorded to Vedic yagnya (or yajna or yagya) ritual when it comes to rain-making. Time and again Vedic priests perform Vedic yagnyas to invoke Gods Varuna or Indra in order to obtain rainfall. The most popular verse from Vedic scriptures that modern Hindus quote in support of this faith based activity is from Bhagavad-Gita -

Annaad-bhavanti bhuutaani parjanyaad-anna sambhavah,
yagnyaad-bhavati parjanyo yagnyah karma samudbhavah

Lord Krishna reveals so to Arjuna in the battlefield as written in Vyasa’s Mahabharata. Translated, it means that the life is born from food, food is produced by rain, rain is produced by performing yagnya and that yagnya is performed by doing Karma. A majority of Hindus attach spiritual importance to this stanza & consider it devoid of any metaphysical reality. A minority considers the metaphysical aspect before discarding it as only of a spiritual import, i.e. does it directly imply that a Vedic yagnya does cause rain? Those more learned in Vedas acknowledge that the rites of conducting and performing such yagnyas are listed as shrouta sutras (i.e. passed down as ‘shruti’) aggregated in Brahmanas in later ages of our ancient history. The procedure of performing such rituals is elaborate and stipulate animal sacrifice. A typical yagnya is a ritualistic sacrifice endowed by spirituality of mind. It consist of, in its simplest form, an alter within which the sacred fire is placed (usually ignited naturally using dried leaves and wood without use of matches or lighter) and oblations/offerings are offered into such fire as the Hotar and priests recite the Vedic mantras prescribed. The yagnya can last for hours to days to months to several years depending on the type of the yagnya. In 2008, priests at Tirupathi performed a prescribed yagnya to obtain rain & rain it did to such an extent that the Chief Minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh, India attributed the rains to the yagnya. More recently in August of this year, priests in Mumbai performed a yagnya for the same reason. The athiratra somayaga performed in 1956 in Kerala, India sacrificed 11 goats by strangulation as prescribed. But the one performed in 1976 did not & replaced animals with symbolic ritual. Notwithstanding the animal sacrifice, do these yagnyas really cause rain? Is rainfall induced by the performance of these yagnyas, as claimed by the followers and practitioners of the Vedic religion? Before we go further, let us first acknowledge that the continuous burning of wood, combined with clarified butter and other offerings made to the sacrificial fire, i.e. Agni, in a yagnya releases a variety of chemical particles into the atmosphere.

Coming to more recent history in 1915, a gentleman by the name of Charles Hatfield stumped everyone in the city of San Diego, CA in USA by announcing that he would get rid of the horrendous drought that seized San Diego in 1915 by making it rain. He used his rainmaking apparatus, details about which he kept to himself as his trade secret, in the mountains of Moreno reservoir, on the outskirts of San Diego. His apparatus consisted of a tall wooden tower, on top of which he assembled galvanized vessels on a platform. He mixed a concoction of some chemicals (which he did not reveal) and in such vessels and soon vaporous fumes went up into the cloudless sky. He called it moisture acceleration. The next morning, it started raining and the rains did not let up until a week went by. He carried out similar procedures elsewhere in the country soon after his fame and accomplishment spread, some with successes repeated and some resulting in failures. However, he never revealed the mixture of his chemical concoction to anyone and took his trade secret to his grave in 1958. When he was alive, critics and supporters were only interested in finding out from him the content of his chemical mixture. I wish someone asked him who taught him this skill or where he first found it.

Critics of his methods claimed him to be nothing more than a snake oil seller or someone who knew how to predict rain and used the timing to his advantage. Most creations of science were initially considered to be equally outrageous or spellbinding. To his credit, if he knew how to predict well, he would have saved himself the trouble of tinkering around with his hefty apparatus and chemicals and declared himself as a resurrected Jesus or a famous miracle maker who can make rain with a clap of his hands. I highly doubt that meteorological prediction as a ‘modern’ science was well developed by 1915 to be used by him in his work. More likely is this explanation, which helps make a point on moisture or ‘rain’ acceleration –

Raindrops get their start as cloud droplets. At the center of almost every cloud droplet is a condensation nucleus, a microscopic particle of smoke, dust or salt that serves as a place for water vapor to condense. While condensation nuclei are invisible to the unaided eye, they are much larger than an individual water vapor molecule.” – as reported on USA Today website. It is uncontested that for a raindrop or a cloud droplet to form, a particle of smoke or dust is required. Was this why perhaps the ancient Vedic seers prescribed a yagnya as a prescription for rain?

Nowadays, the science behind his concept of moisture acceleration is followed and experimented using different terminology called cloud seeding. This attempt by the scientific community appears to originate from lack of understanding of how this chemical-rain making succeeds in some instances and fails in others. But the rebranding to ‘cloud seeding’ may be to distance themselves away from the heavily critiqued Charles Hatfield, lest they may be seen as similar snake charmers. At the core of the concept of cloud seeding lies the same practice of composing a chemical mixture and sending it into the sky. As reported in Las Vegas Sun newspaper on November 25, 2009 “Cloud seeding creates rain Northern Nevada needs, Las Vegas wants” - “Cloud seeding means adding chemicals to clouds to induce or increase precipitation. In Nevada that most often involves pumping silver iodide particles into clouds from a remote controlled mountaintop station when the right cloud patterns are present. The silver iodide changes the composition of ultracold water in the clouds, turning the liquid into snow or ice, which then falls to the ground.

Like the modern-intellect-appeasing so called ‘scientific’ concepts of moisture acceleration and cloud seeding above, Vedic yagnyas also involved releasing a chemical composition into the air in an effort to induce rain fall. Of course, the chemicals released in a yagnya were derived by organic compounds concocted using carbohydrates, protein and fat burnt in fire and wood; but whether such released chemicals are identical to chemicals released in cloud seeding or of those released by Charles Hatfield is not known to me. I am an accountant and can put two & two together like in this case, but this matter of conjuncture, I would leave to be exploited by a person of science. However, in light of such recent scientific development in the area of chemically induced rain making, it is not hard to believe that the Vedic yagnyas performed since the ancient past are also reasonably successful in producing rain.


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