The plot of land that spreads out towards the east of the large elevated altar constructed for conducting yajña (yajna) is known as agnikṣetra (agnikshetra). A fire in the shape of a falcon needs to be lit and maintained within this plot of land. Owing to the importance of this fire or agni, this plot of land has come to be known and recognized by the name agnikṣetra. The normal measure of this plot of land is saptavidha, i.e. the plot of land should have a length and breadth seven times the height of the person performing the yajña. The plot of land can spread out the length of seven men (‘man’ here being the measure of length) across north south and seven men across east-west. Sometimes, these lengths may be twice or thrice the figure seven, that is a plot of land of length and breadth fourteen men each, or of length and breadth twenty one men each may also be considered as agnikṣetra. Yajña of huge proportions like Somayāga (Somayaga) and Aśvamedha (Ashwamedh) require a very large agnikṣetra. Thus a plot of land of length and breadth seven, fourteen or twenty one men each was required for such rituals.
[Chitrabhanu Sen, A Dictionary of the Vedic Rituals, p. 31; See. Nicolas Dejenne, ‘The Significance of the Number ‘Thrice Seven’. In Epic Undertaking, Ed. Robert P. Goldman & Muneo Tokunaga, pp. 69-70.]
- We may dwell upon the subject whether the large plot of land known as agnikṣetra was used to cultivate crops which were offered as oblations during the yajña. This is because we find in Vāyupurāṇa (Vayupurana) that King Sīradhvaja Janaka (Siradhwaja Janak) tilled his Agnikṣetra before conducting the Aśvamedha sacrificial rite. It was in this tilled agnikṣetra that she found Sītā as a newborn babe.
Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (Shatapath Brahmana), translated by J. Eggeling and edited by Max Mueller, provides a pictorial representation of an agnikṣetra.