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While reading Rigveda, I often encounter these two closely related words, so often that the entire scripture seems to depend on these two words only. The problem is that I can't point out the actual difference between them. While Havana is perhaps some kind of burnt sacrifice given to Devatas, certainly performed by humans, Yajna seems to be a deed of the Devatas (divine beings personifying the forces of nature) themselves. Another implication is that Yajna is something happening between the humans and the divine beings(but I am pretty sure that it is not the same as Havana).

My study suggests me that Yajna is a kind of directive measure taken in order to channelize the extremely random forces of nature by manipulating their consciousness.

  • Yajna/Homa/Havana basically mean the same thing and that is fire sacrifice. Yajna have more wide usages though where Homa/Havana are never used. For e.g. we have the concepts of Antar/Bahir Yajna (outer/inner worship) but we never say something like say Antar Homa etc., – Rickross Dec 2 '18 at 6:42
  • @Rickross, I disagree with your point , for literally Yajna is not only a fire sacrifice but ANY kind of devotional sacrifice made to the superior beings, whereas Havan specifically refers to the fire sacrifices done for invocatinal purposes. – Awe Kumar Jha Dec 2 '18 at 8:24
  • Yes tht I know and I hv also mentioned it in the comment. Yajna hv wider usages than Homa/Havana. – Rickross Dec 2 '18 at 9:07
  • @Rickross, Hmmm..., now I see your point. It would be a great help if you can provide me some sources from the vedic literature explicitly describing the meaning and purpose of Yajna , so that I can get the broader concept required for the continuation of my studies. – Awe Kumar Jha Dec 2 '18 at 9:18
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Havana:

Havana means the act of offering oblations in fire. Homa has exactly the same meaning.

From Sanskrit Dictionary, few meanings of Havana are as follows:

हवन n. havana invocation
हवन m. havana god of fire
हवन m. havana fire-receptacle
हवन n. havana summons
हवन n. havana sacrifice
हवन n. havana challenging or challenge to battle
हवन n. havana act of offering an oblation with fire

Right now I am not able to find a reference where the word Havana is found. But, for Homa I can give a reference:

sandhyA snAnam japo homo devatAtithipujanam |
Atithyam vaiswadevam cha shatkarmAni dine dine ||

Ablution and prayer, inaudible recitation (of sacred words), burnt- offerings, the worship of gods, hospitality to guests unexpectedly come, and offerings made in the name of the Visvadevam, — these are the six duties to be performed every day

ParAshara Smriti 1.39

Yajna:

Yajna also has a similar meaning but it can imply more things besides fire sacrifices. It can mean sacrifice, offering etc.

Few meanings of Yajna are:

Sacrifice, act of worship or devotion, prayer, fire, worship, offering.

So, while Havana/Homa has to be an offering made unto fire, Yajna is not necessarily the same. For example Japa Yajna - the act of doing Mantra Japa, here fire is not involved but still it's a Yajna.

Here is one such use of Yajna in scriptures where it is not referring to a sacrifice involving fire:

Iswara Uvacha:

Japa Yajnath Paro Yajno NAparohastiha Kaschana ||
Tasmajjapen DharmArthaKAmaMokshanscha SAdhayeth ||

There is no Yajna which is superior to Japa Yajna, hence one should attain Dharma, Artha, Kama & Moksha through Japa.

KulArnava Tantram,Chapter 15,Verse 3.

Some further references of how the word Yajna is used in Vedas are as follows:

Yat purushena havishA (1) deva yajnam atanvata (2) vasanto asyasid Ajyam (3) grishma idhmah sharad havih (4) ||

With Purusha as the offering (1) the devas performed a sacrifice (2); spring was the Ajya (3), summer the fuel (samit), and autumn (sharat) the offering (4).

RigVeda 10.90.6

Now, here Yajna may not be a fire sacrifice, because fire or Agni was said to be born (in one of the subsequent Mantras) as a result of this sacrifice.

Yet another Mantra which uses the word Yajna in it. The meaning of this Mantra is quite difficult to comprehend in my opinion.

Yajnena yajnam ayajanta devAh (1) tAni dharmAni prathamAni Asan (2) te ha nakam mahimAnah sachanta (3) yatra purve sAdhyAh santi devAh (4) ||

By sacrifice Gods sacrificed to sacrifice (1). These were the earliest established principles (Dharma) (2). The Mighty Ones in this way reached perfect bliss (3), Where dwell the Gods, ancients, who made the Way straight (4).

Rigveda 10.90.16

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