By Swami Harshananda
Mahāśānti literally means ‘the great propitiatory rite’.
When problems, troubles and difficulties arise beyond human efforts and capacities to get redemption, human beings opt to take to religious or divine remedies. Śāntis or propitiating rites belong to this class. Mahāśānti is one such rite prescribed in some ancient works like the Sāñkhāyana Grhyasutras.
Need of Mahāśānti
Mahāśānti is performed for general well being, when mishaps such as the following occur like :
- Fall of meteors
- Before the coronation of a king
- Before the king starts on an invasion
- Birth of a baby under an inauspicious star
- Falling down of holy objects like the umbrella of a deity in procession
- Costly things are lost
- During eclipses
Observances of Mahāśānti
The peculiarities of Mahāśānti are:
- It is generally done on a specially raised platform wherein there will be an agnikuṇḍa (fire place) and also places for kalaśas to be established.
- Mostly Ṛgvedic mantras are recited during the ceremonies.
- A homa is also performed.
- The yajamāna, main performer, takes a bath at the end.
- The śāntijala, holy water used in the rite, is sprinkled over him by the priests who are then suitably rewarded.
- Sāñkhāyana Grhyasutras 5.11
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore