Yajna, Mahayajna, Asvamedha Yajna
In ancient times, simple yajnas used to play an important role in inner refinement and self-purification. The mahayajnas used to be performed to purify the social life. But, when the need for complete renovation of the nation (Rashtra) and that of the environment was felt, there was a tradition of Asvamedha yajnas at the universal level. Thus, the yajnas have been classified into three categories; viz, yajna, mahayajna and Asvamedha yajna. The magnitude of their results also increases in the same order.
The importance of yajna has been described in detail in Srimad Bhagwat Purana. Several such events have been described in this scripture, which acquaint us fully with the enormous power of yajna. According to this Purana, the universe was created with the help of yajna. This phenomenon has been described as follows.
In an answer to a query, Brahmaji describes the form of yajna as follows -
"Yadasya nabhyam …………… caturhortram ca sattam"
- Bhagwat, Skandha 2, Addhyaya 6, slokas 22,23,24.
Meaning - "When I was born from the navel of the all-pervading Brahm, I did not see any articles for oblation except the body of the Purush (the male God). Therefore, I created the animals, vegetables, Kusa (a sacred grass), the sacred land where gods can perform yajna and the time, which is full of virtues (meaning the time in which the virtues are worshipped). Then I created all the ingredients of yajna, herbs, milk fats, sweetmeats, metals like gold, clay (earth), water, four Vedas (Rig, Yaju, Sama and Atharva), four Brahmans, and such procedures too by which the yajna may be performed."
There is description in the Brahma Purana (Purva Bhag,Addhyaya 1, sloka 5,6,7) that in the beginning of the Kalpa, a very sacred mahayajna was performed for one thousand years. The organizer of this mahayajna was Brahmaji himself accompanied by His wife Ila. The role of Shamitraka was performed by intelligent and radiant Mrityudev himself.
The king Daksha felt very sorry when his yajna was spoiled by her daughter Sati by her self-immolation. After begging pardon from Shiva, he organized Visad yajna as atonement for his sin. Its description is found in slokas 16 to 18 of seventh chapter in the fourth Skandha of Bhagwat; as follows -
Thus Daksha got his sin pardoned, and after consulting Brahmaji, he expanded the work of yajna, beautifully, by taking into account all the aspects, e.g. upadhyaya, ritvija, agni
for yajna, etc. A Purodasa (an oblation made of ground rice and offered in kapalas or vessels) of three kapalas was offered to Lord Vishnu. In order to complete the yajna, offerings were given to virtuous Brahmans to purify the chief stalwarts. When the Adhwaryu took the Havi in his hand and meditated on God after performing havan with pure intelligence along with the Yajman, he sighted the Virat
Purush (Lord Vishnu)".