Before the creation of this universe, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara (that is Shiva) used to perform yagnas (fire ceremonies) to the Divine Mother. The Divine Mother was pleased by this and gave them each a boon: Brahma was to create the universe, Vishnu was to preserve it and Shiva to destroy it. That is why it is said that the fire-ceremony is like support of the earth.
The fire-ceremony, or yagna, is based on scientific principles. In the fire-ceremony, when you give an offering to a particular deity, it reaches that particular deity in its totality. In the Vedas it is written that the mouth of the gods is fire, ‘Agni.’ To whichever god you are giving the offering, by saying the mantra and adding the name of that god plus the word ‘swaha,’ it makes the offering complete. That is, you reach that particular god.
Once the havan kund (fire pit) has been constructed, it is considered an altar and should be treated accordingly. Whenever any service is performed for the kund, it should be done with clean hands and mouth and bare feet. The havan kund should be used for no other purpose than the performances of a havan. It may, however, be lit for the purpose of sitting beside to sing bajans or to do japa or meditation.
The celebrants should be freshly bathed and in a fasting condition. Tea or coffee can be taken. Women should wear saris or long dresses and men lunghis. Women having their monthly period should not attend. One reason for this is that at this time, women are very open and already experiencing purification and do not need to be around the energy of the fire.
Babaji reinstituted the Havan as one of his most prominent spiritual practices during his appearance from 1970 to 1984. He performed a Havan every single morning before sunrise at the dhuni near his room on his balcony, or if travelling, a dhuni was always provided. It was THAT important to him to keep it going every day. In addition, he performed hundreds of yagyas on special occasions or in special locations. In these, many others participated and offered at the fire. He made a few speeches about havan which tell some significant information.
Experience shows that the havan has been the most significant of the spiritual practices in bringing about quick transformation and dissolving of negativity. There are many experiences of going into a fire ceremony with a problem and coming out of it without the problem. This happens more noticeably for those who are sponsoring and performing the ceremony than for those who are just casual observers.
There are many aspects to a Havan. There are hundreds of little details in the preparations, the offerings, the decorations, and the performance, as well as the proper clean-up and handling of everything involved, even down to the ashes left afterwards. As one learns about all these details and surrenders to the beauty and holiness of it all, the “ancientness” and all-pervading quality of the element of fire becomes something very special.
In almost every ancient religion on this earth, fire is an important element of prayer. The smoke of the fire takes the prayers up into the ethers to where the Gods reside. The offerings are transmuted into a form that is ingestible, or digestible, to these Gods.
A parallel in our bodies is that we swallow food and through the “fire” in our digestive tract, this food is made into energy usable by our bodies. Those with weak digestion have a cool-burning fire while those with strong digestion have a nice hot flame. By the same token, the fire ceremony takes the food offered, adds light to it in the form of fire, and makes it into energy to “feed” the Gods. When honoured in this way, while reciting their names, it is their duty to offer blessings to us and to take care of us.
They say the fire of the havan connects down into the core of the earth, where there is also fire, and up into the heavens to the sun, which is fire. This puts us in touch with our groundedness and our spaciness at the same time, integrating us into wholeness.
We thank all of the many things that sacrifice themselves in order for us to make this prayer of fire ceremony: the wood, the incense, the fruits, the flowers, the perfume oils, the grains, the resins, the ghee, the yoghurt, the milk, the sugar, the honey, and all of the sources of these ingredients and the people who helped get these things to us for us to offer to the Divine. All are given blessings for their part in this most ancient way of worshiping the Divine.
Once the ceremony begins, each of the words said is a Name of God. The different aspects are each called upon with reverence and given an offering. In another dimension, it is possible to see the named deity swoop in and take their offering as it is given to them. They are all lined up, waiting for their turn to partake. They, in turn, give of themselves: a blessing of assistance in life, a feeling of peace, an attitude of understanding or compassion.
More than 400 Names of God are said during a typical fire ceremony. Those attending a Havan will receive most benefit by keeping a silent, prayerful and respectful attitude, observing each thought, each picture, each emotion that comes to mind and offering that into the fire. With each offering is said “Swaha” (I offer). Swaha is also the name of the wife of the God of Fire, Agni. To honour his wife is to honour him in the highest way.