An essential part of Agnihotra is the exact point in time of the performance – exactly at sunrise and exactly at sunset.
The Vedas contain various definitions of sunrise and sunset. Agnihotra refers to the definition which says that the middle of the solar disk stands exactly on the horizon. Yet due to the light refraction, we don’t see the exact position of the sun: during the passage from space (practically a vacuum) into the denser atmosphere, the visible light is bent. This leads to a divergence between the observed position of the sun and its actual position. At morning Agnihotra it seems as though the sun has already risen and already stands above the horizon. At evening Agnihotra the sun can still be seen above the horizon. The difference between the actual and the visible sunrise can add up to several minutes.
Why exactly at sunrise and sunset?
According to the Vedic knowledge this is what happens exactly at sunrise:
At sunrise the many fires, electricities, ethers and more subtle energies emanating from the sun extend all the way to the Earth and produce a flood effect at those coordinates where the sun is said to rise. It is awesome. The flood enlivens and purifies everything in its path, destroying what is impure in its wake. This torrent of life-sustaining energies causes all life to rejoice. At sunrise that music can be heard. The morning Agnihotra Mantra is the essence of that music. It is the quintessential sound of that flood. At sunset the flood recedes.
This description makes it obvious why the exact point in time is crucial for Agnihotra. We have to catch the peak of this energy flood in order to be able to use its enormous energies. If you miss the exact point in time it is not Agnihotra and the healing effects of the fire and the ash won’t occur.
In order to get the exact Agnihotra time you need:
1. A precise watch. In Central Europe radio-controlled watches provide us with the exact time. Outside of Central Europe the exact time can be checked online, provided that the internet connection is good. See the clock on the right side.
2. The Agnihotra timetable for the place in question. A program for the calculation of Agnihotra timings for every location is available for download on this page. The software was developed in Germany using the definitions of sunrise and sunset intended for Agnihotra. It is important to find out the exact geographic coordinates for the respective location. In a city like Munich for example, there is a difference of approximately one and a half minutes between the Agnihotra timings in the East and the West!