The practice of making votive offerings into fire dates from the
earliest periods of human history, and is found in many different
religious cultures. Throughout the tantric world, this kind of
ritual offering practice is known as the homa. With roots in Vedic
and Zoroastrian rituals, the tantric homa developed in early
medieval India. Since that time it has been transmitted to Central
and East Asia by tantric Buddhist practitioners. Today, Hindu forms
are also being practiced outside of India as well. Despite this
historical and cultural range, the homa retains an identifiable
unity of symbolism and ritual form. The essays collected in Homa
Variations provide detailed studies of a variety of homa forms,
providing an understanding of the history of the homa from its
inception up to its use in the present. At the same time, the
authors cover a wide range of religious cultures, from India and
Nepal to Tibet, China, and Japan. The theoretical focus of the
collection is the study of ritual change over long periods of time,
and across the boundaries of religious cultures. The identifiable
unity of the homa allows for an almost unique opportunity to
examine ritual change from such a broad perspective.
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