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Pravahana Jaivali In Hinduism

In Hinduism, Pravahana Jaivali is the king who taught the ‘five fires’ (panchagni). Pravahana, the son of Jivala, was a king of Panchala. He is mentioned in Chandogya Upanishad (Chap. V sections 3 to 10) as the one who instructed Gautama about the five fires and the five panchagni vidya (oblations).

The Upanishad narrates the teaching in the form of a story. Svetaketu, a young student, went to attend an assembly of scholars in the Panchala country. There, Pravahana noticed this boy and sensing the boy to be in search of some piece of knowledge regarding the destiny of a son after death and rebirth as a human person, asked him whether he was taught by his father as to

  1. Where the selves go after death
  2. How they return
  3. The paths leading to the world of the forefathers and that of gods
  4. Why the world did not get filled up by the occupant beings
  5. How the fifth oblation, water, is called a ‘Person’.

The boy did not know the answers to any of these five questions and sadly went back to his father, Gautama, who also confessed ignorance of the subject.

Gautama met Pravahana in the Panchala country and asked for instruction on the five questions. The essence of Pravahana’s teaching was on the five fires.

The five fires are

  1. The heaven
  2. Rain
  3. Earth
  4. Man
  5. Woman.

The five oblations of five fires are respectively

  1. Faith
  2. The Soma, the bright moon from which the rain falls
  3. Rain
  4. Food
  5. The Seminal fluid

As the fifth oblation, the seminal fluid, deposited in the womb of the woman, develops into the human embryo; it is called the ‘Person’.

All the five oblations are in watery form. The first oblation of faith is also water, because it is with faith that offerings are made in the form of milk, etc, in the ritualistic fires.

Pravahana Jaivali thus taught Gautama this science of five fires and five oblations (panchagni vidya) to show how one is reborn in the womb of the mother as a result of ritualistic sacrifices after abiding in different regions like heave.

The meditation on these five fires is for the purpose of getting disgusted with the endless births and rebirths entailing manifold misery and develop dispassion, leading to liberating moksha (wisdom), the goal of all life.