Navar is the first initiation into priesthood for a child from a priestly family. After the Navar, the candidate can perform all outer rituals. Priesthood is hereditary. A child is required to undergo Navar before puberty. After Navar the child attains the priestly title “Ervad.”
The term Navar is derived from nav-bar which means “a new carrier of offerings.” It signifies a person who is newly initiated to offer prayers and offerings to the divine world.
For becoming full-fledged Navar, one has to learn by heart prayers from the Khordeh Avesta, Yasna, Visparad, Afringans and Baj. Nowadays, many priestly candidates do not learn by heart and just read from books. Such candidates cannot become full fledged priests later on.
Generally a Navar ritual is a costly ritual and it may be sponsored in memory of a living or deceased person.
The Navar initiation entails one to undergo the following 3 stages:1. Bareshnum 2. Gewra 3. Navar ceremony proper
1. Bareshnum: It is the nine days retreat for purification. For the Navar two bareshnums have to be undergone – the first for one’s own self (tan pak) and second for the person – living or the deceased – who sponsors the Navar ritual.
The days spent in the Bareshnum are days of disciplined life leading to mental and spiritual evolution. One has to devote time to prayers five times a day and have a regulated diet.
2. Gewra: The term gewra is derived from Avesta gerew “to acquire, to hold.” In this stage of the ritual, which comes after the two bareshnums, two qualified priests, who would later be initiate the candidate, perform the Yasna ceremony for alternately for six consecutive days in the name of the person in who sponsors the Navar.
The priests of Navsari (bhagaria), commence gewra ceremony after the second bareshnum, whereas the priests of the Udwada (Sanjana) commence gewra ceremony from the seventh day of the second bareshnum.
3. Navar ceremony proper: On the sixth day of gewra, the priest who has acted as the chief priest initiates the candidate. The child takes bath in the morning, puts on full dress consisting of Jama (loose gown like dress of white linen), Pichhodi (a linen waist-band), Pagdi (white turban)-a symbol or insignia of priesthood, Shawl on the left arm, Guraj (mace with bulls face) in right hand and coconut in the left. He is taken in procession to the agairy where navar ceremony is to be performed, accompanied by priests, relatives and invitees. The Guraj symbolizes the spiritual authority that will now be conferred on the priestly candidate.
The two priests who had taken the gewra assist the candidate in performing the yasna, baj and afringan rituals with the invocation of Minoo Navar. On the second day likewise the Yasna, Afrinjan and Baj rituals are performed with the invocation to Sarosh Yazad. On the third day ceremonies are done in honour of siroja and on the fourth day Visperad with the invocation of Dadar Ahura Mazda is performed. During the four days of Navar the candidate has meal only during the afternoon. He does not have water or meals after sunset.
On the fourth day after the performance of rituals, the navaria puts on the full dress, which he had put on the first day of navar, performs hamazor, that is, ritual handshake with the chief priest and other priests and is taken in procession to his residence.
The second initiation into priesthood is known as Maratab. The term Maratab means “exalted”. The Maratab is generally performed a year or two after Navar, but it can also be performed later in life. Undergoing the Maratab is not necessary for those who do not undergo a full-fledged Navar.
The initiation of Navar does not entitle a priest to perform the inner rituals like Yasna, Vendidad and Baj. In order to perform such rituals he must undergo the Maratab. As a preparation for the Maratab, besides the Yasna and the Visperad, the candidate has to fluently read the 22 chapters of the Vendidad interspersed with Yasna and Visperad.
For Maratab, the candidate has to undergo one bareshnum. On the tenth day, he along with a qualified priest, performs the Mino Navar Yasna. (The invocation of Mino Navar is a combination of Ahura Mazda and 8 other Yazads: Ahura Mazda – Meher Yazad, Ram Yazad, Khorshed Yazad, Vayu Yazad – Din Yazad, Mahrazpand Yazad – Adar Yazad, Zamyad Yazad). On the following day, he performs another Yasna in honor of Sarosh Yazad, and after mid-night performs the Vendidad. This completes the “Martab” ceremony and the candidate is now entitled to perform all Zoroastrian rituals.
Nowzudi: The Iranian mode of priestly initiation: The Iranian mode has only one grade of priesthood – the Nowzudi. Which is comparatively much simpler than the Parsi initiations into priesthood. Bareshnum is not required, and the initiation may be performed at an adult age too.
Samel: Among the Sanjana priests of Udwada, young priests desirous of offering Boe to Iranshah are required to pass a viva and practical tests in prayers and rituals called Samel after their Navar and Maratab. The Dasturjis and senior priests are invited to examine the candidate’s knowledge of the intricacies of rituals and ritual texts. If they are satisfied with his expertise, they give him permission to offer boi in the Iranshah. The first time a candidate enters into the sanctum sanctorum to offer boi, he has to be accompanied by a senior priest and only thereafter he is allowed to give boi individually.