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Wisdom of Five Fires: Panchagni Vidya



The Wisdom of the Five Fires, encapsulated in the Panchagni Vidya, is a profound doctrine elucidated in the Chandogya Upanishad, specifically in its Fifth Chapter.

An revered reservoir of Vedic knowledge, the ChAndogya Brahmana is comprised of the ChAndogya Upanishad and is a part of the Sama Veda. This Upanishad, which is famously long, is divided into eight parts, or Prapathakas, and contains many stories and shlokas that lead to thematic understanding of the Upanishadic teachings. The name “Chanda,” meaning poetic meter or rhythm, is the origin of the Upanishad’s nomenclature; it is the ninth principal Upanishad in the hierarchy. Thus, the Chandogya Upanishad plays an essential part within the vast fabric of Vedic literature, providing a lyrical path through deep philosophical ideas and stories.

 This Upanishad directly deals with the true nature of Brahman, the Supreme Self, without a second.
The first chapter starts and deals with the meditation on OM “Udgitha Vidya,” which has been discussed in my previous blog on the Chandogya Upanishad. The link is here. — Essence of Chhandogya Upanishad: Part-1A
In this section, we will discuss a brilliant study of the “Panchagni-Vidya” [the doctrine of five fires]
Note: The word Vidya in Panchagni Vidya is to be understood as Upasana~ Meditation.

The Five Fires~ Panchagni in the Panchagni Vidya are:

  • Heaven
  • Rain God
  • Earth
  • Male
  • Female

The Belief is that the five fires are given the five liquid oblations of

  1. Faith to Heaven: Soma Raja is generated.
  2. Soma to Rain god: Rain is generated.
  3. Rains to Earth: Food is generated.
  4. Food to Man: Sperm is generated.
  5. Seminal fluid to Woman: Newborn emanated.

॥ पञ्चमोऽध्यायः ॥

Link for Sanskrit Text of Chhandogya Upanishad:

The story of King Pravahana Jaivali and Svetaketu:
Upanishad starts with a story: Svetaketu was son of sage Uddalaka Aruni also known as Gautama too. Well educated and confident of his knowledge. There was a noble, highly learned king of Panchal, during the late Vedic period named Pravahana Jaivali. Svetaketu went to his court for sharing his knowledge in King’s court. The moment Svetaketu arrived at the court, the king received him with due respect and offered him the requisite hospitality, being a Brahmin boy and well versed with Vedas and all branches of learning. The king asked the boy: ” Are you well educated? Have you studied? Is your education complete? Has your father instructed you?”
The boy replied. “Yes, my education is complete, and I am well-read.” Then the king asked some questions. ” Naturally, you are well informed and able to answer my questions. You are proficient in every branch of learning.” The boy affirmed. King then asked following five questions.

The first question asked by the King:

“Do you know where people go after they depart from this world? When people die, where do they go? Do you know the answer to this question, my dear boy?”
The boy replied, “I do not know. I am unable to answer.”

King then asked second question:

“Do you know wherefrom people come when they are reborn into this world?” The boy said, ” No, I do not know answer of this also”.

The Third question:

” Have you any idea of the paths along which the Souls ascends, the paths being known as “Devayana” and “Pitriyana”? Do you know the difference between these two paths? Why is one distinct from the other?” The boy said, ” I do not know the answer to this question also.”

The Fourth question:

“Why is it that the yonder world is not filled with people and overflowing? Always, the world is able to contain people and it is never flooded with them. What is the reason for this?” The boy said, ” This also I do not know.”

The Fifth question:

” Do you know what are the five oblations that are offered and how the fifth oblation as liquid becomes a human being?”
“The boy said, this too I do not know.
Then the King said, ” Why did you say that you are well read and well instructed? King said ” How is it possible that you are not able to answer even these questions. What made you think that you are well educated. What is that your father has taught and you are not able to answer these?” Listening this from the King, boy realized that his education was incomplete and his pride vanished. The boy realized for the first time that it was his wrong idea that he knew everything. Feeling disgraced, he returned home and took his father to task for not teaching this Vidya which could have helped him in answering the questions put by the king. But Sage Gautama himself was unaware of the answers. Therefore sage Gautama went to the king Pravahana to learn the Vidya. King received with due respect and offered him many gifts. But the sage Gautama refused to accept gifts since he was interested only to be enlightened on the discourse which King mentioned to the boy Svetaketu. King then Commanded him, ” Stay for a long time.” Then King said, O Gautama, before you, this Vidya was never went to Brahmanas: it is for this reason, that among all people, it was only with the Kshatriya.
Great king imparted to the circle of Brahmins by way of this initiation called the knowledge of the Panchagni-Vidya. The King explained five fires:

5.4.1-2: The First fire is svargaloka (Heaven):

The Sun is the fuel (sacrificial stick) of this Fire. The rays of the Sun are the smoke, while the day is the flame. The moon is the ember (red hot coal~चिंगारी). The stars are the sparks of this fire. When Agnihotra is performed, the jivas become Soma Raja(moon) and enter svargaloka.

5.5.1-2: The Second fire is Parjanya.

O Gautama! the god of rain is the sacrificial fire; air is its fuel; the cloud is the smoke. Lightning is the flame. The Thunderbolt is the charcoal. The roars of the fire are the sparks. Soma Raja (Jiva) is the oblation in this fire.

5.6.1-2: The Third fire is the Earth.

For this fire, the year is the sacrificial fire. Akasha (sky) is the smoke. The night is the flame. The directions are the live charcoals. The directions are the sparks. The oblation in this case is rain. When the rains reach the earth, food is grown.

5.7.1-2: The forth is man himself.

His speech(vaak) is the sacrificial fire. His prana is smoke. His tongue is the flame. The eyes are the live charcoals, and his ears are the sparks. Here the oblation is food. From that food the seed of man is born.

5.8.1-2: The fifth fire is Woman.

The interconnection between man and woman is the live charcoal. The small pleasures are the sparks. The oblation is the seed of man and from this does a new-born emanate.


The Jiva which has ascended to the Heavenly world by the virtue of good deeds descends on the exhaustion of that merit to the earth to take up another life, from heaven in the form of rains. There in the earth, the self enters a food grain growing on a plant and then enters the blood of the male who consumes that food grain and that turns into sperm. Finally, when the seminal fluid enters the female womb upon coitus, the Jiva also enters the womb along with it. In the womb it gets embodied.

**Khanda 5.4 to 5.8 describe the conception of Human being using metaphor of Sacrifice (Yajna~ meditation). The fifth offering mentioned here is the seed of man (Semen) that brings about conception at the end.

5.9: The Ten months in mother’s womb:

5.9.1: Thus, after the fifth oblation, water becomes Purusha [ पुरुषवचसो] known as Man. The foetus lies within the mother’s womb, covered with membrane, for about nine or ten months, and then it is born. [**This is the answer to the fifth question asked by the King Pravahana]

5.9.2: When a person is born, he lives as long as he is destined to live. Then, when he dies as ordained, he is carried from here to the fire from which he came.

5.10: Path of Devayana

5.10.1-2: Those wo know this (Panchagni vidya), and those who live in the forest, practicing austerities with faith- they go to the path of Devayana(the world of light) From the world of light they go to the world of day; from the world of day to the world of bright fortnight; from the world of bright fortnight to the six months when Sun moves northward [Uttarayana]; from there go to the Sun, from the Sun to the moon; and from the moon to lightning. There someone, not human, receives them and leads them to Brahmaloka. This path is Devayana (path of gods).

5.10.3: On the other hand, those who live in the village and perform acts of public service, charity, and so on, attain the world of smoke. From there they go to the world of the night; from night they go to the world of the dark fortnight; and from the dark fortnight they go to the world of the six months when the Sun moves to the south. This means that they never attain the world of the year.

5.10.4: From the six months of the southern solstice, they go to the world of the ancestors, from there they go to the sky. Then from the sky they go to the moon. This is King Soma. This is the food of the gods. The gods enjoy eating this food.

5.10.5-6: Living in the world of the moon until the merit (the fruits of his work) is exhausted, he then returns to this world along the same path. First going to the sky, he then goes to air. Having become air, he next becomes smoke. Having become smoke, he then becomes mist. From mist they become a cloud, after which they pour forth as rain. Then they are born as food. To emerge from these is difficult, only if someone or other eats him as food and pours him out as semen can he be reborn. [ Those who eat these things produce children just like themselves]
5.10.7: Those whose conduct on Earth has given pleasure, can hope to enter a pleasant womb; but those whose conduct has been foul can expect to enter a foul and stinking womb.
5.10.8: But those small and continually returning creatures (like flies and worms) are not to be found on either of these two paths: theirs is a third condition, ” Be born and die” That is why the world up there is not filled up, and that is why a man should carefully watch his actions. On this there is the following verse:

This completes the answers to the five questions.

5.10.9: A person who steals gold, or drinks liquor, or goes to bed with his master’s wife, or kills a Brahmin-these four are lost. Also lost is the fifth- one who keeps company with such people.
5.10.10: But he who knows the five fires remains pure even if he is in the company of these people. He who knows this is pure and innocent, and after death he goes to the world of the good and pure.

The Celestial Region, the Atmosphere, the Earth, Man and Woman- These are the five stages of the Fire which becomes the object of meditation known as the Panchagni Vidya.
By the interconnection, combination and harmonious adjustment of the structure of these five levels of manifestation, birth takes place. This symbiology of Birth is applicable for all organisms in the world. This is theory of manifestation. Every event is Universal event, even the birth of a human. Every birth is to be considered in the light of Panchagni Vidya.

The whole point of this description in the context of the Panchagni Vidya is to describe us how the event of Births happens? What are the stages of the descent of the soul into the physical embodiment? It has to be understood through philosophical point of view. The point made out is that higher realms are activated by the consequences produced by our actions, in turn which become causes of our descent.

Two paths are laid before the soul after death. One is Devayana, the Northern path. It is for those who sought Wisdom. The other is Southern Path~ Pitriyana.

Now, the Upanishad here tells us that the whole universal activity of creation may be conceived as such a kind of sacrifice, —yajna. The mantras that are chanted in the performance of yajna are the sacred intentions. Offerings are made to certain Deities.

A Single autonomous Process:

Universe and its various constituents are only parts of it, internally connected. The whole universal manifestation is a single process, and it is a continuous process. The process of Births and Deaths are to be explained from this point of view, where all phenomenal experiences are part of this single autonomous process and are connected to ultimate cause. There is some law which works in some particular manner on account of which we are compelled to follow this course of repeated cycle of Births and Deaths, known as transmigration.

The whole universe is our father; the entire universe is our mother:

There are various stages of manifestation. How the birth of an individual takes place, how a child is born? For that, the underlying philosophy or science to be understood. What we the common people know that child is born from womb of the mother. That is true. But the process of birth takes place throughout the cosmos. All the governing forces of nature (of the Universe) are active in the production of a single child.
The whole cosmos is behind the scenes. The Universe is the parent of the little baby. That is the ultimate cause. It has connection with cause of all causes (Causal), by a chain of causal connections.

When the secret is known, no one will say, ” It is my son or my daughter.” It is neither yours neither mine. It belongs to that from where it has come.

It has come from the cells of this Universe. It has not come automatically in the seminal essence of the father or the womb of the mother. A system works here with a process since primordial time. It is the quintessence of every particle of the whole of Nature. That is why we say “Brahmanda is in the Pindanda” ~ The macrocosm is in the microcosm.


The Panchagni-Vidya is a meditation [UPASANA], —it is not an outward ritualistic sacrifice; it is a contemplation by the mind in which it harnesses every aspect of its force for the purpose of envisaging the reality.
Existence itself is regulated by the presence of the sun. The sun is the cause of life on earth. But who is the cause of the sun? The sun is also an effect of certain factors, —we may call them astronomical. That vibration is precedent and anterior to what we call the manifestation of even the causal condition of this world. Prior to all this, something else must be there, and prior to that, again, another thing, and so on, so that even our insignificant life in this world, in this physical body, can be said to be completely controlled by factors which are transcendent, beyond the sun and the moon and the stars, and where we go in this manner of tracing our cause back, we cannot know. This is the point driven home into the mind of Gautama by Pravahana Jaivali in the context of the explanation of the Panchagni-Vidya.

Connected Universe:

The world, which is called the celestial realm, is itself the sacred fire into which oblations are offered. This is how the meditation is to be conducted. The fuel, which ignites the fire and causes the flames to rise up in this sacrifice, is the sun. As smoke rises from the fire in a sacrifice, we contemplate the rising or the emanation of the rays from the sun, symbolically. As the flames shine, so is the shining of the daytime due to the fire of the sun in the sacrifice. We may compare the embers, remaining after the flames subside in a sacrifice, to the moon who is something like the subsidence of the flames of the light of the sun, or we may even say, the comparison is made because moonlight arises generally when the sun’s flames subside. Compare the stars to the sparks which are ejected from the flames of the fire, because they are scattered, as it were, in the sky. Now, this is a sacrificial mode of contemplation on the higher regions of the cosmos.
There is a mutual dependence between the outer world and the inner world of the individual. Our thoughts influence the atmosphere. We must realize that thoughts are vibrations and it is nonlocal. This vibrations are not isolated activity inside our brain. The vibrations emanate like an aura to certain distance from the body of a person. The distance depends upon the intensity of the intensity of the aura(good vibes~ harmonious thoughts.)Therefore cumulative effect of the vibrations produced by all the individuals can bring very good result in that environment in return.

Readers are requested to study further on the following topics/websites.

2. We are influenced by the environment around us. EPIGENETICS a new subject.
There is a cycle, as it were, a wheel rotating in the form of give-and-take between the gods in the heaven and the human beings here. We give something and we are given back something. Nature gives us what we give to it in the form of our own deeds in this world. We do not get what we do not deserve, and we cannot get, also, what we have not given actually. What we have given, what we have deserved, what we have parted with in the form of a sacrifice, that is given back to us, with compound interest sometimes, according to the law of Nature. On account of this cyclic activity of Nature, in which the individuals get involved through their actions, there is rainfall. So, we can imagine how rains occur.

Recommended readings:

  1. Back to the Truth: 5000 years of ADVAITA by Dennis Waite. **
  2. THE TEN PRINCIPAL UPANISHADS: Translated by Shree Purohit** Swami and W.B.Yeats
  3. Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sankaracharya: Translated by Swami Gambhirananda.**
  4. Commentary of ChAndogya Upanishad: By Swami Krishnananda.
  5. ChAndogya Upanishad: By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  6. EIGHT UPANISADS -VOL-1 with commentary of Sankaracharya, Translated by SWAMI GAMBHIRANANDA.
  7. THE TAITTIRIYA UPANISHAD: SHIKSHAVALLI-ANANDAVALLI-BHRIGUVALLI with Sri Shankara’s Commentary By Sri Swami Satchidanandera Saraswati.
  8. A-U-M Awakening to Reality: By Dennis Waite***
  9. Panchadasi: Swami Vidyaranya:
  10. Information available on internet.

30 thoughts on “Wisdom of Five Fires: Panchagni Vidya”

    1. Thank you so much Kaushal ji for your comments 😊
      I am happy to know that it was interesting and informative too.
      I personally feel that this section (panchagni vidya) is not only philosophical but fully scientific. From the viewpoint of quantum physics and quantum biology, the concept could be well understood. I am thankful for your inspiring comments.
      My best regards 😊🙏

  1. Sir, whenever I come across resemblance on upanishads verses it amazes me of its interconnection. The five liquid oblations made me to remember this verse of Taittriya Upanishad:- Akashat Vayuhu, Vayur Agnihi, Agnir Apaha, Adyah Pruthivi, Pruthivya Oshadhayaha, Oshadhayo Annam, Annaath Purushaha. Your details on the process of birth and their existence invoke self inquiry interest. Is pitriyana and pitru yagna same? I wonder what is the significance of shukla paksha in here? Like how moon does not have recognition on its own but borrows from the sun same applies to the universe as a whole. I believe that temple abodes are fueled by the collective prayers of humans which gives the desired effect. Thank you for this elaborated explanation and happy to receive its hidden wisdom.

    1. Soon I will reply with elaboration.
      Thank you so much for your comments with most important points and reference of Taittiriya Upanishad.
      I remember what you quoted.
      God bless you and give you more vedantic knowledge.
      Regards 🙏🙏

    2. I think pitriyana and pitru yagna are different. Pitru yagna is one kind of ritual.
      Pitriyana is a path of jiva after leaving this body. Pitru loka is another dimension (loka) below Brahmaloka. Karmic accounts balance decide the path like Devayana or Pitriyana etc.
      Finally you will see in the sixth chapter of Chandagyo Upanishad *tat tvam asi* . That is the main concept. Knowledge and beyond karma. You know that very well.
      However we must follow the guidelines as described in the ancient Texts. And let us forget the fruits of action. Let us focus on liberation.
      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts in this context.
      I am learning and sharing. Learning and sharing.
      Best wishes 😊

      1. Sir, that is so true about the karmic accounts. It is always fascinating to read the karma theory and it’s scope. I have come across pitruloka and pitruyagna but this is the first time to have known about pitriyana. Interesting information and thanks for sharing this to us. 🙏

        1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, your comments.
          Together we can build up our knowledge more.
          I am truly thankful for this.
          Always stay blessed. 🙏🙏

  2. Arun Ji. This is very precious. And utmost important for us to not just know but share just as much you are doing. Thank you for this. Even though i had some idea about it but your detailed narrative made it all come alive with its essence. Thank you again.

    Narayan x

    1. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement.
      Please feel free to give me suggestions for improvement. My intention is to reach out to the world with the peace message.
      I know you are very busy.
      However, I get enough support from you. Your kind words are very powerful for me. Inspire me.
      That is why I need feedback from all corners.
      My best regards Sir.
      Stay blessed 🙏

      1. Very well received Arun Ji. I feel on this journey, we ought to keep finishing our task and a time comes when it gets used by the forces of nature at the right time.

        It is important that you amongst all of us, are compiling such jewels which makes a difference the moment readers lend their eyes to them.

        Thank you
        Narayan x

        1. Thank you so much for your encouraging comments. We are all trying to get a peaceful society. Let’s hope there will be a peaceful World ☺️🙏

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  4. Excellently elaborated the essence ,
    So nicely explained ,
    my personal experience when I tried to read upanishad ,I found it needs lot of devotion and understanding ,and of course time,
    Thank you so much for sharing ,
    Very informative and enlightening post👌💐💐💐💐

    1. Thank you so much my dear child Reena. I am very happy to know that you have interest in Upanishad (Vedanta philosophy). Indeed, the Texts from Upanishad gives us direction to find the Reality, the ultimate truth. After knowing that, all kinds of suffering vanishes. It is not magic. It is logic. It is purely scientific.
      Thanks again.
      God bless you.

  5. Thank you for this article share. Again I have learnt something about life and put a few things into perspective under my eyes. Its interesting the young boy didn’t know everything as earlier thought and the fires elaboration is so clear. Thank you again.

    1. Thank you so much my dear friend that it was a nice story and you learnt something from it.
      These stories are all for great teachings.
      I have just published my latest blog on my journey through books 📚
      Please find time to have a glance.
      You will like it.
      Regards 😊🙏❤️

  6. সুমিত দত্তরায়

    Very Nicely Explained. Very truly,I heard Upanishads ‘Part ‘ ‘Part ‘ only by Different Writers.
    I’m very Lucky to get touch A learned Person like You,He who bear Knowledge in Modern Science as well as in Sanatana Dharma .Thanks Bandhu. Jay Shri Krishna 🙏

    1. Thank you so much my dear friend for your lovely and encouraging words.
      We will learn more about Vedanta.
      God bless you and your family 👍😊🙏❤️

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