By Swami Harshananda
Origin of the Śākamedha Rite
An āhitāgni, one who has ceremonially established the Vedic fires, was expected to perform a particular group of sacrifices known as Cāturmāsya once every four months. Each of them was called a parvan. The third of these is Sākamedha. These sacrifices marked the advent of a particular season.
Performance of Śākamedha
The Sākamedha was to be performed at the beginning of the hemanta-ṛtu, on the full-moon day of the month of Kārttika or Mārgaśīrṣa. The sacrifice is of the isti type and is spread over two days.
Rituals of the Śākamedha Rite
On the preliminary day, three iṣṭis are performed to the three deities:
- Agni-anīkavat - The offering offered to them is a cake on eight potsherds.
- Sāntapana-Maruts - The offering offered to them is a caru.
- Gṛha-medhin-Maruts - The offering offered to them is another caru boiled in milk of all the cows belonging to the sacrificer.
The priests, the sons and also the grandsons of the sacrificer are to partake of the remaining of these offerings. On the principal day, a homa is performed with a darvī, scraping out the remainder of the cooked rice of the previous day. An interesting part of the rite is to bring a bull and make it bellow. It is later on gifted away. This is then followed by a mahāhavis and Mahāpitṛyajña dedicated to certain classes of pitṛs like barhisadpitṛs and agniṣvātta-pitrs.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore