What are Khrafastars? (TMY – Jame Jamshed of 26-2 & 5-3-17)

  1. The word khrafastar refers to all creeping, crawling creatures that are noxious and harmful to mankind and other good creations. According to Zoroastrian religion, polarity in the Universe exists at all levels – molecular, physical, spiritual or moral. Zoroastrian philosophy revolves around two mutually opposite forces– Spenta and Angra. Hence all living creatures are divided into two categories – ahuric “beneficent” or daevic “maleficent.” Among animals these two categories are gospand “beneficent animals” and khrafastar “noxious creatures.” The former are useful to human beings and the latter, belonging to Angra Mainyu, are harmful, and hence need to be exterminated. This Zoroastrian world view is different from the world view of many other Indian religions.
  2. Though animals operate by instincts and not by conscious will, they are divided into these two groups. Cattle and most domestic animals belong to the former category, whereas wild animals, reptiles and insects belong to the latter category. Man is advised to protect the Gospands and exterminate the Khrafastars. Though the Khrafastars may be helpful in a limited way, their worth to mankind is less than the danger they pose.
  3. The main khrafastars among animals are the wolf and the entire class of wild carnivorous animals, which were a regular predator of the cattle and a natural enemy of cow-herds. The ant which carries away grain, the lice that cause diseases and eat away clothes, rats, cats, serpents, wasps, bees, worms, frogs and tortoise are also included in the list of khrafastars.
  4. Vanant Yazad helps mankind to be victorious over khrafastars. In the Vanant Yasht, the devotee praises the star Vanant for withstanding khrafastars. King Faridun is also invoked to destroy khrafastars as he was successful in destroying Zohak who may be regarded as a khrafastar among men. In the Gathas, the word khrafastar is used for evil men. On Aspandad roj of Aspand mah a special prayer called Nirang i khrafastar zadan “Prayer for smiting noxious creatures” is done.
  5. Such was the revulsion to khrafastars among ancient Zoroastrians that druj-i-nasu “the demon of putrefaction” was also referred to as a khrafastar, which came in the form of a fly. All through history this Zoroastrian revulsion for khrafastars is amply documented by Persians, Greeks, Westerners and Indian writers and is mentioned by Plutarch, Agathias, Herodotus and Tavernier. An 18th century Dastur of Kerman, in his last will to his son about what had to be done after his death, asked him to have khrafastars killed for the benefit of his soul.
  6. In the battle between good and evil, man was expected to help the good. One way of fighting evil was to drive away or kill the khrafastars, which are harmful to the good creations. Ridding society of khrafastars was considered a meritorious act, as it rid the world of evil. One of the punishments for a sinner in ancient Iran was to drive away khrafastars from the vicinity. A ritual implement of ancient Zoroastrian priests was referred to as khrafastar-ghna “a stick to smite khrafastars.”
  7. Before ending, I would request all animal loving Zoroastrian brethren to understand this Zoroastrian teaching of khrafastar in its proper light and in tandem with the philosophy of the religion. They are requested not to get emotionally carried away by their love for all living things and look down upon this unique Zoroastrian teaching. These are the very teachings that distinguish Zoroastrianism from other religions and gives it a unique and distinctive character.
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