The following are some of the reasons for performing the Sudarshana Homam.
The Sudarshana Chakram is the mighty weapon of Lord Narayana and has many auspicious attributes associated with it. Most importantly, it has the attribute of "Pida Pradanam" which gives immediate relief from pain and sufferering to the seeker/performer.
The Sudarshana Chakram also has the attribute of "Papa Nashanam", i.e., the destruction of sins. This is the first step to be adopted in the realization of God (Lord Narayana).
Swami Desikan most eloquently summarizes the characteristics of the mighty Chakram in both the Sudarshana Ashtakam as well as the Shodasayudha Stotram.
The Chakram pervades both space and time as gleaned from Swami Desikan's Shodasayudha Stotram (Kala Chakram Jagat Chakram Cha). Also the the Sudarshana Chakram is the abode of the Vyuha Murthis Sankarshana and Para Vasudeva (forms of Narayana in Vyuha) as seen from Swami Desikan's Sudarshana Ashtakam (Nija Para Vyuha Vaibhava). The Sudarshana is the mighty jwala at the center of the Kalanala and has the radiance of a 1000 suryas as can be seen from the Stotram of Ambarisha (Sahasraditya Sankasham Sahasra Vadanam Param Sahasradoh Sahasraram Prapadyeham Sudarshanam). Thus, this is dispeller of all forms of darkness (ignorance, evil). Also, the mighty Jwala is the aspect of Jwala Nrisimhar who destroyed Hiranyakashipu and therefore, is resident in the Sudarshana Yantram. Thus, offering prayers to Sudarshana Chakram is equivalent to offering prayers to the entire Dashavataram. Great scholars seek the support of the Chakram before engaging in debatesas can be seen from Swami Desikan's Sudarshana Astakam (Pratita Vidwat Sapakshita). In the Ahirbudhnya Samhita, Ahirbudhyan (Shiva) desires to seethe glorious form of Sudarshana Chakram which is again referenced in Swami Desikan's Sudarshana Ashtakam (Bhajata Ahirbudhnya Lakshita).
The Sudarshana Chakram grants Moksham to anyone who surrenders to it as well as anyone who is killed by it (examples: Shishupala, the crocodile who held Gajendra in his clutches, Narakasura who were all liberated on account of being killed by the Chakram). Ambarisha is an example of one who surrendered to the Chakram and was thus constantly protected by the Chakram. At his request, the Chakram desisted its pursuit of Durvasa Maharishi. Great scholars have not been able to understand the full extent or power of the Sudarshana Chakram (as seen from Swami Desikan's Sudarshana AshtakamParijanatrana Pandita).
The Sudarshana Chakram has healing characteristics. Therefore performance of the Sudarshana Homam gives relief froma afflictions of fever and even possession by the mighty Brahma Rakshasa. A legend has it that Swami Desikan composed the Sudarshana Astakam to help the people of a village stricken by the plague epidemic. As soon as Swami Desikan finished his composition, the epidemic was over.
In conclusion, the performance of the Sudarshana Homam grants the performer health, wealth and prosperity. If the performer seeks spiritual benefits, while performing the Homam, he gets it. If the person seeks material benefit, he is blessed with all riches upon conclusion of the Homam. You may find the
related articles by Sri Sadagopan (on the Sudarshana Narasimha iconography as well as his translation of the Sudarshana Ashtakam) very useful. I have gained a lot of information in this post from his articles.
Om KlEm KrishnAya GovindAya Gopijana Vallabhaya
ParAya Parama PurushAya ParamAtmane
Para Karma Mantra Yantra Tantra Oushada Astra ShastrAni Samhara Samhara
MrutyOr MOchaya MOchaya
Om Namo Bhagavate Maha SudarshanAya DEpthrae
JwAla ParivruthAya Sarva Dikshobhana KarAya
Hum Phat Brahmane Paranjyotishe SwahAa
Vishnu Homam (with Vishnu sahasra naama stotram)
You can use the resources below to perform a Vishnu Homam by yourself with Vishnu sahasra naama stotram. Homam or havan is a Hindu fire ritual.
Download a Vishnu Homam manual (version dated 2009 June 11) with mantras in Sanskrit, English, Telugu, Kannada or Malayalam. The instructions are in English in all manuals, but mantras are written in various languages. This manual explains the details of a quick 30-minute Vishnu Homam procedure. Several options are suggested for the main mantra of pradhaana homam. It is simple enough to perform daily or weekly or monthly.
You can download free software to view PDF files at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/index.html.
Download the quick reference (cheat sheet) containing only mantras in Sanskrit, English, Telugu, Kannada or Malayalam. These documents contain only mantras. One should first download the full manuals and learn the procedure. After one becomes comfortable, one may want to just print the quick reference and do homam using it.
The introductory portion of the document are reproduced below in HTML format. Please scroll down to read it. If you see some garbled text, it may be because of missing Sanskrit fonts. If you download the PDF file, you will be able to see it correctly because the fonts are embedded in the PDF file. Unfortunately, what it reproduced below is HTML and not PDF.
Om Sri MahaaGanapathaye Namah Om Sri Gurubhyo Namah Om Rishibhyo Namah
Sri Vishnu Sahasra Naama Homam
Laghu Paddhati (Short Procedure)
By P.V.R. Narasimha Rao
Date of current version
: 2009 June 11
A Word from the author
My spiritual master Dr Manish Pandit hails from Pune, India and lives in Manchester, UK. The idea of spreading homam in the world was revealed to him in a dream a few years ago. He saw eight elevated beings in a dream. They transported him across blue skies to Chennai, India, where he was shown the big fire that was to be lighted in future. They told him to start the work. They assured him that homam as a spiritual sadhana was very appropriate in Kali yuga. As spiritually inclined people have fewer and fewer hours to spend on spiritual sadhana everyday with the progressing Kali yuga, sadhanas that work fast are more relevant. Homam works much faster than japam and other spiritual sadhanas. They told him that the practice of homam would transform into a movement that would reach across caste, class and race barriers.
Later, when we were performing a Shata Chandi Homam in the first week of March 2006 at the Kalikambal temple in Chennai, he had a darshan of Divine Mother on a Friday and was reassured by Her about the right course of events regarding spreading homam. A Mahaganapathi homam manual was published later and several people are performing it daily or weekly or monthly.
Our goal is to create a community of people who regularly perform a quick homam for the deity that they are attracted to. We intend to make manuals available for simplified homam procedures for several deities.
What is Homam
Homam is a fire ritual of sacrifice. It is also known as homa or havan or yajna (yagya) or yajana. In homam, divine presence is invoked into fire using specific procedures. Then materials are sacrificed into fire, along with sacred chants (mantras). The sacrifices are supposed to reach gods. It is interesting to note that fire ritual is an ancient practice and several religions taught worshipping gods in fire.
Homam is a very powerful tool for spiritual progress. Chanting mantras in front of fire while offering material substances into fire has a great cleansing and calming influence on one's mind and gives great level of mental focus, peace, calmness and bliss. This practice has been extolled in many scriptures such as Yajurveda and Bhagavad Gita. Vedic seers practiced it regularly. Several people are experiencing the benefits of homam even today. The proof of the pudding is in eating it. If one performs homam regularly for a few months, one will surely see the difference in one's mental state.
Why Vishnu Sahasra Naama Homam
In Hinduism, a special place is given to the Trinity of gods, who control the creation, sustenance and destruction of this universe. While Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva are in charge of creation and destruction respectively, Lord Vishnu sustains the universe. The nine planets which keep track of the karmas (actions) of people and give them karmaphala (equal and opposite reactions at a later point of time to one's actions) are nothing but the nine incarnations of Lord Vishnu, according to Maharshi Parasara who is the father of Maharshi Vyasa.
Vishnu sahasra naama stotram is a compilation of 1,000 names of Vishnu, as taught by Bheeshma to Yudhishthira during the Mahabharata time.
Chanting the 1,000 auspicious names of Vishnu fills one's mind with positive thoughts. One becomes what one thinks of and one becomes more saaattwik by thinking of various qualities and attributes of Vishnu. Sanskrita is a powerful language. Even if one does not understand the meaning of what one is chanting, one's mind is sub-consciously affected. If one understands, albeit vaguely, the meaning of the names, it is even better. As Vishnu is the sustainer of this universe, chanting his names can give one material success as well spiritual progress. In Kali yuga, Vishnu sahasra naama stotram is very powerful and removes various obstacles after consistent practice and creates auspicious developments in life.
As mentioned earlier, offering various prayers in fire is far more powerful than just chanting them in front of an idol. Thus, devotees can derive the maximum benefit from Vishnu sahasra naama stotram by using it in a homam.
Practice of this homam on a regular basis removes various obstacles from one's path, gives success, makes one saattwik and gives spiritual purity needed for spiritual progress.
What Homam Does
Hinduism teaches that gods come into fire and receive the prayers of spiritual aspirants. Even when one meditates without an external fire, gods being meditated on come into the internal fire of the aspirant and receive the mantras via that fire. However, the internal fire is quite weaker than an external fire for most people and hence it is beneficial to perform worship using an external fire. That practice eventually strengthens the internal fire also.
We all see and feel our sthoola sareera (gross body), which is made up of gross matter. But, we also have a sookshma sareera (subtle body) made up of subtle matter. It cannot be perceived by the senses attached to the gross body (eyes, ears, nose etc). It contains thousands of naadis, which are essentially subtle channels of energy flow. A fire called bhootaagni (existential fire) burns in this subtle body. It is the subtle basis of one's entire existence. It manifests in the gross body in the form of various fires. Examples are the "fire" in the stomach that helps one digest the food eaten and the "fire" in the brain that helps one digest and understand various sense experiences.
This bhootaagni is vital to one's existence. In most people, it is quite weak. Due to impurities and obstructions in the naadis of the subtle body, this fire cannot burn strongly to energize the entire existence. When it burns low, the divine presence that can enter it is quite limited in magnitude.
If one overcomes the internal weaknesses such as desire, anger, greed, false prestige, wantonness and jealousy, develops compassion, one-pointed devotion, detachment, and sheds one layer of ego and delusion after another, eventually the impurities in the naadis will be cleared and bhootaagni will burn strong. However, this is a very difficult and time-consuming process.
One can take advantage of an external fire in that regard. As the deity of homam enters the external fire on a regular basis, the nearby divine presence burns the impurities in the naadis, by burning various karmas (actions from the past, which will get corresponding reactions in the future) in the kaarana sareera (causal body). This eventually leads to the strengthening of bhootaagni.
After one performs homam for a long enough time, one's naadis are cleared of the obstructions and one's bhootaagni burns brightly. At that juncture, all sadhanas performed by one, including regular meditation, become much more effective. If bhootaagni can accommodate divine presence to a larger degree, the meditation becomes more effective.
The goal of all spiritual sadhana, whether one thinks in those terms or not, is actually to cleanse oneself of all the internal impurities. Various karmas from previous lives hang on to the kaarana sareera (causal body), making it heavy. These in turn manifest in the sookshma sareera (subtle body) as various impurities in various nadis (subtle energy channels) that block the free flow of energy. These in turn manifest in the sthoola sareera (gross body) as various problems of the body and mind. These also cause dense conditioning of one's mind to sink one's consciousness in an ocean of delusion. This conditioning of the consciousness due to previous karmas is also known as maayaa. When one is sunk in maayaa, one is beaten down by the six enemies - kaama (desire), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (delusion), mada (wantonness) and maatsarya (jealosy). As one makes spiritual progress, one's karmas drop off the kaarana sareera, the impurities in the nadis are cleansed, one's mental conditioning becomes weaker and one can resist the internal enemies. All these are inter-related and happen simultaneously. When one burns all of one's major karmas, one becomes karmically very light. Nadis in the sookshma sareera are all clear and energy can freely flow anywhere. One is untouched by the internal enemies then. When one sees all as god, nothing can make one angry or jealous or deluded. When mental conditioning drops, nothing excites one and nothing saddens one. One stays in a state of bliss always. Despite the changing nature of the external work and appearance, one is in the same state internally.
The goal of all spiritual sadhana is to reach that state. Whether through jnaana (knowledge and wisdom) or through bhakti (devotion and surrender) or both, one has to burn the karmas and impurities blocking one from reaching that state. The goal of all sadhana is to let ego (the sense of "I-ness") go completely and merge (have yoga) with divinity. If a vacuum can be created within oneself, then divine presence can fill the vacuum. As long as one has egotism and various kinds of conditioning (vasanas) of mind, such a vacuum cannot be created. When all those cease and the mental conditioning is weakened, the mind become extremely calm and a vacuum is created within. Then divine presence fills one and the result is indescribable bliss.
Homam facilitates this process quickly by burning various karmas that are creating various layers of conditioning and obstructing spiritual progress.
A lot of Hindu rituals involve invoking divine presence in an idol or a water pot (kalasha) and offering worship to the idol/pot. Unfortunately, we are living in Kali yuga in which the elements of earth, water and air are not pure. If the idol has any impurities on account of the time when it was made, how it was made, the thoughts of the person who made it etc, the impurities heavily restrict how much divine presence the idol can accommodate.
The only elements that cannot be polluted are space/ether (aakaasa) and fire (agni). It is very difficult to do spiritual sadhana via the medium of space. So the best medium for sadhana is fire. One of the Sanskrit words for "fire" is "paavaka", which means "the one that purifies". Fire is by definition pure and purifies everything that it comes in touch with. The wood or coconut used to sustain fire may have impurities, but fire itself is very pure and accommodates a divine presence of the highest degree. For a ritual using the earth or water elements as the medium to be successful, the sadhaka must be quite pure and the sadhaka's bhootagni must be reasonably strong. On the other hand, a ritual using the fire element as the medium can be successful irrespective of the stature and purity of the sadhaka. For this reason, homam is the most apt sadhana for most spiritual aspitants in this yuga, especially as the Kali deepens. Unfortunately, many people have unfounded fears of making mistakes and being punished for them and hence do not take advantage of the fantastic practice of homam.
Apart from the personal benefits, there are universal benefits of homam. The offerings in the fire finally reach Sun, who feeds the entire earth. The gross material body of the burnt offerings reaches the gross material body of Sun. The subtle body of the burnt offerings reaches the subtle body of Sun. It is the subtle body of Sun that feeds the subtle bodies of all beings on earth. Thus, feeding it is very important for the smooth running of life on earth. As we enter the Ghora Kali (terrible age of strife and disorderliness) phase, adharma (un-righteous activities) will be on the rise in the world and as such the subtle body of Sun will become weaker. If more and more people perform homam and strengthen the subtle body of Sun, it will balance the adharma and keep the world away from a total collapse.
(1) Misconception: Homam is very difficult to perform. It is for experts only.
: Not really. Several people who did not know anything about how to do any kind of worship conducted homam by themselves by reading this document. It is a simple practice.
(2) Misconception: One must either do a "perfect" homam or not do any homam at all. A perfect homam takes a very long time.
: Though one may eat a sumptuous meal on an important festival day, one does not necessarily get a lot of energy from it. One gets most of one's energy from the regular dal (lentils) and rice that one eats everyday.
Though there are complicated versions of homam, it is better to do a simple homam on a regular basis than to do a complicated version very rarely. A small half-hour or one-hour homam done on a daily basis is far better for spiritual sadhana than a big annual or half-yearly homam.
(3) Misconception: If mistakes happen in a homam, the consequences will be bad.
: If a homam is performed with a saattwik spirit for saattwik purposes, there are no risks.
If you act nice with your parents because you want their money, you have to understand their thinking well, take the advice of people who know them well and act very carefully to get money from them. Mistakes can be costly and spoil your goal.
But, if you act nice with your parents simply because you love them and want to show your love, you do not need to be careful. You just show your love in whatever way you know. There is no need to follow anybody's advice strictly and there are no risks.
Similarly, you have to be careful if you perform a homam for certain material goals (such as getting money, attracting someone, destroying someone etc). If you perform a homam just to show your love to god, cleanse yourself spiritually and make yourself worthy of divine communion, then there are no risks. The procedure taught in this document is based on the teachings of rishis and it is safe for anybody to use. Small mistakes will not result in any punishment.
In fact, it is expected that everybody who uses this document is interested in only the second kind of goal, i.e. spiritual cleansing and upliftment.
(4) Misconception: One not initiated by a guru (master) cannot perform homam or recite certain mantras.
: If one receives a mantra or a procedure from the mouth of a master, it is analogous to a millionaire opening a bank account in his son's name with a high starting balance. The son is lucky, as he is starting off with a big balance. Similarly, some of the siddhi (attainment) the master has in the mantra or procedure is transferred to the disciple even as (s)he starts out.
If one does not receive a mantra or a procedure from the mouth of a master, it is analogous to starting off with a zero bank balance. While it is useful to start off with a positive balance, it is neither necessary nor sufficient. There are sons of millionaires who used up the millions earned by parents and reduced them to zero, while there are some self-made men who made millions purely with self-effort. Similarly, one taught by the greatest guru can fall while one not taught by a guru can reach the ultimate. While it is desirable to have a guru, it is by no means compulsory.
If one is the kind who needs to have a guru figure behind every mantra or procedure, one can think of the author and/or his spiritual master, Dr Manish Pandit from Pune, India (currently residing in Manchester, UK) as the guru for this homam procedure.
(5) Misconception: Those who are not learned in Veda cannot recite Veda mantras and perform homam based on Veda mantras.
: Jnaneshwar was a 12th century master. He was a great Krishna devotee. When he was asked to not recite Veda by a council of erudite scholars, as he was not formally qualified, he replied that every being had a right to recite Veda. When he started reciting, they tried to shut his mouth. Then, a buffalo standing next to him recited Veda! The scholars begged his pardon and corrected their narrow-minded attitude.
Many great souls like him taught that Veda could be recited by anyone. One engaged in tantric practices that serve specific purposes and give specific siddhis (attainments) need to be afraid of side effects and punishments for mistakes, but mantras from Veda were taught by great rishis for the highest purpose of self-realization. One reciting them need not be afraid of any side effects. Veda mantras are saattwik, self-correcting and ultimately leading to self-realization.
Those who have an affinity to tantric practices should not be discouraged from learning and using them, but those who appreciate the teachings of rishis must be encouraged to recite Veda mantras and perform homam based on Veda mantras. The key is to have an attitude of submission and a desire for nothing other than self-realization and to do homam without any expectations whatsoever. Then there are no risks.
The procedure taught in this document contains just a few Veda mantras, which are not very difficult to pronounce.
(6) Misconception: Those who are not born in a Brahmin family cannot perform homam.
: One's varna (caste) is not to be determined solely from the family one is born in. There are examples of men born to parents belonging to various castes performing tapascharya and becoming rishis. Maharshi Viswamitra, who taught the Savitru Gayatri mantra, was a kshatriya by birth. Maharshi Valmiki, who taught Brahma Jnana to Maharshi Bharadwaja, was a shoodra by birth.
One who has affinity to knowledge is a Brahmin (scholar). One who has affinity to power and authority is a kshatriya (warrior). One who has affinity to money is a vaisya (trader). One who has affinity to carnal pleasures is a shoodra (worker). If a person born in a Brahmin family is after money, he becomes a vaisya and not a Brahmin. On the other hand, if a person born in a vaisya family desires nothing but knowledge and self-realization, he automatically becomes a Brahmin and very fit to perform homam.
Irrespective of the caste of birth, one who is interested in knowledge (especially knowledge of self) and one whose interest in power, money and pleasures is decaying is fit to perform homam.
(7) Misconception: Women cannot perform homam.
: There is a big difference between men and women when it comes to the gross body. But, at the level of subtle body or causal body, there is no difference based on gender. All spiritual practices operate mainly at the subtle and causal level. So, it makes no sense to have a total ban on women performing homam.
However, there are some practical reasons behind the biases of tradition. Though there are no differences based on gender in the subtle body, the differences at the gross body level can come into play in the initial stages. Women interested in performing homam may carefully consider the following factors and make their decision.
Any spiritual practice performed well over a period of time eventually results in a Kundalini awakening and rise. Kundalini is nothing but one's self-identification. It is a microcosmic representation of the Divine Mother within oneself. It defines how one identifies oneself. Though everything in the universe is just Brahman, each being forms a separate self-identity and that self-identity is reinforced quite strongly with time. When one identifies completely with the body without any kind of questioning, Kundalini is asleep. As kundalini wakes up and rises, one starts to wonder "who am I" and one's awareness of self becomes more and more refined. As kundalini reaches higher chakras, one realizes one's true nature. When Kundalini reaches Sahasrara chakra, one realizes one's truest nature, i.e. one realizes that one is the formless Brahman.
If Kundalini gets stuck at swadhishthana chakra, one's sexual drive increases and one is tested in that matter. In this matter, women and men are very different. This phase can be very difficult for women. This is not to say that this phase is easy for men.
More importantly, some spiritual experiences in a pregnant lady can even kill a fetus, if the soul in it is not spiritually elevated. On the positive side, if an elevated soul is in the fetus at the time of such experiences, a siddha may be born.
There is a negative for every positive and it is a matter of balancing the factors and making an individual decision. Women interested in homam should consider the above factors and decide whether they want to perform homam or not. If any women are interested, they should be encouraged to perform homam.
(8) Misconception: Homam is just like meditation. It is not any better. It does not really make any difference.
: The proof of the pudding is in eating it. If one tries performing a homam to the best of one's ability on a daily basis for a few months, one will know what homam can do! After doing homam for several months, one will find that all other sadhanas one does become more effective as a result of homam.
(9) Misconception: One should get a priest to do homam and not do it oneself.
: Let us revisit a previous analogy. If one wants to be nice to one's parents to get their money, one may engage someone who will act on one's behalf to get the money of parents. But, if one's sole purpose is to just love one's parents and show that love, it is better to do it directly than to engage other people.
(10) Misconception: Before doing homam with any mantra, one must do japam of that mantra by a count that is ten times the homam count. For example, one must do japam by a count of 10,000 before one does homam by a count of 1,000.
: This convention is not without reason. The true meaning of this convention is that homam is ten times more powerful than japam. If one does a mantra 1,000 in a homam, it is equivalent to doing the mantra 10,000 in japam. If one wants, one can offer the mantra entirely in external fire and there is no need to do any japam before doing homam.
All thumb rules and conventions have exceptions. If a rishi with a very strong bhootaagni does japam, it is equivalent to a homam and the "ten times" rule does not apply. However, for most normal people, homam is ten times more powerful than japam. The bottomline is that the strength and the purity of the medium that accommodates the presence of the deity who receives the mantra will decide the effectiveness of the mantra.
About This Document
This document describes a short procedure for performing Vishnu homam, which takes 30-45 minutes. This document is for those who are interested in performing Vishnu homam by themselves every day or week or month. The procedure taught here is simple enough to do daily and yet retains all the important steps in a full-fledged traditional Vedic homam. Those who want an even simpler procedure with fewer mantras may refer to Appendix A for a super-short procedure with bare minimum mantras.
One should consult one's elders and gurus and decide whether one is allowed to perform a homam or not. If one thinks one is allowed to do homam and is interested in doing homam on a regular basis but does not know how to do it, then one can use this document to learn one way to do it. If one's gurus have taught one a different procedure, one may use the procedure taught by one's gurus. This document is for the benefit of those who do not know any procedure and want to learn some procedure to do homam. Those who learnt a slightly different procedure from the previous versions of this document need not worry and either follow what they have already learnt or switch to the procedure in this document.
Excessive Movement of Body and Mind
Some people move a lot when they meditate. As it was mentioned earlier, the goal of all sadhana is to calm the mind down and create a vacuum within oneself, so that the deity of the sadhana can come and occupy the space. One should lose awareness of the body. When meditating, it is a good idea to keep the back straight without making it too tense. It is a good idea to not move. If it is not possible to stay still for extended periods, one should at least try to stay still over short periods of time. It is also a good idea to close the eyes. One can focus one's mind on either a deity or on the sound of the mantra.
Similarly, when performing homam also, it is a good idea to keep the back straight and minimize the movement, especially of the back. It is ideal if one keeps the back and head erect and manages with a minimal movement of just one arm.
If body is stationary, there is some chance that mind too will become stationary for a while in the middle. That is the goal after all.
While it is good to follow the procedure faithfully, it is even more important to surrender oneself to god, leave ego and identify one's self with the deity in the fire when performing the homam. If that is there, all other minor errors will have no negative effect. If that is not there, even an impeccably performed homam will not have any tangible effect. Like mentioned earlier, the goal is to melt ego (I-ness or sense of self) and create a vacuum within oneself, so that the deity can fill it. Complete devotion, single-minded focus on deity/mantra/procedure and minimization of the activity of body and mind can help one achieve that eventually.
If one has an over-active mind, doing pranayama before homam can be useful. The time around sunrise in the morning is a particularly conducive to a pleasant homam.
One homa kundam (a copper container with preferably a square shaped base). If a homa kundam is not available, one can dig a square shaped pit in the ground (with 1-2 foot sides and half to one foot deep) and arrange a few layers of bricks around the pit. Dry coconut halves (available in Indian stores) or wood (for burning) Ghee (clarified butter) from cow's milk. It is available in Indian stores. If unable to find, just get some butter and melt it in low heat. After it melts, some black stuff will separate from the melted liquid. Filter out the black deposit and use the liquid. It will solidify after a time. Before the homam, melt it again and use it. A wooden spoon/ladle to put ghee into the fire Some akshatas. Those can be made by mixing raw (uncooked) white (or brown) rice grains with a drop of sesame oil (or some other oil) and a pinch of turmeric powder. Instead of turmeric powder, one can also use vermilion (kumkum) powder used for the dot on the forehead. A small lamp, consisting of a wick that can be lit in sesame oil/ghee. A candle can also be used as an alternative, though it is better to burn ghee or sesame oil than wax. A matchbox to light fire One tumbler or cup to store water. It should preferably be made of silver or copper or clay. If unavailable, you may use steel or glass. One spoon (preferably silver or copper) Some water
A small idol of Vishnu. If you have none, use a metallic coin or any metallic object. Actually, you can do without any idol and just invoke Vishnu in fire. A mixture of various auspicious materials known as the havan samagri (available in India stores), if possible. Some sandalwood powder, turmeric powder and kumkum (vermilion) powder Some flowers or flower petals Some sesame seeds, some mamra/murmura (puffed white rice), some nuts, some mildly popped corn and other materials that can be offered in fire. Small fruits are also fine. Honey can also be used. All these are optional. The absolute minimum needed is coconut pieces and ghee. Some darbhas (dried blades of sacred grass). Check with a local temple priest to find out how to procure them. If darbhas are unavailable, you may think of creative alternatives. For example, find some other dry grass or dry leaves or just thin twigs and pray to your ishta devata (favorite deity) before the homam to make them acceptable. An incense stick (agarbatti) if available and a holder to stick it to (a banana can be used instead) Camphor and a container or plate for lighting camphor and offering haarati Some food that you can offer to god. Eggs, meat and seafood should not be used in that food. In fact, do not eat eggs, meat and seafood on the day of homam. Onion, garlic, strong spices and too much of chillies should also be avoided in the food cooked for God. Fruits are also fine. Just sugar or brown sugar or rock candy sugar or jaggery can be offered to god too. When using sugar, please note that the normal white refined sugar used these days has bone ash in it. Brown sugar, vegetarian sugar or jaggery are to be prefered. Some milk, if available.
Preparation Before Homam
Instead of arranging homa kundam directly on the floor, place a wood plank or something on the floor, wrapped with aluminum foil (or some such thing), and put 4 bricks of the same height on it and place the homa kundam on the bricks. Thus, there is some air and a wooden plank under the homa kundam and the floor does not get heated up. If you want easy cleaning, place some aluminum foils on the floor all around the plank containing homa kundam. If ghee or something is spilled in that area, it is easy to clean. If you want, you can also cover the interior of homa kundam with some aluminum foils, so that it is easy to clean. Make some food items to offer to god. You can just use rock sugar candy or raisins or dates or fruits or jaggery also. Please see the notes in the previous section on this. Cook a little plain white rice. I put a few grains of rice and a little water in a small container and put it in microwave oven before my homam and cooked rice is ready at the end when I need it. If this is not possible, take a banana or apple or some other fruit and make it into 6 slices. Fill water in the tumbler/cup and place the spoon in it. Make a seat for yourself in front of the homa kundam. Ideally you should be facing east, i.e. homa kundam should be on the east from you. On the east of the homa kundam, place a small plate or a wooden plank, make a pile of some rice grains on it and place the idol (or a metal/clay object such as a coin) on it. You can decorate based on your ability and taste. An idol is optional. You can worship Vishnu directly in fire. From the middle of the western edge of the homam kundam, draw two parallel red lines with kumkum (vermilion) powder towards your seat. They should go east-west and connect homa kundam to your seat. Melt the ghee and place the bowl containing it on those lines. Cut dry coconuts into small pieces. Pieces of 1 inch x 1 inch size are useful. Important: Do not consume any food within 3-4 hours before the homam (at least one hour). Evacuate the bowels before homam and take bath. Stomach should be empty during a homam for the best experience.
Before starting the homam, think in your mind of Mother Earth who is bearing you, Lord Ganesha who removes obstacles, your ishta devata (favorite deity), your parents, the rishis of your gothra (if you know them), all the rishis and all your gurus. Then say the following, while mentally requesting all the gods to co-operate with your homam.
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