Ethnobotanical Leaflets 14: 665-73. 2010.
Botanical Identity of Plants Used in the Traditional Indian ritual Hawana
Subrahmanya Prasad K* and Raveendran K
Department of Post Graduate Studies and Research in Botany
Sir Syed College, Taliparamba, Kannur 670 142
Issued: 01 June, 2010
Rituals are part of Indian society even from vedic period. Hawana is one of the most important vedic ritualistic sacrifice which involves lighting fire in a rectangular Homa Kunda using dravyas. In the present scenario these are performed at the beginning of Shubha Karyas to get expected results. The priests conducting the hawanas has been interviewed. Personal observations of eight important forms of hawana were done throughout the study area. A comparative account of plants used in 8 types of hawana have been given. In present communication Botanical identity of 55 taxa, their vernacular name, family, useful part and mode of usage have been documented.
Key words : Rituals, Hawana, Botanical identity.
Rituals are part of human life since time immemorial. In the past man was living according to the tune of Mother Nature. But conditions changed after the advent of civilization, the civilized man became religious while the religious approach has deviated him from his original objectives and remained only as a ritual. The historical function of the rituals is to remind us about our immemorial past and connects the past generation with the present like a bridge.
India is a country, which is rich in rituals. The rituals like hawana, pooja are performed according to the procedure described in the Vedas, Upanishads, Dharmasindhu, Nirnayasindhu, Vishwamitra karika and Bodhayanas Brahmakarma Samucchaya to reap the benefit in the form of good health and ecological balance. There are hundreds of homas or hawanas. The common among them are Agnihotra, Ganapathi hawana, Grahashanthi, Mruthyunjayashanthi, Sandhishanthi, Vasthu Rakshoghna homa, Tila homa, Puthrakameshti and many more. Agnihotra is a simple form of homa which involves litting fire in a small rectangular copper pyramid pot, using direct cow dung cakes and ghee as offerings to the fire with whisper of mantras at sunrise and sunset ( Golechha et al; 1987 ). Hawanas are modified forms of agnihotra and includes litting fire on a rectangular Homa kunda prepared using bricks or plantain stem and offering dravyas with chanting of mantras. Dravyas include milk and milk products, cakes made up grain and cereal powder, boiled rice and samidhas (plants and their parts).
During the recent years these have become very popular around the globe due to their therapeutic efficacy. Experiments conducted by various workers reveal that agnihotra fumes along with mantras reduce the aerial microbial flora and also reduce the bioenergetic systems of Staphylococci ( Mondkar A G, 1982 ). Analysis of agnihotra ash showed that it has the potentiality to heal the wounds and scabies ( Mondkar A G, 1982 ), it is 3-4 times richer in water soluble phosphate which is essential for plants ( Tung Ming Lai, 1982 ). Treatment with agnihotra improves germination of rice ( Heisnam Jina Devi et al; 2004 ), grape seeds and also quality of grape raisins ( Bhujbal B G, 1981 ). Efficacy of agnihotra on mind and body ( Selvamurthy, 1989 ), microbial content of atmosphere( Mondkar A G, 1982 ), radioactivity ( Matela Leszek, 1988 ), people and environment ( Surendra Rawat & Nagendra H R, 2007 ), recovery of drug addict( Golechha et al; 1987 ) and treatment of alcoholism( Golechha et al; 1991 ) have been reported. Experiment conducted with Grahashanthi homa showed gradual decrease in the microbial flora as the homa progresses( Subrahmanya Prasad, 2006 ).
The paper lists out the different plants, plant parts and other materials used in different hawana. An attempt is also made to compare the materials used in 8 popular hawanas through our observation.
At the beginning of study informations regarding the different hawanas, the materials used in it, the method of performance, beliefs, benefits from it were collected through personal interview with a number of vedic pandits. For getting familiar with the materials used in these rituals and performance, personal observations were done by attending a number of hawanas both in Northern Kerala and Southern Karnataka. After getting familiar with the materials used in these rituals, the plants are identified using the regional floras. For getting acquainted with detailed procedure these hawanas are fully recorded through video and photographs.
Results and Discussions
The different plants used in the eight common hawanas are tabulated below (Table No.1). This table gives correct botanical name of plants, their family, common name, morphology of useful part, use and mode of usage. A total of 55 plant species belonging to 49 genera and 29 families are being used in these rituals. Out of these 55 only 15 species are used in all the 8 hawanas. Saccharum officinarum L. is used in all the hawanas except Vasthu Rakshoghana hawana while Callicarpa tomentosa (L.) Murray. used only in Shukrarka Shanthi, Hordeum vulgare L. only in Rahu Bruhaspathi Shanthi, Gossypium barbadense L., Hibiscus rosa- sinensis L., and Tinospora cordifolia (Willd.) Hook.f. & Thoms. make their presence only in Mruthyunjaya Shanthi. Definite number of plants have been prescribed for each hawana as for Grahashanthi 49 plants, Ganapathi hawana 18 plants, Putrakameshti 22 plants, Kujarahu Shanthi 49 plants, Rahubruhaspathi Shanthi 50 plants, Shukrarka Shanti 50 plants, Mruthyunjaya Shanthi 44 plants and Vasthurakshoghna hawana 22 plants.
Table 1. Plants used in different Hawanas.
Where x indicates presence of the plant, - indicates absence, Gr.H Grahashanthi hawana, G.H.- Ganapathi Hawana,
P.K. Putrakameshti yaga, K.R.- Kuja Rahu Shanthi, R.B.- Rahu Bruhaspathi Shanthi, S.A. Shukrarka Shanthi, M.S. Mruthyunjaya
Shanthi, V.R. Vasthu Rakshoghna Shanthi.
Among plant parts used leaves and flowers show dominance as 14 types of these make their appearance while rhizome, whole plant and fruit wall fibre are least dominant with a single appearance. 22 plants or their parts are used for pooja during the hawana, while 12 as dravya (plant products used as offering to the fire at the end of hawana or to make prasadam), 11 as samidha (plant and plant parts used as oblation to the sacred fire), 10 for danam (offering to the brahmins), 8 for kalasha (decoction prepared using plant barks, to which pooja is performed, and after the hawana, sprinkled over the family members), 7 as fire wood of hawana and 4 for preparing colouring matter, which is used to draw specific designs at the yaga performing area. From the data it is evident that Papilionaceae is the dominant family as 8 species are used in hawanas followed by Moraceae with 6 members. Seeds of Papilionaceae members are used as danam while barks or twigs of Moraceae members are either used as samidha or for kalasha. Similarly different parts of a plant are used for different purposes, which is evident in case of Ficus religiosa L. Its twig is used as samidha, while bark for kalasha and heart wood as fire wood.
Out of these 55 plants, Mangifera indica L., Achyranthes aspera L., Calotropis gigantea Ait., Ficus religiosa L., F.racemosa L., F.benghalensis L., Aegle marmelos (L.) Correa., Solanum indicum L., Michelia champaca L., Phyllanthus emblica L., Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers., Jasminum grandiflorum L., J.sambac (L.) Ait., Musa paradisiaca L., Nerium oleander L., Piper betle L., Butea monosperma (Lam,) Taub, are used in Patra- pooja in Maharashtra( Vinaya S Ghate, 1998 ). In Maharashtra Prosopis cineraria Engl. is used as source of Shami for Patra- pooja while Dichrostachys cinerea (L.) Wight.&Arn. is used as Shami for hawana in our study area . Similarly Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet and Benincasa hispida (Thunb.) Cogn. are used in Govardhan pooja and Annakut in Mathura ( Neeta Singh & Chauhan S V S, 2002) while Hordeum vulgare L., Piper betle L., Ficus benghalensis L., Cocos nucifera L., Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers., Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf., Oryza sativa L., Areca catechu L., Santalum album L., Sesamum orientale L., and Ocimum sanctum L. are used in Pindadan ceremony ( Anil Kumar & Yadav D K, 2004 ). Ficus benghalensis L., Ficus racemosa L., F.religiosa L., Butea monosperma (Lam.) Taub., and Aegle marmelos (L.) Correa. are the 5 plants which are used as yajna trees in Agnihotra ( Heisnam Jina Devi, 2004 ).
It is clear that all these plants are well known for their medicinal properties. The smoke, light and heat arising from these are acting as germicidal agents in a eco friendly manner. Of course the cyclic process is invisible and therefore further studies should be carried out to recognize the real relevance.
The authors are thankful to the Principal and Management Sir Syed College, Taliparamba for providing facilities. One of the author, SPK is grateful to KSCSTE for providing financial assistance.
Anil Kumar and Yadav, D. K. 2004. Significance of sacred plants in Shraddh Ritual (Pindadan) in Gaya, Bihar, Ethnobotany, 16: 103 107 Bhujbal, B. G. 1981. Agnihotra and grapes, US Satsang, 8(17).
Golechha, G. R., Deshpande, M., Sethi, I. C. and Singh, R. A. 1987. Agnihotra A useful adjunct in recovery of a resistant demotivate smack addict, Indian Journal of Psychiatry 29(3) : 247 252
Golechha, G, R., Sethi, I, C., Deshpande., Usha Rani 1991. Agnihotra in the treatment of alcoholism. Indian J.Psychiatry, 33(1) : 44-47
Heisnam Jina Devi., Swamy, N .V. C. and Nagendra ,H. R. 2004. Effect of Agnihotra on the germination of rice seeds, Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, 3(3) : 231 - 239
Matela Leszek 1988. Effectiveness of Agnihotra on soil radioactivity, US Satsang, 15 (20)
Mondkar, A. G. 1982a. Agnihotra effect on bacterial population, US Satsang, 9(20).
Mondkar, A. G. 1982b. The therapeutic effect of Agnihotra ash on scabies of rabbits, US Satsang, 9(20)
Mondkar, A.G. 1982c. Agnihotra effect on aerial microflora, US Satsang, 9 (20 ).
Neeta Singh and Chauhan, S. V. S. 2002. Studies on plants used in Govardhan Puja and Annakut in Brij Mandal of Mathara, Ethnobotany, 14 : 73 77
Selvamurthy, W. 1989. Physiological effects of Mantra on mind and body, In. Yoga Conference, Delhi, November, 1989, Delhi, India.
Subrahmanya Prasad, K. 2006. A peep into the social relevance of plants associated with Homas the traditional Indian rituals and their immediate impact on microbial flora. M Sc Thesis, University of Kannur, Kerala.
Surendra Rawat and Nagendra, H.R. 2007. Effect of Apthoryama yajna on people and environment, Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, 6(3) : 412 416
Tung Ming Lai 1982. Agnihotra ash and water soluble phosphates, US Satsang, 9(20).
Vinaya, S. Ghate 1998. Plants in Patra-Pooja : Notes on their identity and ultilization, Ethnobotany, 10 : 6-15