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Srauta Karma In Hinduism

Srauta Karma is a term denoting ritual actions in Hinduism. Srauta Karma is too general a term, embracing all types of activities of a person, whether they are religious, social, official, physical or mental.

The term ‘karma’ in Srauta Karma is used to refer to religious rites, particularly the rituals and rites performed in the fire. These rituals and rites prescribed in Shastras can be broadly divided into two categories, namely, Srauta and Smarta.

Those rituals and rites which are performed in the tretagni, a group of three fires, are referred to as Srautakarmas and those performed in ekagni, a single fire, are referred to as smartakarmas. For example, Agnihotra, Darshaparunamasya, Somayaga, Rajasuya, etc, are srautakarmas, whereas Garbhadhana, Simantonayana, etc., are smarkakarmas.

These srauta and smarta karmas can be further classified as nitya (obligatory), naimittika (occasional) and kamya (optional for fulfillment of desires). For instance Sandhyavandana, Agnihotra and so on are nitya karma. Jatakarma, antyeshti and so on are naimittika karma. Putrakameshti, syenaciti, and so on are kamya karmas.

The main source of literature available on srauta karma is Srauta Sutras, known as Baudhayana, Apastamba, Asvalayana, Vaikhanasa, Sankhyayana, Drahyayana, Layayana, Masaka, Bharadwaja, Hiranyakeshi, Vaitana and so on.

The Srauta Sutras are supplemented by the rest of Kalpa Sutras. Srauta Sutras gives details regarding the construction of altars, the duties to be performed by different priests, etc. Kalpa Sutras gives a set of formulae which are useful in measurements and solving geometrical problems regarding Vedic construction and also in remembering the sequence of the mantras and the actions to be carried out in different sacrifices.

Sulba Sutras play an important role of supplementing Srauta Sutras in construction of the altars of different shapes. Other Vedangas also contribute in performing Srauta Karmas.

One of the important purpose of Srauta Karma is to implicitly teach human beings to see divinity in everything around them. Sharing available resources with others is indispensable for the harmony and well being of a society. By performing sacrifices, the performer, be it an emperor or a poor Brahmin, shares one’s own resources with a large section of society, both directly and indirectly. These resources include food grains, animals, lands, riches and wealth of different kinds. Thus by sharing in abundance for the smooth functioning of society and also invoking the blessings of the deity, the performer of the sacrifice contributes implicitly to the well being of the entire humanity.