The Kasti ritual is the shortest of the three purificatory rituals. It is also the basic Zoroastrian ritual for protecting and cleansing negativities and enhancing goodness.
Kasti is considered a ritual because, it involves
1) A human being – A living battery. Nothing can replace a human in a ritual.
2) Manthravani (Prayers) uttered by a human being.
3) Performed for a particular purpose.
4) Requires Ritual implements (Ālāt) – Sadra & Kasti.
5) Rituals gestures.
- History of the ritual:
The usage of Sadra Kasti is millennia old and predates prophet Zarathushtra. References to it occur in the Avesta scriptures as well as Pahlavi, Pazand, Persian and Sanskrit literature.
It was first conceived and worn by King Jamshed around 8,000 B.C.E. He was inspired by Sarosh Yazad to tie the Kasti so that he could be protected from evils and motivated to do good works. Later due to his fall, the tying of Kasti assumed another meaning of constantly reminding oneself of moderation.
King Minocheher (c. 7,000 B.C.E) also wore the Sadra Kasti. Prophet Zarathushtra (c. 6,500 B.C.E.) asked his father for his Kasti as the heirloom of Mazdayasni belief system.
Hom, Chisti, Ashi and Ardvi Yazads wear the sky and stars as their spiritual garment. Ahura Mazda adorned Hom Yazad with the “star-studded (garment) and Kasti.” Not wearing the Sadra Kasti after a certain age is considered a sin.
The tying and untying of the Kasti is mentioned also in the Hormazd Yasht. Performing and renewing Kasti in every Gah reminds us of our duties and obligations (Ys. 44.5).
In the 3rd of the 16 Sanskrit Shlokas it is stated that “we are wearers of armour called Sadra and tie the Kasti over it. We always keep our head and feet covered.”
- Implements used in the ritual:
The Sadra-Kasti are implements necessary to perform the kasti ritual. A Sadra and Kasti is worn after the Navjote by Zarthoshtis all through life and even after death. It is a reminder to follow the right path and be moderate.
Derived from the Avesta word vastra; Pers. Sud rāh “beneficial path.” It is made of a single piece of white muslin cloth. It has 9 parts, each giving and ethical or philosophical message: Gireban – Pocket of good deeds, Girdo – Responsibility, Two sides – Material and Spiritual worlds, 2 sleeves – Labour and industry, 3 Tiris – Caring for the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms. The 3 tiris are on the either side of the Sadra – for the Sadra of a male there are two slanting tiris joining at the head on the right and one parallel tiri on the left. For the Sadra of a male, the tiris are vice -versa. This is to show that men and women are not same, and they have to complement each other to make each other complete.
It is derived from the Avestan word karsha which means spiritual boundary /fortification. and Phl. kosht “limit, boundary.” The Avestan word aiwyāonghana “that which is tied around” is also used for the Kasti.
The Kasti is worn on the middle of the body to signify moderation. It is made of sheep’s wool with intricate ritual observances. A lamb symbolizes innocence. Wool is known to have the inherent property of absorbing and retaining vibrations. It can absorb negativities and thus act as a protective shield. Formerly the Kasti was made only by ladies from priestly families.
Generally the Kasti ritual is performed mechanically, which benefits us very little. There is not much joy, motivation and enthusiasm while performing it. The Kasti prayers and ritual needs to be done in such a way that one can derive optimum and maximum mental, emotional spiritual and physical benefits while performing it.
The Kasti is a ritual to generate power of Khvarena “divine energy.” It is for tapping into the Universal source of Energy. The following practices substantiate this:
- Kasti has an ‘amal’, that is, ritual power.
- This ritual power which can be vitiated, which is referred to as “Kasti tuti jaai”
- Periodically doing Kasti, and doing it after toilet, coming from out etc.
- Facing the sun, fire or natural light while doing the Kasti – Sun is a natural source of divine energy and also natural lights and fires.
- Two Yatha and one Ashem in Kasti is the formula to draw spiritual blessings and power.
There are three different types of Kasti prayers – Shahenshahi, Kadimi and Sarosh ni Kasti. The Kadimi Kasti is a bit longer incorporating the Sarosh Baj. In it there is no Ahura Mazda Khodae, but a similar Pazand prayer, and a Pazand paragraph of hamazor bim at the end, followed by Ahmai raeshcha, Hazangharem and Jasa me avanghe mazda. Some people following the Ilm i Khshnum tradition do the Sarosh ni Kasti which encapsulates the Kasti prayer within the Sarosh Baj.
- Prayers in the ritual:
I Ashem Vohu : “The Universal Purpose (Asha Vahishta) is (realised) through Higher Consciousness (Vohu). It give Bliss (Inner Peace). Bliss to him who (follows) Life’s purpose (Asha) for the sake of Universal Purpose (Asha Vahishta).”
II Ahunavar: “Just as Ahu works at Will, so can the Ratu, on account of Asha and related laws. The gift of Vohu Manah (comes to him), whose life’s actions are dedicated to Mazda. Power comes to Ahura and to him, who gives help to the deserving needy.”
III Kem na mazda: “When evils look at me with the intention to hurt, who will give me and my followers protection, except Thy Fire (divine Energy) and Mind (Consciousness), by whose actions Asha (progress of the world) gets nourished. Do you reveal to me that religious knowledge.
Which are Thy words for protection which smites the enemy. Thy words of prayer are for victory and protection. Do you reveal to me a spiritual teacher who can lead me to (knowledge of) both the worlds, so that Sraosha can come through Vohu Manah (Higher Consciousness) to him, whom Ahura Mazda wishes considers deserving.
“Oh Mazda and Spenta Armaiti protect us from pain/injury. Flee Oh! Evil Druj; Flee Oh! Origin of evil; Flee Oh! (Acts) sown by evil; Flee Oh! (Acts) increased by evil; Flee away Oh Druj, Run away Oh Druj, Flee far away Oh Druj, flee away towards the North. Do not destroy the corporeal worlds of Asha. Homage unto Armaiti, the giver of prosperity.
IV Ahura Mazda Khodāi (Also known as Nirang ī kasti bastan): “Ahura Mazda is my God, Ahreman is evil and should be rendered powerless. I will keep Ahreman away, and defeat him. May Ahreman, demons, liars, sorcerors, wicked ones, evil priests, evil rulers, sinners, wicked ones and enemies be defeated and be powerless.
“Ahura Mazda is my God. I am sorry for all sins, for all bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds which, in the world, I may have spoken, done or started, which may be related to the body, soul, material world, spiritual world. I pray for the happiness of Ahura Mazda and defeat of Ahriman. The wishes of truthful people are always fulfilled.
V Jasa me Avanghe Mazda: “Come to my help O Mazda! I am a Mazdayasni, a Mazdayasni Zarthoshti. I believe, praise and have faith (in it). I praise the well-thought thought, I praise the well-spoken word, I praise the well-done deed.
I praise the Good Mazdayasni religion which teaches Unity leading to progress, Non-violence against good creations, Self-dedication towards good causes, and Asha. Which among the existing and future religions is the greatest, best and most excellent for me. It belongs to Ahura and Zarathushtra. I attribute all goodness to Ahura Mazda. Such is the Mazdayasni religion, worthy of praise.”
Ritual gestures in the Kasti ritual, and what it indicates:
- Say Khshnaothra ahurahe mazdao and 1 ashem vohu, then wash the face, hands and feet (if open) and wipe them. This is known as Padyab.
- Stand at one place, recite the Kem na Mazda and untie the Kasti.
- Ahura Mazda khudai: Hold the Kasti in hand (Middle path, moderation). Care has to be taken that the loose ends of the kasti do not touch the ground.
Bow down (Acknowledgement and Gratitude)
Strike the Kasti (Cleansing the negativities)
Bow down (Acknowledgement and Gratitude)
Strike the Kasti (Cleansing the mental negativities)
Click thrice (striking out evil)
Form two loops (Balance in thoughts and words)
Bow down(Actions to be done in the name of God)
Bow down (Dedicate oneself to Ahura Mazda)
Release the Kasti away from the body (keep away the negativities)
Tie on the waist (Gird up to be a Haithyavarshtam “truth worker”)
Two knots in front after second round (Commitment to Ahura Mazda & Zarathushtra).
Two knots at the back after the third round (Commitment to Religion & Duty)
- Jasa Me Avanghe Mazda: Hold the Kasti at the front reef knot with the thumb (Empowerment).
Bending down (page parvu) at the end. (Submission to God)
- Meaning of the gestures: In the Kasti, the first ritual gesture is to wash the face, hands and feet which symbolize the need of physical purity.
Untying the kasti and striking it cleanses it of any negative influences and reminds us to periodically cleanse ourselves from negativities. It has to be be done gently towards the north. Making loops while saying manashni, gavashni and kunashni reminds us to balance our thoughts and words and perform actions avvordingly.
Bowing at khshnaothra ahurahe mazdao symbolises allegiance to Ahura Mazda and pushing the kasti away at taroidite angrahe maiyesh symbolizes our dislike for anything negative. The four knots reminds us of the four basic promises of the religion to be given at the time of navjote – Ahura Mazda is my supreme God – Zarathushtra is the chosen prophet sent by Ahura Mazda. The front two knots are tied on the word shyaothananam which signifies “action”. The rear two knots are tied on the words Ushta asti ushta ahmai “happiness to him who gives happiness to others.”
WHEN to do the Kasti: On Waking up; Before going to bed; Before meals; After change of every gah; After toilet; After bath; Before prayers; On going to the fire temple; Before and after attending a funeral; After coming home from outside.
Some DO’S AND DON’TS:
- Always perform the Pādyāb before doing the Kasti.
- While performing the Kasti do not let the Kasti touch the floor. It makes the Kasti less effective.
- Pray facing East in Havan, South/West in Rapithwan and West in Uziran Gah. In Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin Gahs one must pray facing any source of natural light like the moon, stars, fire, divo or an electric light. Do not face the North in any Gah.
- Message of the Kasti ritual: The Kasti ritual gives the important message that in this imperfect world there is negativity and evil all around us. We need to protect ourselves for it, cleanse ourselves from time to time and keep on drawing on spiritual strength and power through the prayers.
Conclusion: Kasti is the basis of the devotional life of a Zarthoshti. Apart from the times specified above when it is specifically to be done. Kasti is the beginning of one’s daily prayers, it has to be performed before entering a fire temple, before participating in any ritual. Any other ritual, big or small, has to commence with the kasti ritual.