Navaratri – Day 0 – Ganesha Yagya (fire ceremony)


After breakfast we start to do mantra japa (repetition) for Ganesha. 7 priests chanting and it is hard work! Not only are these guys fast, but they chant loudly, and while I can keep up, my throat quickly goes dry. But I struggle through and it is actually rather exhilarating to experience the power of these vedic experts. There is something very substantial going on. No doubt about it.

Then a representative from the Shankar Mutt here in Kanchipuram pays a visit to offer the Shankaracharya’s blessing for our yagya series and to ask for our support in the Navaratri festivities at one of the patasalas (training academy) that they operate. We sponsor, on behalf of all the participants, the flowers for the entire Navaratri time.

Then we go up on the roof where the homa kund (fireplace) is located. It is a warm day already, about 90 degrees and we are all about to sit around a sizable fire. Subramanyam has already decorated the homa kund with colored rice flour and arranged all the ingredients for the yagya.


The fire is lit and soon it is roaring warmly….very warmly!


The first section of the yagya involves offering the modaka balls into the fire as the Ganesha mantras are chanted. Of course these small dough pastries don’t burn all that well and they create clouds of smoke…which make my eyes burn but everyone else just continues on…apparently it is not professional to let the smoke burn your eyes! You must continue chanting and offering non-stop!


Then the special ingredients are offered; puffed rice, sesame seeds (which crackle nicely), sugar cane, etc. and more wood. Less smoke and 1008 more repetitions of the Ganesha Mula mantra from Rig Veda.


After about 1 1/2 hours the mantras are done and Sampath, the Chief Priest makes the final offering of ghee into the fire.


The last offering into the fire is called Poornadhuti and consists of puffed rice, pounded rice, coconut, banana, sugar cane, dry coconut slices, sesame seeds, pomegranate, green grass, all wrapped in a nice piece of white silk.


Then back downstairs for final pujas (called aarti). Subramanyam, our favorite Sama Veda pundit and the official decorator of the homa kund is standing next to me. This has been a wonderful morning and everyone is full of smiles. Yagyas are a lot of work for the priests and pundits and they are always pleased when it turns out well. It is now past 2 PM and time for lunch!