By Swami Harshananda
Praṇāgnihotra literally means ‘act of eating compared to Agnihotra to satisfy the prāṇas’.
The Karmakāṇḍa of the Vedas is full of not only the instructions about sacrifices but also contains their eulogy. In the āraṇyakas and the Upaniṣads, however, there is a tendency to minimize their ritualistic aspects and substitute them with subtle mental ideas, sometimes associated with ordinary acts of day-to-day life also. The prāṇāgnihotra of the Chāndogya Upaniṣad is one such instance. Here the act of eating has been elevated to the level of the Agnihotra, a daily sacrifice.
According to the instructions given in the Upaniṣad, the first five morsels of food are to be preceded by the following mantras:
- Prāṇāya svāhā
- Vyānāya svāhā
- Apānāya svāhā
- Samānāya svāhā
- Udānāya svāhā
When these five prāṇas are satisfied by these ritual offerings, they produce certain special results like progeny, possession of cows and excellent physical characteristics, including smooth functioning of the senses.
- Chāndogya Upaniṣad 5.19-24
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore