During the Vedic period, the perfor-mance of sacrifices was very common. It was believed that one could get whatever one desired through the appropriate sacrifices. Only men belonging to the first three castes, viz., the brāhmaṇas, the kṣattriyas and the vaiśyas, were eligible for establishing the Vedic fires and performing these sacrifices. Certain classes of śūdras like the rathakāras (carpenters) were also considered eligible. Even such persons had to establish the fires in a ceremonial way following the prescribed procedure. One who established the fires came to be known as an āhitāgni.
Agnyādhāna, also known as agnyā-dheya (or simply ādhāna or ādheya) was this prescribed rite. Literally it means placing of burning coals for the generation of the gārhapatya fire.
Only a married adult could establish the Vedic fires. He could do it on any day he felt the desire or had to do it only in certain seasons and on certain astronomically suitable days, nakṣatras or stars or asterisms being the determining factor.
The actual rite was spread over two days though preparation of the araṇis (pieces of wood used in producing fire by attrition) and other implements would start much earlier.
The first day known as upavasatha is devoted by the yajamāna (sacrificer) to preliminaries like choosing the priests (ṛtvigvaraṇa), offering them madhuparka (For details see MADHUPARKA.), preparing the sacrificial ground, having a shave and so on. Preparation and consumption of the brahmaudana (cooked rice meant for the priests) is another rite, performed by the adhvaryu. (See ADHVARYU.)
After the first night and just before dawn the next day, fire is produced by the attrition of the two araṇis by the adhvaryu. Singing of sāmans at this time by the udgātṛ (priest of Sāmaveda) is a special feature. Gārhapatya fire in the hearth meant for it is the first to be set up. The āhavanīya fire is produced from the gārhapatya by the adhvaryu. The dakṣiṇāgni is set up by the priest āgnīdhra (one of the assistant priests) (See ĀGNĪDHRA for details.) either directly by the attrition of the araṇis or from the gārhapatya.
Establishing of the other two fires, sabhya and āvasathya, is optional.
After setting up the fires, various kinds of grains and fuel sticks are offered to them.
See also PAÑCĀGNI.