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Some Questions

Can Agnihotra be performed at home?

Agnihotra can be performed in any room or place in any house. It can also be performed in the balcony of the house. While performing Agnihotra in a family at one place, only one person should make the offerings. Other members of the family present , too can derive the resultant beneficial effects of the purified and nutritious atmosphere. If two persons from the same family are desirous of performing Agnihotra individually, they should prepare fire in separate Agnihotra pots and make offerings. Agnihotra can also be performed in a farm or a garden adjoining your house.
 
  Why is there a difference between the visible sun rise/set timing and the one given in the timetable on some days?

There is always a difference between visible and actual (Mathematical) Sun rise/set timings.
There are certain factors, which cause such a difference, of which the main factor is REFRACTION of suns rays due to atmospheric belt around earth. Refraction in its turn depends upon temperature, moisture and density of atmosphere at a point of visible horizon.

On land the difference between actual (mathematical) Sun rise/set time and visible Sun rise/set time may have some consistency as the curvature of earth and apparent horizon remains on the same point. Only density of atmosphere and temperature may change. But this is not the case when we are observing the Sun rise/set on horizon on sea. Sun rise/set point on horizon on sea is fluctuating due to low and high tides and curvature of sea. Due to these factors, difference between actual and visible time may vary.

Another factor is the different concepts of sun rise/set. Different people follow different concepts e.g. 
Upper rim of the Sun disc touches horizon. 
Half of the Sun disc above horizon. 
Full disc above horizon, lower rim touches horizon.
While observing sunrise-sunset we should stick up to one of the three concepts for consistency and then compare it with mathematical timings.

Now at the time of Sunrise though the sun is actually below horizon, because of refraction of the light rays through the earth’s atmosphere, virtual image of Sun appears on the horizon and the difference between actual (mathematical) sunrise and visible sunrise will depend upon the different factors mentioned above.

At the time of Sun set, virtual image of sun remains on the horizon for some time though the sun is actually below horizon. Here also difference in visible and actual timings may vary because of the factors mentioned above.

Now we will take a concrete example.

At Kanyakumari on 1/1/96, actual (mathematical) Sun rise time is 6.37 A.M. But because of refraction, virtual image of Sun appears on horizon before 6.37 A.M. We can actually see Sun appearing on the Horizon before 6.37. Virtual image can be seen on horizon 2 to 6 minutes earlier depending upon the factors mentioned above. So on 1/1/96, visible Sunrise time may vary from 6.30 to 6.36 A.M. where actual Sun rise is at 6.37.

Similarly Sun set time on 1/1/96 at Kanyakumari is 6.09 P.M. Bur even after 6.09 P.M. virtual image of Sun remains on the horizon. So even after Sun set Sun can be visible on horizon for 2 to 6 minutes depending upon the factors mentioned above. Though actual Sun set is 6.09, visible Sunset time may vary from 6.10 to 6.15 P.M. 

This is very general explanation for difference in actual/visible Sun rise/set timings without going in to mathematical details of the phenomenon.

We use a computer program as received form Germany, which gives accurate Sun rise/set timings of a particular place after providing correct longitude and latitude of that place.

For Agnihotra purpose we can use actual (mathematical) sunrise sunset timings.


If I start Agnihotra in my house can my other family members perform it?

Yes, If due to any reason one is not in a position to perform/attend Agnihotra himself on some occasions, any other family member can perform it. Agnihotra can be taken up as a personal discipline or as a family discipline. Even if it is taken up as a personal discipline and if one is unable to perform on a particular occasion any other family member or friend can do it and keep the healing cycle unbroken. When an Agnihotra is practiced in a place then every one including animals and plants, in its atmosphere is benefited.


Should all members of the family offer the oblations to fire?

Agnihotra can be taken up as a family discipline where any one member of the family offers the oblations and the rest attend Agnihotra. The others can join in chanting the Agnihotra mantras but only one person should offer oblation to fire in one Agnihotra pot. If all or more than one members of the family wish to take it up as a personal discipline they can do so in the same house in different pots.


Can the Agnihotra mantras be translated in to other languages?

Agnihotra mantras should not be translated. A mantra is a unique combination of sound vibrations and purport. Their utterance in esoteric combination produces unique healing sound waves which have wonderful effect on the atoms of the body, mind and atmosphere.. It has tremendous peaceful effect on the mind. This is revealed knowledge and the language used is Sanskrit. Translating the mantras in other language would change the frequency patterns & thus will not produce the vibrational effect of the mantra.


Is Cow dung the only material that can be used to prepare Agnihotra fire?

Dried cakes made from the dung of Cow family can be used for preparing the Agnihotra Fire. It need not necessarily be of a cow. The dung of bull or a calf may as well be used to make dried cakes. However any material other than the dung of Cow family should not be used. 

Fresh cow dung as well as fumes produced by burning dry cow dung cakes have healing properties. It is capable of eradicating harmful bacteria. It is observed that cow-dung and the ash produced from its use in Agnihotra has power to control the dangerous effects of radiation. 


Which direction should I face while performing Agnihotra?

There is no hard and fast rule about which direction to face while performing Agnihotra. Because Agnihotra is related to Sunrise and Sunset, you may, if you are in a position to determine the direction, face east for performing the sunrise Agnihotra and west for sunset Agnihotra. However please be informed that there is no such rule in the basic disciplines of Agnihotra.


What happens when Agnihotra performance is discontinued due to travelling or other reasons?

If the cycle of daily morning-evening Agnihotra performance is by any chance discontinued on an occasion or two do not worry about it. Resume the practice immediately from the next Agnihotra time and continue it. If the person regularly performing the Agnihotra in the home has to go out of station for work or if he is not able to be present in the house at that Agnihotra time, any other member of the family can perform Agnihotra. If the entire family has to go out then a friend or a neighbour can be requested to perform Agnihotra in your house.
This helps in keeping the 'healing cycle' of Agnihotra unaffected. The person going out can carry a spare Agnihotra kit with him so that he can perform Agnihotra wherever he is at the local sunrise/sunset time.


Are there any tips on how to make the Agnihotra fire?

Fire should be fully ablaze in the pot before Agnihotra time. It consumes offerings forthwith. After the Agnihotra let the fire subside by itself. Do not try to extinguish it by any other method. Do not disturb it in any manner, nor put any other material in it. While lighting the fire a few drops of cow's ghee can be put over the cakes or cow's ghee can be applied on the dry cow dung pieces before lighting them. Dry twigs of 'Vata' (Banayan tree), Audumbara, Palaash, Peepal and Bel can be used .These contain medicinal properties. To start the Fire one may use Gugul, Cotton-Wicks soaked in ghee or Camphor tablets. Arrange the pieces of cowdung in a log cabin fashion .This will allow the air to pass freely. Keep the Agnihotra place clean and tidy.


What do you do with the pot and ash after Agnihotra?

Remove the Agnihotra ash from the pot and store it in a bag or box. This ash can be used as an effective fertilizer for your kitchen garden and agriculture. Furthermore this ash can also be used as a healing substance. Do not throw this ash in a dustbin .Dropping the Agnihotra ash in wells, rivers and water-reservoirs is extremely beneficial.


What do you do before and after an Agnihotra performance?

One may take a bath before the Agnihotra time. If a bath in the evening is not possible, take a wash before the Agnihotra time. After making the Agnihotra offering sit peacefully for a few minutes. After performing Agnihotra you can engage yourself, if that is your regular practice, in other spiritual pursuits like Meditation or Self-study etc. The Agnihotra atmosphere will be an aid in your efforts.
This article was published on Sunday 04 September, 2005.
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