Yajna (Sanskrit: यज्ञ, yajña) or Yajneshwara ("Lord of Yajna") is mentioned as an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu in the Bhagavata Purana. As Yajna, Vishnu is the embodiment of the Hindu sacrifice ritual or Yajna. He was also the Indra (king of the gods) of the Svayambhuva Manvantara, era of Svayambhuva Manu.
The Bhagavata Purana, Devi Bhagavata Purana, and Garuda Purana list Yajna or Syavambhuva as an avatar of Vishnu or Adi-Narayana. Yajna is classified as one of the 14 main Manvantara-avatars (an avatar corresponding to a Manvantara and who supports the corresponding Indra and other gods to maintain the principles of religion) called vaibhava-avatars. Yajna is also categorized as a Kalpa-avatar (an avatar corresponding to an aeon called Kalpa) of Vishnu.
Yajna is the son of Prajapati Ruci and Akuti, the daughter of Svayambhuva Manu - the first Manu (progenitor of mankind). During the period of Svayambhuva Manu (Svayambhuva Manvantara), there was no qualified Indra, the post of the king of Svarga (Heaven) and king of gods. So, Vishnu incarnated as Yajna and held the post of Indra.
The Bhagavata Purana identifies Yajna with Vishnu and Dakshina with goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune and consort of Vishnu. After Yajna's birth, he lived at the house of his grandfather Svayambhuva Manu. The sons to Yajna and Dakshina are named as Tosha, Pratosha, Santosha, Bhadra, Sânti, Idaspati, Idhma, Kavi, Vibhu, Svahna, Sudeva and Rocana. They are collectively called as the Tushita gods. Later Yajna is described to become the Indra. Garuda Purana says that he performed many sacrifices.
Another tale from the Vishnu Purana tells at the time of destruction of Daksha's sacrifice (Yajna), Yajna, the lord of sacrifice, was escaping as a deer. Yajna's head was severed by Virabhadra, a fierce incarnation of Shiva. Latter accounts in the Harivamsa and Linga Purana relate this to the origin of the constellation (Nakshatra) Mrigashīrsha ("deer-headed"). The creator god Brahma elevated the deer-headed Yajna to the planetary sphere as Mrigashīrsha.
Association with sacrifice
Vishnu has been equated to Yajna ("sacrifice") as early as in the Vedas. The commenter on the Vedas - Sayana describes Vishnu as the lord of Yajna or the sacrificer himself. Even the Bhagvad Gita associates Vishnu to Yajna (sacrifice). Performing sacrifices is considered to equivalent to pleasing Vishnu. The Vishnu Sahasranama ("Thousand names of Vishnu") also relates Yajna as a name of Vishnu.
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