By Swami Harshananda
Avāntara-dikṣā literally means ‘secondary initiation’.
A yajamāna (one who performs a sacrifice) is expected to take dīkṣā or initiation at the beginning of the sacrifice he is undertaking. This is a purification ritual which is imposed on him with certain rules and code of conduct.
Sometimes, as a part of a major sacrifice, minor rites also have to be performed. Some of these are considered very important. It requires the yajamāna and his wife to take an additional dīkṣā. Such a dīkṣā, taken at the beginning of a subsidiary rite which itself is part of a bigger sacrifice, is called ‘avāntaradīkṣā.’
For instance in the Agnistoma (a Soma- yāga), avāntaradīkṣā has to be taken before the pravargya rite. The yajamāna and his wife offer fuel sticks into the āhavanīya and gārhapatya fires respectively. Touching the water heated in the vessel called ‘madantī,’ the yajamāna clenches his fists closely, tightens his girdle and drinks hot milk. The dīkṣā ends with nihnava, a kind of salutation to heaven and earth, by the priests.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore