What is the Bareshnum? – Jame Jamshed of 16 & 23-10-16

What is the Bareshnum?

  1. Bareshnum is the highest Zoroastrian ritual for purification. It goes on for nine days and nights. It is often also referred to plainly, although erroneously as the Nahan.

  2. The term Bareshnum means “top, head” since the purification in this ritual starts from the head. The word is derived from the Avesta word bareshna which means “high.” Till about a hundred years ago, the Bareshnum ceremony could be undergone by anyone, especially those who had come in contact with Nasā (dead matter). Presently it is undergone only by the priestly class.

  3. The reference about the Bareshnum ritual comes in the ninth chapter of the Vendidad. The place where the Bareshnum is given is known as the Bareshnum-gāh. It is an open ground, about 50 feet long and 40 feet wide, covered with sand with stepping stones in the middle. Generally the Bareshnum-gāh is attached to a fire temple.

  4. A priest who is himself a holder of the bareshnum is qualified to give a bareshnum to another person. The Bareshnum ritual starts in the morning after some elaborate prayers and rituals. From that day onwards the candidate has to maintain seclusion and observe other elaborate rules and regulations, like devoting maximum time to prayers, doing Farazyat prayers in all the gehs, eating specially prepared food only during the day after taking the baj, not having physical contact with other humans, not touching water, wood etc. For this reason, the Bareshnum, is often referred to as a spiritual retreat.

  5. On the fourth, seventh and tenth day of the Bareshnum, a special bath called Navsho is given to the candidate in the morning in which a priest pours water. The Bareshnum ends on the morning of the 10th day.

  6. The priest who has undergone and maintains a Bareshnum is said to be “the holder of the power (amal) of the Bareshnum.” In the past, only such a priest could perform higher rituals like Yasna and Vendidad. Even today the performers of Boi ceremony of Atash Behrams are required to be holders of the power of Bareshnum.

6. Presently the Bareshnum is required for priestly initiations of Navar and Maratab, and for priests who perform the Nirangdin ritual.

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