panchamahayajna — five great daily yagna (sacrifices) that are to be performed by every householder. They are: (1) Brahma Yajna, called also Veda Yajna, "homage to Brahman or the Vedas or the sages"; (2) Deva Yajna, "homage to Gods and elementals."; (3) Pitri Yajna, "homage to ancestors"; (4) Bhuta Yajna, "homage to beings"; and (5) Manushya Yajna, "homage to men".

The performance of these five yajnas is conducive to the spiritual evolution or growth of a man. He gradually learns that he is not a separate entity or isolated creature or isolated unit, but is a part of a great whole. He obtains knowledge by studying the sacred scriptures written by great Rishis. He gets help from his friends, relatives and fellow-beings. He parents gave his physical body. His body is nourished by the milk of cows, grains, vegetables and fruits. The five elements help him. He cannot live without oxygen and water. The Devas and the Pitris bless him. Therefore, he owes a fivefold debt to Nature. He must pay back his debt by performing these five sacrifices daily. Further, numerous insects are killed by him unconsciously during walking, sweeping, grinding, cooking, etc. This sin is removed by performance of these sacrifices.

The Upanishads suggest that one can make "inner yajnas" by offering up bits of the little self into the fires of sadhana and tapas until the greater Self shines forth.

The Five Yajnas

The Rishis, the Devas, the Pitris, the Bhutas and the guests expect help from the householders. Hence, they should perform these five sacrifices daily. Teaching and study of scriptures is Brahma Yajna; Tarpana or offering of water to the ancestors, and Sraaddha, form Pitri Yajna: Homa or oblations into the fire is Deva Yajna; Bali or offering of food to all creatures is Bhuta Yajna; and hospitality to guests is Manushya Yajna or Atithi Yajna.

Brahma Yajna or Rishi Yajna

Accomplished through studying and teaching the Vedas. Every man should study daily the sacred scriptures. He should share the knowledge with others. This is Brahma Yajna or Rishi Yajna. By so doing, he pays the debt to Rishis.

Deva Yajna

Recognizing the debt due to those who guide nature, and the feeding of them by offering ghee and uncooked grains into the fire. This is the homa sacrifice.

Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita :-

Having, in ancient times, emanated mankind together with sacrifice, the Lord of Creation said, — By this shall ye propagate; be this to you the fulfiller of desires. With this, nourish ye the shining ones; and may the shining ones nourish ye. Thus nourishing one another, ye shall reap the highest good. For, nourished by sacrifice, the shining ones shall bestow on you the enjoyments you desire. A thief verily is he who enjoyeth what is given by them without returning them anything. The righteous, who eat the remains of the sacrifice, are freed from all sins; but the unpious who cook for their own sake, they verily eat sin, - (Ch. III-10, 11, 12, 13).

Manu says :-

Let a man ever engage in the study of the Vedas and in the rites of the Devas; engaging in the rites of the Vedas, he supports the movable and the immovable kingdoms. These sacrifices turn the wheel of life in accordance with the divine will and thus help the evolution of man and the worlds.

Pitri Yajna

Offering of cakes (pinda) and water to the family line and the progenitors of mankind.


Placing food-offerings, bali, on the ground, intended for animals, birds, insects, wandering outcastes and beings of the invisible worlds.

"Let him gently place on the ground [food] for dogs, outcastes, svapachas, those diseased from sins, crows and insects"
Manu Dharma Shastras 3.92.

Manushya Yajna

Feeding guests and the poor, the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, comforting the distressed, and the student are all forms of Manushya Yajna. Manushya yajna includes all acts of philanthropy, such as tithing and charity. Any kind of service to the suffering humanity is Manushya Yajna. The Vedic study is performed in the morning.

Benefits of the PanchaMahayajnas

By daily doing such acts of kindness and sympathy, man develops mercy. Hatred vanishes. His hard egoistic heart is gradually softened. He cultivates cosmic love. His heart expands. He has a wider outlook on life. He tries to feel his oneness with all beings. His old feeling of separateness on account of selfishness and egoism is gradually thinned and eventually eradicated. He learns that he can be happy only by making others happy, by serving others, by helping others, by removing the sufferings of others and by sharing what he has with others. The five great daily sacrifices teach man his relations with his superiors, his equals and his inferiors.

Man has no separate individual existence. He is connected with the world. He is like a bead in the rosary. His whole life must be a life of sacrifice and duties. Then only he will have rapid evolution. Then only he will realize the supreme bliss of the Eternal. Then only he will free himself from the round of births and deaths and attain immortality.


1. All About Hinduism, by Sri Swami Sivananda
2. Hinduism Dictionary on Yajna, by Himalayan Academy


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