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Atiratra In Hinduism – Athirathram Yajna

The Atiratra, an important Vedic ritual in Hinduism, holds significance as one of the seven forms of the Somayaga sacrifice. The seven forms of Somayaga are: Agnistoma, Atyagnistoma, Ukthya, Sodasin, Vajapeya, Atiratram and Aptoryama. The term "Atiratra" literally translates to "that which extends beyond a night," indicating its duration spanning more than a single day and night. Within the spectrum of Vedic sacrifices, Athirathram stands out for its elaborate procedures and ancient origins, with references dating back to the Rig Veda (7.103.7).

As the sixth in the series of Somayaga, Atiratram is believed to be a modification of the Agnistoma ritual. It encompasses various intricate rites and ceremonies, each imbued with symbolic and spiritual significance. Some of its essential features include:

Chanting of Stotras and Sastras: Participants recite 29 stotras and 29 sastras, with additional recitations conducted during the night in four rounds. These hymns and verses serve as invocations and prayers to invoke divine blessings and favor.

Offering of Oblations: Six oblations are offered during the night, symbolizing offerings to various deities and cosmic forces. These offerings are made with precise rituals and accompanying mantras.

Dawn Rituals: At dawn, a significant portion of the Atiratram ritual involves chanting the lengthy Asvinasastra, which comprises 1000 verses. This chanting marks a pivotal moment in the ceremony, symbolizing the transition from darkness to light and the awakening of cosmic energies.

Sacrificial Offerings: Various sacrificial offerings are made throughout the ritual, including the sacrifice of an ewe to Sarasvati during the pressing of the soma juice and the offering of purodasa cakes in potsherds to the twin Ashvins. These offerings symbolize gratitude, devotion, and the harmonious relationship between humans and gods.

Overall, the Atiratram Yajna exemplifies the intricate and profound nature of Vedic rituals, serving as a conduit for spiritual communion, cosmic harmony, and the perpetuation of ancient traditions. Its performance requires meticulous adherence to scriptural injunctions and precise ritualistic procedures, emphasizing the importance of ritual purity, devotion, and divine communion in Hindu religious practice.