– ‘Agre’ means ‘in the beginning’. And the meaning of Ayana is motion or journey, shelter or the way of duty. Yajña is another meaning of ‘Ayana’. So, the yajña (yajna)performed before the cultivation of crops, is called Āgrayana (Agrayana).
In his dictionary , Pandit Haricharan Bandyopadhyay has said that this yāga(ritual) is performed in the monsoon, the autumn and the spring before sowing the seeds. In Manusaṁhitā it is said that this ceremony is to be performed for new harvest and good cultivation during the sun’s northward journey uttarāyaṇa (the sun’s northward journey). In Mahābhārata, the āgrayaṇa yāga is also mentioned. Indra, king of gods, is appeased with this yāga. Besides Indra, the yajña-fire (Agni) is also offered havi (ghee) in this ritual. The fire of this āgrayaṇa yāga is also called ‘Āgrayaṇa’. He is the fourth son of Bhānu (Bhanu).
In the beginning of this yāga (yaga), an offering of śyāmāka (shyamaka; a special type of paddy-grain) and sugar-cane is made to the forefathers. In Brahmāṇdapurāṇa (Brahmandapurana) and Vāyupurāṇa (Vayupurana) it is said that Tvaṣtā (Tvasta) or Viśvakarmā (Viswakarma; the architect-god), driven away by Indra, fell down on the ground. At that time, śyāmāka(syamaka) rice grew, for the worship of the forefathers. From the sweat trickling down from Tvaṣtā’s (Tvasta) nose, grew up sugar-canes. It is said that if a funeral offering of śyāmāka and sugar-cane is made to the forefathers, one may attain siddhi by doing so.
In the Vedas as well, āgrayaṇa yāga (agrayana yaga) is mentioned in the context of man’s desire for good cultivation. During the monsoon and springtime, crops like venuyava and śyāmāka (syamaka)are used to perform this ritual. At the same time, there is arrangement for somayāga (somayaga) as well.
[Kauṣitakī Brahmaṇa (Keith) 4.14, pp. 369-370]
Āgrayaṇa (Agrayana) is the navānna (navanna; festival of new crops) performed in the ancient times. Āśvalāyana has written in his Śrautasutra _
The Vedic scholar Amar Kumar Chattopadhyay has written that, the conjunction (sandhi) of agra + ayaṇa should be agrāyaṇa, but throughout the ancient popular tradition, the term ‘āgrayaṇa'(agrayana) had come down to us. When new crops — paddy, śyāmaka (syamaka) rice or yava come out, it is customary to perform navānna-iṣti with them. This new crop festival is āgryaṇa. Śyāmaka is a kind of rice-grain (echinochloa frumentaceai) which grows in the north-western part of India and the northern part of West Bengal. Its stalk is 4-8 inches in length, the fruit is of a round shape which contains grains like sooji. Āgrayaṇa is performed with śyāmāka in the rainy season, with vrīhi in the autumn, and with yava (oats) in the spring. In the Śrautasūtra (Srautasutra)of Āśvalāyana (Aswalayana), vrīhi is mentioned at first because vrīhi-āgrayṇa (vrihi-agrayana) is the chief festival, In the third sutra (formula), therefore, we have take the sense of vrīhi-yāga (making ritual sacrifice with vrīhi). According to the grammatical theory of ‘alpāctaram’ (alpachtaram; a formula, according to which words containing smaller svaras are placed before bigger words, when they are uttered together, as in ‘Harapārvatī) the term ‘yava’ should have been placed before ‘śyāmāka’, but in the 13th formula the āgrayṇa of vrīhi (vrihi) and yava is mentioned together, although the time of vrīhi-āgrayaṇa and is different from that of yava-āgrayaṇa. That is why, the term śyāmāka is placed in the beginning.
Āśvalāyana says —
sasyaṁ āgnīyād agnihotraṁ āhutvā.
That is, only after performing the āgrayaṇa iṣti, one should take the new crop as food. If there is not much time at hand, at least perform the agnihotra with the new grain, and then it can be used as food.
He has also established a connection of āgrayaṇa with the monsoon and the autumn.
yadā varṣasya tṛptaḥ syad athāgryaṇena yajeta.
It means, after the rainy season, in the autumn, this yāga is to be performed.
api hi devā ahus tṛpto nūnaṁ varṣasyāgrayaṇena hi yayata iti
agnihotrīṁ vainān ādayitvā tasyāḥ payasā juhuyāt.
— The gods also say that, being satisfied with the rain, perform the yāga-ritual of āgrayaṇa. Or, feed the cows of Agnihotra with these new grains, and with her milk, offer āhuti(ahuti; offering to the ritual fire).
[Āśvalāyana Śrautasūtra (Amar Kr. Chattopadhyay) 2.9.1-4]
Again, Āpastamva Śrautasūtra (Apastamva Srautasutra) maintains that our ancient cult of agricultural civilisation had close relation with the āgrayaṇa ritual. The new grain (navaśasya) has been mentioned here in a fundamental sūtra (sutra; formula), using only the word ‘nava’ (new) —
Here the commentator Rudradatta writes — the boiled rice that is prepared with the year’s (or season’s) newly cultivated grains, for offering to the gods, is called āgrayaṇa. This is a nityakarma (regular duty). The āhitāgni brahmaṇa (ahitagni brahmana) should not consume the new grain without performing this regular duty at first.