"at the holy sacrifices"
Ingredients for a Havan
Creative Commons AttributionIngredients for a Havan - Credit: rajkumar1220

Sacrifice can comprise offerings of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to the gods, as well as personal surrender as a form of worship. The ritual of sacrifice is known as yagya, and according to the Vedic scriptures has been important since creation. Common ingredients of a yagya are milk, ghee, curd, grains, spices, woods and the soma plant. Animal offerings have been documented but were uncommon.

Brahmin performing Yajna
Creative Commons AttributionBrahmin performing Yajna - Credit: Ilya Mauter

Havanam (also Havana, Havan) is a purifying yagya in Hinduism that involves a fire ceremony, in which the fire god, Agni, is believed to carry the offerings to the gods. A passage from the great epic, The Mahabharata, Aswamadha ParvaSection 24 & 25, reads: Restraining the senses and the mind, the objects of those senses and the mind should be poured as libations on the sacred fire of the Soul that is within the body.

Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh, India, explains the five great daily sacrifices for the householder, as follows:

1. Brahma Yajna or Veda Yajna that includes teaching and studying scriptures

2. Deva Yajna that includes oblations into the sacred fire is Deva Yajna)

3. Pitri Yajna that is offering of water to the ancestors

4. Bhuta Yajna  thatb is offering food to all the creatures.

5. Manushya Yajna includes hospitality to guests and goodwill to all men

In contemporary society, yagya and havana are performed at weddings and funerals, and in personal worship.