By Swami Harshananda
Dakṣiṇā literally means ‘sacrificial fees’.
One of the most important aspects of a Vedic sacrifice is dakṣiṇā or the fees paid to the priests conducting sacrifice. Generally cows and gold are considered superior among the various kinds of dakṣiṇās. Other animals, food items or anything useful to the donees are also prescribed.
Small gifts are given in minor rites. Fabulous and big gifts are expected to be given in complicated rites such as the Rājasuyayāga. It is interesting that a non-brāhmaṇa may also be given dakṣiṇā if he is learned, whereas a brāhmaṇa of a different gotra (lineage) or who is not learned is not entitled for it.
A sacrifice where dakṣiṇā has not been paid becomes barren and it is believed that the sacrificer's life is cut short by this serious defect. The act of giving dakṣiṇā is a ritual of a sacrifice.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore