TELL ME WHY ???

???  Tell me Why  ??? ®

A topic wise compilation of Questions and Answers which have appeared in Jame Jamshed Weekly from October 2011 to December 2016

Contents

MAZDAYASNI ZARTHOSHTI RELIGION.. 9

When did the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion begin?. 9

Who is a Mazdayasni? (JJ 13-11-16) 9

Who are the Saoshyants? (JJ 28-2 & 6-3-16) 9

Why should I love and follow my Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion?. 10

How can I help my religion and community?. 10

Are the Irani people Parsis or Zoroastrians?. 11

Why has religion got a bad name?. 11

Is there anything in the religion for young generation, or is religion just for adults and senior people?. 11

Does Zoroastrian religion believe in Miracles? (JJ 30-10-16) 11

AHURA MAZDA.. 12

Why should we consider Ahura Mazda our friend?. 12

What is the concept of Ahura Mazda in our religion?. 12

How can we visualize Ahura Mazda? (JJ 20-11-16) 12

DIVINE BEINGS (YAZADS ETC.) 13

Who are the Ameshaspands? (JJ 20-3-16) 13

Who are the Yazads? What does the word Yazad mean?. 13

  1. What are hamkaars? (JJ 27-11-16) 14

For what reason is Ashishwangh Yazad invoked? (JJ 14-4-2013) 14

Why is Behram Yazad considered important? (JJ 2-6-2013) 14

Why is Avan Yazad invoked by pregnant ladies?. 14

Why is Avan Yazad (Avan ardvisur banu), which presides over waters, not a hamkar of Khordad Ameshaspand, who presides over water?. 15

What is the importance of Sarosh Yazad in Zoroastrian religion (JJ 19-7-2015)?. 15

Why should we pray to Hom Yazad?. 16

Do Zoroastrians have something like Valentines’ day (JJ 14-2-16) 16

What is the importance of Meher Yazad in Zoroastrian religion? (JJ 7-2-16) 16

ZARATHUSHTRA.. 17

What are the core teachings of the Gathas of Zarathushtra? (JJ 3 & 10-4-16) 17

Why did prophet Zarathushtra smile at birth?. 18

Why did prophet Zarathushtra go to Mount Ushidaren? (JJ 28-6-15) 18

Who was Aspe siha? (JJ 06-11-16) 18

Why did prophet Zarathushtra give 4 gifts to his disciples?. 19

Why does prophet Zarathushtra wear a white Pagri on his head?. 19

What is prophet Zarathushtra holding in his hands in his photographs? (JJ 18-12-16) 19

COSMOLOGY.. 20

How did creation take place according to Zoroastrian religion? / What is the Zoroastrian story of creation?. 20

What is “Frasho-Kereti.” Why is it an important Zoroastrian concept?. 20

What is Ristaakhez, Tane-pasen and Fraoshokereti (JJ 5-7-2015)?. 20

FIRE AND FIRE-TEMPLES. 21

Why I should go to the Fire temple (Agyari  / Atash Behram)?. 21

Why can’t Non- Zoroastrians enter a fire-temple or be a part of Zoroastrian rituals?. 21

Why do we offer Boi and Machi to the Sacred fire (Atash Padshah)?. 22

Why do some people stand while bells are rung during the boe ritual?. 22

Why is an Atash Behram Fire higher than an Agyari fire?. 22

Why should I wear certain type of clothes to fire temples? OR.. 22

Why should there be a dress code for fire temples?. 22

Why is the image of a winged bull (Godha) placed at the entrance of some fire temples?. 23

Why is the boi ritual there a different in different fire temples? (JJ 6-10-2013) 23

Why should we not kiss photographs and threshold (umbar) in fire temples?. 23

Why do we apply Rakhya?. 24

Why is fire considered the most important creation in Zoroastrian religion?. 24

Why should we offer sandalwood (Sukhad) to the sacred fires?. 24

When going to an Agyari / Atash behram which fire should we visit first – the fire of the higher grade or lower grade? (JJ 13-12-15) 25

How did the Iranshah, established in Sanjan, come to Udwada? (JJ 19 and 26 – 6-16) 25

How did Udwada get its name?. 26

Are Zoroastrian fire worshippers?. 26

SADRA-KASTI-NAVJOT. 27

Why should I wear Sadra-Kasti ?. 27

What is the meaning of the word Sadra? Why is it so called? (Sun 22-5-16) 27

What is the meaning of the word Kasti? Why is it so called?. 27

Is it okay for ladies to wear sleeveless sadras?. 27

Why should I perform the Kasti ritual?. 28

Why should my Navjote be performed ?. 28

Why and how many times should one perform the Kasti?. 28

Why is there a Gireban and Girdo on our Sadra?. 29

Why are there tiris on our Sadra? (JJ 14-6-15) 29

What direction should we face while doing the Kasti during the day and night? (21-2-16) 29

Why do we face different directions while doing the Kasti. Why do we not face the north direction while praying ? (25-8-13) 29

Can we make a knot at the centre of a kasti if it is long?. 30

PRAYERS. 30

What is Farjyat bandagi? (JJ 25-12-16) 30

Why should I pray?. 31

Why does Zoroastrianism prohibit walking barefoot, especially while praying?. 31

Why can’t I do any prayer at any time? OR.. 31

Why do we have to observe a time schedule for prayers?. 31

Why and when should I recite Ashem Vohu?. 32

Why and when should I recite Yatha Ahu Vairyo?. 32

What is the importance of Yenghe hatam prayer? Can it be prayed anywhere at any time? (JJ 18-9-16) 32

Why do we face the south (Dakshin Disha) at the end of prayers?. 33

Why are parts of some prayers recited in Baj (silence)?. 33

Why and what should can be prayed at night before going to sleep?. 33

What is the importance of prayer, especially when we pray in a language that we do not understand and hence do not understand its meaning?. 34

Can prayers be said in a hospital, in bed etc……since during an illness we need more prayers?. 34

Why is Ahmai raeshcha, Hazanghrem, Jasame Avanghe and Kerfeh Mozd recited in every prayer? (JJ 31-3-2013) 34

Do we have an ‘Om” in Avesta, or something as powerful?. 34

Why are different numbers of Yatha ahu vairyo and Ashem vohu recited in prayers?. 35

Why are there so many Yashts in the Khordeh Avesta? (JJ 21-4-2013) 35

Why is a prayer recited before meals (jamvani baj)? (JJ 28-4-2013) 35

Why are Khorshed and Meher Nyaishnas daily obligatory (Farazyat) prayers ?. 36

Why should we hold the Girebaan of the Sadra whilst reciting the Diwano/Atash no Namaskar? (JJ 20 -10- 13) 36

Why do we have 2 Jasa me avanghe Mazdas in the Khordeh Avesta?. 36

Why are different numbers of Yatha ahu vairyo and Ashem Vohu prayed at different times?. 36

Why are there different ancient Iranian languages like Avesta, Old Persian, Pahlavi, Dari and Persian?. 37

Why do we pray Hoshbām? (16-2-14) 37

Why do some people hold handkerchief in their left hand while praying?. 37

Why do we recite the Patet Pashemani? Are we forgiven for our sins if we recite it?. 37

What is the difference between “Patet Pashemani” and “Patet Ravan-ni” prayers? (JJ 24-1-2016) 38

Why do the words yasnaaicha vahmaaicha kshnaothraaicha and frasastayaecha repeatedly occur in our prayers?. 39

Why does the word yazamaide occur frequently in our prayers?. 39

Why do we click fingers while saying dushmata, duzukhta duzvarshta in the Kasti and other prayers?. 39

Why do we have to recite the particular geh in every prayer?. 40

Why do we sometimes say Ashem vohu and sometimes Ashone Ashem Vohu. What is the difference between the 2 prayers ?. 40

Why are certain prayers to be recited before certain objects/creations?. 40

Why is the Din no Kalmo prayer recited?. 40

Is there something like praying excessively or praying too much? (JJ 20-12-15) 41

Why is the Bahman Yasht not included in the Khordeh Avesta? (JJ 11-9-16) 41

RITUALS. 41

What is the difference between a Jashan and a Faresta?. 41

Why is it necessary to participate in rituals, like the Jashan?. 41

Why is a pomegranate necessary in most Zoroastrian rituals?. 42

Why do we mention the names of departed and living persons in our rituals and prayers?. 42

Why is Malido necessary for a Jashan?. 42

How does drinking nirang benefit at the time of nahan? (JJ 12-5-13) 42

Why is Vendidad an important Zoroastrian scripture? (JJ 26-5-2013) 43

Why is it advisable to have Navjotes and Weddings in Agyari/Atash Behram?. 43

Why are Fala ni Machi and Fala nu Jashan (Contributory Machi and Jashan) beneficial? (1-12- 2013) 43

Why are the Afringan, Farokshi, Stum and Baj rituals performed?. 44

What is daran ? (JJ Nov. 2015) 44

Why and when do we perform Behram Yazad na Daran?. 45

Why do people have Jashans performed in the month of Dae?. 45

Why is Farokhshi not prayed during in Muktad in most Agyaris?. 45

Is it okay to do a Hamā Anjuman  Farokhshi?. 45

Why should we not smell flowers and fruits before offering them in rituals?. 45

Why are flowers exchanged during the Jashan ritual?. 46

What is the significance of Chahrom ni Baj? Why is it considered so important?. 46

Why should meals for Satum and other ritual offerings be cooked by Parsis and un-touched by non-Parsis?. 46

Is it okay to put loban after Khushalinu jashan ?. 47

What is the significance of Geh-sarna ritual?. 47

What is the Nirang din ritual? Why is it the most important Zoroastrian ritual? (JJ 13-3-16) 48

What is Shahen Baj? Why is it not performed anymore? (JJ 12-6-16) 48

What are Zindeh-ravaan rituals? (JJ 31-7-16) 48

What is the Bareshnum? (JJ 16 & 23-10-16) 49

What is a Nahan? (JJ 9-10-16) 50

Why is the Barsom a very important ritual implement (ālāt)?. 50

What is Varasyaji? How is Varasyaji consecrated?. 50

HISTORY.. 51

Why did Mazdayasni Zarthoshtis come from Iran to India?. 51

When did Iranians, especially Zoroastrians, first come into contact with India?. 51

Why is the Shahnameh an important book?. 51

Why are Achaemenian kings like Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great not attested in our religious tradition or literature?. 52

Why do we have Homaji ni Baj performed (JJ 31-5-2015)?. 52

Who was Lohrasp Padshah (King Lohrasp)?. 52

MARRIAGE. 53

Why should I marry?. 53

Why should I not inter-marry?. 53

In the past why did girls from Behdin (lay) families did not marry boys from Athornans (priest) families and vice versa?. 54

CONTENTIOUS ISSUES. 54

Why should we not convert from one religion to another?. 54

Can we visit places of worship of other religions?. 54

Why should Zoroastrians not smoke?. 55

DEATH AND DOKHMENASHINI 55

What and where is the Chinwad Pul (bridge)? (JJ 2-10-16) 55

Why is Dokhmenashini the best method of disposal of dead for Zoroastrians?. 55

Why should I maintain certain rules at a funeral?. 56

Why can non-Parsis not see the face of a Parsi corpse (especially if a dog can see it)?. 56

Why are there different rules for dead body and disposal for different religions? (28-10-12) 56

How do after death prayers help and comfort the soul?. 57

Why can only Khandias and Nasesalars touch dead bodies after a certain point of time? (JJ 7-4-2013) 57

Why do Zoroastrians have after death rituals performed?. 57

Why should decorum be maintained when after death rituals are being performance and what should one do at that time?. 58

In the Paydast, why should mourners walk in pairs holding a handkerchief?. 58

Why is Sarosh nu Patru not done in the presence of the dead body?. 59

What can one pray when one is attending the Paay-dast or Uthamna? (JJ 12-07-2015) 59

Why are rose petals and rose water taken around after the Uthamna?. 59

What function does the ‘Sagdi’ fulfil at the Doongerwadi?. 60

SPIRITUALITY.. 60

Why should I live in harmony with the spiritual world?. 60

Why should I be Spiritual?. 61

What is a Fravashi?  Is it a separate element from the soul?. 61

PRACTICES. 62

Why should I wear a topi / scarf to cover my head?. 62

Why should the shetaa of the topi be at the back? (JJ 27-12-15) 62

Why do we not eat meat (observe an-roja) in the month of Bahman?. 62

Is astrology, astronomy, and Amas, Chand-Rat, Punam part of our religious tradition?. 63

Why do we not pray Rapithwin Geh from Avan mahino for five months?. 63

Why should we not throw anything in well ?. 64

Why do Zoroastrians venerate and respect nature?. 64

Why are women debarred during the menstrual period from attending agyaries and religious ceremonies?. 64

Why should I do loban in the house?. 65

What are the compulsory practices of the religion?. 65

How to dispose religious items which are damaged or no more in use?. 66

Why should we not pray at the well at night?. 66

If Zoroastrians consider hair and nails as NASO, then how is it that we wear a kushti made out of wool, which is also sheep’s hair?. 66

What is the difference between nirang and taro? Why do we drink Nirang at the time of  Navjot?. 66

Why should I wear white clothes and avoid black clothes?. 67

Why do we wear Asho Farohar as pendants / broaches and use it as a sticker on the car?. 67

Do we have a special Zoroastrian greeting?. 67

Why are special precautions taken to cut hair and pare nails? Why is it necessary to properly dispose them after cutting and take a bath afterwards?. 67

What is the importance of mirror in our religion? Is it true that it is inauspicious if a mirror breaks?. 68

How is a Sapat (special leather moccasins generally used by priests) permitted as a foot wear when it made of dead animal skin, which is Naso? (JJ 13-10-2013) 68

Why are rules for purity an integral part of the Zoroastrian religion?. 68

Are there any religious obligations on a Zoroastrian? (JJ 18-8-13) 68

Why should we avoid mixing water with oil in the diva? (23-2-14) 69

Is there a limit to the number of divas that can be lit at home? Which would be the best place to light a diva?. 69

Why should we refrain from having candles on our birthday cakes? (JJ 2-3-14) 69

Why should we not wish ‘Pateti Mubarak’ or ‘Happy Pateti’?. 70

Why should chashni be given only to Parsis ?. 70

Why should prayer flowers not be thrown with other garbage?. 70

In Zoroastrian tradition is it acceptable to touch the feet of our elders?. 70

Why do we do Ardibahesht ni picchi near a person who is not well?. 70

Why is there a preference in religion for using the right hand, like for offering the Sukhar and applying the Rakhia. Why is the left hand not used?. 71

Why should silk not be used in rituals and for religious purposes?. 71

Why is it not advisable to have permanent tattoo on the body?. 71

Why is a Tasbih used?. 72

What things should I do in the month of Ava?. 72

Why is there a religious tradition to have auspicious events like Navjot and Navar on death anniversary days of dear departed ones?. 72

Why do we do ‘page parvaanu’ (bowing down)?. 73

Why do we say “ovaryu re” and why do we take ‘ovarnā’?. 73

What does the word Nirang mean?. 73

What does the word bāj mean?. 74

Can Parsis celebrate festivals like Ganpati, Holi, Diwali, Kali chaudas and Christmas (idu forvana at every door frame) 74

Should we believe in the Rashi? How to give name with Rashi? How to find the Rashi?. 74

What is the Zoroastrian view about Yoga?. 75

Is it necessary to touch pictures of prophet Zarathushtra, holy men and departed ones when we go near them to pay respect?. 75

What is parabh? Why are there 3 parabh in dae mah?. 76

What is a Ses? What is its significance? (JJ 13-3-16) 76

LIFE. 76

Why is our life so special? What is the purpose of my life?. 76

Why I should keep happy and cheerful?. 77

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do people suffer?. 77

Why is life so precious?. 77

MUKTAD.. 78

Why we should celebrate Muktad?. 78

For how many years should Muktad and/or the Annual Baj prayers be done for the dear ones?. 78

Can one have Muktad performed at two different locations?. 79

Why are flowers connected with the Muktad? Why are they kept in the Behra and used to remember the dear departed ones?. 79

Why are there 3 Muktads, 3 Navroz, 3 Khordad Sals etc, as per the 3 Zoroastrian calendars, which are the real day?. 79

What prayers can the laymen (Behdin) recite during Muktad days? (JJ 2-8-2015) 79

FESTIVALS. 80

Why do we celebrate Jamshedi Navroze?. 80

Why is Jamshedi Navroz celebrated, and how can I celebrate it?. 81

Why should Zoroastrians celebrate the Mehrangan festival on Meher mahino and Meher roj?. 81

PRIESTS. 81

Why are there different titles for priests like Ervad, Mobed and Dasturji?. 81

Why women cannot be priests?. 82

Why is priesthood hereditary?. 82

Why are there no women priests in Zoroastrian religion ?. 83

Why do boys becoming Navar carry the Guraj (gurz) on the day of Navar?. 83

What is Navar (JJ 3 & 10-1-2016)?. 83

  1. What is Maratab and Samel ? (JJ 17-1-2016) 84

What is Para-Mobed, Mobed-yār and Behdin–Pāsbān (JJ 26-7-2015)?. 84

CALENDARS. 85

Why do we have 3 calendars?. 85

Why do Zoroastrians have 3 calendars?. 85

Why does the roj not change when the date changes?. 86

ANIMALS. 86

Why is dog given a lot of importance in Zoroastrian religion?. 86

Why is a rooster considered important in Zoroastrianism? (JJ 19-5-2013) 86

Why is there a tradition to feed animals like cow, dog, fish and rooster?. 87

BIOGRAPHICAL. 87

Why is Mobed Arda Viraf remembered by Zoroastrians? (JJ 2-6-2013) 87

Why is Dastur Adarbad Mahrespand remembered ?. 87

Why do we remember Dastur Tansar?. 88

Why is Buzorg-Meher remembered?. 88

Why do we remember Dastur Dinyar?. 88

RELIGIOUS LITERATURE. 88

Why is Jamaspi so popular among the Parsis? (JJ 27-10 & 3-11-2-13) 88

What is Bundahishna? (JJ 4-12-16) 89

What is the Denkard? (JJ 11-12-16) 90

COMPARATIVE RELIGION.. 90

Why are there similarities between Zoroastrian and Hinduism?. 90

Why are there similarities between Zoroastrian and Judaism – Christianity?. 91

Why are there similarities between Zoroastrianism and Islam?. 91

CULTURE. 92

Why is learning Gujarati important for Zoroastrians?. 92

NUMBERS. 92

Why and how is number one important in Zoroastrian religion?. 92

Why and how is number two important in Zoroastrian religion?. 92

Why and how is number three important in the Zoroastrian religion? (JJ 21-6-15) 93

How is number four important in Zoroastrian religion?. 93

How is number five important in Zoroastrian religion?. 94

How and why is number seven important in Zoroastrian religion? (JJ 28/8 and 4/9) 94

SPIRITUAL WORLD.. 95

Are Heaven (Behesht), Hell (Dozakh) and Chinwad bridge (Pul) real places? (JJ 29-11-15). 95

 

 

MAZDAYASNI ZARTHOSHTI RELIGION

 

When did the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion begin?

  1. In the earliest times when civilisation had not yet developed, people lived a nomadic life. They were mostly hunters and food gatherers moving from place to place. They always lived amidst worries and anxieties about food and safety of their life.
  2. Then a wise man named Gayomard became the leader of several nomadic groups, taught them to live a settled life and grow their own food. He was hailed as a king. In a way he can be called the first ever king.
  3. With settled life started the possibility of time for relaxation and contemplation. In one such times of contemplation, Gayomard received a divine message from Mazda. He was the first mortal to receive such a message.
  4. Gayomard was asked to instruct mankind that there is only one supreme god – Mazda, and that people should direct their devotion to him. This was the beginning of the Mazdayasni belief which lasted for centuries and in which several new elements were added later on by Soaoshyants (benefactors) like Kings Hoshang, Jamshed and Faridun.
  5. After centuries, prophet Zarathushtra was born in the Mazdayani belief system. He gave the final form to the system which then came to be known as the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion.

 

Who is a Mazdayasni? (JJ 13-11-16)

  1. A Mazdayasni is a person who believes in Mazda as the God and practices the teachings of the Mazdayasni belief system.
  2. In earliest times, even before prophet Zarathushtra, the Peshdadian king Gayomard was the first to receive communication from Mazda and thus was the first Mazda-yasni that is “worshipper of Mazda.” He then led other people to understand, follow and practice this good path of life.
  3. Thereafter all kings of Peshdadain and Kayanian dynasty followed the Mazdayasni belief system. Some of them also added new beneficial practices. Such kings are known as Saoshyants.
  4. Prophet Zarathushtra was born a Mazdayasni. He later consolidated the Mazdayasni belief system into the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion.
  5. In the beginning of the Jasa me Avanghe Mazda prayer at the end of our Kasti, we say the words “Mazdayasno ahmi, Mazdayasno Zarathushtrish” which mean “I am a Mazdayasni, a Mazdayasni Zarthosti.” In this sentence we profess ourselves to be first Mazdayasnis and then Mazdayasni Zarthoshtis.
  6. In the Fravarane prayer, we introduce ourselves as Mazdayasno Zarathushtrish “a Mazdayasni Zarthoshti” who is vidaevo and ahura-tkaesho, that is, who works against the daevas (negativities) and follows the good teachings of Ahura.

 

Who are the Saoshyants? (JJ 28-2 & 6-3-16)

  1. Before Prophet Zarathushtra, there were 9 divinely appointed spiritual persons who guided the Mazdayasnis and directed them towards a good life. They are referred to as Saoshyants, meaning “benefactors.” They were Mazdayasnis and their teachings were incorporated in the Mazdayasni belief system.
  2. Later prophet Zarathushtra incorporated most of their teachings in the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion. Of the 9 Saoshyants, the first eight were Peshdadian and Kayanian kings and the last one was a pious and heroic lay person. Here we will briefly see their contribution to the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion:
  3. Gayomard : He was the first to receive a divine message from Ahura Mazda through Sarosh Yazad. On the basis of this message, he told his people to worship one God – Mazda. The Mazdayasni (Mazda worshippers) belief system started with him.
  4. Hoshang: He taught men to consider and respect fire as the radiance of Ahura Mazda. He started the celebration of Jashan-e-Sadeh.

iii. Tehmurasp: He recognized the power of evil and evolved possibilities to transmute negative into positive for the benefit of mankind. The concepts of being grateful to God and sharing one’s blessings by giving charity, were introduced by him.

  1. Jamshed: He saved the world from the Great deluge, for which Jamshedi Navroz is celebrated in his honour. He divided his subjects into four professional groups – the Athornans (priests), Ratheshtars (warriors), Vastriyosh (farmers) and Hutaokhsh (artisans). He introduced the practice of tying the Kasti and enthroning sacred fires.
  2. Faridun: He taught people to fight evil in all forms. He brought an end to the wicked rule of Zohak and celebrated this and his coronation by the performance of Jashan-e-Mehrangan. He made several small prayers called Afsun. He made a special mace in the shape of the head of the cow, called Gurz to defeat Zohak. Even today, boys initiated into priesthood carry a Gurz in their Navar procession.
  3. Minocheher: He introduced the importance of the virtues of peace and harmony amongst all. He started the celebration of Jashan-e-Tirangān to celebrate the peaceful resolution of a territory dispute.

vii. Kae Kaus: He taught the use of Khvarena, divine energy, to overpower black magic, sorcery and evil men.

viii. Kae Khushru: He taught people the concept and benefits of silent contemplation and spiritual retreat.

  1. Hom: He introduced the idea of developing physical powers through spiritual practices of wearing the Kasti and performing prayers.
  2. These eight Sasoshyants lived before prophet Zarathushtra. Zoroastrian religion talks about the arrival of three Saoshyants even after prophet Zarathushtra. Their names are Hoshedar, Hoshedar-mah and Saoshyos. The other name of Saoshyos is Shah Behram Varzavand.

 

Why should I love and follow my Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion?

  1. My religion has to be the greatest, best and most excellent for me, as God in His Wisdom chose to give me birth in this religion.
  2. It is the first revealed religion in the world. The fact the Zoroastrian religion has survived for several millennia shows that its message is powerful, meaningful and beneficial.
  3. As the oldest religion, it has influenced almost every other major religion of the world.
  4. Inspite of being the oldest religion, it is regarded as a very spiritual, ethical, philosophical, ecological, rational, scientific and practical religion
  5. It has been appreciated by all those who have come in contact with it – right from the ancient Indians and Greeks to the present day philosophers and thinkers like Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.
  6. The religion has the power and ability to give us roots so that we can be secure and confident in life, and the wings so that we can soar higher in spirituality
  7. If understood and practiced properly, the religion gives us a healthy and radiant body, a joyful mind, material prosperity and a soul worthy of heaven – most important ingredients for a balanced and happy life.

 

How can I help my religion and community?

  1. Our religion and community are integral parts of our life and should be prominent in the priority list of our life.
  2. Every Mazdayasni Zarthosti has the responsibility of being aware of and looking after the long term survival of his/her religion and community.
  3. One way of doing this is, to avoid taking any step or decision that may endanger the survival of the religion and the community.
  4. Another way is to offer services or monetarily contribute towards the upkeep and maintenance of institutions like fire temples and dokhmas and also the people who look after them.

 

Are the Irani people Parsis or Zoroastrians?

  1. Iranis people are Parsis as well as Zoroastrians. Legally too the term Parsi covers the Iranis.
  2. The term Parsi has been used in Iran since ancient times and refers to the ethnic origin of the great kings of Iran like Cyrus, Darius and Ardeshir, and also to their religion.
  3. When Zoroastrians came from Iran to India after the Arab conquests, they preferred to call themselves Parsis which was an ethnic term covering the religious identity.
  4. Several of our Iranian brethren stayed back in Iran and faithfully followed the Zoroastrian religion in great difficulty, amidst persecution and often at the risk of their lives.
  5. Some of these Iranian Zoroastrians had to come to India in the last about 100 years. In India they were referred to as Iranis because their language, food, dress and certain customs, were closer to the people of Iran than to the Parsis who had come to India more than a thousand years back . The Iranis follow the same religion and say almost the same prayers as Parsis.

 

Why has religion got a bad name?

  1. Religion was originally meant to help people look into their own selves to discover their inner strengths, potentialities and powers and at the same time perceive the unseen spiritual world beyond the self. To fulfil these two purposes he had to have a calm and relaxed mind and hence religion gave some ethics and practices. This in short, is the essence of all religions.
  2. As times went by, the original purposes were often forgotten as humans have a tendency to stick to form and matter rather than the spirit behind it.
  3. Some people were so rigid about obeying and making others obey the practices that they forget the end purpose and just stick to the means, and consider the means as the end. Some people wanted to fulfil their own ends in the name of religion. They often misused the religion or twisted and turned it to suit their purpose. Thus often, unessential and inconsequential things get undue importance, the original purposes was lost, and religions get a bad name.
  4. Each individual has to make an effort to move on his or her own path of self discovery, aided by his own religion of birth. As he advances, he will himself learn, through his innate intelligence that he has to and go beyond the letter into the heart of the message. Religion is a wonderful means to make life a beautiful experience by helping us be happy and enabling us to evolve as human beings.

 

Is there anything in the religion for young generation, or is religion just for adults and senior people?

  1. Religion is meant to give happiness, courage, strength, confidence, health, success and peace.
  2. One of the tasks of the various religious practices like prayers, rituals and daily observances is to activate the powers of the mind and make it work at its optimum level. Its other task is to give us inner vitality and energy.
  3. A systematic study of the religion makes us knowledgeable about ourselves and our world, thus making us aware, responsible and humane human beings.
  4. The above benefits are required at all ages, more so during the formative younger years. Hence religion is all the more necessary for the younger generation.
  5. The reason why youngsters are sometimes not attracted towards religion is because it is not always presented well and they often fail to see the beautiful side of the religion. They mostly get to see its sordid aspects. Religion is often presented as a set of compulsory rules which do not appeal to the spirit of freedom cherished by youngsters.
  6. Religion offers something for everybody. It just needs to be looked at from a fresh and positive perspective.

 

Does Zoroastrian religion believe in Miracles? (JJ 30-10-16)

  1. Before answering this question, first let us understand the word ‘miracle.’ The word miracle means “an extraordinary event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.” This means that when the existing natural laws that we know are unable to understand and explain a certain happening, then it is regarded as a miracle. Thus what is not understandable by natural laws becomes supernatural, that is, miraculous.
  2. Mankind is far away from knowing, understanding and deciphering all the laws of nature. We do not even properly understand our own body and its working. Miracles are happenings related either to the physical laws which are not yet discovered, or to laws which work beyond our dimension and scope of understanding.
  3. Zoroastrian religious tradition chronicles many happenings that can be termed miraculous. This includes several happenings related to the life of prophet Zarathushtra. Several miracles are recorded before Zarathushtra was even born, and also when he was an infant, a child, a youth and in later years. Part of the Seventh book of the Pahlavi Denkard is about the miracles of prophet Zarathushtra. The Pahlavi word for miracle is awd or abd.
  4. Recent Zoroastrian religious tradition has recorded many highly evolved people like Dasturji Kukadaru, Dasturji Meherjirana and Homaji who have done things which can be called a miracle.
  5. Religious aspects like prayers and rituals work at a level which is beyond the physical and hence cannot be quantifiable by known empirical laws. Their working and effects may be termed as miracles.
  6. However, one should not blindly accept every inexplicable happening as a miracle. Some people take recourse to sleight of hand, illusion and other forms of deception to show that they are working miracles. Such acts amount to fooling people and cheating the faith of people. They cannot be regarded as a miracle.

AHURA MAZDA

Why should we consider Ahura Mazda our friend?

  1. We need to establish a one to one friendship with Ahura Mazda which is frank, open and honest.
  2. For such a friendship, we need to infinitely trust Ahura Mazda and His wisdom, confide in Him and depend on Him for help.
  3. The reassuring sentiments of safety, security and protection will always be with us if we consider Ahura Mazda as our friend.
  4. If we always hold the hand of Ahura Mazda in good as well as adverse conditions, we will never be disappointed.
  5. Beyond being a friend, we should also consider Ahura Mazda our guide, brother and father.
  6. The thought that Ahura Mazda loves us, knows what is best for us and hence always works in our interest, should be forever etched in our mind. After our sincere, honest and best efforts whatever happens to us is on account of God’s will and His love for us.

 

What is the concept of Ahura Mazda in our religion?

  1. Zoroastrian religion has a very positive and benign concept of the Almighty supreme Power, that is Ahura Mazda, who is kind, compassionate, merciful, loving, understanding and tolerant.
  2. We need to communicate with him to express our gratitude, seek forgiveness and ask for His grace. He helps us in many ways and can be considered our father, brother, friend and guide.
  3. Though He is all-knowing and all powerful, he in not vengeful, cruel, vindictive or punishing. No harm or destruction comes out of Him as He is all goodness.
  4. When we take the first step to communicate with God, He will take hundreds of steps to come to us.
  5. To make Ahura Mazda our friend, we should communicate with Him regularly through our sincere prayers, done with devotion, surrender and unflinching faith.
  6. When something bad comes on us, it is on account of our own actions and not God. It is at such times that we should not lose faith in Him, hold on to Him and seek Hs help to come out of the difficult situation.

 

How can we visualize Ahura Mazda? (JJ 20-11-16)

  1. Ahura Mazda, our God, is described in our texts as shapeless, formless and infinite. He is referred to as Minoaan mino, that is, spirit among the spirits.
  2. In order to visualize Ahura Mazda we have to look for words which are most frequently used to describe him. These words are raevant/rayomand and khvarenanghant/khorehmand which mean “full of light” and “full of energy.” Thus we have to visualize Ahura Mazda as radiant, energetic, being who is present everywhere.
  3. In other words if we want to visualize Ahura Mazda, we have to visualise him as light and energy. The best embodiments of light and energy on the earth are the sun and the fire. All other radiant bodies like the moon are also in a smaller way embodiments of these two things.

DIVINE BEINGS (YAZADS ETC.)

Who are the Ameshaspands? (JJ 20-3-16)

  1. According to Zoroastrianism, divine beings of various hierarchical levels reside in the spiritual world, the main among which are the Ameshaspands, Yazatas and Fravashi.
  2. The more important among them are known by a name and a day in the Zoroastrian calendar is dedicated to them. In this way they can be remembered in our daily life. The seven Ameshaspands are given the first seven days of the month.
  3. Ameshaspands (Av. Amesha Spenta) are highest among the spiritual beings. The word Ameshaspand means “beneficial immortals.” With Hormazd (Ahura Mazda) as their head, the Amesha Spentasare seven in number. Ahura Mazda is their father and preceptor. All seven work with one accord and united action. Theypreside over spiritual powers, virtues, qualities and material creations. The seven Ameshaspands are:
  4. Hormazd: Though Hormazd is the name of the creator, in a limited sense, he functions as the first Ameshaspand, looks after mankind, and presides over the virtue of wisdom.
  5. Bahman: He presides over cattle. He presides over the evolved mind which ultimately leads to the Cosmic Mind.

iii. Ardibahesht: He presides over fire and energies. He also presides over the virtue of Truth which symbolically eradicates the darkness of lies, falsehood and deceit,

  1. Shahrevar: He presides over metals. He also presides over power, strength and the virtues of a leader.
  2. Spandarmad: She presides over the earth. She looks after the virtues of love, tolerance and understanding.
  3. Khordād: He presides over water. He also stands for the religious truth of the ultimate perfection of the soul and the world.

vii. Amardad: He represents the vegetable kingdom and the religious teaching of immortality of the soul and immanence of the spiritual world.

  1. The above is a very simplistic explanation of the concept of Ameshaspands, which is a very deep and profound concept that works at luminal, physical, mental, psychological, spiritual and cosmic levels.

 

Who are the Yazads? What does the word Yazad mean?

  1. Yazad is a word in the Avestan language which literally means “worthy of veneration.” Hence all divine beings including Ahura Mazda may be regarded as Yazads. In fact the first of the 101 names of Ahura Mazda is Yazad.
  2. Technically the word Yazad is referred to a group of divine beings who work under Ahura Mazda and the Ameshaspands. Each of the seven Ameshaspands have hamkar Yazads, that is co-worker Yazads who work in co-ordination and co-operation with them and do similar tasks.
  3. Divine beings like Sarosh, Adar, Behram and Rashne are referred to as Yazads. Each Yazad has a special function either on the physical, spiritual or ethical level. Some Yazads have multiple functions.
  4. Spiritually Yazads are channels of divine energy. Each channel has a specific role and purpose to play. They emanate from the Endless pool of energy of Ahura Mazda.
  5. In Avesta it is mentioned that there are innumerable Yazads. However about 40 Yazads are more important and are mentioned by name. Many of these Yazads are included in the days of the roj and preside over a particular creation or virtue.
  6. Prophet Zarathushtra, though a mortal, is given the status of a Yazad.

 

E. What are hamkaars? (JJ 27-11-16)

  1. In Zoroastrian religious tradition, the term hamkaar refers to divine beings (Ameshaspands and Yazads) who have similar or common functions and hence work with each other. The word hamkaar literally means “co-workers.”
  2. In the schema of the 30 roj of the month, the first seven roj are the Ameshaspands who are the chief of the other 23 roj. Each of the seven Ameshaspand has 3 to 4 Yazads as their hamkaars, who are similar to the Ameshaspands in the work they handle. The list of the hamkaars of the 7 Ameshaspands is given in all Khordeh Avestas.
  3. The hamkaars assist the Ameshaspands in looking after the seven creations. For instance Adar, Sarosh and Behram Yazads are the three hamkaars of Ardibahesht Ameshaspand. All the hamkaars, like their chief Ameshaspand, are connected to fire and divine energy.
  4. Some of our religious traditions are also connected to the concept of hamkaars. For instance, on Ardibahesht roj and his hamkaars, Zoroastrians are expected to go to the fire temple. That is why these days are marked in red in the Parsi calendar.
  5. Another example is of Bahman Ameshaspand who looks after cattle. His hamkaars are Mohor, Gosh and Ram Yazads. On all these days we abstain from eating meat and observe them as an-rojaa as a mark of respect to Bahman Ameshaspand.

 

For what reason is Ashishwangh Yazad invoked? (JJ 14-4-2013)

  1. The word Ashishwangh means good blessings. It comes from two Avestan words ashi and vanghuhi.
  2. Mino Ashishwangh Yazad   bestows spiritual and material wealth. However, nowadays people invoke her mostly for material wealth and prosperity.
  3. Ashishwangh Yazad  is the equivalent of Goddess Lakhshmi among the Hindus.
  4. The co-worker of Ashishwangh Yazad  is Parendi Yazad, who is invoked for wealth and prosperity. After daily prayers, the line “Yaa vanghu-daao vanghuhim paarendim yazamaide” invoking Parendi Yazad may be recited several times (101/301/501) followed by an Ashem Vohu for ensuring prosperity.

 

Why is Behram Yazad considered important? (JJ 2-6-2013)

  1. Behram Yazad presides over success and victory. He bestows courage and confidence to people working for a righteous cause. He is also known by his epithets Fattehmand, Perojgar and dushman jadaar all of which mean “victorious over opponents.” He is a Hamkar (co-worker) of Ardibahesht Ameshaspand, and his co-workers are Ama and Vanainti Yazads. Behram Yazad’s chief opponent is Vyambur daeva.
  2. Behram Yazad was very popular in Iran during Sasanian and post Sasanian times. Five Emperors of the Sasanian period were named Behram. They are: Bahram I (272-275); Bahram II (275-292); Bahram III (292-293); Bahram IV also known as Kermanshah (388-399) and Bahram V also referred to as Bahramgur (420-440).
  3. The Avestan word for Behram is verethraghna which means “success, victory.” Some of his functions may be comparable to Ganesha the ishta devta (chief God) of the Hindus, whose epithet Vighna-harta is very similar to Behram Yazad’s epithet mushkel asan.
  4. Behram Yazad is also associated with travel. In that context, he is referred to as Panth Yazad. He is invoked before departing on a voyage or a journey.
  5. Behram Yasht is the Avestan text of invocation to Behram and Ama Yazads. The recitation of the Behram Yasht gives confidence and success.

 

Why is Avan Yazad invoked by pregnant ladies?

  1. Avan Yazad presides over water and all other fluids, including fluids in our body.
  2. The reproductive process is largely governed by fluids and hence Avan Yazad presides over the entire process of reproduction, right from conception to post natal nursing.
  3. In Avan Yasht and Avan Ardvisur Nyaish it is stated that Avad Yazad helps in improving the quality of semen, nurturing a healthy child in the womb, and bringing timely milk to mothers.
  4. In the Zoroastrian tradition pregnant ladies are recommended to recite the Avan Ardvisura Nyaishna and/or the Avan Yasht to invoke Avan Yazad, also referred to as Ardvi Sur Banu during pregnancy, especially during the later months.

 

Why is Avan Yazad (Avan ardvisur banu), which presides over waters, not a hamkar of Khordad Ameshaspand, who presides over water?

  1. Hamkars are co-workers of Ameshaspands. Each of the 7 Ameshaspands have 3 to 4 hamkars from among the Yazads to help them in their work in the material and spiritual worlds.
  2. Khordad Ameshaspand presides over water, but Avan Yazad is not among his hamkars. Instead Avan Yazad is a hamkar of Aspandad Ameshaspand who presides over the earth. There is a very logical reason behind this.
  3. Avan Yazad presides over water that flows under the earth. This includes waters of the rivers, wells and springs.
  4. Khordad Ameshapsnd presides over water connected with the process of rainfall, that is lake water and sea water.
  5. For this reason Avan Yazad is a hamkar with Aspandad Ameshaspand who presides over the earth and not with Khordad Ameshaspand which presides over water.

 

What is the importance of Sarosh Yazad in Zoroastrian religion (JJ 19-7-2015)?

  1. Sarosh Yazad is one of the most important Yazads, who is given the title of ‘Saalaar-i-daamaan-i-Hormazd’, that is “commander of the creations of Ahura Mazda.” The 17th day of the Zoroastrian calendar month is dedicated to him. He is a co-worker of Ardibahesht Ameshaspand.
  2. The word Sraosha means “obedience.” Sarosh Yazad also presides over obedience to divine laws and laws of nature. The number ‘Five’ is associated with Sarosh Yazad in prayers, primarily because obedience to divine laws is possible through the five senses and their perceptions.
  3. He presides over divine guidance, inspiration, intuition, and revelation. He gave the divine revelation to prophet Zarathushtra, and divine guidance to many other kings like Gayomard, Jamshed and Faridun.
  4. An important function of Sarosh Yazad is to protect the souls of the living as well as the dead. Immediately after death, when the soul leaves the body its state is like that of a new born child. Sarosh Yazad looks after such souls for the first three days and nights, till the Individual Judgement takes place on the dawn of the fourth day after death. Sarosh Yazad is also present at the time of the Judgement of the soul.
  5. Sarosh Yazad is closely connected with holy words of prayers (maanthra-vaani). He is called tanu-maanthra, that is his body is made of words of prayers. He is responsible for taking our prayers to the divine world. That is why we start all our prayers with the Sarosh Baj.
  6. Rooster is the symbol of Srosh Yazad. It wakes up man from sleep early in the morning to remind him of his duties, especially of offering prayers. Aeshma, the demon of wrath and anger is the rival of Sarosh Yazad.
  7. Sarosh is the most powerful Yazad at night. He protects people against all evils at night. That is why we have a tradition of saying Sarosh Yazad Panaah-baad “May Sarosh Yazad protect you” before going to bed, and which is like a Zoroastrian “Good-night.”
  8. Sarosh is the only Yazad in whose honour there are two Yashts in the Khordeh Avesta. The Sarosh Yasht Vadi to be recited only in the Aiwisruthrem geh and the other Sarosh Yasht Hadokht can be recited for the rest of the four gehs. In fact, Sarosh yasht Vadi is the farazyat prayer for the Aiwisruthrem geh.
  9. The divine beings Gibrael and Gabriel of the Islamic and Catholics faiths respectively have functions and attributes similar to Sarosh Yazad.

 

Why should we pray to Hom Yazad?

  1. Hom Yazad has been worshipped since very ancient times, even before prophet Zarathushtra and Peshdadian king Jamshed. The Vedic god Som has characteristics very similar to Hom Yazad.
  2. In Avesta, the word for Hom is haoma. This word is used to signify three different things–the yazata haoma, the plant Haoma and a heroic and saintly Iranian man. The plant haoma, which is referred to in the Vedas as soma, has similar characteristics and is now identified with plants belonging to the family of ephedra. These plants grow on dry mountainous terrains and have medicinal properties.
  3. Though Hom Yazad is not part of the 30 days of the calendar he is the 32nd of the 33 Zoroastrian Fareshtas associated with the calendar.
  4. Hom Yasht is a prayer dedicated to Hom Yazad. It consists of chapters 9 and 10 of the Yasna. There is a shorter version of the Hom Yasht too, referred to as the Naani Hom Yasht.
  5. In the larger Hom yasht we are told that 4 men invoked Hom Yazad – Vivanghat, Athwya, Thrita and Pourushaspa. They were blessed with illustrious sons king Jamshid, king Faridun, heroes Urvakhsh & Kersasp and prophet Zarathushtra, respectively. Prophet Zarathushtra too worshipped Hom Yazad and he appeared before him.
  6. Hom is a health giving Yazad who invigorates the body, gives long life, keeps disease and death away, helps fight against poisons, protects against unseen evils, hostility and black magic. He also benefits the soul by helping it attain spiritual power and knowledge of religion. He gives knowledge, strength, speed, victory and prosperity and is a granter of boons.

 

Do Zoroastrians have something like Valentines’ day (JJ 14-2-16)

  1. Valentine’s day, which is celebrated on the 14th of February every year, is the day in the Christian calendar which is dedicated to St. Valentine who is the patron saint of romantic love between a man and a woman.
  2. In Zoroastrian religion, such love is predominantly looked after by Ram Yazad who presides over joy and pleasure. Another divine being, Airyaman Yazad who presides over harmonious relationships, also looks after romantic love.
  3. At present, there is no one particular day in the year on which such a day is celebrated. However since one day in every month in the Zoroastrian religious calendar is dedicated to Ram Yazad, that can be the Valentines’ day every month.
  4. If at all one is looking for one such day in the whole year it could be the day of Ram in the month of Amardad (immortality) symbolizing immortal love.

 

What is the importance of Meher Yazad in Zoroastrian religion? (JJ 7-2-16)

  1. Meher is one of the more prominent Yazads in Zoroastrian religion. He is one of the three Yazads who find a place in the names of the 12 months of the Zoroastrian calendar. The Meher Yasht, dedicated to Meher Yazata is one of the longest Yashts.
  2. The 7th month of the Zoroastrian calendar year, and the 16th day of the month is dedicated to Meher Yazad. In Avesta Meher Yazad is known as Mithra, which originally means “contract, friendship, love.” The Indian word mitra “friend” owes its origin to this ancient Indo-Iranian word. The Hindus too have a god by the name Mitra whose functions are similar to Zoroastrian Mithra.
  3. Meher Yazad is present wherever two parties are involved. Thus he presides over all activities which have two parties – like justice, friendship, promises, contracts and wars. He is also one of the judges of the soul at the judgement on the dawn of the 4th day after the death (Chahrom).
  4. Meher Yazad is associated with light. He looks after all cosmic lights, including the sun light. He also looks after the atmospheric spheres, wide spaces and expanses.
  5. Meher Yazad has authority over rituals. He is lord over rituals and ritual spaces. On account of this, a Zoroastrian house of worship, especially in Iran and the West, is referred to as a Dare-Meher or Darbe-Meher which means “House of Meher Yazad.”
  6. The day on which roj Meher comes in the mah Meher of the Zoroastrian calendar is referred to as Meherangan. This day is connected with the historical event of Pishdadian King Faridun freeing Iran from the tyranny of the evil Zohak, and ajashan is celebrated to commemorate this event.
  7. In name and function, Meher Yazad (Mithra) is closely related with Vedic Mitra. There are also similarities between Meher Yazad and Archangel Michael, who is venerated by the Jews as well as many other Christian denominations.
  8. The popularity of Meher Yazad today can be judged by the plethora of names – male and female – connected with Meher Yazad like Meher, Maher, Meheru, Mehera, Meherzad, Mehernaz, Mehernavaz, Mehernosh, Mehershad, Meherwan, Meheryar, Meherangiz and Meherbanu, Meherdad and Buzorg-Meher.

ZARATHUSHTRA

What are the core teachings of the Gathas of Zarathushtra? (JJ 3 & 10-4-16)

  1. The Gathas are the sublime poetical compositions of prophet Zarathushtra in the oldest Avestan language. They also serve as the loftiest of Zoroastrian prayers. The Avestan word Gatha is derived from gā “to sing”, and hence literally means “a song.”
  2. In the Gathas we come across prophet Zarathushtra’s communication with Ahura Mazda, right from his quest for the Truth to his ultimate acceptance as the Prophet.
  3. The Gathas are five in number, divided into 17 chapters having 896 lines and about 5660 words. At present, these 17 chapters form a part of the larger text of Yasna comprising 72 chapters.
  4. Each of the five Gathas are named after the first word/s of the first chapter of that group. The names of the five Gathas are: Ahunavad, Ushtavad, Spentomad, Vohu-khshathra and Vahishtoisht.
  5. The word Gatha is also used to denote the last five days of a Zoroastrian Calendar year. These days were named after the Gathas of prophet Zarathushtra, as these compositions were held in high esteem by Zoroastrians.
  6. The teachings in the Gathas are highly abstract, ethical and philosophical. In simple words, the five main teachings of the Gathas are:
  7. Belief in One God: Prophet Zarathushtra was the first to proclaim the belief in one Supreme Uncreated Force, referred to as Ahura Mazda
  8. The Spiritual world: Ahura Mazda first created the spiritual world and spiritual beings in it and then created the material world. In the spiritual world there are the following main divine beings helping Ahura Mazda – Vohu Manah, Asha Vahsishta, Khshathra vairya, spenta armaiti, haurvatat and ameretat (Bahman, Ardibahesht, Shahrevar, Aspandad and Khordad, in later languages).They also help mankind to improve their ethical, mental and spiritual selves, as each of the above stands for the virtues of consciousness, righteousness, strength, devotion, perfection and immortality.

iii. Two spirits or forces: From the beginning two opposed cosmic forces were at work – Spenta Mainyu “the good spirit” and Angra Mainyu “the evil spirit.” They operate at various levels. The good spirit is life-giving and benefiting. The Evil Spirit is harmful, wicked, destructive and life-destroying. Man should side the good spirit, and not allow physical, mental, moral, emotional and spiritual evils to grow on him. Evil is parasitical in nature and can exist only if man allows it to grow and thrive on him. Man has the free will to choose between Good and the Evil.

  1. Immortality of the soul: Every human being is mortal, and death is destined for all. After death, immortal spiritual elements of life outlive the physical body. The soul, a key spiritual element crosses over to the spiritual realm on the fourth day after death and keeps on evolving till it reaches garothman – the house og God.
  2. Sanctity of Creations: All creations are sacred and their purity has to be maintained. A divine being presides over each creation. Respecting the creations amounts to respecting the divine being presiding over it. Man has to care for all creations and not pollute them in any way.

 

Why did prophet Zarathushtra smile at birth?

  1. Prophet Zarathushtra is the only infant known to have smiled at birth. This unique occurrence is acknowledged and recorded by the Greek Philosopher Pliny (1st century AD) in his “Natural History.”
  2. This incident is also mentioned in our Pahlavi book Denkard, where it is further mentioned that seven nurses, who were present at the time of birth, were confused on seeing this great miracle. They did not know what to make of this strange happening. But they felt it was an auspicious sign as it was the smile of a person “who has joy on account of knowing his duty.”
  3. When Zarathushtra’s parents Pourushaspa and Dogdobanu noticed their child’s smile at birth, they were assured, once again, of their child’s exalted destiny and future greatness.
  4. It is believed that children cry at birth on account of coming into a totally new environment, and as they are afraid of their uncertain future. Infant Zarathushtra was aware of his future and hence did not have any fear and so did not cry. Even as an infant he was aware of his divine appointment as a prophet and his pre-destined mission of over powering evil.
  5. Even after birth, whenever the evil Angra Mainyu tried to get him killed through the wicked Dorasrun, he came out unscathed. When his anxious mother Dogdobanu came searching for him, he was found smiling, perhaps at the failure of Angra Mainyu to hurt him.

 

Why did prophet Zarathushtra go to Mount Ushidaren? (JJ 28-6-15)

  1. Since the time Zarathushtra was a child, he had many questions related to the origins of the world, good and evil, and about the causes of the pains and miseries in the world, which nobody was able to satisfactory answer.
  2. Zarathushtra’s father Pourushaspa was unable to satisfy his quest and so he sent him to a teacher Burzin-Kurush who too was unable to give answers to Zarathushtra’s questions.
  3. Finally Zarathushtra decided to find the answers by directing his questions directly to Ahura Mazda. For that he needed peace and quietitude.
  4. At the age of 20, with his father’s permission Zarathushtra decided to set off to a secluded place where he could spend time in contemplation to seek answers to his questions about life. He is said to have gone to Mount Ushidaren where he spent 10years, after which he received the divine revelation.
  5. The word Ushidaren means “holder of consciousness”, so one can surmise that Zarathushtra’s going to Mount Ushidaren may also be considered his going inside own mind, which is in fact the “holder of consciousness” to find the answers to life’s eternal questions.

 

Who was Aspe siha? (JJ 06-11-16)

  1. Aspe-siha was the name of the favourite horse of King Vishtaspa, the patron king of prophet Zarathushtra. Literally the word aspe-siha means “a black horse”. The horse has become famous in Zoroastrian religious lore, since events in the life of prophet Zarathushtra are closely connected to this horse.
  2. It is stated that the four legs of this horse got embedded in its stomach and none in the kingdom was able to heal the horse from this condition. Finally prophet Zarathushtra, who was wrongly imprisoned by the king at that time, offered to heal the horse with the power of the prayers of Mazdayasni religion, thus proving his credential as a true prophet of Ahura Mazda. This incidence not only proved his innocence but also sealed his place as the true prophet of Ahura Mazda.
  3. This story is also allegorically explained in another way. Aspe-siha or black horse is considered symbolic of darkening of the mind of the king against the prophet and his religion by his detractors. The healing of the horse by the power of prayers is symbolic of clearing of the mind of the king from negative thoughts by the power of the Mazdayasni religion.

 

Why did prophet Zarathushtra give 4 gifts to his disciples?

  1. According to the Zarthosht-Nameh, once King Vishtasp, the prophet’s patron king expressed the desire before the prophet to have four wishes. The Prophet explained that all the four wishes cannot be granted to one person, but assured him that he can grant him any one of the wishes and the other three wishes will be individually granted to any three men of his choice. The king suggested the names of his sons Peshotan and Aspandyar and his wise Minister Jamasp, as the recipients of the gifts.
  2. The following day, prophet Zarathushtra performed a Jashan and presented its offerings to the four royal people. To King Vishtasp the consecrated wine was given and his wish of visiting heaven was fulfilled.
  3. Minister Jamasp was made to smell a flower and he got the gift to see the past and foretell the future. Prince Peshotan was given milk and he gained immortality in the material world. Crown prince Aspandyar was given pomegranate seeds and he became Rooyin-tan, that is, his whole body, except his eyes, became as strong as bronze.

 

Why does prophet Zarathushtra wear a white Pagri on his head?

  1. Since the Peshdadian times, king Jamshed divided the Mazdayasni society into 4 professional groups– the priests, the warriors/administrators, the farmers and the craftsmen/artisans.
  2. Till the end of the Sasanian times these divisions were more or less observed with a very few exceptions.
  3. From the Avesta we learn that Prophet Zarathushtra was the first person who, as a prophet, had the privilege to belong to all the four groups at the same time. However, by birth he belonged to the priestly family, as we see the title athravan (priest) prefixed to his name.
  4. Since the white pagri (turban) is one of the main insignia of priesthood even to this day, prophet Zarathushtra is shown in pictures wearing the white pagri.

 

What is prophet Zarathushtra holding in his hands in his photographs? (JJ 18-12-16)

  1. In different photographs of prophet Zarathushtra, we see him holding different things. It is either a nine knotted stick called Navgar, a gurz, a fire or a scroll of the Avesta.
  2. The most common thing that we see in his hand is the nine knotted stick called Navgar. This stick is used by priests mainly whilst performing certain higher rituals like the Bareshnum and Vanot ni Baj. Hence the Navgar stick is symbolic of priestly profession. Prophet Zarathushtra represented the priestly profession and he was even called an athravan, that is, belonging to the priestly family.
  3. Zarathushtra is also seen holding the gurz in his hand in some pictures. Gurz was originally a weapon devised by Peshdadian king Faridun to overpower the evil Zohak. It was a mace with the head of the cow. Later it became a symbol of the victory of good over evil. Since Zarathushtra epitomizes the victory of good over evil, he holds it in his hands.
  4. The third thing that we see him holding in his hand is the fire Adar Burzin Meher which is one of the three spiritually created fires. It was one of the three gifts that the prophet gave to king Gushtaspa as the mark of his prophetship. This fire had the quality of not being hot (so that it would not burn the hand if held in the hand), not giving out smoke and consuming very little fuel. The fire was later established by king Vishtasp on Mount Raevant.
  5. The fourth thing that we see in the hands of prophet Zarathushtra, is a scroll of the Avesta. It is symbolic of the 21 Nasks (Volumes) which he was divinely gifted and which he gave as one of the three gifts to king Gushtaspa as the mark of his prophetship. The 21 Volumes of the Avesta embodied all the wisdom in the world.

 

COSMOLOGY

How did creation take place according to Zoroastrian religion? / What is the Zoroastrian story of creation?

  1. A Man often asks questions about himself as to – Who he is? From where has he come? What is the purpose of life? A world view and the story of creation are necessary to answer these questions.
  2. Cosmogony is the term used to describe the religious knowledge which helps man to answer these fundamental questions. Different religions give their creation stories in their holy books. The Christians have it in the Book of Genesis, the Hindus have it at several places in Vedas, Puranas, and Smritis. The Zoroastrians have it in the Pahlavi book Bundahishn. The name of this book itself means “beginning of creation.”
  3. According to the Zoroastrianism, in the beginning there was perfect Light (a synonym for the creative energy). The supreme being, later known as Ahura Mazda, decided to fashion creations from it.
  4. He first created Spenta Mainyu the creative Spirit which would assist in the creation of the spiritual and material worlds. On the basis of the Law of Polarity Angra Mainyu, the Evil Spirit, came into existence. The first to be created was Asha – the immutable Law on the basis of which all other creations were created. In the spiritual world divine beings were made from different grades of ‘light’.
  5. The period of creation is symbolically of 12000 years, which is further sub-divided into four parts of 3000 years each. 1000 years in cosmogony is a symbolic number not comparable to earth years.
  6. The first two periods of 3000 years are referred to as Bundahishn “the beginning of creations.” In the first 3000 years, perfect spiritual creations were created. At the end of it, Angra Mainyu, owing to his destructive nature, attacked them, but Ahura Mazda chanted the Ahunavar and Angra Mainyu was stupefied for 3000 years. Ahura Mazda conferred with the divine beings and set up a period of 9000 years, at the end of which Angra Mainyu would become incapacitated. During the second 3000 years, Ahura Mazda created the material creations in a perfect state.
  7. The third and fourth 3000 years periods are referred to as Gumezishn “the period of Mixture.” In this period Angra Mainyu attacked and sullied the 7 material creations-man, animals, plants, water, earth, metals and fire. At the end of the last 3000 years, there will be Vizarishn “the Separation.” The latter part of this period will be characterized by heightened conflict between good and evil. At the end of this period, Saoshyant, the saviour will be born, last Judgement will take place, followed by Ristakhez and Tane-pasen.
  8. At the end of the 12000 years period, evil shall be completely annihilated. This event is known as Frashogard. It will be brought about by the united, conscious efforts of men and Spiritual Beings. After this, creations will revert back to their perfect spiritual states.

 

What is “Frasho-Kereti.” Why is it an important Zoroastrian concept?

  1. Zoroastrian is an apocalyptic religion, that is, it has teachings about a specific beginning and end of the world. According to Zoroastrian teachings, at the end of the world, three main events will take place. They are Rist-aakhez, Tan-e-pasen and Frasho-kereti / Frashogard. The names of these events occur in our prayers. All Zoroastrians are expected to be doubtless about the happening of these events.

 

  1. Rist-aakhez means “rising up.” It is the event when all souls would be ready for the final eternal existence. Tan-e-pasen means “final body.” It refers to the souls getting spiritual bodies which would be similar in form and feature to their human bodies in their best appearance during life-time.

 

  1. The word Frasho-kereti means “making fresh or making new.” It is the final event at the end of the world, when the whole world will be renewed. The new world would be now free from evil, wickedness, hunger and thirst. All creations would have evolved to a perfect spiritual state.

 

What is Ristaakhez, Tane-pasen and Fraoshokereti (JJ 5-7-2015)?

  1. Zoroastrian religion has a particular world-view according to which the material world was created at a particular time and would end in a particular manner. After the end of the material world all the creations would forever live in a spiritual existence.
  2. At the time of the end of the material world there would be some events in the spiritual world which in Zoroastrianism are referred to as Ristaakhez, Tane-pasen and Fraoshokereti. Zoroastrians, as a part of their belief in the Zoroastrian faith, are advised to be doubtless about these events.
  3. The eschatological (end of Time) event of Ristaakhez in may be equated to Qayamat in Islam and Resurrection in Christianity. It is the time when all souls will have to rise and be ready to face God before they become completely pure to lead a blissful spiritual life. The word Ristaakhez literally means “rising of the dead.”
  4. The two other connected Zoroastrian events are Tane-pasen and Fraoshokereti. Tane-pasen means the future spiritual bodies, which all souls will get afterwards, and Frashokereti (Frashogard) refers to the new blissful spiritual existence that will follow.

FIRE AND FIRE-TEMPLES

Why I should go to the Fire temple (Agyari  / Atash Behram)?

1 Fire temples are places where there is constant presence of divine beings like Ameshaspands, Yazads and Fravashis and hence good energies.

2 We need to nurture the sacred fire with the spiritual food of prayer, especially Atash Nyaishna.

3 We need to care for the sacred fire – our ‘sitting friend’ by offering it fuel – sandalwood and / or kathi as physical food.

4 Fire temples are brimming with divine energy, on account of the countless rituals performed there, and hence it is an ideal place to recite prayers.

  1. We are steeped in divine energy through the sacred fire, when we are near it. This leads to secondary benefits like a calm and relaxed mind and a healthy body.

 

Why can’t Non- Zoroastrians enter a fire-temple or be a part of Zoroastrian rituals?

  1. The fire temple is a consecrated (Guj. ijaila) place of worship which houses the consecrated fire. The process of consecration involves the performance of several high rituals to elevate the fire, an ordinary physical creation, to an exalted status whereby it can do the divine work of receiving prayers, being a store-house of divine energies, giving blessings, and protecting against evil.
  2. The sacred fires in the fire temples are established after prolonged ritual consecrations. Several rules and regulations have to be observed to maintain the consecration of the sacred fire. Their consecration need to be safeguarded. Any act that may disturb, invalidate or annul their consecrations has to be avoided at all costs.
  3. The first rule to maintain the consecration is to be in a ritually pure state when one is near it. That means that the person has to invariably do the kasti on the Verandah before entering the fire temple. Moreover, if a person has visited any ritually unclean place like being near the dead body or dakhma, a graveyard, a barber’s salon, having the hair and nail clipped or after a seminal discharge they could not approach it without having a head bath. Moreover ladies cannot go in the fire temple during menstruation.
  4. In this imperfect world, the sacred fires in fire temples are powerful, but they are not all powerful. Hence care has to be taken to safeguard their sanctity so that they can perform the lofty tasks for which they are consecrated.
  5. If the rules of ritual segregation are faithfully followed, the power of the fire is maintained, the presence of divine beings augmented and the fire’s ability to draw divine energy enhanced. The same rule applies for rituals, as they too are performed for drawing spiritual energies and invoking divine presence.

 

 

 

Why do we offer Boi and Machi to the Sacred fire (Atash Padshah)?

  1. There are three grades of consecrated fires – Atash Behram, Atash Adaran and Atash Dadgah.
  2. In the first two grades of fires, the Boi ritual is performed five times a day, after the turn of every Gah.
  3. In the Boi ritual, the Mobed Saheb recites the Atash Nyaishna, rings the bell on the words dushmata duzukhta duzvarshta “bad thoughts, bad words bad deeds” to remove evils and negativities. He feeds the fire with logs of dried wood (Kaathi), especially of the Babul tree and also offers the fragrant sandal wood to the fire. Fragrance is referred to as boi in Pahlavi and hence the name of this ritual is Boi ritual.
  4. There is no religious requirement to stand when the bells are rung while the boi ritual is taking place. The rationale behind the striking of bells indicates that it is to drive away negativities and evil, and not to give respect to any divine being.
  5. Machi means a throne. A throne shaped formation of 6 to 9 sandalwood sticks is offered to the sacred fire in this ritual. Machi is the name given to the boi ritual which has some extra prayers and extra pieces of sandalwood offered to the sacred fire.

 

Why do some people stand while bells are rung during the boe ritual?

  1. The boe ritual is performed at the change of each of the 5 gehs for an Adaran or Atash Behram. The ritual is to assist and strengthen the sacred fire in its work of being a ratheshtar (warrior) against the negative forces by offering it physical food like Kathi and sandal wood as well as spiritual food like prayers and good, positive thoughts.
  2. Three or nine bells are rung on the words dushmata, duzukhta and duzvarshta (bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds) during the boe ritual. The sound of the bells, the words of the prayer and the thoughts of the priests and congregated members help drive away negativities.
  3. It is not necessary to stand up when the bells are rung. The ritual and the words in no way suggest any need to stand up at the time when bells are rung.
  4. Some priests advise standing up at the time when bells are rung as a mark of respect to the fire, or as an act of solidarity with the priest, which does not seem necessary.
  5. Priests in the fire temple performing other rituals continue reciting their prayers when the bells are rung. Hamdins in the Agyari may stop their prayer when the bells are rung and mentally join the priest in thinking thoughts of banishing negativities.

 

Why is an Atash Behram Fire higher than an Agyari fire?

  1. Our fire-temples have three grades of fires – that of Dadgah, Adaran and Atash Behram. The Dadgah fire is consecrated with the simplest and minimum rituals, the Adaran fire is consecrated by collecting fire from 4 different sources over which Yazashne and Vendidad rituals are performed.
  2. The Atash Behram fire is of the highest grade of fire consecrated after collecting fire from 16 different sources which are purified and over which collectively more than two thousand Yasna and Vendidad rituals are performed over a period of more than a year by 8 to 10 pairs of highly qualified priests under the supervision of a Vada Dasturji.
  3. The oldest Atash Behram in India is the Iranshah at Udvada, consecrated about 1280 years ago and the last Atash Behram consecrated is the Anjuman Atash Behram in Mumbai about 112 years back.
  4. Care of the Atash Behram fire is more intricate and elaborate than the consecrated fires of the other two grades. It is done in a special manner by highly qualified priests having higher ritual power, praying more Atash Nyaishnas per boe ritual and always placing a Machi over the sacred fire at the time of Boe.

 

 Why should I wear certain type of clothes to fire temples? OR

Why should there be a dress code for fire temples?

  1. Most places like schools, colleges, offices and sometimes even clubs have a certain dress code.
  2. When we visit the fire temple we are entering the house of God, where we are expected to dress in a decent and appropriate manner in consonance with the lofty stature of the place.
  3. The colour, fitting, length and comfort of the clothes are also responsible in altering levels of concentration – our own as well as that of others.
  4. It is necessary that decorum is maintained in a house of worship. This is mandatory for all places of worship, even those of our sister religions, where even celebrities and heads of state are asked to maintain the decorum and made to dress in a particular manner.

 

 

 

Why is the image of a winged bull (Godha) placed at the entrance of some fire temples?

  1. A winged bull (Godha) is the Zoroastrian symbol of the first created animal and hence also of Bahman Ameshaspand who looks after animals.
  2. As Bahman Ameshaspand presides over the mind, the winged bull is also a symbol for the mind. Since it is the mind which can make us happy or sad, takes us to heaven or hell, it is a very important religious symbol.
  3. The winged bull stands for the 3 levels of the mind – the animal body represents the elementary and involuntary functions of the mind, the human face to the humane and ethical functions which a human has to strive towards, and the wings of the bull indicate the potential divine and higher level of the mind.
  4. In ancient Iran, and Assyria, such or similar symbols were kept in palaces and at palace gates, apparently to tell the subjects to purify their mind before they approach the great monarch.
  5. The winged bulls outside our fire temples are minor replicas of the huge winged bull figures which stand at the entrance gates of the palaces of king Darius and Xerxes at Persepolis.
  6. Nowadays, in the absence of a monarch, the sacred Fire is our king (Padshah) – looking after our physical and spiritual well-being. The winged bulls outside the fire temples remind us to purify our minds (as we already purify ourselves physically by a bath at home and a Kasti at the Agyari) and be prepared to attune the mind to a divine purpose.

 

Why is the boi ritual there a different in different fire temples? (JJ 6-10-2013)

  1. The boi ritual is performed at the commencement of each of the five watches (geh) of the day to feed fuel/fragrant wood to the sacred fires along with the recitation of prayers and ringing of bells. This ritual is referred to as bui daadan in Persian and boi devi in Gujarati. The word boi means “fragrance.”
  2. The boi ritual differs for the three different grades of fire – Atash Dadgah, Atash Adaran and Atash Behram. For the Dadgah fire the boi ritual has to be performed at least once a day.
  3. The boi ritual in an Atash Behram consists of feeding fuel – wood or sandal wood to the fire, washing the stone platform, reciting Atash Nyaishna, ringing the bells and drawing of karshas whilst the prayer is being recited.
  4. For the three grades of fire, priests with different levels of qualifications are required and different numbers of Atash Nyaishnas are recited.
  5. A Machi is a special offering of fuel of 6 large sandalwood sticks, arranged in a special way, during the boi for the Dadgah or Adaran fire. For an Atash Behram, it is mandatory to offer a Machi of 6/7/9 pieces daily in every geh.
  6. There is no specific injunction regarding whether one should stand or sit when the bells are tolled at the time of the boi ritual. Since, generally the bells are struck on the words Dushmata, Duzhukhta and Duzhvarshta “bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds”, it is believed that the purpose of tolling the bells are to drive away the negativities and hence it does not seem necessary to stand while the bells are rung.

 

 

Why should we not kiss photographs and threshold (umbar) in fire temples?

  1. Kissing is a symbolic expression of love and affection.
  2. However, from a religious point of view, kissing involves the transmission of saliva onto an object. As long as saliva is in the mouth, it is not a source of putrefaction, but once out of the mouth, it is a source of Nasu and has the power to contaminate. Thus kissing religious objects is not considered right.
  3. When one kisses the threshold (umbar) or a photograph in the Agyari, what one is technically doing is leaving traces of one’s saliva, where other people will touch their hands or place their fore-heads, thus coming into contact with the saliva. This is religiously unacceptable, as well as scientifically unhygienic.
  4. In traditional Gujarati terms, any act where the saliva touches something, like biting into something, sipping with lips touching the glass or taking objects or fingers in the mouth, is called ajithu. In Zoroastrians tradition we are advised not to bite, but break or cut to eat, as also sip from above, whenever possible, especially if one is sharing a food or glass with others.
  5. One is thus making the sanctified environs of the fire-temple polluted by kissing an object there, and hence should refrain from it.

 

Why do we apply Rakhya?

  1. The word Rakhya comes from the gujarati word ‘raakh’ which means “ash”. Rakhya is the sacred ash from the consecrated fires. Rakhya is considered sacred, as it is a remnant of the consecrated fire.
  2. A few grains of Rakhya taken on a finger-tip has to be reverently applied to the forehead, the place symbolic of wisdom and divinity. It is believed that the sacred ash applied on this spiritual centre helps towards spiritual evolution.
  3. The Rakhya should be rubbed off before leaving the fire temple premises. This is so because the rakhya is the ash of the consecrated fire and hence the ash too is sacred. In fact Rakhya of atash behram is also used for titual purposes. Anything sacred should not be desecrated. Since we are not sure of the purity of people in the outside world, it is best that we rub it off, so that we may not inadvertently desecrate the ash of the sacred fire.
  4. Rakhya reminds us of the adage: “dust thou art to dust returneth” which is the final fate for all. This teaching helps us to keep away from false pride and vanity as well as a wrong sense of superiority.
  5. Rakhya also reminds us about the virtue of service. Just as sandalwood burns to ash in order to provide heat, light and fragrance, we should utilize our life so that we exude goodness whenever possible, before turning into dust.
  6. Some people wrongly apply Rakhya on other parts of the body like the neck, stomach and arms. Some also take it in a handkerchief, and a very few are known to put it in the mouth, all of which are wrong practices.

 

Why is fire considered the most important creation in Zoroastrian religion?

  1. There are several reasons to consider fire as the most important creation in Zoroastrian religion. The reason why it is figuratively regarded as the ‘son’ of Ahura Mazda and is given a central position is that it most resembles Ahura Mazda in its functions and attributes.
  2. Like Ahura Mazda, fire is a store house of khoreh (divine energy) and the sustainer of life. It is present everywhere in the form of motion and energy and has the potentiality of fighting physical, mental and spiritual negativities.
  3. Fire is the closest to humans among all other creations, Man shares many similarities with fire. Just to name a few, both need food, breathe oxygen, are warm when alive but cold when dead and are created to fight negativities and increase goodness.
  4. People have offered various reasons to justify the exalted position given to fire in Zoroastrian religion. Most of them are superfluous. One of the best reasons for the importance of fire in Zoroastrianism is found in the Shahnameh in the following line: “Fire is the nur (radiance) of Ahura Mazda. He who is wise shall revere it.”

 

Why should we offer sandalwood (Sukhad) to the sacred fires?

  1. It is our duty to care for, protect and provide food and fuel to the sacred fires, as we are mobile and the fire cannot move about to get its own food.
  2. In the Atash Nyaishna fire is considered our friend who expects fuel from us. We are asked to take dry, clean wood to the fire from honestly earned money, which should be offered to the sacred fire by a righteous and mature priest.
  3. The sacred fire is generally kept alive by offering dry and clean logs of wood (kathi) especially from trees with low water content, like the babul tree. At special occasions fragrant wood and incense is offered.
  4. In the Vendidad we are asked to offer fragrant wood to the fire. For this purpose four different types of trees are mentioned which are not presently identifiable. In India one of the most fragrant woods, with the least water content is sandalwood (sukhad).
  5. At every step of the way, fire is man’s greatest and best ally, especially in the battle between good and evil. Fire looks after our spiritual sustenance and blesses us with happiness, prosperity and longevity. We need to look after the physical needs and requirements of fire.

 

When going to an Agyari / Atash behram which fire should we visit first – the fire of the higher grade or lower grade? (JJ 13-12-15)

  1. Every Agyari has 2 grades of fires – the Adaran and the Dadgah. Atashbehrams have 2 to 3 grades of fire. Along with the Atash behram and Atash Dadgah fires, some Atash behrams also house the Atash Adaran fires.
  2. There is a general perception in the community that there has to be a particular order of paying respects to the different grades of fire, either ascending – that is Dadgah, Adaran and Atash Behram, or descending, that is, Atash Behram, Adaran and Dadgah.
  3. In our religious texts, there is no indication about following any order while approaching sacred fires. From personal perception most people believe that one should pay respect to the higher fire first or else it may take offence (like some egotistical humans).
  4. My personal contention is that we have to prepare and elevate ourselves more to be more receptive to absorb the blessings of the higher grades of fires. The greater time we spend in a holy place and the more prayers we do, the more receptive we become to the higher grades of the fire. Hence first we should visit the fires of the lower grades, and then move on to the higher and then the highest grades of fire.
  5. However there is no hard and fast rule to observe any order. People may decide the order of offering their salutations to the sacred fires as per their perception, conviction and convenience.

 

How did the Iranshah, established in Sanjan, come to Udwada? (JJ 19 and 26 – 6-16)

  1. Zoroastrians from Iran reached the shores of Sanjan around the middle of the 8th century in several boats. Within five years of settling there, they established the first Atash Behram, which later came to be known as Iranshah “the King of Iran.”
  2. The sacred fire was consecrated under the guidance of Mobed Nairyosang Dhawal, the ritual implements (ālāt) for which were brought by priests from Khorasan (Eastern Iran) by land route.
  3. It stayed in Sanjan for about 700 years till about the end of 14th century when the army of Sultan Mahmad, under Alaf Khan defeated the Hindu king. In the course of its existence, this fire had to be shifted several times when a danger was perceived to its existence.
  4. The sacred fire was first shifted to the caves on the Bahrot mountain, where it stayed for 12 years from 1392 to 1405. The priests found it very difficult to go up and down the mountains for their daily necessities. However they toiled very hard and kept the holy fire safe over there during difficult times.
  5. After the risk of attackers dissipated, the holy fire was brought down from the Bahrot mountains and taken to the forested village of Bansda where it stayed for 14 years.
  6. Changa Asa a wealthy Parsi, felt that the sacred fire was not well patronized in the village and so at his instance, it was taken to his native place Navsari, then a thriving township, with a bigger Parsi settlement, in 1419 AC, where it stayed till 1740 A.C.
  7. In between, for three years from 1733 to 1736, the holy fire was taken to Surat on account of the fear of attacks of the Pindharas (nomadic robbers).
  8. In Navsari, there was an understanding that only the priests from Sanjan would tend the Holy fire. On this account quarrels arose with local priests and it was decided to shift the fire back to the Sanjan jurisdiction. Amidst great hostility, a “royal permit” was obtained from Damaji Gaekwad in 1740, and the Holy fire was taken to Valsad where it remained for 2 years from 1740 to 1742.
  9. From Valsad, it was taken to Udwada on 28th October 1742, where it is burning to date. The Sanjana priests of Udwada comprise of nine families. They risked their lives and limbs to protect and safeguard the sacred fire for hundreds of years, and hence today only they have the right to look after the holy Iranshah.
  10. These nine families are: Andhyarujina, Bhādha, Bhāijina, Dastur, Katila, Mirza, Patel, Sidhwa, and Unwala. They work under the leadership and guidance of the two high priests of Udwada: Dasturji Khurshed Dastur Kekobad Dastur and Dasturji Peshotan Dastur Hormazdyar Mirza. The Udwada Athornan Anjuman is the custodian and guardian of this sacred fire.

 

How did Udwada get its name?

  1. The most sacred and oldest fire of the Zoroastrians, the Iranshah, burns at Udwada since 1742. For this reason Udwada is considered the holiest of holy places for Parsis.
  2. When the Iranshah was in Valsad (Bulsar) for 2 years from 1740 to 1742, its care-taker priests were looking for a place where the Iranshah could be permanently and independently settled. They liked the nearby coastal village of Udwada which belonged to Maharana Durjansingh, the king of Mandvi.
  3. This village, initially under the kings of Mandvi, had gone to the Portuguese and then again come back in the hands of the rulers of Mandvi. Heavy Portuguese influences can be seen in the old houses of Udwada even today.
  4. Since the king of Mandvi was in awe of the sacred Iransah, on being requested, he happily gave the village as a gift to permanently house Iranshah. The holy fire was brought to this coastal village on 28th October 1742, where it is burning to date. The sacred fire was first kept in the Bhathela House, which is no longer present, when it first arrived in Udwada.
  5. This village had the palace of the king of Mandvi at Meriwadi and the camel grazing site of the king nearby, known as Unt-wada “the camel grazing ground.” From this word was derived the name Udwada. To further prove this point, a historic site in the form of a camel tank with a Portuguese inscription dating back to 1714 still stands in the village.

 

Are Zoroastrian fire worshippers?

  1. There are some myths prevalent about the Zoroastrian religion. One of it is that Zoroastrians worship fire. The word worship is generally used to indicate reverence to a deity and hence, it is wrongly understood that Zoroastrians consider fire as a deity. This is not correct as Zoroastrians do not regard fire as a deity and neither do they worship it as an object.
  2. In fire, Zoroastrians see the qualities of their God Ahura Mazda. Hence they focus their worship on fire as the representative of the one Supreme God Ahura Mazda, who is invisible, shapeless and formless.
  3. In Zoroastrian religion fire is seen as the omnipresent energy of Ahura Mazda. It is regarded as a living entity, which is invariable for spiritual evolution. It is considered an agent which takes the prayers to the spiritual world and brings divine energy (Khoreh) to humans.
  4. The myth about Zoroastrians being fire worshippers were propagated out of ignorance mainly by Westerners, since Zoroastrians gave a central position to the fire in their devotional life. They wrongly believed that Zoroastrians venerated fire because it was a useful tool and weapon, cooked food, and gave heat. They also postulated that primitive man was afraid of fire and hence worshipped it.
  5. However, great men like Firdausi Toosi, Bishop Murin and G.R.Mackay have maintained that Zoroastrians were never fire worshippers. Firdausi in the Shahnameh, in the episode of king Hushang, cautions people against calling the Parsees Fire-worshippers in the following words:

Ma gui ke ātash parastā budand, Parastande-e pāk yazdān budand.

“Do not call them fire worshippers, As they are worshippers of God through fire.”

SADRA-KASTI-NAVJOT

Why should I wear Sadra-Kasti ?

  1. Wearing of Sadra Kasti is a Mazdayasni practice started by King Jamshid, which was accepted later by prophet Zarathushtra.
  2. Sadra acts as a divine armour that protects me from unseen negativities, all the time.
  3. The Kasti makes for a boundary around me which protects me from evil. It is imbued with the power of our prayers.
  4. The Sadra and Kasti remind me of the divine garment and girdle symbolically worn by divine beings.
  5. The Sadra and Kasti give me an identity and a sense of security of belonging to a Community and religion.

 

What is the meaning of the word Sadra? Why is it so called? (Sun 22-5-16)

  1. The word Sadra or Sudreh is derived from two Persian words Sud “beneficial” and reh/rah “path.” Thus the word Sudreh means “a beneficial path.” The word Sadra is also derived from the Avestan word vastra “vestment.”
  2. The Sadra is the road map that leads a Zoroastrian towards his the duties and obligations of life. These duties and obligations are:
  3. To be good
  4. To be responsible
  5. To be mindful of the 2 forces – good and evil – and work towards increasing the former and decreasing the latter.
  6. To be mindful of the 2 worlds – physical world and spiritual world.
  7. To look after the 3 main creations –the plants, animals and minerals.
  8. These duties are symbolically enshrined in the nine seams (guj. Saandhaas) which make up the Sadra – 1 Gireban, 1 Girdo, 2 sleeves, 2 sides and 3 Tiris.

 

What is the meaning of the word Kasti? Why is it so called?

  1. The word Kasti is derived from a Persian word which means “boundary.” The Avesta word for Kasti means “a girdle.” These two meanings signify that the Kasti is to remind man to remain within the boundary of what is good and keep evil out of this boundary. It also reminds him to always be girded, that is ready, to face and fight evil at all times.
  2. The Kasti, like the Sadra, in its material and making, enshrines certain basic principles of the religion:
  3. To be innocent – like the lamb, from whose wool the Kasti is made.
  4. To be connected to spiritual world, one of the ways for which is by performance of inner rituals like the Yasna which has 72 chapters, just like the 72 strands of wool that make up the Kasti.
  5. To remember the two worlds at all times just as the hollow in the Kasti is a reminder of the void between the two worlds.
  6. The two tassles remind us of the principle of duality existing in every aspect of the world. Only Ahura Mazda is above and beyond this duality.
  7. The 3 lars is to reminds us of the fundamental basic principles of Humata “good thoughts, hukhta “god words” and hvarshta “good deeds.”
  8. The six laris remind us of the 6 Gahambars which help us to be aware of the nature and seasons.

 

 

Is it okay for ladies to wear sleeveless sadras?

  1. Zoroastrian religion considers Sadra a ritual implement which is necessary to offer prayers and do the Kasti. As a ritual implement, the Sadra has certain specifications regarding the size and number of seams (guj. Saandhaas). The Sadra is made up of nine seams out of which the two sleeves constitute two seams.
  2. The nine seams Sadra also serves as a symbolic indicator for the important teachings of our religion.
  3. There is no difference in the number of seams of the Sadras among ladies and gents, both have to be made up of nine seams.
  4. For purposes of convenience, the sleeves of a ladies sadra may be made smaller and thinner, but it is not right to entirely do away with the sleeves.
  5. The sleeves are symbolic of the Zoroastrian religious injunction of being industrious and hardworking and signify the teachings of Shahrevar Ameshaspand.

 

 

Why should I perform the Kasti ritual?

  1. The powerful Avestan and Pazand Kasti prayers, compiled from the Gathas, the Yasna and the Vendidad, energise me with divine energy.
  2. The Kasti ritual cleanses me from the negativities that I may have picked up from the surroundings.
  3. When recited with a certain awareness, the Kasti prayers explain me the fundamentals of my religion, like being good, sincere and responsible.
  4. The power of its performance gives me strength and confidence to face life.
  5. When the Kasti is performed with full concentration, it is beneficial to the body, mind and spirit.

 

Why should my Navjote be performed ?

  1. The word Navjote means “a New offerer of prayers.” On this day, the child gets the gift of Sadra Kasti and with it the responsibility of offering prayers.
  2. On the day of Navjote, while reciting the Din no Kalmo prayer, the child confirms the 4 Truths of his life. Every time the 4 knots of the Kasti are tied, these 4 Truths are re-iterated. They are: a. Ahura Mazda is my God, b. Zarathushtra is my prophet, c. Mazdayasni Zarthoshti is my religion. d. I will be faithful to my God, prophet and religion all my life.
  3. From the day of Navjote, a child becomes responsible for all its actions and starts collecting merits for the good deeds and retributions for the bad deeds.
  4. From this day the child has to regularly perform the kasti ritual, the prayers of which are powerful, beneficial and effective and provide physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits.
  5. If the child understands the significance of the Sadra Kasti and basic meaning of the Kasti prayers, it provides a guide map for living a happy life.

 

Why and how many times should one perform the Kasti?

  1. Kasti is a basic Zoroastrian ritual which reminds us of our religious and personal duties. It physically, mentally and spiritually protects, cleanses and energises us.
  2. The powerful Avestan and Pazand prayers, compiled from the Gathas, the Yasna and the Vendidad, protects and cleanses a person from negativities, energises with divine energy and if one understands the meanings, inspires one with lofty thoughts.
  3. Of the above three functions, when a Kasti is performed at different times a particular purposes is emphasised. The Kasti performed in the morning, at the turn of each geh, after bath and before going to bed to especially to inspire and energise us.
  4. The Kasti performed after coming from outside, after coming from the toilet, after visiting places like the Dokhma or cemetery, after coming home from outside, before going to a sacred place like the fire temple, before doing our daily prayers and before attending rituals.
  5. When recited with a certain awareness, the Kasti prayers motivate and inspire us to be good and forsake evil as well as remind us the fundamentals of our religion like charity, unity, sincerity and responsibility.
  6. The power of the conscious performance of the kasti gives health to the body, confidence to the mind and rejuvenation to the spirit.

 

Why is there a Gireban and Girdo on our Sadra?

  1. The Sadra is made up of white muslin cloth, which is supposed to have nine seams (Guj. nav saandhaa), each seam having a special significance and serving as a road map for leading a good life.
  2. The Gireban in the front is the most important seam. It is a small pocket like pouch with a perforation in the inner side. It is also referred to as kisseh-kerfeh “the pocket of good deeds”. It is symbolic for the goodness and meritorious deeds we have to perform in our life.
  3. The Girdo is the seam on the nape of the neck. It is in the shape of a crescent moon. It is symbolic of a yoke that reminds man of his responsibilities to God, prophet, nation, society, family and above all to his own self. There is a misconception that only men’s Sadras should have Girdo, which is not correct. All Sadras, either for men or women, should have a Girdo.
  4. The other 7 seams of the Sadra remind us of the material and spiritual worlds, living an industrious life, and taking care of other living and non living creations.

 

Why are there tiris on our Sadra? (JJ 14-6-15)

  1. The Sadra has several purposes. One of it is to provide a road map for living a Zoroastrian life. The Sadra has nine seams, each emphasizing an important aspect of the Zoroastrian religion. The three tiris in the sadra are part of the nine seams.
  2. The three Tiris are arranged in a particular order. There are two angular tiris on the right and one parallel tiri on the left for Sadras of male and vice-versa for Sadras of female.
  3. The three tiris instruct us to live in harmony with and take care of creations. Whereas the two angular Tiris remind us to look after the animals and plants kingdoms, the parallel Tiri is a reminder to look after the minerals, including metals.
  4. The angular and parallel Tiris are on opposite sides of the Sadra of males and females to remind us of the eternal truth that men and women though not created identical, have to seamlessly complement each other, as they each have different strengths and capabilities which are required by the other.

 

What direction should we face while doing the Kasti during the day and night? (21-2-16)

1 While doing the Kasti we have face the east in the morning (havan geh), west in the late afternoon (uziran geh) and any direction (except north) where there is fire/diva/electric lamp after sunset (aiwisruthrem and ushahin geh).

  1. In the afternoon (rapithwin geh) it is okay to face either the south or west as the sun is overhead. Priests from Udwada prefer to face the South and priests from Navsari face the west while doing the Kasti in the Rapithwin geh.
  2. We have to face these particular directions as we are enjoined to face the sun during the day while doing the Kasti, since the sun is the biggest source of Khoreh (divine energy).
  3. There are three main reasons why we do not face the north while doing our Kasti or saying any other prayers: (a) In Avestan texts the north side is considered evil as Angra Mainyu, the evil spirit, is said to reside there. Just as Ahura Mazda is believed to have His house (dadar-e-gehan “house of God”) in the south, Angra Minyu has his house in the north. (b) All evils and negativities, which are mental or spiritual in nature, tend to collect towards the north and emanate from there. (c) In the northern hemisphere the sun never goes towards the north and hence one never needs to face the north while doing the Kasti.

 

Why do we face different directions while doing the Kasti. Why do we not face the north direction while praying ? (25-8-13)

1 While doing the Kasti we face the east in the morning (havan geh), south/west in the afternoon (rapithwin geh), west in the late afternoon (uziran geh) and any direction (except north) where there is fire/diva/electric lamp after sunset (aiwisruthrem and ushahin geh).

  1. We face these directions as we are enjoined to face the sun during the day while doing the Kasti. The sun is the biggest source of divine energy and the greatest living representation of Ahura Mazda.
  2. All of nature is considered sacred in Zoroastrian religion. There is a special prayer called Char dishano namaskar (Homage to the four directions) in which we pay homage to all creations by turning all four sides, including the north. We are enjoined to recite this prayer daily along with our Farazyat (obligatory) prayers. In this very short prayer we pay respect to the sky, the lands, the fields, waters, earth, plants, winds, stars, moon, the sun all the heavenly bodies and divine beings.
  3. There are two main reasons why we do not face the north while doing our Kasti: (a) In Avestan texts the north side is considered evil as the Angra Mainyu, the evil spirit, is said to reside there. Moreover all types of evils collect in the north and emanate from there. Just as Ahura Mazda is believed to have his house (dadar-e-gehan “house of God”) in the south, Angra Minyu has his house in the north. (b) In the northern hemisphere the sun never goes towards the north and hence one never need to face the north while doing the Kasti.

 

Can we make a knot at the centre of a kasti if it is long?

  1. A kasti is generally bought according to one’s size. However very often it is a bit bigger than one’s size. It is always preferable to have it a bit bigger as a Kasti shrinks over a period of time on account of regular washings.
  2. It is imperative to buy a Kasti of proper length. The length of kasti is measured in gaj. One gaj is approximately equal to 27 inches. Depending on the size of ones’ waist, one should calculate the length of the Kasti leaving an extra about 10 inches for the looseness around waist, knots and laris. Hence if the waist of a child is 28, the Kasti should be 28 X 3 +10÷ 27= 3.5 gaj
  3. As for knots in the kasti, for very little children who are not able to manage a long kasti it is okay to temporarily have a knot in the middle.
  4. For grown ups who have a longer Kasti, it is advisable that the kasi should not have a knot, as traditionally it is believed to interfere with the kasti’s power to hold the Manthas.
  5. Grown ups can tighten a loose Kasti with an external knot after tying the Kasti on the waist. This serves the purpose of not having a knot on the kasti and also having it fit around the waist.

PRAYERS

What is Farjyat bandagi? (JJ 25-12-16)

  1. Zoroastrians are enjoined to daily recite certain basic minimum prayers, which are called Farajyaat bandagi which literally means “obligatory prayers.”
  2. These daily prayers are obligatory and should be done with joy as a mark of gratitude to god. They not only provide us with our daily requirement of spiritual energy but also are a type of a daily mental relaxation programme. If a person is fluent with these prayers, they take about 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. The prescribed prayers for day time can be done in any of the three day time gehs, but preferably in the morning in the Havan geh. These prayers are; (i) Kasti (ii) Sarosh Baj (iii) Havan / Rapthwin / Uziran Geh (iv) Khorshed Nyash (v) Meher Nyash (vi) Doa Vispa Humata (vii) Doa Nam Setayashne (viii) Char dishano namaskaar “Homage to four directions” (ix) 101 names of god (x) Doa Tandarosti.
  4. The prescribed prayers for Aiwisruthrem Geh are: (i) Kasti (ii) Sarosh Baj (iii) Aiwisruthrem Geh (iv) Sarosh Yasht Vadi with Nirang (v) Doa Nam Setayashne (vi) Diva/Cherag-no namaskaar “Homage to the light” (vii) 101 names of God (viii) Doa Tandarosti.
  5. The prescribed prayers for Ushahin Geh are: (i) Kasti (ii) Sarosh Baj (iii) Ushahin Geh (iv) Sarosh Yasht Hadokht with Nirang (v) Doa Nam Setayashne (vi) Cheragno namaskaar “Homage to the light” (vii) 101 names of God (viii) Doa Tandarosti. It is pertinent to note that if the Farazyat has to be done in the Ushahin Geh it has to be done at least an hour after the Geh starts.
  6. It is obligatory to pray the Mah Bokhtar Nyash at least thrice a month on No moon day (amas), New moon Day (chand-rat) and Full moon Day (poonam). Avan Nyash may be recited when one is near a well and Atash Nyash is mandatory when one is in the fire temple.
  7. Yasht of the Yazad connected with the particular roj may also be recited on that particular day.

 

Why should I pray?

  1. Prayers soothe, calm and relax the mind in order to prepare it for spiritual evolution and higher experiences.
  2. Prayer is the best way to communicate and be in touch with the divine world
  3. Prayers help to establish and maintain links with Ahura Mazda, prophet Zarathushtra and the divine beings.
  4. Prayer is the time tested way to obtain divine energy.
  5. Secondary benefits of prayer include increased health, immunity and wellness leading to happiness.
  6. Through prayers our thoughts of gratitude, apology and seeking help are conveyed to the divine world.

 

Why does Zoroastrianism prohibit walking barefoot, especially while praying?

  1. While praying, Zoroastrians are enjoined not to keep their bare feet directly on the ground. They should be wearing a footwear, preferably a leather one. The bare feet may be placed on a carpet or a cotton mat, or after wearing thick socks, but never directly on the ground. For the same reason we are required to keep both or at least one foot, covered by footwear, on the ground while praying.
  2. Prayer is an act in which, among other things, involves an exchange of energies. The soles of the feet are believed to be the places from where unwanted energies go out and are grounded to the earth.
  3. The power generated by the Kasti prayers and rituals is vitiated if, after performing the Kasti, bare feet are placed on the ground. In Gujarati this is referred to as ‘Kasti tuti gai’, which implies that the protective power of the Kasti ritual is vitiated.
  4. The Hindus generally go bare feet in temples. The general idea behind this practice is that dirt on the footwear should not be taken inside the temple. Though the Zoroastrian religion strongly believes in cleanliness and purity, it has a different outlook on this point, as seen above. This shows how practices change from religion to religion on the basis of their understanding of the world (world-view).

 

Why can’t I do any prayer at any time? OR

Why do we have to observe a time schedule for prayers?

  1. According to Zoroastrian religion, a day is divided into 5 parts called Gah/Geh. Each Gah has special divine beings and a special prayer dedicated to it. We direct prayers to these divine beings at their particular times. A few prayers to certain creations and Yazads have also to be done in a particular Gah.
  2. Prayers dedicated to the sun and sun light – the Khorshed and Meher Nyaishnas, are recited only during the 3 day time Gahs – Havan, Rapithwin and Uziran. They, along with three other shorter prayers – Doā Vispa Humata, Doā Nām Setāyashne and Chār dishāno namaskār – are the day time Farazyat prayers.
  3. The prayers dedicated to the flowing waters – Avan Ardvisura Nyaishna and the divine being presiding over it – Avan Yasht, are also recited only during the 3 day time Gahs. The main reason why we cannot invoke Avan Yazad, the water divine being, at night is that the vital powers in water gets their strength and efficacy from the rays of the sun.
  4. Sarosh Yash Vadi is recited only in the Aiwisruthrem Gah. It is the Farazyat prayer for this Gah. This is so because among Yazads, Sarosh Yazad is the most powerful destroyer of evils and his help is most required in the first part of the night (Aiwsruthrem Gah) when the forces of evil are at their peak.
  5. Sarosh Yazad also helps mankind in other ways, and hence he can be invoked in the other four Gahs by reciting Sarosh Yasht Hadokht.
  6. The Hoshbam prayer, dedicated to dawn, is recited just before and after the sunrise. Generally the prayer is recited about one and a half hours before and after sunrise. However, the best time to recite it is during the one and a half hours preceding sunrise, which is still the Ushahin Gah.

 

Why and when should I recite Ashem Vohu?

  1. Ashem Vohu is the shortest Avesta prayer. It has 12 words distributed over three lines. The prayer is in praise of Asha Vahishta “the Divine Purpose of the Universe.” In order to understand this Divine Purpose, one has to practice Best Righteousness and understand the Cosmic Order, so that eventually one may attain Ushta “inner happiness”.
  2. Recitation of the Ashem Vohu prayer soothes and relaxes the mind, and helps keep away negative thoughts.
  3. An Ashem Vohu is to be especially recited while getting up from bed, while going to bed, after finishing any work and at the news of death.
  4. In an emergency, this prayer, like the Yatha Ahu Vairyo, can be recited under any conditions even if one is without head covering, or when one is travelling or swimming or is in an hospital.

 

 

Why and when should I recite Yatha Ahu Vairyo?

  1. The Yatha Ahu Vairyo, also referred to as the Ahuna Var, is the oldest Avestan prayer. It has 21 words, distributed over three equal lines, each having about 16 syllables.
  2. This prayer tells us about the importance of Asha Vahishta (Divine Purpose of the Universe), the need to dedicate our life’s actions to Ahura Mazda and the benefit of helping deserving needy people
  3. Reciting this prayer, gives one protection and helps fight evil. It is regarded as the most powerful and victorious of all prayers.
  4. Ahura Mazda used it for creating the creations and thereafter for making Ahriman temporarily ineffective. Prophet Zarathushtra used it for defeating physical and spiritual evils. Sarosh Yazad uses it as a weapon against all evils.
  5. Different numbers of Yatha Ahu Vairyo are recited for various purposes. One Yatha Ahu Vairyo is to be recited when leaving the house, when seeking protection or when taking a seat. Two have to be recited when beginning any work or for seeking help and blessings. Seven are to be recited to invoke the help of Yazads and Ameshaspands.
  6. The 21 Volumes (Nasks) of the Avesta texts were named after each of its words. All of these Volumes except one, are now lost.
  7. In an emergency, this prayer, like the Ashem Vohu, can be recited under any conditions even if one is without head covering, or when one is travelling or swimming or is in an hospital.

 

What is the importance of Yenghe hatam prayer? Can it be prayed anywhere at any time? (JJ 18-9-16)

  1. The three shortest and strongest Zoroastrian prayers are the Yatha Ahu Vairyo, Ashem Vohu and Yenghe Hatam. They are beyond the regular rules of ritual purity and hence can be recited at any place, any time and under any circumstances. They can be recited in combination or individually. They may be recited by keeping a count or could be chanted continuously.
  2. The Yenghe Hatam is lesser known than the other two short prayers as it generally does not occur as a stand alone prayer in the Khordeh Avesta. However, it is a part of almost all larger prayers.
  3. Like the Yatha ahu vairyo and Ashem vohu, the Yenghe hatam prayer also has three poetic lines, totally having 15 words. Like the other two prayers, its commentary is there in the Yasna, in chapter 21.
  4. There is a prayer called Lākhi nu bhantar, in which a combination of 570 Yatha ahu vairyo, 210 Ashem vohu and 120 Yenghe hātām (total 900) are recited with the invocation of Sarosh Yazad. It is mainly done during Muktad days.
  5. In Yasna chapters 61 and 72 we are told that the vibrations of Yatha ahu vairyo, Ashem vohu and Yenghe hātām keep on resonating between the earth and the sky all the time.
  6. In the Yenghe hatam prayer all living men and women are remembered and respected, who excel in goodness on account of their diligence for the Truth. It also states that such people are recognized as better humans by Ahura Mazda Himself.
  7. It is a prayer seeking harmony with righteous people. Reciting t regularly makes our prayers, wishes and desires more effective.

 

Why do we face the south (Dakshin Disha) at the end of prayers?

  1. In the Avestan texts, the north side (apākhtar) is referred to as the side of the demons, so Zoroastrians do not face this direction for prayers or ritual purposes.
  2. Zoroastrians are required to face the sun during the day while performing prayers, and in the northern hemisphere the sun never appears in the north. There is only one prayer, which requires a devotee to face all four directions, and hence this is the only prayer during which the devotee faces north.
  3. The south side is diametrically opposite to north. It is considered the House of God (dādāre gehān), and hence we face the South when we say these words at the end of Nyaishnas and Yashts.

 

Why are parts of some prayers recited in Baj (silence)?

  1. More than 90 % of our prayers are in the Avesta language. They were composed thousands of years ago in and around the times of prophet Zarathushtra.
  2. A very few prayers had been composed by Dasturji Adarbad Mahrespand during the early Sasanian period, about one thousand six hundred years back, in the Pazand language Dastur Adarbad Marespand, the Head priest and a high ranking minister in Iran in the reign of king Shahpur the Great (309-379 AC).
  3. Since the Khordeh Avesta was compiled by Dasturji Adarbad Mahrespand, there is sometimes a Pazand in pre-dominantly Avestan prayers.
  4. In prayers like the Nyaishnas or Yashts, when a Pazand paragraph comes in between Avestan texts, it is not recited aloud, but said in the mind (baj), since the simultaneous recitation of prayers in different languages is not harmonious. When a Pazand prayer is recited by itself or separated by an Ashem Vohu, it can be said aloud.
  5. Prayers like Ahura Mazda Khodae in the Kasti prayers, Kerfeh Mozd, Doa Nam Setayashe, Doa Tandarosti, Patet Pashemani and the 36 Setayashnas are entirely in the Pazand language and are said aloud.

 

Why and what should can be prayed at night before going to sleep?

  1. It is necessary to do Kasti at night before going to bed.
  2. Other prayers that could be done at night before retiring for bed, are:
  3. Recite the Pazand Nirang of Sarosh Yasht Vadi.
  4. Pray 5 Yatha Ahu Vairyo and 3 Ashem Vohu
  5. Repeat the phrase “Sarosh Yazad Panāh bād” thrice and say an Ashem vohu afterwards.
  6. One may also recite the beautiful night time Monajat (Gujarati devotional song) Khudavind Khavid O Parvardegar.
  7. There is also the tradition of saying the following short prayer of repentance, culled from Yasna 1.21, before going to bed: yezi thwā didvaēsha, yezi manangha yezi vachangha yezi shyaothna, yezi zaosha yezi azaosha, ā te anghe fracha stuye nī te vaēdhayemi yezi te anghe avā-ururaodha yat yasnahecha vahmahecha. Ashem vohu 1. Its meaning is: O Ahura Mazda! If I have offended Thee, deliberately or unknowingly, with my thoughts, words or actions, (or) if I have been neglectful in my praises and prayers, I bow to Thee in repentance, and invoke Thee in prayers.

 

What is the importance of prayer, especially when we pray in a language that we do not understand and hence do not understand its meaning?

  1. Prayer is a beautiful mechanism given by religions to fulfil mental, emotional and spiritual needs of mankind.
  2. Prayers have informative and performative aspects. Informative aspects guide us about the teachings of the religion and performative aspects do wonderous and miraculous things for us, especially through our own faculties like the mind and the kehrpa (astral body). Hence it is not always necessary to understand everything that we pray.
  3. Prayers sincerely done can give us health (by increasing our immunity), relax our mind, give us divine energy and protect us from seen and unseen evils.
  4. Prayer is not just for increasing our knowledge and information. In James Montgomery’s words it is “the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed, the motion of a hidden fire that trembles in the breast.” 5. If one wants to know the meaning of prayers, one can study the Avesta language and understand the meaning from the original texts or read the translations available in English, Gujarati or other languages.

 

Can prayers be said in a hospital, in bed etc……since during an illness we need more prayers?

  1. Avesta manthravani prayers have to be said within the observance of certain rules of ritual purity. Since places like hospitals and beds do not have the required ritual purity, regular prayers should not be recited there.
  2. However, three of the shortest Zoroastrian prayers – the Yatha Ahu Vairyo, Ashem Vohu and Yenghe Hatam are beyond the regular rules of ritual purity and hence can be recited at any place, any time and under any circumstances. They can be recited in combination or individually. They may be recited by keeping a count or could be chanted continuously.
  3. One can also recite names of Ameshaspands and Yazads in such situations and seek their help, as just chanting names and remembering our divine beings does not require rules of ritual purity.

 

Why is Ahmai raeshcha, Hazanghrem, Jasame Avanghe and Kerfeh Mozd recited in every prayer? (JJ 31-3-2013)

  1. The four short prayers of Ahmai raeshcha, Hazanghrem, Jasame Avanghe and Kerfeh Mozd form a part of all larger prayers. The first three are in Avesta language and are gleaned from larger Avestan prayers. Ahmai Raeshcha is a prayer of blessings, gleaned from Yasna 68. In it, boons for divine energy, health, wealth progeny, long life etc. are sought for the self and others. The Hazangharem, taken from Hormazd Yasht, asks for blessings of complete health. The Jasa me Avanghe Mazda, taken From Hormazd Yasht and Siroza Yasht asks for help from Ahura Mazda, Behram Yazad, Ram Yazad, Vayu Yazad and other divine beings.
  2. Kerfeh Mozd, the fourth short prayer is in the Pazand language. It is an affirmation to perform good deeds and to keep away from sins.
  3. When praying for departed ones, the first and fourth prayers and certain lines from the third prayer are omitted, since the first prayer asks for boons for the body, the last prayer is about performing good deeds, and the omitted lines are about the joys of life – all of which are not valid for a departed person.

 

Do we have an ‘Om” in Avesta, or something as powerful?

  1. Aum / Om in Hindu tradition is the primordial word by the vibrations of which the cosmos was created.
  2. According to the Zoroastrian tradition, the primordial word for cosmic creation is Ahuna which is very similar in sound and structure to the word Aum. The word Ahuna is the first part of the word Ahuna-var which is the Avestan name of Yathha ahu vairyo prayer.
  3. Ahunavar is the most powerful and the oldest chant in the Universe according to our tradition.
  4. According to Yasna 19, in the beginning of created time, vibrations of the Yatha ahua vairyo prayer permeated the universe resulting in the creations.
  5. According to the Bible, the ‘logos’ (Latin for “the word”) was the beginning of the creations of the cosmos.

 

Why are different numbers of Yatha ahu vairyo and Ashem vohu recited in prayers?

  1. We notice in the Khordeh Avesta, that Yatha ahu vairyo and Ashem vohu are prayed at different places in particular numbers and combinations. This is so because specific tasks and divine beings are associated with a specific number of recitals.
  2. From internal evidence we can infer the reason for most of these numbers. In the case of Yatha ahu vairyos, 1 is for protection, 2 for seeking blessings, 4 for venerating nature, 5 for invoking Sarosh Yazad, 7 for invoking most other Yazads and Ameshaspands, 8 for invoking Fravashis and 10 for invoking Ahura Mazda. It may be noticed that certain number of Yatha ahu vairyos like 3, 6, 9 are never recited.
  3. In the case of Ashem vohus, 1 is recited after completion of any work or prayer and 3 before a declaration or affirmation. 2,5,6,7,8, or 9 Ashem vohus are never recited in any prayer.
  4. Yatha ahu vairyo and Ashem vohu are also recited in sets as follows: 2 Y-1A, 5Y-3A, 21Y-12A, 4A-2Y,
  5. Random recitation of Yatha ahu vairyo and Ashem vohu while sitting idle, travelling or walking is also very beneficial.

 

Why are there so many Yashts in the Khordeh Avesta? (JJ 21-4-2013)

  1. There are in all about 22 Yashts in the Tamam (complete) Khordeh Avesta. Each of the Yasht is a prayer dedicated to a particular Ameshaspand or Yazad, except for Haptan Yasht which is for the 7 Ameshaspands and Siroza Yasht which is for all the divine beings connected to the Zoroastrian religious calendar.
  2. Each Yasht is supposed to be recited on the day to which the Roj is dedicated, but can be recited on any other day as well. Thus Hormazd Yasht may be recited on Hormazd roj in particular but on any day in general. A Yasht may also be recited to fulfil a particular purpose like curing an illness or getting a boon. For instance Tir Yasht may be recited for help in eye problems or during droughts to induce rains. Avan Yasht may be recited for help in conception, reproduction and neo-natal care. Haptan Yasht is recited to overcome planetary afflictions and strengthen the effect of weak planets.
  3. Most larger Yashts contain information about the history and geography of ancient Iran. In this context Zamyad Yasht is considered the best and most complete, hence they are considered ‘epics’ among Avestan texts.

 

Why is a prayer recited before meals (jamvani baj)? (JJ 28-4-2013)

  1. The term baj has several meanings in the Zoroastrian religious tradition. In the above context it means a short prayer recited before and after a certain act, in this case, the act of eating food.
  2. After ‘taking the baj’ that is, reciting the part of prayer before the act, one should refrain from speaking, and hence the meal has to be taken in silence. One may talk only after ‘leaving the baj’, that is after reciting the prayers after the finishing eating.
  3. The Jamvani baj is recited in the Nahan ritual and thus all of us may have recited it while taking the Nahan before the Navjot.
  4. Apart from the Jamvani baj, there are other short baj, like baj for bath, toilet etc. The rationale of taking a baj is that it protects the person from negative influences, since the person is more vulnerable to attacks of evil when such acts are being performed.

 

Why are Khorshed and Meher Nyaishnas daily obligatory (Farazyat) prayers ?

  1. The Khorshed and Meher Nyaishnas followed by the short prayers of Doa Vispa Humata, Doa Nam Setayashne and Char Dishano Namaskar recited after Sarosh baj and the relevant geh during the day time are supposed to be the daily obligatory prayers for a Zarthoshti.
  2. The Farazyat has to be preferably done in the Havan geh, the first thing in the morning, but if that is not possible it can be done in the Rapithwin or Uziran Geh too.
  3. The sun (Khorshed Yazad) and its light (Meher Yazad) are a source of life and sustenance at a physical level as well as the spiritual level.
  4. The The Khorshed and Meher Nyaishnas have to be recited in sunlight or in an open place where sunlight can come in.

 

Why should we hold the Girebaan of the Sadra whilst reciting the Diwano/Atash no Namaskar? (JJ 20 -10- 13)

  1. Gireban also referred to as the pocket of good deeds, is on the front side of the Sadra. It is a reminder of the need to bring in goodness in our life and collect good deeds.
  2. Holding the Gireban while praying is symbolic of pledging to faithfully practice the tenets of the religion, with the fire as a witness, so that goodness may automatically be a part of our life.

 

Why do we have 2 Jasa me avanghe Mazdas in the Khordeh Avesta?

  1. Two prayers in our Khordeh Avesta begin with the words Jasa me avanghe Mazda, which mean “Come to m help O Mazda!” These words also occur in Khorshed and Meher Nyaishnas and Hormazd Yasht.
  2. Both Jasa me avanghe Mazda have entirely different contents. The one in Kasti is to affirm one’s commitment to the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion. The other, prayed towards the end of Sarosh baj and all Gehs, Nyaishnas and Yashts, is for seeking help from Yazads like Behram, Ram and Vayu.
  3. The Jasa me avanghe Mazda prayer in Kasti after the first four words is taken from Yasna 12, the other Jasa me avanghe Mazda prayer is taken from Siroza Yasht.
  4. Just as all prayers beginning with the words Khsnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao “For the pleasure of Ahura Mazda” or ba nāme yazad “in the name of God” are not similar in any manner, so the two prayers which begin with the words Jasa me avanghe mazda are not similar in any way.

 

Why are different numbers of Yatha ahu vairyo and Ashem Vohu prayed at different times?

  1. Yatha ahu vairyo and Ashem Vohu are the oldest Avestan prayers, short, yet very powerful.
  2. One can recite them under any condition. It is beneficial to keep on praying them all the time.
  3. Ashem Vohu is basically prayed for soothing and relaxation. It is recited on solemn occasions.
  4. Yatha Ahu Vairyo is a pro-active prayer which is to be recited when one needs strength and courage to fight fear.
  5. From indirect evidence we can surmise the purposes for which a particular number of Ashem Vohu and Yatha Ahu Vairyo are recited:
  6. One Ashem Vohu is to be recited after expressing a wish or thinking a beneficial thought; 3 Ashem Vohus before a firm and determined resolve; and 12 for elevating consciousness.
  7. One Yatha Ahu Vairyo is to be recited for seeking protection; 2 before asking for blessings; 7 before remembering any Yazad or Ameshaspand; 8 while remembering Asho Farohars; 10 while remembering Ahura Mazda or Avan Aredvisura Yazad; 21 for elevating ting consciousness.

Combinations of Yatha Ahu Vairyo and Ashem Vohu are also recited as follows: 2 Yatha Ahu Vairyo and 1 Ashem Vohu before beginning a new work; 5 Yatha Ahu Vairyo and 3 Ashem Vohu to remember Sarosh Yazad and especially for protection at night; 21 Yatha Ahu Vairyo and 12 Ashem Vohu to evolve consciousness.

 

Why are there different ancient Iranian languages like Avesta, Old Persian, Pahlavi, Dari and Persian?

  1. Languages develop over a period of time. The oldest existing Iranian language is Avesta, which is very similar to Vedic Sanskrit, as both these languages developed almost simultaneously.
  2. The Avesta language was the medium of communication in very ancient times. Prophet Zarathushtra and his immediate disciples used it in tandem with the science of Sataota Yasnya (vibrations) to compose our prayers.
  3. Today Avesta is regarded as a dead language, that is, a language which is grammatically understood but no longer used for communication, mainly on account of intricate grammar and a very limited and archaic vocabulary.
  4. After hundreds of years a new Iranian language developed from Avesta which was used by the Achaemenian kings and which today we know as the Old Persian language. It was written in the non-Iranian cuneiform script and primarily used by Achaemenian kings like Cyrus and Darius the Great.
  5. Several centuries later a new language, Pahlavi, was derived from it which became the state language of the Sasanian empire. Several religious, historical and moral books were written in this language.
  6. After several hundred years, the Persian language developed from Pahlavi language. The Iranian epic Shahnameh is written in one of the purest forms of the Persian language. Today the Persian language that is predominantly used in Iran has a lot of Arabic influence.
  7. Persecuted Zoroastrians in Muslim Iran needed a language to communicate among themselves. This gave rise to the Dari language which is a language spoken only among the Zoroastrians of Iran. It is only a colloquial language and is not written down.

 

 Why do we pray Hoshbām? (16-2-14)

  1. The word Hoshbām literally means “bright (baam) dawn (hosh).” Hoshbam is the name of an Avestan prayer to be recited at the time of the day just about an hour before and after sunrise. This time of the day is also referred to as Hoshbām. This prayer can be recited at the end of the Ushahin geh as well as the beginning of the Havan geh.
  2. The time of dawn is the best time for any prayer as it is conducive to a meditative, contemplative and reflexive state of mind. Not only is it the calmest part of the day, it is also the time when benevolent, positive forces of nature are strongest. It is the time of the day when our mind is fresh, relaxed and most receptive. In Indian tradition this period is referred to as amrut belā “the time for (receiving) nectar(from heaven).”
  3. In the beginning of Hoshbām, the victorious powers of the Yatha ahu vairyo are extolled. The prayer ends with the beautiful line asha vahishta, asha sraeshta, daresāma thwā, pairi thwā jamyāma, hamem thwā hakhma, “O Ahura Mazda! Through the Best Truth, through the most excellent Truth, may we get a glimpse of Thee, may we come near Thee, and may we stay in Thy perpetual friendship.”

 

Why do some people hold handkerchief in their left hand while praying?

  1. We often see Zoroastrian priests as well as laity, holding a handkerchief in their left hand while praying. This practice has evolved from the tradition of holding a handkerchief near the mouth as a sign of reverence and respect to the object of prayer.
  2. Zoroastrians shows great reverence to all creations, especially, fire. Whenever we pray before an object, especially fire, we take care that saliva should not go it while we are praying. Though we may be praying far away from the object, we hold the handkerchief as a mark of respect.
  3. It is for a similar reason that priests wear a padān over their mouth while praying before a fire, so as not to sully the fire with their saliva which may inadvertently come out of the mouth while praying.
  4. In ancient rock reliefs of Achaemenian times we see attendants covering their mouths while before talking to the king. This shows a sense of respect and reverence to the king.

 

Why do we recite the Patet Pashemani? Are we forgiven for our sins if we recite it?

  1. Three of the main attributes of Ahura Mazda are bakhshaayandeh, bakhshaayazgar and meherban, that is “kind, merciful and forgiving.” Ahura Mazda is compassionate and forgiving. He never holds anything against us and loves a sinner as much as he loves a saint. But the fact that Ahura Mazda forgives us does not mean that our mistakes, sins and transgressions are forgiven. Since each and every creation is bound by the laws of cause and effect, every action of ours will have an equal and opposite reaction. Hence we will have to bear the consequences of the smallest of our wrong actions. Thus, though Ahura Mazda is forgiving, our sins are not forgiven, that is we have to bear the retribution of our actions.
  2. Close to the idea of forgiveness, are the ideas of repentance and atonement, which are very important Zoroastrian concepts. Repentance is a strong resolution of not repeating the wrong act that we may have done knowingly or unknowingly. Sincere repentance goes a long way in lightening our burden and preparing us to bear the consequences of our acts. Atonement means doing a positive act to balance the wrong act that we have committed.
  3. We may commit sins daily as we are living in an imperfect world with an imperfect self. Patet Pashemani is a prayer for repentance which constantly reminds us of the potholes of sins that we may come across on the highway of life. Zoroastrianism expects its followers to repent for sins committed knowingly or unknowingly, sins of omission or commission by reciting the Patet Pashemani prayer, generally once a month or at least on Pateti – the last day of the Zoroastrian calendar year.
  4. If it is not be possible to recite the Patet Pashemani prayer, we have a small substitute for it in our kasti prayers. The second half of Ahura Mazda Khoday prayer in our kasti is a short repentance prayer that we do several times in the day. It begins with the words az hamaa gunaah patet pashemaanum which means “Thrice I repent for all my sins.”

 

What is the difference between “Patet Pashemani” and “Patet Ravan-ni” prayers? (JJ 24-1-2016)

  1. Expressing repentance for our mistakes is a key teaching of the Zoroastrian religion. We daily repent for our mistakes in the kasti ritual, when in the second part of ‘Ahura Mazda Khodae’ prayer we pray az hamā gunāh patet pashemānum “I am sorry for all the mistakes I have committed.”
  2. Patet Pashemani is a larger and more specific prayer of repentance. It is in the Pazand language and was composed during the Sasanian times by Dastur Adarbad Mahraspand. Reciting this prayer does not wash away the retributions of our mistakes/sins, but helps us to atone for them, that is do something positive to balance their ill effects, and it also helps us to repent, that is, sincerely feel sorry for the mistakes.
  3. In the past, it seems that repentance was to be expressed in public. Hence Patet Pashemani was sometimes expected to be recited before wise men, Dasturs and honourable people.
  4. Patet Pashemani may be recited daily, but it should especially recited on the last roj (Aneran) of each Zoroastrian calendar month and more importantly on the last day of the year (Gatha Vashistoisht), the day also referred to as the Pateti. Patet Pashemani is also to be recited after undergoing the nahan ritual, and by a child at the time of Navjot. In the Navjot ritual, priests too recite the Patet Pashemani along with or on behalf of the child.
  5. Patet Ravan-ni is the prayer of repentance to be recited on behalf of the deceased by his/her near and dear ones or the priest. This prayer is very similar to the Patet Pashemani except that when in places in Patet there are words for ‘I’ or ‘me’, in Patet ravan-ni it is stated that ‘I’ recite it on behalf of the deceased “so and so (falaan)”.
  6. In this prayer the name of the deceased has to be taken singly, and not with the father or husband. The name is taken in three different ways. For instance, if the deceased’s name is Behdin Rustam, the name is taken in the payer as ‘behdin Rustam’ ‘khud behdin Rustam’ or ‘behdin Rustam khud behdin Rustam.’’
  7. Patet Ravan-ni is to be recited preferably in the Aiwisruthrem Gah after reciting the Sarosh Yasht Vadi. The practice of reciting the Patet Ravan-ni in such a way is referred to as “Sarosh Patet karvi.”
  8. Patet Ravan-ni is especially recited for the deceased in the after death rituals of Sarosh-no-Kardo (Sarosh nu paatru) and Uthamna. We do not recite the Patet Ravan-ni prayer during the Muktad.
  9. When one is attending the Paydast, Uthamna or Sarosh-no-Kardo rituals, one can recite the Patet Ravan-ni for the deceased after one’s Farazyat prayers.

 

 

Why do the words yasnaaicha vahmaaicha kshnaothraaicha and frasastayaecha repeatedly occur in our prayers?

  1. There are various way of approaching the divine. The words yasnaaicha vahmaaicha kshnaothraaicha and frasastayaecha “worship, adoration, propitiation and knowledge” are the four main ways in which we may move towards a spiritual life.
  2. Yasnaaicha is the path of worship and veneration through religious observances and practices (tarikats and prayers) which ultimately lead to God. Zoroastrian practices like performing the kasti, farazyat prayers and other tarikats have the power to directly align us with the divine world and other divine forces.
  3. Vahmaicha is the path of devotion. It is the unconditional love that we may feel for God. It does not ask questions, does not need logical reasons, and believes with faith the need to attune to the supreme being. Gradually this love for God, the creator, percolates towards other creations as we start realizing the underlying unity of all. This helps us to live in peace and harmony with our self and our surroundings.
  4. Khshnaothraaicha is the path of pleasing God by doing His work. All human beings are hamkaars or co-workers of Ahura Mazda in the world’s battle field. By being his soldiers and dong his work we take on ourselves some of His burdens of establishing justice and order in the Universe.
  5. Frasastayaecha is the path of knowledge. When we have True knowledge about God and His workings, we intellectually realise the greatness and vastness of the supreme being and also perceive the underlying unity under the perceived diversities. In this manner we appreciate the greatness of God through the grand design of His universe.
  6. The words yasnaaicha, vahmaaicha, kshnaothraaicha and frasastayaecha repeated in our prayers indicate the four different ways in which we can connect with Ahura Mazda and other divine beings. These paths are not mutually exclusive but one may predominate over the others on the basis of one’s inherent nature and disposition.

6.Hinduism, our sister religion, too has given the four paths of Knowledge (Gnaan), Devotion (Bhakti), Action (Karma) and Spiritual practices (Yog/Raj) to reach one’s ultimate goal.

 

Why does the word yazamaide occur frequently in our prayers?

  1. The word yazamaide is generally translated as “we venerate” or “we worship.” It is one of the most frequently occurring words in the Avestan prayers.
  2. The ‘worship’ indicated in the word yazamaide, is not an impersonal worship of a distant object or being. It is the worship which comes out of admiration and appreciation of the good qualities of that being or creation. Such admiration should naturally result in emulation, and an effort to be like the object of worship.
  3. The range of the objects of ‘worship’ of the word yazamaide is vast. Right from Ahura Mazda and Zarathushtra to Amesha Spentas, Yazatas, souls and Fravashis, to collections of prayers, ritual implements, physical creations and also one’s own soul and Fravashi are “worshipped” this way.
  4. The word yazamaide is also translated as “we attune.” This meaning is closer to the essence of the word, as one has to be in tune to the object of admiration and veneration.
  5. Whenever we recite the word yazamaide in our prayers, we should make a conscious effort to identify the object of our ‘worship’ mentioned in the prayer, which is not difficult in most cases.

 

Why do we click fingers while saying dushmata, duzukhta duzvarshta in the Kasti and other prayers?

  1. The words dushmata, duzukhta, duzvarshta mean “evil thoughts, evil words and evil deeds.”
  2. According to Zoroastrian tradition whenever prayers are recited to banish evil, the activity becomes more efficacious if some sound is created along with the recitation of these words.
  3. Cases in point are the Vanant Yasht where the devotee claps while reciting certain passages which indicate banishing of evil.
  4. When a Mobed Saheb does the boi ritual in the fire temple, he he rings the bell on the words dushmata, duzukhta and duzvarshta to drive away evil.
  5. In a special ritual called the “Vanot Baj”, the Mobed saheb makes a sound by striking a wooden nine-knotted stick (navgar) on the stone platform (hidhora).
  6. For the above reason, a person performing the Kasti or reciting any other prayer clicks his fingers while saying dushmata, duzukhta, duzvarshta, to strengthen the resolve of banishing evil.

 

Why do we have to recite the particular geh in every prayer?

  1. The concept of Time has a deep and unique understanding in the Zoroastrian religion. Starting with the Geh (hours of the day) we have the Roj (day), mah (month), sal (year) and Gahambars (seasons).
  2. Each of our prayer has the Fravarane paragraph in which we recite the relevant ‘short geh.’

Over and above that we recite the long / full Geh after the Sarosh baj, before reciting any other prayer.

  1. The reason for this is that we need to connect with the Yazatas presiding over the Geh before we begin the invocations of other Yazads and Ameshaspands.
  2. Through our prayers we connect to the Spiritual world. The Geh, whicj is the smallest division of finite Time, is the first level of our connection to Endless Time and the infinite spiritual world.

 

Why do we sometimes say Ashem vohu and sometimes Ashone Ashem Vohu. What is the difference between the 2 prayers ?

  1. There is only one prayer – the Ashem vohu, which has 12 words. There is no other prayer with 13 words.
  2. Sometimes, at some places in some prayers the word Ashaone has been prefixed to the prayer in some manuscripts at a later date. It is not part of the prayer, but has to be seen separate from the prayer.
  3. The word ashaone means “for righteousness.” Hence when one prays the Ashem vohu, prefixed with this word, it means that one is praying the Ashem vohu, which is the prayer for righteousness, for the praise of righteousness.

 

Why are certain prayers to be recited before certain objects/creations?

  1. There are several types of prayers in the Khordeh Avesta. There are prayers for venerating creations, divine beings (Yazads and Ameshaspands), for the self and for the souls and the Fravashis of departed ones.
  2. The five Nyaishnas as well as most Namaskars are for creations. When these prayers are recited one has to face the creation or at least be in presence of that creation while praying.
  3. Thus the Khorshed and Meher Nyaishna is to be prayed in presence of the sun/sunlight, the Mah Bokhtar Nyaishna facing the moon (or in the open when one can’t see the moon), the Avan Ardvisur Nyaishna is to be prayed near waters (preferably flowing waters) and the Atash Nyaishna near fire or natural light.

 

Why is the Din no Kalmo prayer recited?

  1. The words Din no Kalmo, mean “prayer of confession of faith.” It is a prayer in Avesta and Pazand languages. It is taught to a child before the Navjote and is recited by the child on the stage before the Anjuman at the Navjote, just before it is made to wear the Sadra.
  2. By chanting this prayer, the child, in a way gives promises of accepting Ahura Mazda as his God, Zarathushtra as his prophet and Mazdayasni Zarthushti as his religion for the whole life.
  3. This short prayer can be recited daily after one’s Farazyat prayers. It may even be recited as a ham-bandagi prayer by the Community to foster love and devotion to one’s God, prophet and religion among its members.

 

Is there something like praying excessively or praying too much? (JJ 20-12-15)

  1. Prayer is a very personal and subjective experience. The time that one devotes to prayers is also a relative from person to person. Although about 20-30 minutes of prayers in the day are a must, some may enjoy praying for 2 hours, and some may get tired in 20 minutes.
  2. Like in everything else, balance or moderation is the key also when prayers are concerned. One should pray till one mentally enjoys, feels spiritually uplifted and is not physically exhausted. One should not pray for the sake of praying, or to set records. For one person 20 minutes may be more than enough, for another, three hours may not be sufficient.
  3. An important aspect of prayer is that one should not pray at the expense of one’s work and duties. About twenty minutes devoted to prayers in the morning invigorates one for all other daily activities.
  4. Hence one should make it a point to pray as early in the morning as possible before any household compulsions or job related work starts demanding ones time and attention.

 

Why is the Bahman Yasht not included in the Khordeh Avesta? (JJ 11-9-16)

  1. The Bahman Yasht is a Pazand prayer which exists only in Pahlavi and Pazand form. Persian versions of Bahman Yasht also exist.
  2. Originally it is a Pahlavi text by the name Zand i Vohuman Yasht, which suggests that it is just a ‘commentary’ on the Avesta Bahman Yasht, which no longer exists. This text contains an account of the future fate of the Iranian nation and the religion of Zarathushtra.
  3. The Bahmand Yasht is not like other Yashts, all of which are in the Avesta language. Hence it is not included in the Khordeh Avesta.
  4. The Bahman Yasht was first published as a prayer in Gujarati in a separate booklet in 1947 by Jehangir Karani & Sons in the form of a Yasht.

 

RITUALS

What is the difference between a Jashan and a Faresta?

  1. Jashan and Fareshta are two outer rituals which are similar in many ways. Both are pre-dominantly thanksgiving rituals. However there are some differences too, as follows:
  2. In Jashan only 3 or 4 yazads are individually invoked, in Fareshta all the 33 Yazads connected to the Zoroastrian calendar are invoked.
  3. For performing a Jashan 1,2,4 or more Mobeds are required on the mat. Fareshta requires 4 Mobeds on the mat.

iii. The performance of Baj ceremony is not essential along with the Jashan. However, he performance of individual Baj for each of the 33 Yazads has to be performed in Fire temple along with the Faresta. In these Baj, 33 boiled eggs and 33 bananas are used apart from the darans.

  1. Jashan is comparatively a shorter ritual, the Faresta is much longer owing to the more prayers to be recited.
  2. A Jashan may be performed for the living as well as to commemorate the departed. The Faresta is predominantly done for the living.

Why is it necessary to participate in rituals, like the Jashan?

  1. One benefits from the presence of divine beings, invoked at the time of performance of rituals.
  2. One benefits from sharing the divine energy drawn by priests during the rituals
  3. One benefits by sitting next to like minded people who are praying (Sat-sang)
  4. Important religious principles can be understood by following the ritual gestures performed by the priests during the ritual. For instance, the ritual of lower exchanged conveys the connection between the material and spiritual worlds and the ethics essential for this connection.
  5. Sitting and listening to the prayers, after doing one’s Kasti, at the time of performance of the ritual, soothes the mind.

 

Why is a pomegranate necessary in most Zoroastrian rituals?

  1. Pomegranate is an evergreen tree and its fruit is extensively used for religious and ritual purposes in Iran as well as India.
  2. It is referred to as hadhanaepat in the Avesta and is mentioned in the Vendidad as well as other texts.
  3. Since the pomegranate is an evergreen tree, it is a symbol of immortality and hence of the soul. Therefore, it is mandatory to have any part of the tree of pomegranate, preferably the fruit, in our rituals, which are generally done for the souls and the Fravashis – either of the living ones or the departed ones.
  4. Tender leaves of pomegranate are chewed during the Nahan ritual. Twigs of the tree are pounded along with twigs of Haoma in the Yasna, Visperad and Videvdad rituals. In the Jashan, Afringan and Farokhshi rituals, along with seasonal fruits, one invariably keeps a slice of pomegranate fruit.

 

 

Why do we mention the names of departed and living persons in our rituals and prayers?

  1. Almost all Zoroastrian rituals can be performed for the living as well as dead.
  2. In rituals, the souls of the living and departed ones are mentioned by name. The word naamcheshti means “individually.”
  3. The living person’s soul is referred to as Zindeh ravaan and the departed person’s soul is referred to as anusheh (immortal) ravaan.
  4. In this context the names are mentioned with their religious title (behdin, khud, osta, osti, ervad, mobed or dastur) as the prefix and the name of the father / husband as the suffix.
  5. Another place where the name of a living person is mentioned with the religious title is the Farmaayasne, which is to indicate the person/s who has taken the responsibility or is bearing the cost of the ritual. In the past only the name of the head of the family was mentioned in Farmaayasne, but nowadays the names of almost the entire family is mentioned, here which is not necessary.
  6. The other place where names of living persons are recited is in the Doa Tandarosti prayer. Here too the name of the living person is mentioned with the religious title.
  7. According to Zoroastrian customs and traditions the name of ladies in menstruation is not mentioned in prayers and rituals. When one is in doubt or is unaware, the mention of the name has to be avoided. The reason for this is that such ladies are not in a ritually pure state and are thus not able to absorb the divine energy and blessings which are asked for in the prayers and rituals.
  8. Names of non-Zoroastrians are not mentioned in prayers and rituals, because their religious traditions does not require them to observe rules of ritual purity. Moreover, they do not even have a Zoroastrian religious title, which is necessary for mentioning names in Zoroastrian prayers. Good health can be wished for them by mentally remembering them after prayers.

 

Why is Malido necessary for a Jashan?

  1. In Zoroastrian rituals, all the seven creations are represented. In a Jashan, the priest represents human beings, utensils represent metals, fruits represent the plant kingdom, the earth is where the priests sit, water and fire are also present.
  2. The animal kingdom is generally represented by Malido in a Jashan, as it is made from ghee (clarified butter) which is made from milk.
  3. It is not compulsory to have Malido in a Jashan. The animal kingdom can be represented by Rava (semolina), a sweet dish prepared from milk or by just having a glass of plain milk.

 

 

How does drinking nirang benefit at the time of nahan? (JJ 12-5-13)

  1. Nirang is consecrated urine of Varasyaji and other bulls over which the Nirang-din ritual has been performed.
  2. Nirang acquires spiritual potency and has the power to clean and energise a person mentally and spiritually when a couple of drops are ingested during the nahan ritual.
  3. Nirang is used only for internal use and not for external application for which taro, that is, unconsecrated bull/cow’s urine is used.
  4. Every child has to sip a couple of drops of Nirang when he takes the Nahan before the Navjote so as to cleanse and energise oneself and prepare for the very importance and lofty Navjote ritual.
  5. For maximum effect of the Nirang on the child, the child was not allowed to eat anything before the Nahan. This is possible only when a navjote is done in the morning, as early as possible.

 

 

Why is Vendidad an important Zoroastrian scripture? (JJ 26-5-2013)

  1. Vendidad is one of the most important and valuable among all Avestan scriptures as it has invaluable information about the laws, customs and practices of Zoroastrians. Today, Vendidad is our prized possession as it is the only one of the 21 Nasks (Volumes of scriptures given by prophet Zarathushtra) which has survived in entirety. The word Vendidad means “laws against daevas.” In Zoroastrianism, the word ‘daeva’ means all types of physical, mental, moral spiritual evils.
  2. The text of the Vendidad is divided into 22 chapters called Pargarads. They cover topics on teachings,

observances and practices of the religion like information about Ahura Mazda, Ameshaspands and Yazads, Prophet Zarathushtra, Mazdayasni religion, qualifications of a priest,  ecology,  life after death, and Dakhma.

  1. It is difficult to understand a few of the injunctions of the Vendidad and hence it had come under attack as a text composed in primitive times. However, if one studies the text of the Vendidad closely and dispassionately one realizes that the core teachings of the Gathas are consistent with the Vendidad.
  2. The Vendidad ritual is performed during the Ushahin Gah (after midnight) in Agyaris and Atash Behrams. In it, the text of the Vendidad is recited interspersed with the texts of Yasna and Visperad. The ritual is meant to fight the dark forces in nature and is hence performed only after midnight when the forces of evil are at their zenith.

 

 Why is it advisable to have Navjotes and Weddings in Agyari/Atash Behram?

  1. Navjotes and weddings are very important and solemn life-cycle rituals. This is verified by the facts that the experienced priests are required to perform them and the person undergoing it has to be specially prepared by taking a nahan.
  2. A ritual has certain requirements of “ritual purity” in order for them to have the optimum value. Agyari/Atash Behrams are places where these rules are best observed. Moreover, there is a high concentration of divine energy and presence of divine beings at such holy places, facilitating such a lofty ritual.
  3. There is nothing wrong in performing Navjotes and Weddings outside Agyari/Atash Behrams if the place has requisite ritual purity. However, one may miss out on the benefits of performance of an essential ritual at a lofty and a sacred place, especially since nowadays it is very difficult to maintain the sanctity of the lofty rituals. The rules of ritual purity are automatically maintained in an Agyari/Atash Behram, and so one does not have to concern oneself about the ritual being vitiated by any type of ritual impurity there.
  4. It needs to be mentioned that it is advisable to have a Navjote performed in the morning as early as possible, as it is the best time for seeking divine blessings for the child.

 

Why are Fala ni Machi and Fala nu Jashan (Contributory Machi and Jashan) beneficial? (1-12- 2013)

  1. Fālā is a Gujarati word which means sharing, an essential component of Zoroastrian religion. Sharing evokes a feeling of unity, cohesiveness and camaraderie in a Community and hence it is encouraged in many activities.
  2. Fālā nu jashan and Fālā ni Māchi were common in the past. Groups of people would contribute money towards the performance of a Jashan or offering a Machi. Such a practice could bring unity and harmony in the community. This practice does not mean that an individual, and institution or a Trust is unable to bear the costs of the ritual. It is just and exercise to encourage sharing.
  3. The concept of sharing in Zoroastrian religion can also be seen in the Gahambar celebrations, which are festivities where the community is expected to come together.
  4. The Muktad celebrated in the house is also meant to bring the family together. The word “Behru’ used for the Muktad vase, originally comes from the Persian words ham behreh which mean “sharing.” During these days the whole family pooled their resources and services to make these days special for the whole family and thus succeed in getting the blessings of the Asho Farohars who visit during Muktad.

 

Why are the Afringan, Farokshi, Stum and Baj rituals performed?

  1. The set of four rituals – Afringan, Farokhshi, Stum and Baj – is performed on all occasions of death from the 4th day (Chahrom) after death. Of these, the first 3 are outer rituals and the last one is an inner ritual. They are especially meant to help the soul of the departed ones. Each has a different purpose and significance.
  2. The Afringan is a ritual in which souls are remembered with the offerings of fruits etc. In this ritual all Asho Farohars are invoked, souls are remembered and blessings are sought for the living people.
  3. The Farokhshi ritual is especially done to invoke the Asho Farohars and seek their help and guidance in the eventual progress of the soul of the deceased.
  4. In the Stum ritual, food cooked by Zoroastrians is offered along with prayers to the souls of the departed. It is believed that the souls appreciate the aroma of the food. Generally Stum is performed thrice in the day, around the time of the three meals – breakfast, lunch and supper and food for that meal is placed in the Stum. The souls are happy that they are remembered in all aspects of life, including meals. If it is not possible to offer food cooked by a Zoroastrian in the Stum, even fruits and milk may be offered.
  5. The Baj-dharna is an inner ritual where the soul of the departed ones are remembered by the specially consecrated offering of dron.
  6. In present times, because of several reasons, if it is not possible to perform all these four rituals for the departed, at least one or two may be done. Moreover, at times like Muktad, where there is a heavy demand for performance of rituals, some or all of the rituals may be done collectively, that is, in Hama Anjuman.

 

What is daran ? (JJ Nov. 2015)

  1. The word daran (also spelled darun or dron) is derived from Avesta word draonah- which means “a part or a portion” offered through consecration in a ritual to divine beings. In English, the word daran is translated as “sacred bread” or “sacred cake.”
  2. The daran is a small flat, round chapati like preparation about 10 cm in diameter and 0.5mm in thickness, made of unleavened wheat flour, clarified butter (G. ghī) and water. The flour is first kneaded with clean water, made into small rounds which are flattened by a metallic rolling pin and then heated on a hot plate (tavaa) till it is evenly cooked. Sometimes a special rolling pin with metallic beads is used. The clinging sound made by it is supposed to keep away evil while preparation is in progress.
  3. The daran is an inevitable requisite in the inner rituals of Bāj-dharnā, Yasna, Visparad and Vendidad. Whereas only one daran is required for each performance of Yasna, Visparad and Vendidad, for the Bāj-dharnā four darans (six in case of Baj for Sarosh Yazad) are required.
  4. Initially the term daran used to indicate the daran which had nine marks (referred to as names) on it. Such darans are referred to in Gujarati as nām pādelā or nām vālā daran. The term Frasast was used for darans which did not have any marks on it. Chityā are smaller marked and unmarked ‘drōn’ about 3 inches in diameter, which are used specifically for the Bāj-dharnā of Panj-tāe performed for acquiring ritual power. Nowadays the regular daran are used instead of chityā in the Panj-tāe performances at most places, especially in Bombay.
  5. Nowadays, the daran does not have marks on it, and the term daran is used even for Frasast. However, for ritual purposes, the daran on the right hand side of the tray are considered frasast. In Iran, the daran is referred to as Luwog. It is bigger and sometimes sweetened. In the past such darans were used even in India for certain special Baj-dharna performances.
  6. Just before the end of the Bāj-dharnā ritual, the priest partakes each of the four daran with ghi, pomegranate seeds and water by breaking a very small piece from the edge. This ritual tasting is called Chāshni. Thereafter, the family that had requested the ritual to be performed, do the ritual tasting. The people who eat the consecrated daran, have to be Zoroastrians.

 

Why and when do we perform Behram Yazad na Daran?

  1. Berham Yazad na Daran is the name given for the baj-dharna ritual performed in honour of Behram Yazad.
  2. It is generally done on the Behram roj, but it could be done on any other roj.
  3. People generally have it done as a thanksgiving to Behram Yazad after success in any work that has been undertaken. It is also done to seek help from Behram Yazad, prior to undertaking a work with the hope that the task undertaken may come to a successful fruition.
  4. In ancient Iran during the Sasanian times, kings used to have fire temples consecrated in honour of Behram Yazad after significant victories or after setting up of new cities.

 

Why do people have Jashans performed in the month of Dae?

  1. The Jashan ritual is performed for purposes like invocation, commemoration and thanksgiving.
  2. Dae is the month dedicated to Dadar Ahura Mazda, whom we need to thank for the blessings in our life. This is generally done by the performance of a Jashan in the house.
  3. Four days in the month of Dae are considered Parabhs of this month – Hormazd, Dae-pa-Adar, Dae-pa-Meher and Dae-pa-din. These are considered more auspicious days for Jashans. However all days in the month of Dae are appropriate for performing a thanksgiving Jashan in hour of Ahura Mazda.

 

Why is Farokhshi not prayed during in Muktad in most Agyaris?

Is it okay to do a Hamā Anjuman  Farokhshi?

  1. In today’s day and age the demand for rituals is far greater than the supply of priests, especially during the Muktads.
  2. Farokhshi is a ritual in which the Satum no kardo and the Farvardin Yasht are recited together in a particular manner, one after another.
  3. The Farokhshi is a very long prayer and hence the priests have to recite it softly and swiftly. The difficult words in this prayer further reduce the speed of the priests. Since most clients (behdins) prefer to hear prayers in loud and sonorous voice of priests, the Afringan ritual is preferred over Farokhshi.
  4. Moreover, in the Farokhshi ritual, the name of deceased are taken in baj and not loudly as in the Afringan prayer. Since most clients like to hear the names of the deceased mentioned in the rituals, once again the Afringan ritual is preferred over the Farokhshi prayer.
  5. On account of paucity of priests, it is okay to pray a hama anjuman Farokhshi, that is in one Farokshi ritual, in which the names of several deceased can be remembered at a time.
  6. The family members of the deceased, Behdins as well as Athornans, can also pray the Faorkhsi themselves at home after some practice, as this ritual does not involve a lot of ritual gestures.

 

Why should we not smell flowers and fruits before offering them in rituals?

  1. In our rituals and ceremonies we present offerings to divine beings, departed souls and Fravashis.

These spiritual beings do not have a physical body and hence they do not physically partake the offerings.

  1. Depending on whether the offerings are of cooked food, fruits or flowers, the spiritual beings enjoy the aroma, smell and fragrance of the offerings.
  2. This is even true for the sandalwood that we offer to the sacred fire, the Atash Padshah Saheb. He too enjoys the sweet fragrance of the sandalwood, and the sandalwood also serves as food for the fire.
  3. It is not right to first partake of something which we have decided to offer as a gift. Hence we should not smell the offerings that we want to make to the divine beings.

 

Why are flowers exchanged during the Jashan ritual?

  1. All rituals have ritual gestures which have some meaning and convey some message.
  2. The flower exchange ritual in the Jashan conveys the following: The two vertical flowers represent Ahura Mazda the lord of the spiritual world and Zarathushtra the spiritual lord of the material world. The six vertical flowers three each facing one another indicate the other six Amesahspands and their virtues.
  3. The sitting priest (chief priest) representing Ahura Mazda picks up one of the vertical flowers, keeps it with himself and gives the other flower to the assisting priest who is symbolizing the spiritual lord of the material world.
  4. Then the chief priest picks up the three flowers of the right column in a descending order while reciting the words humatanām, hukhtanām and hvarshtanām and hands them over to the assisting priest. This is to dramatically enact the religious teaching that when a soul descends to this earth it has to practice good thoughts, words and deeds.
  5. Next the chief priest picks up the three flowers of the left column in an ascending order while reciting the words humatanām, hukhtanām and hvarshtanām and hands them over to the assisting priest, indicating the teaching that when a soul goes back to the spiritual world, only its good thoughts, words and deeds will go back with him.
  6. After some time the assisting priest gives back all 7 flowers to the chief priest indicating that all the teachings will help him lead a worthy life enabling him to happily return back to the spiritual world.
  7. This flower ritual is repeated thrice in a normal Jashan.

 

What is the significance of Chahrom ni Baj? Why is it considered so important?

  1. All first three days post-death rituals are considered very important. They include the Sachkar, Sagdid, Geh-Sarna, Paydast, Sarosh no Kardo (also referred to as Sarosh nu Patru), 2 Uthamnas, Cahrom in Baj and Daham Yazad Afringan.
  2. From the point of view of the soul, the Chahrom Baj is considered very essential, as it is in preparations for the soul’s transition from the material to the spiritual dimension. It also facilitates the passage of the soul to the spiritual world, through the Chinvad Bridge (Av. Chinvato peretu) and helps in the Individual Judgement of the soul.
  3. Presently, this Baj, includes the performances of four Dron yasht / Bāj-dharnā rituals with invocations to Rashn-Āshtād, Wāy ī Weh (also known as Mīnō Rām), Sarosh and Ardāfravash, performed in succession, one after another. While performing the Bāj of Ardāfravash, Siyāv is placed in a metallic tray, along with any other utensil to be consecrated.
  4. Rashna and Ashtad are Yazads preside over truth and they act as the judges of the soul during its Judgement. Way-Weh or Mino Ram Yazad preside over the spheres between the material and spiritual world through which the soul will have to pass, Ardafravash refers to the collective Fravashis which along with the Fravashi of the soul will now guide the soul of the deceased. Sarosh is the Guardian angel of the soul till it enters the spiritual dimensions. Thus the invocation of all the above Yazads in the Chahrom ni baj is apt as well as necessary in the soul’s journey from this world to the next.

 

Why should meals for Satum and other ritual offerings be cooked by Parsis and un-touched by non-Parsis?

  1. Anything offered in a ritual has to be clean and ritually pure. This includes the utensils, flowers, fruits and cooked food/offerings.
  2. Utensils, flowers and fruits need to be washed in a proper manner by a Zoroastrian with pure and clean water before being used as a ritual offering.
  3. Since cooked food / offerings cannot be washed, care is taken during their preparation. The person preparing them should observe rules of ritual purity as also the person/s handling the food before it is used in the ritual. That is why food / offerings should be cooked and handled by Parsis only.
  4. After the fruits / flowers and food are offered in the ritual they become consecrated and then too care has to be taken as to how they are handled, consumed/utilized and disposed.

 

Is it okay to put loban after Khushalinu jashan ?

  1. Since about less than two decades, a practice seems to have started in our community, wherein family members are advised not to put loban on the Afarganyu after the Khuashali Jashan, especially when the Jashan is performed in the house. Instead they are advised to do ovarna with rice. Such a practice has no religious basis.
  2. It has been a longstanding practice in many Parsi houses till recently of daily doing loban in the house, that is, taking around fire embers in a small afarganyu (fire-vase) around the house, at dusk or dawn, while putting some loban (incense) on it.
  3. The religious purpose of putting incense on fire is to have a fragrant atmosphere in the house, which is conducive to good energies and the presence of beneficent divine beings – Ameshaspands, Yazads, asho ravans and asho farohars in the house.
  4. While putting loban after the Jashan ritual one is fulfilling a similar function, of inviting the divine beings into the house so that they may partake the offerings from the ritual and then bless the house.

The priests themselves too put loban on the fire during the khushali nu Jashan.

  1. The erroneous practice mentioned above seems to have developed because among the Parsis, the term loban mukvu has become synonymous with rituals for the dead, and hence it has assumed an inauspicious connotation. On the other hand, ovarna are done only on auspicious occasions has an auspicious overtone.
  2. There is no religious restriction on putting loban on the fire after the Jashan ritual.

 

E Why do we observe two days of a person’s death day i.e. ‘deesi’ or ‘siroza’ along with ‘masiso’ ? Why not only the actual day of death?

  1. In our texts we are asked to invoke the memory of dear departed ones especially the following days: charom, dahom, siroz, sal and roz –that is, the fourth day, the tenth day, the 30th day, the year and the day of death.
  2. Rituals are thus performed on the siroza or the 30th day of death, which is also referred to as deesi, as well as on the actual roz of death which happens to be the 31st day.
  3. On each of these days two days, Afringan, Farokhshi, Baj and Satum rituals are performed with different invocations (khshnumans).

 

What is the significance of Geh-sarna ritual?

  1. The word Geh sarna comes from the words ‘Gatha sraaishna’ which mean “singing of the Gathas.” In this important after death ritual, the 7 chapters of Yasna, Ha 28 to 34, that constitute Gatha Ahunavaiti, are recited with the invocation of Sarosh Yazad by two priests.
  2. This ritual is also referred to as Paydast, which in actuality refers to the procession after the Geh-sarna ritual, leading to the Dokhma.
  3. Traditionally it is believed that the manthras (Avestan words of prayers) of Ahunavad Gatha initiates the process of severing the connection between the physical and non-physical constituents of the body, thus expediting the progress of the soul.
  4. It is for this reason that we have the tradition of discouraging pregnant ladies and very young children from attending the Geh-Sarna ritual, as a child in the womb and very young children are considered to have a very delicate connection between their physical and spiritual constituents, and a risk must have been deemed of having this connection severed. This is a classic example of the way in which modern practices corroborate the ancient unwritten oral wisdom.

 

What is the Nirang din ritual? Why is it the most important Zoroastrian ritual? (JJ 13-3-16)

  1. Nirang-din is the loftiest Zoroastrian ritual in the present times. The word Nirang-din means “power of the religion.” It is an eighteen day ritual performed by two priests of the highest caliber in which the urine of the Varasyaji and other bulls is consecrated. This is then referred to as Nirang.
  2. Two priests first undergo the 9 day, 9 night Bareshnum purification. On the eleventh day the two priests take the bigger khub by doing the Mino Navar Yasna and then do the Gevra for six days and do the ham-kalam on the 17th day. On the same day, a Varasyaji and about 8 to 10 bulls are brought to the premises where the Nirang- ritual is being performed. In the Uziran geh, the two priests collect the taro of Varasyaji and other bulls in a metallic pot and cover it with a small metallic plate.
  3. On the 17th night the Vendidad is performed by the two priests in the Ushahin geh with the invocation to Sarosh Yazad, wherein the metallic pot filled with taro is kept. Another such pot filled with water is also kept. The chief priest, opens these pots at particular times during the performance of the Vendidad and looks into them. Small pebbles called sangreza are also dropped into the taro while reciting Yatha ahu vairyo.
  4. The following day, after the ritual is complete, the metallic pots are closed by the muslin cloth folded in three layers. Then the sacred taro which is now referred to as Nirang, and the consecrated water are filled in glass bottles and specially closed with muslin cloth and secured with cotton chord tied like the Kasti.
  5. The Nirang is considered the most important religious alat (ritual requirement), and is used in several other rituals. It has to be sipped it while undergoing Nahan purification before Navjotes and Weddings. The sipping of Nirang has physical and spiritual benefits.
  6. The performance of the Nirang-din ritual is supposed to be of great merit for the soul of a person. Generally it is performed for the soul of deceased person a few years after death. There are a very few Parsi priests today who can perform this lofty ritual.

 

What is Shahen Baj? Why is it not performed anymore? (JJ 12-6-16)

  1. Some Zoroastrian rituals are almost forgotten, and the Shahen baj is one such ritual. The word Shahen comes from Pahlavi word shāhān “kings.” As per its name, this Bāj was performed at the behest of kings to protect them and the kingdom from calamities, wars or famines. It was generally performed in open, secluded ritually clean places.
  2. In eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in India, wealthy people had this Bāj performed when the ruler of the city, town, country or community faced momentous calamities. Its performance required the sanction and permission of the Community and its leaders.
  3. In the past, the performer of this Baj would be disqualified from performing any other higher ritual for life because his Bareshnum would be permanently vitiated after the performance of this Baj. For this reason the Baj was rarely performed.
  4. The reason for the priest being disqualified from doing higher rituals is a technical one. Technically the invocation of Sarosh Yazad is never compounded with invocation of other divine beings. However in this Baj there are other invocations combined and owing to this, the priest loses his ritual power.
  5. Moreover it was believed that the priest took upon himself the calamity to befall on the nation. Hence, an aged and pious priest, who was willing to take upon himself the calamity performed this Bāj.
  6. The Sanjana priests considered only the ritual power of one Bareshnum vitiated after this Bāj, and they advised the performance of a fresh Bareshnum for subsequent performances of inner rituals for the priest performing this Bāj.

 

What are Zindeh-ravaan rituals? (JJ 31-7-16)

  1. When rituals are performed for living people, they are referred to as Zindeh-ravaan rituals. The word Zindeh-ravaan literally means “for the living souls.” Anusheh-ravaan rituals are performed for departed ones. The word anusheh-ravaan means “immortal souls” and not dead souls. Almost all rituals can be performed for the living as well as for departed people.
  2. Over and above the general use of the term Zindeh-ravaan, this term is also used to refer to the group of death rituals which are performed for a living person in anticipation that after death the death rituals may not be performed.
  3. Such Zindeh-ravaan rituals can be done for an individual or for a married couple (Joranu). They include all after death rituals except Sachkar, Sagdid and Geh-sarna (Paydast). They may be done for 4 days, upto Chahrom, or for a year. The rituals within the Zindeh-ravaan may be adjusted according to the person’s means.

The following rituals are done in the set of Zindeh-ravaan rituals:

  1. 1 Sarosh Yazashne and 1 Sarosh Vendidad each at night for first three days (Option: Only 1 Yazashne and 1 Vendidad or 3 Yazashne and 1 Vendidad). The performance of at least one Yasna was considered necessary, whereas the performance of the Vendidad was considered optional.
  2. Baj of Sarosh in each of the five gehs for the first three days. This is also optional.
  3. Sarosh no kardo in Aiwisruthrem Geh for 3 days.
  4. Uthamna (Joranu, if for a couple) on 3rd day in Uziran Geh. This is optional.
  5. 4 Chahrom Baj (8 Baj if Joranu) on 3rd night, with Siyav and utensils to be consecrated in Ardafravash baj.
  6. Uthamna (Joranu, if for a couple) on 3rd night in Ushahin Geh. This is necessary.
  7. Dahm Yazad Afringan on dawn of fourth day.
  8. Afringan, Farokhshi, Baj and Stum on 4th

Afringan, Farokhshi, Baj on 10th day, 30th day (Siroza) and each month for 12 months (optional).

 

What is the Bareshnum? (JJ 16 & 23-10-16)

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

 

What is a Nahan? (JJ 9-10-16)

  1. The Nahan ritual is the second level of Zoroastrian purification. The term Nahan comes from the Sanskrit word Snān which means “bath.” It is given at particular times, like before Navjot, Wedding, to the widow of a deceased before the Uthamna and 40 days after child birth.
  2. The Nahan is given by a priest, who in the past was expected to be the holder of the power (amal) of a Bareshnum.
  3. The nahan starts with the performance of Kasti, after which the priest makes the person recite the Baj for food. After this a few pomegranate leaves are given for chewing and any residue if at all is to be spit out. Then a few drops of the Nirang are thrice sipped while mentally reciting the line In khurram in pāki-e-tan, yaozdathri-e-ravān rā which means “I drink this for cleansing my body and purifying my soul.”
  4. Then the person is made to recite the Baj for bathing. A spoonful of taro is given which the person is asked to apply on the body and allowed to dry. After that a regular bath is taken, after which the person puts on clean clothes, places the Kasti over the shoulders and comes to the priest. The priest makes the person complete the Baj prayers. The ritual ends with the performance of Kasti and recitation of the Patet Pashemani prayer.

 

Why is the Barsom a very important ritual implement (ālāt)?

  1. The Barsom is a ritual implement (ālāt) used in all inner rituals like the Yasna, the Visperad, the Vidēvdād and the Bāj-dharnā, since ancient times. It is mentioned in all our Avesta, Pahlavi and Persian texts and is often mentioned in the Shahnameh.
  2. The barsom consists of a bundle of thin metallic wires, generally brass or silver. Each individual wire is called a tāe, which literally means “a twig.” Since ancient times barsom was made from twigs, especially the pomegranate and tamarisk (gaz) trees were preferred. By 9th century AC, metallic barsom came to be used.
  3. Different rituals require different number of tāe in a barsom. The barsom is ritually tied by a thin metallic chain or date palm leaf. During the Bāj-dharnā the bundle of barsom is held in the left hand. In all other inner rituals, it is sometimes kept in the hand but most of the time it is kept on the māhrūy, which is a special crescent moon shaped three legged stand, and a connection is maintained with it by keeping fingers of the left hand on it.

 

What is Varasyaji? How is Varasyaji consecrated?

  1. The Varasyaji is a whi­­te, uncastrated, albino bull without deformity or any trace of black in the hair, hoof or on the body. Each priestly group has a consecrated Varasyaji of its own.
  2. The Varasyaji is generally procured from interior villages as a very young bull, kept under observation for some time and consecrated after it reaches the age of two. By this time it is properly ascertained that it has no traces of any non-white hair or patch on its body.
  3. The Varasyaji is consecrated by two priests over a period of 6 days in an elaborate ritual. Hair from its tail are taken and then given to priests in other fire temples where inner rituals are performed. Two to three consecrated hair are tied on a metallic ring, resembling a finger ring, which is an invariable requirement for all inner rituals.
  4. No inner ritual can be performed after the consecrated Varasyaji dies, till another Varasyaji is consecrated. After a Varasyaji dies, he is bathed, a Sadra and Kasti is kept over its body. Two priests recite the Geh-sarna ritual, and then the Varasyaji is buried, preferably in the precincts of the Dungerwadi.

HISTORY

Why did Mazdayasni Zarthoshtis come from Iran to India?

  1. The Mazdayasni Zarthoshtis lost the Sasanian empire to the Arabs in 641 AC.
  2. After that, for about a hundred years they struggled to get back the empire, regain their lost glory and live in dignity, without much success.
  3. Under the Arab rule, it was not possible to follow the tenets of the religion – like wearing Sudreh–kasti, performing rituals and maintaining a sacred fire.
  4. It was not possible to maintain rules of ethnic exclusivity and ritual purity in personal lives.
  5. It was not possible to follow rules of exclusivity for fire temples and rituals and survive as a religious community.
  6. Most Zoroastrians had been relegated to the position of slaves from masters, and forced to pay heavy, back-breaking taxes.
  7. Many Zoroastrians were forced to convert to Islam or their wealth and property were confiscated.
  8. The lives and modesty of ladies were always in grave danger, especially as they were not able to pay taxes. Beautiful women were more at risk and hence were often purposely disfigured or made to look ugly.

 

When did Iranians, especially Zoroastrians, first come into contact with India?

  1. It is generally erroneously believed that Zoroastrians from Iran first came into contact with India after they fled from Iran following the downfall of the Sasanian empire.
  2. The fact is that the ancestors of the Indians and Iranians were staying together as Aryans even before the countries of Iran and India came into existence.
  3. In the Shahnameh narratives of Peshdadian and Kayanian kings of ancient Iran, we come across mention of India at several places.
  4. A part of north western India, comprising modern day Sindh and Punjab, belonged to the Achaemenian empire, and Sasanian kings like Behram V (Behram Gur) and Chosroe I (Nosherwan Adel) had political relations with India.
  5. Thus after the downfall of the Sasanian empire, India was the natural choice of the Iranian Zoroastrians as a second home, away from home, as the Iranian Zoroastrians were aware of the tolerance of Indian rulers and the inclusive nature of Indian religions.
  6. After our ancestors came from Iran to India about 1300 years back, there was not much contact between Iran and India, till priests were sent as message carriers from India to Iran in the 16th and 17th centuries to seek information and clarifications about religious and ritual matters.
  7. In the mid 19th century, wealthy Zoroastrians in Mumbai formed the Society for Amelioration of the conditions of Zoroastrians in Iran. As their emissary they chose Mr. Maneckji Limji Hataria and sent him with funds to help the unfortunate Zoroastrian brethren who were terrorized and oppressed in Iran.

 

Why is the Shahnameh an important book?

  1. The Iranian epic Shahnameh “Book of kings”, comprising about 60,000 Persian couplets, was composed about a thousand years ago by Firdausi Toosi (real name Abul Kasem Hasan). It was largely based on the Avestan and Pahlavi texts existing then.
  2. The past is an integral part of our life. Though it is not correct to dwell in the past, one should learn from it, be inspired from it, emulate heroic deeds and avoid the pitfalls. The Shahnameh is a chronicle of ancient Iranian history which helps us keep in touch with our glorious past. It covers the Peshdadian, Kayanian and Sasanian times, encapsulating their greatness and pettiness, romance and  tragedies, heroes and villains, glory and shame.
  3. It has vignettes of information on Zoroastrian religion like praise of God, life of Zarathushtra, different types of Jashans, importance of dokhmenashini etc.
  4. It also has wonderful maxims, admonitions and teachings for life on topics like love, impermanence, moderation, intelligence, shrewdness, friendship and death, which are full of worldly wisdom.

 

Why are Achaemenian kings like Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great not attested in our religious tradition or literature?

  1. The history of our Peshdadian and Kayanian kings were recorded in the Avesta and from there it went into the Pahlavi texts.
  2. The Achaemenian dynasty came a long time after the Avestan texts were composed and hence they are not mentioned in our Avesta.
  3. The Pahlavi writers mainly depended on the Avestan for their source and hence the Achaemenians are not recorded in the Pahlavi texts either.
  4. The Achaemenian dynasty and their exploits were mainly recorded by the Greeks and later Roman historians. Further knowledge about the Achaemenian dynasty came through archeological findings in the last one hundred years.
  5. Firdausi depended on the Avestan and Pahlavi sources for his Shahnameh. Neither the Greek and Roman writings, nor the archeological sources were available to Firdausi and hence the Achaemenian dynasty and the exploits of its great kings like Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes are not mentioned in this Persian epic.
  6. The names of Cyrus and Darius the Great are not taken in the nam graham, as they are based on the names of great men mentioned in Avesta and Pahlavi Pazand sources.

 

Why do we have Homaji ni Baj performed (JJ 31-5-2015)?

  1. Around the end of eighteenth century, a weaver by the name of Homa, son of Jamshed, lived in the city Bharuch. In those times the Parsi community was embroiled in a bitter and violent battle for the calendar between the Kadimis and the Shahenshahis. At such a time, a pregnant Parsi lady belonging to the Kadimi sect falsely accused the pious and innocent weaver Homa, of kicking her and causing her a miscarriage.
  2. The accused Homa was brought to trial before the Nawab of Bharuch, from where he was directed to the higher British court in Bombay. Several people of the Kadimi faith bore false witness against Homa, and the innocent was sentenced to death. He was hanged in Bombay, on Mah Dae, Roj Govad 1152 Y.Z., (1783 A.D.)
  3. Before he was hanged, he declared his innocence and stated that that the persons who had leveled the false charge against him would be found dead on the fourth day (Chahrum) after his death. He told the people that all those who will believed in his innocence and remember him after his death will receive his help and blessings.
  4. It is said that the lady who had falsely accused him and also the witnesses who bore false testimony against him were found dead on the Homaji’s Chahrum.
  5. To this day, devout Parsees observe Homaji ni Baj on Govad Roj of Dae Mah by having ceremonies performed in his honour. Homaji especially helps those who are meek, vulnerable and falsely accused.

 

Who was Lohrasp Padshah (King Lohrasp)?

  1. Lohrasp was a gentle, noble and pious ruler of a small province. Sarosh Yazad divinely guided Kayanian King Kae Khushru to appoint him as his successor. The Avesta name of Lohrasp is Aurvat-aspa which means “one possessing a swift horse.”
  2. Lohrasp had two sons Gushtasp and Zarir. On Gushtasp’s insistence, Lohrasp abdicated his throne in his favour. King Gushtasp later became the patron king of prophet Zarathushtra, Lohrasp spent time at the Nav-bahar Atash Behram in Balkh (now Bactria), where later Zarathushtra joined him. Lohrasp was killed by the Turanian king Arjasp in one of his attacks on Iran.
  3. In religious tradition Kae Lohrasp is called Mithra-naa-saheb “Master of thought force” as he had tremendous power over his mind and thoughts. He is believed to have had the ability of astral projection, that is projecting his astral body at another place in such a way that it appeared that he was simultaneously present at two places.
  4. King Kae Lohrasp is revered as a highly evolved, spiritually advanced soul. People who are mentally disturbed, who are harassed by negative thoughts or who have wavering thoughts can pray to him for help. His individual picture adorns many of our religious places. In another, more common picture, we see him standing on one side of an Afarganyu, on the other side of which stands prophet Zarathushtra.

 

MARRIAGE

Why should I marry?

  1. Marriage at the proper time and the right person is a religious duty which pleases Ahura Mazda.
  2. Marriage enables one to address one’s emotional need of togetherness.
  3. The universal need for a compatible life partner is part of the longing of the soul to complete itself.
  4. Marriage legitimately gives the opportunity to satisfy the basic physical needs.
  5. Having fulfilled one’s other basic needs it gives one an opportunity to advance at a spiritual level.
  6. Children born out of marriage, are an asset to the Parsi community and the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion for increasing goodness in the world, as each new child born is an additional soldier in the army for Ahura Mazda.
  7. By marrying and having at least two children, one is fulfilling one’s personal obligation to Ahura Mazda of replacing oneself in the world, and keeping the population of the community stable.
  8. Having the right spouse is like having a confidante, friend and companion with whom one can share one’s thoughts, feelings and emotions at an intimate level, a great necessity for a happy life.

 

Why should I not inter-marry?

  1. The Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion is not in favour of inter-marriages.
  2. Throughout the history of the religion, especially in the last two centuries, religious elders have advised against inter-marriage.
  3. An inter-marriage is detrimental to the long term interests of the community and religion, as it most certainly hampers it survival.
  4. If one’s love for the Community and religion is strong enough, one should overcome one’s attraction for a partner from other religions.
  5. It is not possible to maintain a Zoroastrian life style and perform the practices of the religion, while staying with a partner from another religion.
  6. It is difficult to adjust with persons from different religions, on account of the vast difference in cultures, food-habits. life-style and languages. This difference generally manifests after the marriage.
  7. Children of inter-marriage find it very difficult to come to terms with their religious and spiritual identity.
  8. Iranian kings who married outside had to face serious problems with often fatal consequences.
  9. Inter-communal marriages have proved detrimental and fatal to a community’s existence in the past.
  10. All religions and communities have to be respected. However, as was famously pointed out before, one should make people from other communities and religions, one’s brothers and sisters, and not brothers and sisters-in-law.
  11. A marriage partner within the community and religion ensures that there is greater mental understanding and spiritual compatibility in the relationship.

 

In the past why did girls from Behdin (lay) families did not marry boys from Athornans (priest) families and vice versa?

  1. In the past the families of priests and non-priests had quite different lifestyles, which have now reduced over a period of time. At present, our Parsi / Irani community has differences mainly in the religious titles applied before their names – Behdin for non-priests and Osta, Osti, Ervad etc. for priests. For this reason the Community is divided between priests and non-priests.
  2. In the past the observances of rules of ritual purity (tarikats) were very strict in the family of priests. The lady from a priest’s house was expected to cook many different ritual related dishes for the fire temple under strict observances of ritual purity. Hence Behdins avoided marrying their daughters to Athornans. In present times no such requirements are necessary as there are professional Parsi cooks in most fire temples and the houses of priests are generally away from the fire temple, hence observances of ritual purity are also comparatively lax.
  3. There was also a superstition that marrying into priest family would bring darkness in the house. This may have arisen perhaps because the words for priestly family is andhyaru, which is similar to the word for darkness in Gujarati – andharu.
  4. On the other hand the priests’ family believed that they are spiritually a level higher than the Behdins. If their daughters married a Behdin boy, her religious status would change from ‘Osti’ to ‘Behdin’ which they erroneously believed to lower the spiritual status of their daughter.
  5. In present day and times it is imperative that one marries within the community and to a person professing the same religion. One should not believe in wrong archaic practices which have no religious standing.

CONTENTIOUS ISSUES

Why should we not convert from one religion to another?

  1. We take birth in a religion by God’s Will and Wisdom
  2. Changing religion tantamount to mistrusting and questioning God’s wisdom
  3. Each religion has been brought to the world by God’s chosen prophets. They lead one to the ultimate goal of spiritual evolution and salvation.
  4. Great men like Swami Vivekananda, Ram Krishna Paramhansa and Mahatma Gandhi did not advocate conversion in any form.
  5. Ancient religions of the world like Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Judaism, do not advocate conversion.
  6. In present times there are also political repercussions of an act like conversion.

 

 

Can we visit places of worship of other religions?

  1. Each human is born in a religion, best suited to his/her evolution and enlightenment, on account of the wisdom of God.
  2. Each religion is established by a prophet, like Zarathushtra, Mohammad or Christ, who is a special messenger of God, sent with a specific mission.
  3. Each religion has a set of ethics which are universal and a unique world view based on the teachings of the prophet which varies from religion to religion. Practices of the religion, are based on these teachings and are hence exclusive to its followers.
  4. Places of worship of each religion are meant to connect the followers to their divine beings and divine energies, through prayers and rituals which are specific to the religion.
  5. One may visit places of worship of other religions as a mark of respect or as an educational or cultural visit and a learning experience.
  6. One may bow one’s head in respect and reverence at places of worship of other religions, and mentally recite one’s own prayer, like an Ashem Vohu, there.

It is not proper to recite prayers of other religions or participate in their rituals.

 

Why should Zoroastrians not smoke?

  1. Smoking, as we know it, was not existing when the scriptures were composed, hence there is no direct mention about it in our texts.
  2. However, since our religion respects and venerates fire as Ahura Mazda’s living representative and also as the store house as well as carrier of divine energy (khoreh), we treat fire with utmost reverence and respect.
  3. By smoking we subject fire to indirect pollution by our saliva and spit and untold indignity.
  4. Our physical body is the house of the soul, and any action that is detrimental to health is a transgression towards the divine. Since smoking reduces precious years from life, it is contrary to life. Anything that is detrimental to life and health is not good.
  5. Smoking also takes away the youthfulness and charming looks of a person as it makes the skin loose its elasticity, contributes to wrinkles and hence makes one look older.

DEATH AND DOKHMENASHINI

What and where is the Chinwad Pul (bridge)? (JJ 2-10-16)

  1. The Chinwad Pul (Bridge) or “the Bridge of Separation” is an allegorical bridge. It actually indicates the connecting space which links the material world to the spiritual world. It is supposed to start on the earth from the summit of the Alburz mountains located at the centre point of the world, from which souls cross over to the other world on the fourth day after death, to begin their afterlife journey.
  2. The Chinwad bridge is described as a beam which is broad on one side, and sharp narrow on the other. The souls of the righteous cross the bridge without difficulty from the broad, side, but for the souls of the wicked, the beam rolls over to its sharp side and from there they plunge to hell below.
  3. The Judgement of the soul takes place before the Chinwad bridge. Thereafter the soul’s collective actions (Kerdār or Daenā) appears before it in the form of a young woman. She comes in the form of a beautiful woman and escorts the souls of the righteous across the bridge to heaven. However for the souls of the evil ones, it comes in the form of a wicked hag and drags the unwilling soul down into the dark hell.
  4. On the other side of the bridge, the righteous souls first encounter Bahman Ameshaspand, who rises from his golden throne and addresses it. After this the soul proceeds to its station in heaven.

Why is Dokhmenashini the best method of disposal of dead for Zoroastrians?

  1. Dokhmenashini, that is, exposing the corpse in ritually prepared open, circular funerary houses called Dokhmas, exposed to the rays of the sun (Khurshed-nagirashni) is the best mode of disposal of the dead. It ensures the speedy disposal of the physical constituents, early release of the semi-spiritual constituents and prompt deliverance of the spiritual constituents of a human being.
  2. Dokhmenashini is based on 4 principles: i. Disposal of corpse away from human habitation, ii. Disposal on an elevated place, iii. The corpse exposed to the rays of the sun, and iv. The corpse exposed to birds of prey.
  3. The last of the above four principles has considerably weakened in the last decade but the other three principles on which Dokhmenashini is based are working well, and hence Dokhmenashini is still quite effective.
  4. Dokhmenashini is not just a method of disposal of the dead, but an integral part of the Zoroastrian religion. The speedy release of the soul from the earthly bonds largely depends on it.
  5. Dokhmenashini is an economical as well as ecological method. It does not use any resource from the ecosystem and also safeguards the environment.
  6. Dokhmenashini is still the best among all the methods of disposal of the dead available to us today, from the points of view of the living, the dead as well as the environment.

 

 

 Why should I maintain certain rules at a funeral?

  1. Funerals are related to death. According to Zoroastrian religion, dead body is a decomposing matter and hence stringent rules have to be observed to ensure its seclusion for the safety of the living as well as the environment. A body, after a few hours after death, in its first few days of decomposition, is the worst form of Naso, that is, physical contagion and detrimental to ritual purity and spiritual well being.
  2. When we go to pay our last respects to the departed ones at the Doongerwadi, we have to maintain certain safeguards to ensure that Naso does not reach the living from the dead. The practices of Sachkaar (final washing and dressing of the body) and Sagdid (sight of the dog) are largely meant to ensure that safeguard.
  3. Walking in pairs (and not in threes) directly behind the corpse at the Paidast is also meant as a safeguard from the druj ī nasu “the evil of decomposition.” Since the druj ī nasu is most harmful at the centre, the paivand (connection) of the handkerchief in the centre ensures less harm to those who follow the corpse.
  4. Another safeguard is assured by the short prayer to Sarosh Yazad that we ought to commence before starting the funeral procession and complete after the body is deposited in the Dokhma. However, nowadays, unfortunately, most people, instead of reciting the prayer at the commencement of the procession, recite it after the corpse is kept in the Dokhma.
  5. Doing the Kasti on going to and before leaving the Doongerwadi affords considerable safeguard and protection to the living.

 

Why can non-Parsis not see the face of a Parsi corpse (especially if a dog can see it)?

In Zoroastrianism, the  physical and invisible putrefaction arising out of a dead body, referred to as  Nasu in Avesta, is the worst sort of pollution and hence has to be dealt with great care and sensitivity, especially for the sake of the living.

  1. During the first few hours after death, as time passes, the putrefaction starts increasing and hence special steps are taken to control its spread.
  2. Special prayers are said which contain and stop the spread of this Nasu. This is for the benefit of all living world. These are the Sachkar prayers.
  3. Like any other prayers, these prayers too have certain limitations. Their power is vitiated if rules of ritual purity are not observed.
  4. The touch of any Zoroastrian and the sight of a non-Zoroastrian vitiates the power of the Sachkar prayers and hence our non-Zoroastrian friends are not allowed to see the corpse after the Sachkar.
  5. A dog’s sight has special inherent powers to fight unseen negativities, including Nasu. Hence a dog is brought several times to see the corpse. This ritual is called Sagdid “sight of dog.”

 

Why are there different rules for dead body and disposal for different religions? (28-10-12)

  1. Different religions have different world views, on account of which there are different perceptions of life and death.
  2. Different religions also have different perceptions of what is pure and what is impure. The strongest Zoroastrian perception of impurity is dead, decomposing and decaying matter.
  3. According to Zoroastrian texts, druj-i-Nasu, the fiend of putrefaction, attacks a corpse hours after demise. The nobler a soul, the greater the attack of evil on it after death, and hence higher the putrefaction.
  4. Since people of other religions live with different world views, their view of death and their expectations about the after life are different.
  5. The understanding of the responsibility of the soul in this world, the soul going to the other world and the accompaniment of the soul by other divine beings to the nether-world is different in different religions.
  6. On account of varied world-views, different religions have different practices for disposal of dead and different explanations of the state of the soul after death and whether they have to come back to this earth taking a mortal body or not.
  7. All religions, however, universally believe that souls are immortal, that good souls are happy after death, evil souls are miserable, and in the end all souls attain Nirvana, Mokhsha, Salvation or Garothman.

 

How do after death prayers help and comfort the soul?

  1. Prayers help the soul of the living as well as the souls of the departed ones.
  2. For the living souls, it increases their merit and helps open up consciousness.
  3. For the souls of the departed person, the prayers done on their behalf do not add any merit to the soul, as the soul is judged only by the actions done by it in the world.
  4. However, the after death prayers help the souls in two ways. Firstly they comfort the soul that some good deeds (having rituals performed is a deed of charity in more ways than one) are performed on their behalf and secondly it makes the soul feel happy that it is remembered, thus helping them bear the consequences of the acts performed in the physical world.

 

Why can only Khandias and Nasesalars touch dead bodies after a certain point of time? (JJ 7-4-2013)

  1. As per Zoroastrian customs and practices, after the Sachkar ritual, only the Khandiā and Nasesālār are allowed to touch the corpse, and that too after the ritual precaution of taking the Baj of Sarosh and holding a paiwand (ritual connection).
  2. The word Khandhiā means those who give shoulder to the corpse. The term Nasesālār means “one who has command over Nasā (the fiend of putrefaction).” These terms are used for Zoroastrians who professionally attend to the corpse of Zoroastrians after Sachkar till it is confined to the Towers of Silence. In the past, Khandhiās dealt with dead bodies but did not enter the Dakhmas, whereas Nasesalars went into the Dakhma after due ritual precautions. Nowadays, there is a very thin line of demarcation between their duties, and the two terms are loosely used.
  3. The system of professional Khandiās and Nasesālārs is prevalent only in places where there is a higher frequency of death. In places where the frequency of death is low, any Zoroastrian layperson performs these duties after taking due ritual precautions before and after touching the corpse.
  4. The system of Khandhiās and Nasesālārs has been in practice since the Avestan times. It was born out of the necessity to maintain the health and ritual purity among the living. The practice highlights Zoroastrian religion’s deep insight about death and its concern for the living.
  5. In the past, when the Nasesālārs, temporarily or permanently, wanted to relinquish service, they were given ritual purification through a Bareshnum. Nowadays they are administered multiple Nahāns. Presently, the rules for ritual seclusion of the Khandiās and Nasesālārs are not as rigid as they were in the past.
  6. Zoroastrians should be grateful to Khandhiās and Nasesālārs as they are the upholders and custodians of the Dokhmenashini system.

 

Why do Zoroastrians have after death rituals performed?

  1. A human being is made of physical, astral and spiritual constituents.
  2. Till a person is alive, these constituents need each other and work with each other. At the time of death, the three sets of constituents separate. The physical ones start to decompose and have to be properly disposed, the astral ones take time to get back into the elements, and the immortal spiritual constituents return to their respective stations.
  3. Rituals are meant to help the soul, one of the spiritual constituents. The first three day rituals are meant to help the soul reach its station in the spiritual world by the dawn of the fourth day (Chahrom). The later after death rituals console and support the soul at whatever station it has reached and encourages it in its journey towards Garothman “the highest heaven.” Thus these rituals have an important role to play for the soul.
  4. The after death rituals in no way alter the balance of actions which a soul has performed in its life, nor does it change it place at the respective station. This depends only on the deeds done performed the soul.
  5. For the living, the rituals serve as a soothing balm, helping them to cope with the pain of separation from their dear departed ones. It also gives them the consolation that they are fulfilling their duties and obligations towards the departed ones.

 

Why should decorum be maintained when after death rituals are being performance and what should one do at that time?

  1. When we go to pay our last respects to the deceased, we are honouring and remembering the deceased as well as giving solace and consolation to the surviving relatives.
  2. In case of Paidast, we should first do the kasti, then go into the Bangli, pay our last respect near the body of the deceased, thereafter do our Farazyat prayers either in the Bangli or in the pavilion, and then do some prayers in honor of the deceased, if possible. While following the procession behind the funeral bier one should first take the Baj of Sarosh, follow the procession, then pay the last respect where the last sezdo is done, return to the vantage point, wait for instructions to leave the Baj of Sarosh, do the Namaskars of mountain and Dakhma from the small booklet, take a drop of taro provided by the attendant, wash one’s hands and feet with water, do the kasti and pay homage to the Sagdi fire with a piece of some sandalwood if possible. If one is not participating in the funeral procession, one can meet the relatives after the Geh-sārnā, do the kasti outside the Bangli and then leave the Dungerwadi.
  3. In case of an Uthamna or Sarosh no Kardo, we should do the kasti after the change of the geh, offer sandalwood for the Uthamna or Sarosh no Kardo, thereafter do our Farazyat prayers either in the Bangli or in the pavilion, and then do some prayers in honor of the deceased, if possible. In case of Uthamna, when the attendant comes to offer rose water with a tray of flowers, one should pledge to do at least some small good in memory of the deceased. This could be as simple as saying an Ashem Vohu on behalf of the deceased.
  4. We should always strive to observe decorum in the bangli/pavilion, by avoiding needless talking, if one is not praying. In this way we will be able to honour the sentiments of the living and respect the memory of the deceased.

 

In the Paydast, why should mourners walk in pairs holding a handkerchief?

  1. At the time of Paydast, that is the Geh-sarnu and the procession that follows, the corpse is completely seized by the druj-i-nasu “evil of putrefaction.” Since it is in close proximity of humans, safeguards through prayers and practices are maintained to keep the harm to the humans to minimum.
  2. The druj-i-nasu emanating from a corpse attacks people in the centre. Hence when following a corpse or handling it if circumstances demand, one is enjoined to always be connected with another person by a piece cloth (paewand). Thus the centre of the two persons is the cloth and individuals are relatively un- harmed by the druj-i-nasu.
  3. It is for this very reason that the face of the mourners has to be turned away when the corpse is shifted from the stones to the funeral bier during the Geh-sarna. When the body is moved, the druj-i-nasu which was dormant around the still corpse gets disturbed, circulates around in the air and may possibly enter the body of the living humans through the breath. Hence the priests and the congregation turn their faces away to avoid the druj-i-nasu directly going in the breath.

 

Why is Sarosh nu Patru not done in the presence of the dead body?

  1. The Zoroastrian tradition prohibits Sarosh nu Patru (Sarosh no Kardo) to be performed near the dead body. So if the dead body is in the Bangli, Sarosh nu Patru cannot be performed in the Bangli
  2. However if the dead body is at another place, for instance it is still in the hospital or it has not yet arrived from out station than the Sarosh nu Patru can be performed.
  3. Zoroastrians are generally keen to have 3 Sarosh nu Patru performed, and that is possible only if the funeral is held on the day of death. having the funeral as soon as possible after death is also in consonance with Zoroastrian religion.

 

What can one pray when one is attending the Paay-dast or Uthamna? (JJ 12-07-2015)

  1. When people go to pay their last respects to the departed ones at Doongerwadi, especially while attending the Geh-sarna, Paay-dast, afternoon Uthamna and night Uthamna, they can do prayers and avoid needless talks and conversations. One should do the Kasti before entering the Bangli.
  2. If a priest is not available to do the ‘bhoi agal nu bhantar’ near the corpse, any Behdin can sit and do prayers over there. One can recite any prayers except the Avan Ardvisur Nyash and the Satum no kardo.
  3. While attending the Paay-dast or the afternoon Uthamna, one can do one’s own Farajyat bandagi (Sarosh baj, relevant big geh, Khorshed Nyash, Meher Nyash, Doa vispa humata, Doa nam setayashne and Char dishaano namaskar) if it is not already done. Then one can say the same prayers for the deceased, the only difference being that ahmai raeshcha and kerfeh mozd should be dropped and jasa me avanghe to be prayed in a truncated form (dropping the line raamano khaastrahe…..spentahe mainyom). After that, one can recite one or more of the shorter Yashts like the Hormazd Yasht, Haptan Yasht, Ardibahesht Yasht or Sarosh Yasht Hadokht, followed by the Do nam Setayashne. Patet ravaan-ni can also be recited, especially during the Uthamna.
  4. At the time of Paay-dast, people walk in pairs (and not in threes) connected by a handkerchief directly behind the corpse. While starting the Paay-dast procession one should recite the short bāj of Sarosh Yazad till astavaitish ashahe and complete it after the body is laid to rest in the Dakhma. After that the Namaskars of mountain and Dakhma have to be recited.
  5. While attending the night Uthamna, one can recite Sarosh baj, Ushahin Geh, Sarosh Ycasht Hadokht and Mah bokhtar Nyash followed by the Doa nam setayashne. Patet ravaan-ni can also be recited,
  6. One should not pray the Satum no Kardo for the deceased for the first three days and nights after death till the dawn of the fourth day (Chahrom).

 

Why are rose petals and rose water taken around after the Uthamna?

  1. After the Uthamna ritual, rose petals are taken around in a metallic tray by an attendant, who sprinkles rose water on the hands of mourners. The latter touch the rose petals, take some rose water in ther hands and apply it to their face. This act is a part of the Uthamna ritual.
  2. While touching the rose petals and applying the rose water, mourners are expected to give a pledge in memory of the deceased. They may either pledge to do some charity in cash or kind in memory of the deceased, have some rituals performed or themselves perform a ritual or say a prayer in memory of the deceased person.
  3. If the mourner is not able to pledge anything, he/she may pray just one Ashem Vohu there and then in memory of the deceased.
  4. In the past, the charities pledged thus, were even announced in public. The Parsee Community in India has collected lakhs of rupees in such act of public charity in memory (Gujarati naiyat) of the deceased after the Uthamna.
  5. The charity thus done benefits the soul of the deceased, and the soul receives the benefit of this charity at the time of his individual judgement on the dawn of the fourth day after death (Chahrom ni bāmdād).
  6. Since the day of the Uthamna is the last day of the soul in this material world, one pays a last visit to the soul of the deceased and gifts it the benefit of whatever charity that is possible by oneself. This act of charity augments the good deeds of the soul.

 

Why has Geh-sarna to be done in daytime only? (JJ 7-8-16)

  1. Geh-sarna is the last ritual performed over the corpse of a Zoroastrian after which it is to be exposed in the Dakhma. In this ritual, the seven chapters of the Ahunavaiti Gatha are recited with the invocation of Sarosh Yazad. It can be performed only in the Havan, Rapithwin or Uziran Geh.
  2. After Geh-sarna, the corpse is to be immediately placed in the Dakhma. The corpse can be exposed in the dakhma only during day time, as the presence of the light of the sun is essential when the body is being laid in the dakhma. This process is referred to as Khurshed Nagirashni, which means, “under the gaze of the sun.” It is an essential component of the Dokhmenashini mode of disposal of the deceased.
  3. This is the reason why Geh-sarna has to be done during day time so that the corpse can be laid to rest in the presence of the light of the sun.

 

What function does the ‘Sagdi’ fulfil at the Doongerwadi?

  1. The ‘Sagdi’ is a building on the premises of the doongerwadi in which is housed an unconsecrated Dadgah fire.
  2. Whenever the after death rituals were performed at the doongerwadi premises, there was a requirement of fire. So, in the past, when somebody passed away, family members used to take hearth fire from their home to the Doongerwadi in a ‘sigri/sagdi’ (stove).
  3. About 100 years ago, a permanent fire was established within the Doongerwadi premises. The building was named Sagdi as previously the fire was brought to the doongerwadi in a Sagdi.
  4. There is a misconception that one may ‘desecrate’ the Sagri fire if one goes before it immediately after Paydast (funeral). This is not so as the fire is not consecrated. In fact Zoroastrians are supposed to go there after the funeral and offer fuel and prayers to it.
  5. In Iran next at the necropolis (place where last remains are kept) at Naksh-i-Rustam is a structure called Kaba-i-Zardusht, which most probably fulfilled the function of a Sagri.

SPIRITUALITY

Why should I live in harmony with the spiritual world?

  1. Zoroastrian religion expects us to live a full and complete life in this world, but at the same time be aware of and conscious about the spiritual dimensions.
  2. This idea is reinforced every day in the Kasti prayers when we recite the words tani ravaani (of my body and soul) and geti minoaani (of the material world and the spiritual world).
  3. We have to connect to our soul and our Fravashi (guardian spirit) which are part of our human constitution.
  4. We have to be connected to Ahura Mazda, the Ameshaspands and the Yazads who are part of the spiritual world that surrounds us. We can connect to Ahura Mazda daily by remembering him the first thing when we get up in the morning.
  5. We can connect to the divine beings by remembering the Ameshaspand/Yazad of the day by their name after our morning Kasti or Farazyat prayers. This can be done by saying the line: Yaa _______ (to mention the name of the roz, for eg. Ardibahesht Ameshaspand or Behram Yazad) beresaad.
  6. Living in harmony with the divine world gives us the confidence that we are not alone in this world and that we always have divine help when we need it and divine presence by our side.

 

 

Why should I be Spiritual?

  1. It is necessary to understand what it means to be spiritual before answering the above question. At times being spiritual is seen as being other worldly. At other times it is perceived as being excessively religious. In fact, being religious is not always the same as being spiritual.
  2. A human being is geared towards spirituality from birth for 2 main reasons – firstly he has come from a spiritual world and deep down somewhere he knows that his original home. Secondly, the composition of a human being is as much spiritual as it is spiritual. Thus, in essence, all humans are spiritual beings with physical bodies. Spirituality is inbuilt in humans and often surfaces as an inherent need. It is not something exceptional, out of the ordinary or special but a basic fact of life, necessary to achieve inner happiness.
  3. Being spiritual means accepting and believing that we are spirits, that we need to maintain connection with the spiritual beings, the spiritual world and our spiritual self and that we finally have to revert to the state of being a spirit.
  4. The spiritual aspects of life are hidden to the eyes and the senses. Hence they have to be searched and discovered. Spirituality is thus an active, conscious process that requires one to search, find, know, understand, believe and connect.
  5. The ultimate benefit of spirituality is feeling whole, complete and united, being at peace with oneself, and in harmony with the creator and the creations. The almost universal need for love and connection with a fellow human may well be a precursor to the need of uniting with the infinite.
  6. The first step to spirituality is to know oneself, that is, to be aware of one’s inner nature. This helps us to be true and honest with our self and discover our drawbacks. Sooner or later this process culminates in the gradual expanding of consciousness and realization of the dormant divinity within oneself.
  7. The operative word that defines Spirituality is Unity. Avestan texts advocate co-existence of the physical and the spiritual world, of man with the creations, of human with divine beings, of human efforts with divine grace. Two words often used in prayers – Yazamaide “We attune” and hamazor “May we be united” constantly remind us of the above.
  8. Being religious does not always mean being spiritual. Following religion and religious practices without empathy, connection and understanding may not lead to spirituality, though it may lead to other ‘rewards’ of being religious.

 

What is a Fravashi?  Is it a separate element from the soul?

  1. A Fravashi is one of the three spiritual constituents of a human being. In Gujarati it is referred to as “asho farohar.” The soul is a different spiritual constituent of a human being. In Gujarati it is referred to as rawaan or ruwaan.
  2. Fravashi and soul are distinctly different and separate from each other in every away. The only similarity is that both are spiritual and hence indestructible.
  3. The soul is the active agent and the chooser in the life of a person. It makes choices and takes good or bad decisions with the help of the mind. Hence it is judged after death and gets its due place in heaven or hell, when it leaves the world on the dawn of the fourth day after death (chahrom).
  4. The Fravashi on the other hand is an essence of the divine energy of Ahura Mazda. It is an individual and personal guide to the soul. It does not involve itself with the affairs of the life. It is totally incorruptible and hence it is not judged after death. It keeps on helping the soul in life and even after death till the soul requires its help. Then the Fravashi joins the collective of Fravashis referred to as Ardaafravash.
  5. Though the Muktad is to thank and celebrate all the Fravashis, all the souls also descend into this world during these days.
  6. Zoroastrians wear the symbol of Fravashi as a pendant or use it as stickers. It is a very ancient Zoroastrian motif for Ahura Mazda. It reminds us that we are always connected to Ahura Mazda and that we can always seek help and guidance from Him through our Fravashi.

PRACTICES

Why should I wear a topi / scarf to cover my head?

  1. Head covering – topi (cap) or paghdi for men and scarf or mathabanu for women were an essential part of the attire of Zoroastrians, as it is essential to maintain the power (amal) of prayers. Till about 3 generations back, Parsis kept their heads covered throughout the day and night. We notice that great men like Dadabhai Navroji, Pherozeshah Mehta and Jamshedji Tata kept their heads covered at most times. it is interesting to note that these worthy men were not in a religious profession.
  2. Keeping the head covered is a necessary part of Zoroastrian religious life. It is one of the Zoroastrian practices mentioned by our priests from Iran, in the 16 Sanskrit Shlokas, to king Jadav Rana while introducing the Zoroastrian religion.
  3. Head covering should be preferably white. However it is often black or dark coloured for reasons of convenience.
  4. In the recent past, for reasons of style, fashion or assimilation, Parsis kept their heads covered only in the house. Thereafter even in the house, head was covered only while eating or attending the call of nature. Nowadays most Parsis cover their heads only while praying, participating in a ritual or going to a fire temple.
  5. Not keeping the head covered is considered a sin in the Zoroastrian religion, which indirectly implies that Zoroastrian religion expects the head to be covered at all times. Religious texts do not explicitly state the reasons to cover the head. The most convincing reasons are that it is considered a sign of servitude to God, since in ancient times slaves were expected to cover their heads when near their masters. Covering the head is also considered to enable the undisturbed exchange of spiritual energies which take place at certain centres in the human body all the time, but more so during prayers, especially at the area near the crown of the head.

 

Why should the shetaa of the topi be at the back? (JJ 27-12-15)

  1. The shetaa of a topi is the diagonally stitched seam on the outside of the topi which is clearly visible when one wears the topi.
  2. There is a tradition to keep this shetaa at the back when the topi is worn. This may just be due to aesthetic reasons, so that the seam may not be visible at the front. In the past and even today, when a Paghdi (turban) is made, the end part of the cloth is tucked at the back.
  3. Moreover the word shetaa sounds very much like shetaan “devil” and so the term became synonymous with something evil, which needed to be kept at the back – a figurative allusion made literal.
  4. There is no purely religious reason or compulsion to keep shetaa at the back.

 

Why do we not eat meat (observe an-roja) in the month of Bahman?

  1. Zoroastrians have a tradition of respecting respective Ameshaspands and Yazads on the day of the month (roj) dedicated to them. As we respect Bahman Ameshaspand who presides over cattle (referred to as Gospand “beneficent cattle”) and beneficent animals, we refrain from eating meat on that day.
  2. In order to show respect to Bahman Ameshaspand, we abstain from eating meat of cattle during the Parsi day and month dedicated to him. We also abstain on the days dedicated to the hamkars (co-workers) of Bahman Ameshaspand– that is on Mohor, Gosh and Ram roj.
  3. Some Zoroastrians eat fish and eggs during Bahman mahino as they consider these are not under the guardianship of Bahman Ameshaspand.
  4. There is no specific injunction about not eating pork or beef in any of our religious texts. Zoroastrians avoid eating pork as they had an aversion to it because of its dirty living and eating habits. The Zoroastrians revere cows and bulls, which have an important role to play in the religion. That is why pork and beef are not eaten.
  5. The spirit behind observing Bahman mahino is two fold. Firstly it is a mark of respect to Bahman Ameshaspand. The second idea is to inculcate a spirit of self-restraint and self-discipline in oneself.
  6. Zoroastrian religion does not prescribe vegetarianism and there is no prohibition in the religion about not eating select non-vegetarian food.

 

 

Is astrology, astronomy, and Amas, Chand-Rat, Punam part of our religious tradition?

  1. Astronomy is the study of stars, planets and constellations. Astrology is the study of the effects of the heavenly bodies on human beings and their behaviour. Astronomy and astrology were studied and practiced in Sasanian Iran under royal patronage.
  2. The movement and position of stars, planets and constellations do have effect on us, but it is not as much as we generally make it out to be. Moreover, we have the power to soften, nullify and retard the adverse effects with our deeds and our prayers. Similarly we can amplify the good effects of the beneficial heavenly bodies too with our actions and prayers.
  3. We should pay more attention to our efforts and not have excessive belief in fatalism. We just need to be a tad more careful when it is portended that our planets and stars are not helpful.
  4. Amas (no moon day), Punam (full moon day) and Chand rat (new moon day) are related to the phases of the moon. Since the moon is the closest heavenly body to the earth, it does have effect on every living organism like plants, animals and humans, as well as on water.
  5. Phases of moon do have an effect on the human mind and on other human aspects like the menstrual cycle of ladies. Since the moon is referred to as Bokhtar, that is, distributor of fortune, phases of moon also have effect on our life.
  6. The moon is not known to have adverse effect on events. The day of Amas (no moon day) is generally considered to be inauspicious as this day has a completely dark night with no trace of light of the moon. On such a day black magicians are known to work very hard, especially in places like cemeteries, and experience great success in their work. Hence this day is avoided for the purpose of any auspicious events.
  7. We are enjoined to pray to Mohor Yazad, also known as Mah Bokhtar Yazad, who presides over the moon, everyday or at least on the 3 important phases of the moon mentioned above.

 

Why do we not pray Rapithwin Geh from Avan mahino for five months?

  1. In Zoroastrianism, a day is divided into 5 parts (gehs), especially for the purpose of prayers and rituals.
  2. Havan Geh is the most preferred Geh for majority of prayers and rituals.
  3. In Northern hemisphere, where Zoroastrians stayed in the ancient past, the period from November to March (corresponding with the months from Avan to Aspandad in the Zoroastrian religious calendar) were winter months when days were short and sunrise late. Hence the Havan geh time period was very short.
  4. To enable longer rituals like Yajashne and Visperad to be performed, the Rapithwan geh time was taken as Havan and known as second Havan (biji Havan).
  5. During the five months from Avan mahino to the 5th Gatha day, Havan geh is recited instead of Rapithwin geh in all prayers.
  6. Lay people resume the reciting of Rapthwin geh from Hormazd roj of Farvardin month (Parsi New Year day). Priests who perform higher rituals resume the recitation of Rapthiwin geh from Ardibahesht roj of the new year. On this day special Yajashnei and Jashan are performed to invite Rapithwin Yazad. These rituals performed on Ardibahesht roj, since Ardibahest Ameshaspand presides over Rapthwin geh.
  7. During winter months Arddibahesht Ameshaspand, who also presides over fire and warmth, is believed to have gone inside the earth’s crust to give her warmth.
  8. Having the Rapithwin consecrated (rapithwin ijvani) or at least attending such a performance to welcome it, is regarded as one of the chief religious duties of a Zarthoshti.

 

 

Why should we not throw anything in well ?

  1. A well is an integral part of all fire temples as all rituals, especially the higher ones, require water from a natural flowing source.
  2. Zoroastrians venerate the water divinity Avan Ardvisur banu and feel that one of the ways to reach her is by giving offerings to water. This does not mean that one should throw offerings inside water.
  3. Offerings like flowers, rice, coconut or dar ni pori have to be made near the natural water-source like well, river or sea and then given to poor and needy or shared among friends.
  4. It is not right to throw these offerings in water, as it contaminates it. At the most one can put a few grains of sugar or a piece of rock sugar in the water.

 

Why do Zoroastrians venerate and respect nature?

  1. Respect and veneration of nature and all natural creations has been a part of all ancient religions including Zoroastrianism.
  2. Respecting natural creations is part of Zoroastrian religious philosophy. Zoroastrian religion has special prayers to individually invoke and thank most natural creations. However it especially values all luminescent shining creations like the sun, stars, moon, fire, light and water as they are also the holders and transmitters of God’s divine energy.
  3. All the seven creations have a special divine being – Ameshaspand presiding over it. Venerating and taking care of the creations makes the Ameshaspands beings happy. In rituals like the Jashan all seven creations are represented.
  4. All creations are for man’s use, but they should not be abused or misused. Even during rituals when priests have to use goat’s milk or date palm leaf, they pray to the goat and the date palm tree before taking the milk and leaf.
  5. The basic Zoroastrian principle of veneration of natural creations ensures that environmental problems like global warming, ozone layer depletion, pollution of water and depletion of land covers do not arise. It is for this reason that Zoroastrian religion is regarded as the first and the most ecological and eco-friendly religion in the world.
  6. It should be noted that Zoroastrians do not venerate natural creations as objects by themselves, but they respect the divinity presiding over them. They believe in the age old adage “From Nature to nature’s God.”

 

Why are women debarred during the menstrual period from attending agyaries and religious ceremonies?

  1. Menstruation is a very natural process among ladies after puberty which is integral to the divine process of conception and childbirth.
  2. However, in almost all religions and cultures, a lady during the menstrual period is regarded as one with physical limitations and psychological disadvantages which creates an imbalance in the unseen etheric body.
  3. During menstruation there is an imbalance in the auric body (Av. Kehrpa) of a lady which is detrimental for any spiritual or divine purposes as it interferes with the exchange of energies (Av. khvarena). Hence religion and tradition advises against participating in rituals.
  4. Since the auric body (Kehrpa) of menstruating ladies is imbalanced they are not able to receive the divine blessings that come on account of rituals , which are collected by the auric body, hence they are wasted in a way. Hat is why their names are not taken in Tandarosti or in farmayasne in other rituals like Afringan, Jashan and Machi.
  5. In the past there were stringent rules and regulations to be observed by a Zoroastrian lady during menstruation. Many of them are based on the 16th chapter of the Vendidad, which is entirely devoted to menstruation.
  6. In the very olden times, there was a separate out house where menstruating ladies had to stay. Thereafter there was a separate room at the back of all Zoroastrian houses where such used to stay. They had to have a separate set of clothes, a separate bed, vessels etc. and had to live in total seclusion. They were not allowed to touch anybody or anything in the house and expected to stay away from ritual objects and places. Till about 5 to 6 decades back girls were not allowed to go to schools and colleges during the menstrual periods, as then it would not be possible to follow these rules. According to Indian traditions a lady during menstruation wears the Sadra, a separate kasti and can say the Yatha ahu vairyo and ashem vohu prayers only. Most of the present generation fortunately do not even know that such rules ever existed.
  7. In the post-modern times the ritual seclusion during menstruation was erroneously viewed as ignorance about a scientific biological phenomena and the practice of seclusion was seen as a relic of an ignorant, superstitious people.
  8. The seclusion has became minimal, partly also on account of crammed living conditions in cities. However even today, almost every Zoroastrian woman observes rules during menstruation when it comes to doing prayers, participation in or preparation of rituals and entry into fire temples. In the present days and times one must make an effort to observe this practice as much as possible.

 

 

Why should I do loban in the house?

  1. The practice of taking around fire in a small afarganyu (fire-vase) around the house, especially at the time of dusk and sometimes also at dawn, while putting some loban (incense) on it is called loban feravvu. It was a regular practice in many Parsi houses till recently.
  2. The fire embers for loban can be temporarily created by burning pieces of coal on the gas-stove. Previously when fire was kept in the house for 24 hours, embers were taken from that for the loban.
  3. The practice has a scientific as well as a spiritual purpose. Scientifically, taking around fragrant smoke in the house fumigates the house, reduces household insects, mosquitoes etc. Spiritually, a fragrant atmosphere is conducive to good energy and the presence of good divine beings in the house. It is an invitation to the Yazads, Ameshaspands and Fravashis to come to the house.

 

What are the compulsory practices of the religion?

  1. To understand the above we have to understand the difference between tradition and religion.
  2. Some of the practices that we consider religious are part of the tradition, which may be changed from time to time and place to place, and are not sacrosanct. Religion and religious practices connected with the core teachings of the religion are sacrosanct and should not be tempered with.
  3. Practices like loban karvanu, chok purvanu, garlanding people on birthdays, putting on garlands on frames, cooking sev and dhan dār, taking ovarnā, doing achhu michu, wearing new clothes, doing sagan ni tili, ses etc. are part of tradition. Some of the above traditions like tili, ses, cooking of sweet things etc. are to mark auspicious events, some like ovarnā and achhu michhu are to remove evil influences, and some like putting garland on frames are to show respect.
  4. We keep away from certain auspicious practices when there is a death in the family, like we do not do sagan of puting chalk, har etc. as a mark of respect to the deceased. There is no specific timeframe for abstaining from such auspicious traditions. Some may not do it for ten days, some for a month and others for longer periods.
  5. Practices like wearing the sadro kasti and topi, regularly doing the kasti prayers, doing the daily morning prayers (farajyat bandagi), regularly going to the fire temple, doing the kasti before entering the fire temple, having the minimum rituals performed for the departed souls, ladies keeping away from rituals and prayers, ritual places and ritual related objects while in menstruations etc. are part of the religion. Some religious practices like taro-kasti, baj and rules related to hair–cutting and nail paring are now not so regularly followed.

 

How to dispose religious items which are damaged or no more in use?

The disposal of items which have been used for religious purposes has often been a vexing issue. Here are some common sense, practical and proper solutions:

  1. Broken kastis can be buried in the compound or garden. They could either be put whole or for speedy disposal may be cut into small pieces.
  2. Torn Sadras can be used to dust furniture after removing the gireban which can be separately burnt.
  3. Wedding flowers and garlands, flowers from Muktad and rinds from fruits of chasni can be disposed off in a pit in the garden. Rinds can also be fed to cattle if available and possible.
  4. Old and torn pictures of prophet, asho farohar, departed ones etc should be burnt after removal from frames and their ashes strewn in the garden. Same holds good for old Khordeh Avestas and other prayer books.
  5. One should not throw any of the above items into water since they do not disintegrate there for a long time. They either keep rotting there making the water impure or are washed out of the water after some time.

 

Why should we not pray at the well at night?

  1. A well has natural flowing water which is presided over by Avan Ardvisura Anahita Yazad.
  2. Avan Yazad works along with Khorshed Yazad who presides over the sun to charge the water with the rays of the sun.
  3. Avestan texts like Avan Yasht advise that the water divinity Avan Yazad should be invoked only in the presence of the sun.
  4. In the Avan Yasht it is stated that if Avan Yazad is invoked after sunset, evil creatures take away the benefit of the invocation.

 

If Zoroastrians consider hair and nails as NASO, then how is it that we wear a kushti made out of wool, which is also sheep’s hair?

  1. According to Zoroastrian religion, druj i nasu, the fiend of putrefaction, attacks nail and hair severed from the body only of humans and not of animals, since druj-i-Nasu does not attack any animal, except a dog.

2, Hence animal hair does not amount to Naso (putrefied thing) and hence hair of animals can be used for religious or ritual purposes, like the varasyaji’s hairs for higher rituals and sheep’s wool for Kasti.

  1. Another case in point is the use of leather for footwear, especially to be use for religious and ritual purposes, though leather is procured from a dead animal.

 

What is the difference between nirang and taro? Why do we drink Nirang at the time of  Navjot?

  1. Taro (referred to as gaomaeza in the Avesta) is fresh cow/bull’s urine which is used only for external application. It has to be used within seventy two hours after which it becomes contaminated and inappropriate for use.
  2. Nirang is the urine of the sacred Varasyaji and other bulls, over which the lofty Nirang-din ritual is performed. It stays bacteria-free for years.
  3. Drops of Nirang are used for internal consumption in rituals, especially the Nahan which s administered before navjotes and weddings and in Bareshnum ritual. During the Nahan, before sipping the Nirang we recite the line: In khuram in pakie tan, yaozdathrie ravanra, which means: “I drink this Nirang to cleanse my body and purify my soul.”
  4. Taro is applied externally as it has an antiseptic effect on the body. It is also known to have a cleansing effect on the astral body. Joseph Lister discovered the antiseptic property of carbolic acid in 1865.
  5. The Nirang, was tested in a laboratory the 1970s, when it was proved that even after several months bacteria had not set in it. In the general course, bacteria sets in cow/bull’s urine within 2-3 days.

 

 

Why should I wear white clothes and avoid black clothes?

  1. The colour white is referred to as spaeta in Avesta. White is the symbol of the Mazdayasni Zarthosti religion.  Zoroastrian priests are always attired in white.
  2. White colour is synonymous with purity, which is one of the understandings of the word Asha – the basic tenet of the Zarthushti religion.
  3. Zoroastrians should preferably wear white clothes on festive as well as sombre occasions.
  4. From a spiritual viewpoint white clothes are conducive to attracting good energies.
  5. Scientifically white colour reflects light and helps keep the body cool in warm and tropical climates.
  6. There is a misconception that Zoroastrians do not wear black because Muslims and Christians predominantly wear black.  This is not so. Zoroastrians  avoid wearing black only for the above cited reasons.

 

Why do we wear Asho Farohar as pendants / broaches and use it as a sticker on the car?

  1. The word Asho Farohar is made of the words Asho “righteous” and Farohar (a later form of the word Fravashi) “a guardian spirit.”
  2. The Fravashi is a spiritual constituents of human being. It is the pure, incorruptible essence of god, given to every human. Each person has his or her own personal Fravashi. Its main function is to individually help, guide and protect each human being.
  3. The Fravashi is one of the most ancient emblems of the Zoroastrian religion and can be seen in 2500 year old rock relifs in Iran.
  4. Some Western scholars of the last century wrongly referred to the relief of Asho Farohar as Ahura Mazda.
  5. When the Asho Farohar / Fravashi is worn on our body as a pendant or kept as a sticker it gives a feeling of security of being divinely protected by our Guardian Angel.

 

Do we have a special Zoroastrian greeting?

  1. A Greeting is a traditional way of expressing good wishes and wishing well the people we meet. It differs across all cultures in the world.
  2. The general traditional Zoroastrian greeting since the past couple of centuries is Yazdaan Panaah Baad which means “May God Protect you”. It is acknowledged by a return greeting Der zi o shaad baad which means “May you have a long and happy life.
  3. The night time greeting before going to bed is Sarosh Yazad Panaah Baad which means “May Sarosh Yazad (the guardian Yazad at night) protect you.”.
  4. In Parsi Gujarati the general greeting is Saheb-ji which may be interpreted as “may you have a long life (ji) on account of God (Saheb)” or “I salute the God (Saheb) in you, may you have a long life (ji).”
  5. In recent times some Zoroastrians greet each other with the phrase Khshnaothra ahurahe mazdaao “May we make Ahura Mazda happy.”

 

Why are special precautions taken to cut hair and pare nails? Why is it necessary to properly dispose them after cutting and take a bath afterwards?

  1. Any part of our body, once it is severed becomes Naso that is dead matter which has powerful potentiality, physical as well as non-physical, for contagion and contamination.
  2. Hair and nail are considered alive as long as they are attached to the body, though they do not constitute living tissues.
  3. There are special short prayers called baj which could be recited before and after cutting hair and paring nails, which helps control the non-physical contagion emanating from them.
  4. In the present times these short prayers are rarely known and used. However, it is necessary to dispose cut hair and pared nails, properly, or at least not leave them be scattered in the house, to minimize the contagion emanating from it.
  5. In mystic circles it is believed that cut hair and pared nails have an unseen connection with the body long after they are separated from it.
  6. Taking a bath after cutting hair (which includes shaving) and paring nails, is not only necessary from a Zoroastrian religious view point, it also ensures hygiene and physical cleansing from Nasu.

 

What is the importance of mirror in our religion? Is it true that it is inauspicious if a mirror breaks?

  1. The importance of mirror is a later Iranian tradition.
  2. Since mirror reflects the self it is often equated to the soul and hence breaking of a mirror is considered ill omen as it is equated with the death of a person.
  3. In India a mirror is kept in some fire temples, perhaps to remind us of the Zoroastrian precept of daenaa that is introspection, that is to look within the self for one’s shortcomings as well as to look for the soul within.
  4. In the Iranian tradition a guest is welcomed by showing him his face in mirror. A mirror is also used in the Zoroastrian wedding done according to Iranian tradition.

 

How is a Sapat (special leather moccasins generally used by priests) permitted as a foot wear when it made of dead animal skin, which is Naso? (JJ 13-10-2013)

  1. The Parsi Gujarati term ‘naso’ comes from the Avestan word Nasu, which means “dead, decaying matter emanating from human beings.” The druj ī nasu “fiend of putrefaction” attacks all dead and decaying matter.
  2. The term ‘naso’ is applied to dead or decaying matter emanating from human beings alone and not from animals.
  3. Though a Sapat is made of leather, which is the skin of dead animal, it is not considered naso, as it is not from human beings. Among animals, only the dead body of a dog attracts the druj I nasu, and is hence considered ‘naso’.
  4. Hair cut from a human being is dead matter and hence considered naso. However hair of animal is not considered naso. On the contrary such hair is used for religious rituals. For instance, the Kasti that we tie on our waists is made from hair (wool) of an animal (sheep) and the varas ni viti (ring) used in all inner rituals like the Yasna and Vendidad, has the hair of Varasyaji – the sacred albino bull – on it.

 

Why are rules for purity an integral part of the Zoroastrian religion?

  1. Rules of purity and impurity are an integral part of the Zoroastrian religion. They are reflected in almost every injunction, practice and institution of our religion like kasti, prayers, rituals, menstruation, nahan, fire-temples, death and death rituals.
  2. Some of the purity rules are: Washing hands and face, maintaining distance from certain things which can vitiated purity, fortifying oneself with prayers, cleaning oneself after coming in contact with naso, that is, ritual impurity.
  3. Thus rules of purity and impurity are an integral part of the Zoroastrian religion as they reflect the basic religious teachings of good and evil on the physical level.
  4. Rules of purity also prepare and protect us in the ongoing battle between the good forces of Ahura Mazda against the negative forces and emphasizes the need for man to be on the side of good on a practical day to day level.

 

Are there any religious obligations on a Zoroastrian? (JJ 18-8-13)

Two Zoroastrian texts have given some daily, monthly and annual obligations to its Zoroastrians followers. These are:

  1. Perform the six Gahanbars (seasonal festivals for thanksgiving of six creations) every year or at least participate in their performance.
  2. Have the Rapithwin consecrated (on roj Ardibahesht mah Farwarden), or at least attend the performance of ceremonies to welcome it.
  3. Perform regular worship of Sarosh Yazad.
  4. Remember the Fravashis of the departed ones on the Farvardegan (Muktad) days.
  5. Recite the Khorshed and Meher Nyāishnas thrice a day or at least once a day.
  6. Recite the Māh Bokhtar Nyāishna at least thrice a month – on amas (no moon day), punam (full moon day and chandrat (new moon day).
  7. Have annual rituals performed in memory of souls of dear departed ones.
  8. Wear the Sudreh and Kushti and regularly perform the Kushti ritual

The above duties ensure three things for a Zoroastrian:

  1. He/she is always in touch with divine beings and the divine world,
  2. He/she has a grateful mindset towards divine beings and his dear departed ancestors, and
  3. He/she lives in consonance with nature.

 

Why should we avoid mixing water with oil in the diva? (23-2-14)

  1. The Divo is a traditional oil lamp, lighted in most Parsi houses and fire temples in a transparent glass. It is very beneficial to keep a diva burning for twenty four hours in the house.
  2. There was a time when fire embers were kept in every Zoroastrian house. When it was not possible to have the embers, people started having a diva. We generally light a diva in a transparent glass so that the light of the Diva can spread throughout the room.
  3. The Divo should be done fully with oil. Water should be avoided, since by using water we bring water and fire together in the wick of the Diva when the oil gets over. According to Zoroastrianism water and fire should not be brought together except in extreme conditions like a fire breaking out. At such the fire is supposed to have been taken over for evil purposes and used for destruction. Hence extinguishing it with water is justified.

 

Is there a limit to the number of divas that can be lit at home? Which would be the best place to light a diva?

  1. The Divo, a traditional oil lamp lighted in most Parsi houses is to be kept burning for twenty four hours.
  2. There was a time when fire embers were kept in every Zoroastrian house. When it was not possible to have the embers, people started having a diva. A divo maintains positive energy in the house and keeps away negative influences and powers.
  3. The purpose to light a diva in a transparent glass is to enable maximum light of the Diva to spread to a greater distance.
  4. There is no limit to having any number of divas in the house, but it is not necessary to have more than one divo. However, rather than having multiple divas, it is necessary to have one diva continuously burning. This can be achieved by lighting the wick of a new diva from the flame of an old diva or replacing the wick of the diva in the same glass and replenishing oil.
  5. The diva should be lit in a place in the house which is most ritually pure. This could either be a special room or corner kept in the house which is not frequented by outsiders, or in a corner in the kitchen.

 

 

Why should we refrain from having candles on our birthday cakes? (JJ 2-3-14)

  1. The practice of putting candles on cakes is a Greek practice adopted by the Europeans in the 18th century. Surprisingly nobody exactly knows why the candles are put on birthday cakes. The custom goes back to a religious practice of the early Greeks, later adopted by the Germans and Swiss.
  2. The present practice of putting as many candles on the cake as the number of years, is a remnant of the British influence, as Indians did not have any such practice.
  3. As per Zoroastrian tradition, candle is a form of fire. Blowing off a fire in any form is not acceptable the religiously as we are inadvertently blowing saliva on the flame.
  4. Some Zoroastrians have adopted the alternative of putting off the candle by hand. Though this is not as bad as blowing off the candle, it is better to avoid this too, as it is in contradiction to the Zoroastrian teaching of not needlessly igniting a fire only to put it off in a few minutes.
  5. Instead Zoroastrians may have a Divo lighted at the hands of the person celebrating the birthday, next to the birthday cake and keep it burning, symbolizing that the light of the Divo may brighten the life of the person.

 

Why should we not wish ‘Pateti Mubarak’ or ‘Happy Pateti’?

  1. Pateti is the last day of the Zoroastrian calendar year, which is Gatha Vahishtoishti.
  2. On this day, we should seek forgiveness for all mistakes, committed knowingly or unknowingly, by us during the year which is to end in a few hours.
  3. We are expected to recite the Patet Pashemani, the Pazand prayer of repentance from the Khordeh Avesta, on this day.
  4. Since repenting is not something that one looks forward to, be happy about or celebrate, one should not wish “Happy Pateti” or “Pateti Mubarak”, which would effectively mean “Happy Repentance.”
  5. On the Parsi New Year’s day we should just wish Navroz Mubarak, which means “Happy new Year.”

 

Why should chashni be given only to Parsis ?

/ Why should prayer flowers not be thrown with other garbage?

  1. When a ritual is performed over fruits, flowers, water, milk, malida etc. these items became sacred.
  2. They are then referred to as chashni, which means “tasted by the divine.” These things are now imbued with ritual power, which is valid only of it is consumed by those who themselves follow ritual guidelines.
  3. Since practicing Zoroastrians are deemed to follow the ritual guidelines they can partake of the chashni, but not non-Zoroastrians.
  4. For the same reason rinds of fruits and flowers as well as water used in the ritual are to be disposed in a garden and not in garbage because of the sanctity inherent in them on account of the ritual performed over them.

 

In Zoroastrian tradition is it acceptable to touch the feet of our elders?

  1. Touching the feet of elders is symbolic of showing them respect and reverence. It is not originally a part of Zoroastrian religious tradition.
  2. oucing the feet, however, it is very much a part of the tradition among our sister community, the Hindus.
  3. Since this is not a religious ritual or practice and is just done to express respect and reverence to elders, there is no harm if this practice is adopted by some people of our community.

 

Why do we do Ardibahesht ni picchi near a person who is not well?

  1. We have different Ameshaspands and Yazds presiding over different aspects of life, health, mind and creations. Ardibahesht ameshaspand, among other things, presides over holistic health.
  2. In the past the priests and devout elders of the family used to pray to eliminate most basic illnesses like fever, aches etc.
  3. We have a practice in our religion of reciting the Ardibahesht yasht for ensuring good health, especially of a person who is not well.
  4. Our tradition had added one more dimension to this healing prayer. A white handkerchief was held by the person praying the Ardibahesht Yasht in his right hand, which is gently swept across over the ailing person from head to toes and then shaken off near the ground. This practice was called picchi feravvi (Guj. “to move a feather around”). The practice may have got the name from the ancient practice of using feathers (Guj. Pichhaa) for this purpose, instead of a handkerchief.
  5. At times and places where it is not possible to recite the entire Ardibahesht Yasht one can do the Ardibahesht ni pichhi by thrice reciting the Nirang which follows the Ardibahesht Yasht.

 

Why is there a preference in religion for using the right hand, like for offering the Sukhar and applying the Rakhia. Why is the left hand not used?

  1. In most religions and cultures there is a preference of the use of right hand over the left and hence the name of the right hand was “right” which means “proper”. The right denoted was the more preferred hand as the word ‘right’ denotes correctness.
  2. In Avesta language the right hand is referred to as dashina, a word which also means “south.” South is regarded as the side of God, and hence the ‘right’ side. In Persian language the right hand side is called dast-e-rāst, which means “the proper side.”
  3. In images from the Achaemenian and Sasanian times, we see the raised right hand used to indicate reverence to divine beings or bestowing blessings. Even today right hand is used to show reverence and respect.
  4. However, as far as the use of the hand is concerned, we do not see any particular preference for the use of one hand over the other. Both the hands are mentioned simultaneously.
  5. In Zoroastrian priestly rituals certain acts have to be exclusively performed by a certain hand. But this does not mean that either of the hand is given preference or prominence over the other. In rituals, the left hand is always used for long drawn purposes like the holding of the barsom, whereas for showing respect and veneration or giving offerings the right hand is used.
  6. In rituals, the only time an offering is made with the left hand is when the priest pours libation into the well after the Yasna ritual. The reason for this may be that while offering the libations, the priest recites certain prayers wherein he offers salutations to the divine beings with his right hand.
  7. When a priest offers ‘Boi’ in the fire-temples, he holds connection with the fire vase with his left hand and with his right hand he rings the bell. The acts of offering wood and sandalwood to the fire as well as washing the fire-stand are performed by the right hand.
  8. Thus we see that in Zoroastrian religion, the two hands have well-defined roles, without any particular preference to either side. However the right hand due to its superiority by virtue of it being ‘right’ did enjoy greater privilege and gradually became the more prominent of the two sides.

 

Why should silk not be used in rituals and for religious purposes?

  1. Whenever a fabric is to be used for ritual purposes natural fibres like cotton are to be used.
  2. If something has to be made from animals, the animal has to be a Gospand, that is a benign animal.
  3. Silk is made from a worm, which according to the Zoroastrian religion is a khrafastar, a noxious creature. Hence silk should not be used for ritual purposes.

 

Why is it not advisable to have permanent tattoo on the body?

  1. As in many modern aspects, there is no specific mention in religious texts about permanent tattoo on the body.
  2. By inference from our other religious prescriptions we can surmise that tattoos are prohibited among Zoroastrians because when a permanent tattoo is done, it kills the skin cells.
  3. The dead skin cells harbour ‘Naso’ “putrefaction.” This is not only religiously unacceptable but is also a threat to the other living cells of the skin.
  4. From a hygienically view point too, tattoos are not advisable. The place where a tattoo is done becomes a spot which is vulnerable to potential sources of infection.
  5. The chemicals of the ink tattoo ink may also prove allergic, react with the body and prove harmful to the skin.
  6. There have been several documented instances where a tattoo has become life-threatening.
  7. Generally by having a tattoo one wants to make a ‘statement’ about one’s convictions, leanings, likes and dislikes to the world at large. A firm internal resolve is a better alternative for such a purpose
  8. Moreover, many a times when circumstances in life change, the tattoo may become a source of great embarrassment and a psychological burden to the person.

 

Why is a Tasbih used?

  1. The tasbih is a prayer bead used to mark the countings in a prayer. Tasbih is an ancient Iranian word which later became a part of the Arabic language. The English word ‘bead’ comes from the Old English word ‘bede’ which means prayer. Prayer beads or tasbih helps one to focus while counting small prayers.
  2. Though Zoroastrianism does not have a strong tradition of using prayer beads, a few Zoroastrians use them, especially for chanting Ahem Vohu, Yatha Ahu Vairyo and 101 names. Prayer beads used by Zoroastrians generally have 101 beads in it. The beads may be of sandalwood, plastic, rudraksh or other material. They are generally separated at every 33 beads by a bead of a different size
  3. Hindus, Buddhists,Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs use prayer beads to mark the repetitions of prayers, chants or devotions. Judaism is the only religion which is not known to use the prayer beads. Different traditions have different number of beads in their prayer beads ranging from 333 to 108.
  4. Hindus are the oldest people to use the prayer beads. They have been known to use prayer beads since at least 2500 years.
  5. The Christians call their prayer beads ‘rosary’ and use it to keep a count of the Hail Marys or Lord’s prayers. The Hindus call their prayer beads ‘japa mala’ and use it for nām smaran and chanting mantras.
  6. The Muslims call their prayer beads ‘misbāh’ or ‘tasbih’. They use it to pray the names of Allah or the ‘Tasbih of Fatima.’ In Islamic countries one generally sees people carrying prayer beads in their hands all the time.

 

What things should I do in the month of Ava?

  1. In the Avan month we should pay homage to Avan Ardvisur Yazad through the waters, especially from the underground sources like well, rivers and springs, and also to the waters of seas and lakes.
  2. We can pray the Avan Ardvisur Nyaish, Avan Yasht or at least Namaskar of water if one does not have time. Avan roj in Avan month is the most important day for water in the year when prayers to Avan Ardvisu banu have to be done.
  3. In the Avan month, some people unknowingly hurt Avan Yazad more in their devotion to her by polluting the water by putting in a lot of things like flowers, rice and dar ni pori which later decay and pollute the water.
  4. Dar ni pori is a special sweet offering which is made to the water and the fire. Nowadays it is done only to waters. We present dar ni pori to Avan Ardvisur Yazad, near the waters, as our offering. We should not leave the dar ni pori in water after offering it, as it is wasting of foodstuff as well as polluting water.
  5. We can keep a very small morsel of the pori, if necessary. Otherwise we should give it in charity or one can consume it in the family. If the dar ni pori is not prayed upon and just offered to the waters, it could even be given to Non-Parsi poor people, instead of throwing it to the water.
  6. Water is not only an invaluable source of life, it is also a source of health, agility and energy. It should be conserved, honoured, respected, but never polluted wasted. This message should be deeply ingrained in us and it should be our pledge in the month of Avan to look after the sacredness and purity of the wonderful creation of water.

 

Why is there a religious tradition to have auspicious events like Navjot and Navar on death anniversary days of dear departed ones?

  1. We are always connected to our dear departed ones through our pleasant remembrances of their joyful memories and through our prayers and rituals. On the other hand the dear departed ones continue help, guide and protect us in their own ways.
  2. Their blessings, guidance and presence are especially required on auspicious events in our house.

In order to perpetuate their memory, make them feel a part of the household and have their blessings for auspicious events, Zoroastrians have a tradition of having important religious rituals like Navjote, Navar and Maratab on the death anniversary days of dear departed ones.

  1. If that is not possible we have rituals performed in their memory on the days of auspicious events.
  2. We also have a tradition to remember dear departed ones during the wedding festivities, when generally a day prior to the marriage rituals are performed in their memory, in a way inviting them to our auspicious occasion.

 

Why do we do ‘page parvaanu’ (bowing down)?

  1. The term ‘page parvaanu’ literally means touching the feet. However, every time it does not involve touching of the feet, but just bowing down before something that is reverent and worthy of respect.
  2. Hence, many a times, even though we are not touching the feet, we call it ‘page parvenu’, for instance when we bow down before the photo frame of a departed one.
  3. We generally do ‘page parvaanu’ to show respect. We do it before the Atash padshah –the sacred fire, near photos of prophet Zarathushtra and departed ones, at the entrance and threshold (umbar) of fire temples, to a divo, to the earth, to parents, teachers and elders.
  4. We also do ‘page parvaanu’ to show gratitude, for instance when we do it to our food plate before and after eating food.

 

Why do we say “ovaryu re” and why do we take ‘ovarnā’?

  1. The above mentioned two practices are Parsi traditions mainly observed by ladies. They are meant to express concern and protection for a loved one or the family.
  2. In the practice of ovarna, certain food articles, especially rice grains are thrown over and around the person whose ovarna is being taken. It symbolizes that any negative energies or bad luck that may be coming to that person may be taken away by the food articles, especially because they too are in a way ‘living organisms.’ Thus the person would be safe from the ill effects of the negative energy or bad luck
  3. A more elaborate ovarna ritual is done especially during Navjote and marriage rituals, where more food articles like the coconut, betel leaf, eggs and water are used to take away the negative energies and ill fortune of the person.
  4. The word ovaryu re seems to be an extension of the ovarna, wherein only the words are sufficient to take away the negative energies and ill effects from the person. These words are uttered especially when somebody says something ill or harmful about the person knowingly or unknowingly.

 

What does the word Nirang mean?

  1. The word Nirang is used in Parsi Zoroastrian tradition in many different ways and has various meanings.
  2. The word Nirang originally means “strength” or “power” and is used to refer to anything that imparts strength and power.
  3. One of the use of the word Nirang is for specially constituted short prayers which have great power. There are two types of such Nirangs. One are the independent small prayers for particular purposes and the other are short Pazand paragraphs to be recited thrice after certain Yashts.
  4. The word Nirang is also used to indicate the consecrated urine of Varasyaji and other bulls which is imbued with the spiritual power during the Nirang-din ritual. This Nirang has special powers and is used for rituals like Nahan and Bareshnum.
  5. The Nirang-din ritual is in fact the most important Zoroastrian ritual. The word Nirang-din means “strength of the religion.” It is on account of the Nirang created in this ritual that many other Zoroastrian rituals can be performed, including consecration of Agyaris and Atash Behrams.

 

What does the word bāj mean?

  1. The original literal meaning of the word bāj is “word. ” However in contemporary Parsi usage, the word bāj has several meanings and usages:
  2. Framing an act by prayers: The word bāj is used for Avestan and Pazand formulae, which precede and follow an action, thus framing the action by holy spells. Thus there are bāj for eating, drinking, sleeping, bathing and answering the call of nature. Once the initial portion of the bāj preceding the action has been recited, silence has to be maintained till the bāj is concluded by the recitation of the concluding portion. The initial portion of the bāj is referred to as ‘taking the bāj’ (bāj levi or bāj dharvi) and the concluding portion as ‘leaving the bāj’ (bāj chhodvi or bāj mukvi).  Some time back, most Zoroastrians used to take these bāj. Now this practice is almost forgotten except among priests.
  3. A particular mode of speech: In modern Parsi usage, the term ‘praying in bāj’ refers to a particular suppressed or subdued tone of prayer, also referred to as ‘praying in mind.’ Such a tone is especially used to recite Pazand passage/s occurring between two Avestan texts.
  4. A Zoroastrian is not supposed to talk whilst reciting prayers or performing rituals. However, if he has to communicate in the above circumstances, he is supposed to speak ‘silently’ in a suppressed tone by pursing the lips together. Such a mode of conversation is also referred to as ‘speaking in bāj.’
  5. The ritual of Bāj-dharnā itself is referred by the shortened name bāj.
  6. Occasions like the monthly and annual commemorations of departed ones are referred to as ‘the person’s bāj’ since the Bāj-dharnā is an important ritual at such occasions.

 

Can Parsis celebrate festivals like Ganpati, Holi, Diwali, Kali chaudas and Christmas (idu forvana at every door frame)

  1. There are two aspects to any festival. One is religious and the other is social. Religious aspect involves performance of, or participation in rituals, practices and acts based on that religion like arti, going around the idol, going around the temple, doing tilak, taking prasad etc. Social aspects include festivities, food, enjoyment and giving of gifts.
  2. It is acceptable to be a part of the social aspects of a festival as long as it does not interfere with our religious beliefs. For instance, in the Diwali festival, lighting diyas is a social aspect. Lighting fire-crackers too may be regarded as a social aspect, but it is not in consonance with our religious prescriptions of respect to the fire, safety of life, preservation of health and non pollution of nature. Loud crackers are harmful to the ears, dangerous firecrackers are harmful to life, and big fire-crackers are harmful to the environment. However, doing Arti and participating in it via Prasad etc is a religious issue.
  3. On Dhan teras, some Parsis wash silver coins which is symbolic of respecting wealth, and is a social act. As far as Kali chaudas is concerned, it is okay to maintain caution and not venture out at night, but participating in superstitious practices like breaking several eggs in the house must be avoided.
  4. On Christmas, gift giving may be considered a social practice, but keeping Christmas trees or tableau of the manger in the house and attending the midnight mass is celebrating nativity which is a religious part of the festival.
  5. The world is full of many religions and Indians celebrate several festivals. To integrate with people and place where we stay is a very welcome habit but one must ensure that one should not participate in any form of ritual for that purpose, and not do anything which is contrary to the spirit of one’s own religion. Sometimes there is a very thin line between religious and social aspects and one needs to tread with caution and properly exercise one’s discretion.

 

Should we believe in the Rashi? How to give name with Rashi? How to find the Rashi?

  1. Amongst the Parsis there is a tradition, that is reflected in Indian astrology, that name of a child is given on the basis of the moon sign prevalent at the time of birth at the particular place. The moon sign is called the Rashi. This is done because there is a belief that the sound that each letter creates is connected to a particular planet/constellation and when that sound is continuously pronounced, it has a good and beneficial effect on the individual.
  2. Astrologically there are two signs at the time of birth – sun sign and moon sign. The sun sign remains same for about thirty days, whereas the moon sign changes after almost every 14-18 hours. The names of the signs are same but the durations are different. For example, from 21 March to 20 April the Sun sign will be Aries, but the moon sign aries will come about 3 to 4 times during the month, at the lapse of about every 8 to 10 days.
  3. Every moon sign is associated with 2 to 5 letters of the Gujarati alphabet. For example the moon sign Aries (Guj. Mesh, is associated with letters a, l and i.
  4. Nowadays it is easy to get the Rashi for a particular day and time. One can get it daily in the Mumbai Samachar newspaper or get it from Janmahoomi Press Panchang or from websites like http://www.drikpanchang.com.

 

What is the Zoroastrian view about Yoga?

  1. The World Yoga Day was celebrated on 21st June. On this day, there several debates by Muslims and Christians whether Yoga was part of their religious tradition. Such a question has also been raised from a Zoroastrian point of view, as there are many Yoga enthusiasts and Yoga teachers among Zoroastrians.
  2. It has been mentioned by some Muslim scholars that their namaaz is a form of Yoga. To me our Kasti also has some similarities to Yoga. Some of the postures in the asanas of Surya Namaskar are similar to the postures in the ritual acts of the Kasti. Like the Surya Namaskar, Kasti ritual is meant for collecting our daily dose of energy, especially from and through the sun. However, Kasti does lots more. It prepares us for this process by first protecting and then cleansing us thus making us more receptive to energy (Khoreh).
  3. The Kasti ritual, has physical, mental as well as spiritual benefits. Though it may not have been designed for that purpose, the ritual acts in the Kasti provide physical benefits like stretching and adding flexibility and strength. We start the Kasti by reciting the Kem naa mazdaa during which we may firmly join hands or stand with hands at the side (chest out, stomach in !!!).
  4. Untying the Kasti gives the shoulder and upper body some motion and movements. Holding the Kasti in the hands while reciting the Ahura Mazda Khoday offers resistance to forearms and upper arms. Stretching hands while doing manashni and gavashni, bowing at the time of kunashni, and taking the hands away from the body while doing taroidite angrahe mainyeush exercises the wrists, elbows, neck, shoulders and the upper back. Tying the knots at the front and the back, again exercises the shoulders and the upper body. Holding the kasti while saying jasa me avanghe mazda can be an exercise in strengthening the upper body. Bowing down (page parvu) at the end of the Kasti is good for the vertebra, as well as gives movement to the internal abdominal organs. Thus the ritual acts may be considered a way of exercising the spine and the upper body.
  5. Moreover, kasti also benefits the breath and the mind. The audible chanting of the prayers, at regular intervals, for three to four minutes, benefits the breathing process. If this is done with awareness and concentration it is a wonderful tool to calm and relax the mind.
  6. The only religious component in Yoga, which may be objectionable from a Zoroastrian point of view, is the chanting of Mantras that some Yoga teachers suggest. Thought the Mantra Aum (Om) is considered a Universal chant, Zoroastrians can replace it with Ahun which is the Zoroastrian creative mantra.
  7. Much of Yoga deals with physical exercises of stretching, bending, aerobic and resistance, which benefits the body and the mind and may be adopted in one’s daily fitness regime without fear of breach of religion.

 

Is it necessary to touch pictures of prophet Zarathushtra, holy men and departed ones when we go near them to pay respect?

  1. In Zoroastrian religion we are enjoined to remember our prophet, Saoshyants, great men and ancestors and remember their souls and Fravashis in a pleasant manner.
  2. When we go near the photo frame of the prophet, holy men or departed ones, it is to remember their soul and Fravashi. The photo just is an aid to the memory.
  3. It is not necessary to touch these pictures. Even if one touches the photo frame, it is either out of respect or it is just to fulfil the human need to somehow physically communicate with that person.
  4. However it is totally un-Zoroastrian to kiss the photo frames as that is against the Zoroastrian injunction. When we kiss we deposit our saliva on the photo frame thus making it ajithu.

 

What is parabh? Why are there 3 parabh in dae mah?

  1. The word parabh comes from the Sanskrit word parva which means “festival.” In the Zoroastrian calendar when the name of the day coincides with the name of the month it is called a parabh. For instance the day of Farvardin in the month of Farvardin is called Parabh.
  2. Every month has a Parabh. However the month of Dae four days which are referred as Parabhs – Hormazd, Dae-pa-Adar, Dae-pa-Meher and Dae-pa-din. This is so because the month of Dae is dedicated to Dadar Ahura Mazda, and all the above four days in the month are dedicated to Dadar Ahura Mazda.
  3. Some Parabhs in the Zoroastrian calendar have special names and are celebrated as major festivals like Farvardegan, Avagan, Adargan, Tirgan and Mehrangan. Festivals like Tirangan and Mehrangan are even mentioned in the Shahnameh and have historical significance.

 

What is a Ses? What is its significance? (JJ 13-3-16)

  1. Ses is the most prominent auspicious symbol among Zoroastrians. It is a round metallic tray of varied shapes and sizes, present at all times in a Parsi house, especially on auspicious occasions. The Ses for general occasions is a small one and the Ses for special occasions like Weddings and Navjote is a big one.
  2. The Ses has a wonderful collection of auspicious items in it:
  3. Paro: It is a conical metallic utensil in which patasha and/or rock sugar (khadi sakar) is kept. It is reminiscent of the conical sweets wrapped in Green paper in Iran till this day.
  4. Pigani: It is a small metallic utensil with a lid in which Kanku (vermilion) is kept to put an auspicious red mark/tika on the forehead. The Parsis generally put a vertical mark on the forehead of a man and a round one on the forehead of the woman. The former signifies rays of the sun, and the later signifies the moon. Rice is placed on to the red mark to signify plenty.

iii. Gulabaz: It is a metallic sprinkler cum container which has Rose water (Gulaab-jal) in it. In Iran it was used to sprinkle rose water on guests while welcoming them and saying the words khush āmadid “welcome.”

  1. Miscellaneous items: Coconut, betel leaves (paan), betel nut (sopari), dried shell almonds (badaam), dried dates (khaarak), rice, curd and Fish (fresh fish or sweet meat in the shape of a fish) other dry fruits are also kept in the tray. Nowadays metallic replicas of some of the above things are placed in the Ses instead of real ones.
  2. At the time of Navjot and Marriage a special Ses is prepared. The tray is a much bigger one, since a special set of clothes are kept in it, which differ for a boy and a girl. If the Navjotee is a boy, then shirt, pant, dagli, socks and shoes are kept. If the Navjote child is a girl then a Saree is kept in the Ses. This Saree will be most probably the first Sari that the girl would wear when she grows up.

LIFE

Why is our life so special? What is the purpose of my life?

  1. Life is a special and precious gift from Ahura Mazda, so that humans can perform His will, perform good deeds and fight evil while enjoying our stay in this material world. Though we do not realize, Ahura Mazda is always near us to lead and guide us. We have only to acknowledge and feel His presence.
  2. Each one of us comes to this world as special soldiers of Ahura Mazda with the general two fold mission: vi-daevo (combating negativity) and ahura-tkaesho (increasing goodness by following Ahura’s teachings).
  3. Each one of us also have a specific purpose in life, which we need to discover ourselves and move towards it. Generally, the work that gives us most happiness may be our life’s purpose. Prayers and service lead us towards our life’s purpose.
  4. The Avestan term Asha Vahishta, occurring in the Ashem Vohu prayer, is often explained as the Divine Plan of God. This Plan encompasses the unfolding of the universe from pure light upto the final moving of everything back into pure light. Our life’s purpose should be in consonance with this Divine Plan to enable us to have ushta “inner happiness.”

 

Why I should keep happy and cheerful?

  1. Happiness is central to Zoroastrian religion. Its most basic prayer Ashem vohu teaches us to have ushta “inner happiness.”
  2. Being happy and cheerful is also a way of expressing our faith and confidence in God.
  3. It is necessary to be cheerful in adverse conditions. Cheerfully facing circumstances of life, favourable or adverse, makes Ahura Mazda khshnaothra, that is, “happy” and it defeats ahriman, the evil spirit.
  4. When we maintain cheerfulness amidst adversities, we empower the good forces to help us change our life and destiny. Such an attitude turns the misfortune into a stepping stone for future success.
  5. A cheerful mind is essential for a body radiating health and a soul worthy of heaven.

 

 Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do people suffer?

  1. Happiness and sorrow are primarily states of mind and hence relative to a great extent. They do not depend so much on actual circumstances, as on our responses to events.
  2. In identical situations one person may feel happy, and another may not. One soldier may feel proud to go to the battle-field and even be ready to lay down his life for the sake of his country, whereas another may curse his fate, anticipating certain death.
  3. We generally categorise events as happy, sad, good or bad according to our limited and often erroneous understanding of the world and our own selves. In effect, adverse circumstances and difficult times in life are often challenges which may bring out the best in us. Just as heat is necessary to extract pure metal from the ore, challenges are necessary to bring out the best in us.
  4. According to the Zoroastrian world-view, this material world is an opportunity for the soul to fight evil, enhance goodness and evolve spiritually.
  5. Zoroastrian philosophy teaches us that when evil afflicts us with pain and misery, we need to respond positively with cheer and faith in Ahura Mazda’s goodness. By doig this, the adverse circumstance becomes a stepping stone leading to happier times. Every misfortune that comes on us, is one ammunition less in the armoury of evil.
  6. Zoroastrian world view also tells us each of our action brings a reaction hence wrong actions may bring pain. It also tells us that evil has a propensity to attack at random as it does not follow any order. If our fortification and protection is down we become a sitting target for the onslaught of evil. Thus an evil happening to us does not come from god, but is a result of our own negative actions or lack of self-protection.
  7. We should learn to see the circumstances of our life as an opportunity and a challenge rather than judging them at their face value. We should try not to label life’s events as good or bad, happy or sad, but as a necessary road leading to the final destination.

 

Why is life so precious?

  1. According to Zoroastrian religion, life is a precious gift from Ahura Mazda. It is not a coincidence that the word for the ‘supreme being’ and ‘life’ is the same in Avesta – ahu.
  2. Life has to be utilized to enhance goodness and counter negativities. Ahriman the evil spirit is against life. The power of life and its inherent strength to create goodness scares Ahriman, and hence he is always looking for opportunities to destroy life.
  3. Our personal life is a gift which we have received as a result of divine plan through the efforts and endeavours of several people, most of all our parents. Though we owe our lives to ourselves, we do not completely own it. Our parents and all those who have contributed to our life are the co-owners of our life.
  4. There are times when the burdens of life seem too heavy to bear. At such times it is most helpful if we have befriended God and shared our life’s ups and downs with Him. It is also helpful if we have a friend and confidante with whom we can share the aches and pains, joys and sorrows, and the highs and lows of life.
  5. Those who find life difficult to bear are often those who do not have a distinct positive goal of their own before themselves. They have lived and are living a life to please others and are most concerned about what others may think about them. Such people have unknowingly given away the power over their lives to others.
  6. The best way to face the trials and tribulations of life is to live life our way, within the parameters of correctness, without hurting others and impinging on others rights. One has to feel in control of one’s life and under no circumstances hand over one’s life’s controls to anybody else. One needs to cultivate determination, self-belief and courage to be in charge of one’s life. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.
  7. The value and worth of the gift of life is best realised by people whose life is cruelly cut short by fate or illness. We never know what turn for the better our life would take if we just have had the patience to pull through that difficult period.
  8. Our life is a divine gift from God. Parts of our life belong to society, parents, teachers and all those who genuinely love us. If this important message becomes a part of one’s belief system and subconscious mind, no one will ever allow this beautiful life to be frittered away in any way.

MUKTAD

Why we should celebrate Muktad?

  1. The world comprises of seen and unseen elements. There are several unseen aspects of life, which only religion can explain, and which we need to know through the religion.
  2. One such important aspect of Zoroastrian religion is the immortality of the soul in the spiritual world after death and the existence of Fravashis “guardian spirits” to help the souls in this world and the next.
  3. Muktad is the special time to celebrate the contribution of the souls and Fravashis of the previous generations and fondly remember them by offering prayers along with special gifts of fragrant flowers and prayers.
  4. The souls look forward to being remembered in a loving manner, especially during the Muktad. If happy with our love and remembrance, they bless us with health, wealth and happiness.
  5. The number of days of celebrating the Muktad may be ten or eighteen depending on what tradition one follows. However, this is not as important as the fact that we remember and celebrate the memory of the dear departed ones.

 

For how many years should Muktad and/or the Annual Baj prayers be done for the dear ones?

  1. There is no specific injunction in our religious texts as to the number of years the Muktad or Annual Baj prayers should be done.
  2. Certain texts mention it as the duty of every Zoroastrian to remember the Fravashis, especially the Fravashis of their own dear departed parents and near ones during the Farvardegan (Muktad) days. Taking this injunction along with the injunction of the desire of the souls and the Fravashis to be remembered, it was the religious tradition in the past that the Muktad and Annual Baj should performed for one generation. Thus, over a period of time depending on several factors people were advised to have the Muktad performed for about 20 years in the past.
  3. As of now, depending on one’s financial condition and other circumstances and factors one has to decide for oneself how long one wants to have the Muktad or annual Baj prayers be done. By and large, in the present times and circumstances prayers may ideally be done for around five years.
  4. It is necessary that we remember the dear departed ones at home by doing a divo, and if possible praying the Satum no Kardo on their Baj day and during the Muktad, irrespective of whether the prayers are done at the agyari, and more so if they are not done.

 

Can one have Muktad performed at two different locations?

  1. Muktad are days to collectively remember all Asho Farohars. This includes Asho Farohars of our dear departed ones along with the souls.
  2. The soul of a dear departed one can be remembered in as many places as possible. All the priests remember holy souls of people like Dasturji Kukadaru and Homaji all over the world. Hence simultaneous prayers and remembrance of dear departed ones can be held at multiple locations.
  3. More than one behra can be consecrated for a departed person. However, it must be stated that individual and separate behras are not essential to pray for a dear departed one during Muktad.

 

Why are flowers connected with the Muktad? Why are they kept in the Behra and used to remember the dear departed ones?

  1. Muktad are the days when the Fravashis of all creations, Asho Farohars of humans and all souls descend on earth.
  2. At this time they are to be made to feel welcome amongst us and offered what they like the most – prayers, light and natural fragrance.
  3. The best creations with natural fragrance are fresh flowers and hence they are kept in vases at the place where Asho Farohars are remembered.
  4. Flowers belong to the plant kingdom and hence are representatives of Amardad ameshaspand, who also looks after immortality of the soul and its just rewards. Flowers in a way remind the living and the departed souls of their immortality and of the rewards of their life’s actions.
  5. A few simple fragrant flowers like rose and lily are all that is required for this purpose. We need not go overboard and offer too many exotic and expensive flowers.

 

Why are there 3 Muktads, 3 Navroz, 3 Khordad Sals etc, as per the 3 Zoroastrian calendars, which are the real day?

  1. Presently in the Zoroastrian tradition there are 3 sects-– the Shahenshahi, Kadimi and Fasali. People following these sects observe the religious festivals on the basis of their own calendars. Hence each festival is celebrated thrice.
  2. Festivals are days of coming together, enjoyment and thanksgiving. The purpose for which they are celebrated may vary, seasons may differ – but the end result of festivals is bringing about unity, harmony, hope and joy and that should remain intact.
  3. In the early Christian era, Christmas was celebrated on different days, as people were not sure about the exact day of birth of their prophet. Still for the sake of unity all days were brought together and the birth of Christ is today celebrated on 25th of December.
  4. Thus, all three Zoroastrian celebrations are valid. Nature absorbs the prayer and utilizes it at due time. As for the Muktad, the Fravshis and souls come to this world whenever they are remembered. Today we remember them on a few days in the year. In the past they were remembered through rituals either daily and especially on all festivals. If they are remembered any time during the year, even without a particular purpose, they come. There may be hundreds of Fravashis and souls for whom rituals may not be performed even during the Muktad. That does not mean they never come to the earth. There is total understanding and magnanimity in the divine world and they should not be compared to us humans.

 

What prayers can the laymen (Behdin) recite during Muktad days? (JJ 2-8-2015)

  1. Muktad are the days when we have to remember, thank and make happy the Asho Farohars and Ravans (souls) of our near and dear ones in particular and the whole universe in general. One of the best ways to do these is by prayers and rituals. Most rituals are generally the domain of prests. However laymen also can perform a few rituals and offer prayers to Asho farohars and Ravans. Below are a few such prayer:
  2. The Satum no kardo is the best prayer to be recited during the days of the Muktad. During the 5 Gatha days, this prayer is recited with some modification. If it is recited with the offering of some food cooked by a Zarthoshti, it becomes the Satum ritual. It should be recited after the Kasti and daily Farazyat prayers.
  3. Muktad no namaskar is a very short prayer that can be recited anytime during the days of the Muktad. The prayer is as follows: Az hamā gunāh patet pashemānom. ashaunām vanghuhish surāo spentāo fravashayo yazamaide. (thrice) Ahmai raeshcha – Hazanghrem-Jasa me avanghe Mazda-Kerfeh Mozd.
  4. Over and above the prayers mentioned, one can recite the Framraot Hā (Yasna Hā 20) or 1200 Ashem Vohu with the khshnuman of Ardafravash, for the first five days.
  5. For the five days of Gathas, each collection of Gathas can be recited on the respective day or 1200 Yatha on each day, with the khshnuman of Gatha.
  6. There is another prayer called Lākhi nu bhantar, in which a combination of 570 Yatha ahu vairyo, 210 Ashem vohu and 120 Yenghe hātām (total 900) are recited with the khshnuman of Sarosh Yazad daily for all the days of the Muktad.

 

YENGHE   HĀTĀM

The Yenghe hātām is the prayer of Divine Love, Unity and Harmony. Though it can be recited independently, generally it is not found separately in prayer books. However, it is part of most larger prayers. In Yasna Ha 61 it is said that this prayer takes one’s veneration forward in a better way. Yasna Ha 21 is a commentary on this prayer.

 

Text of the prayer:    Yenghe hātām āat yesne paiti vangho

Mazdāo ahuro vaethā ashāt hachā yāonghāmchā

Tāschā tāoschā yazamaide.

Meaning: Among the living ones, we venerate those men and women whom Ahura Mazda has known to be better in their worship on account of their Righteousness.

Free translation: Practice of righteousness makes humans better. Such men and women who have reached a higher state of awareness of life through their righteous conduct spread peace and harmony in the world. They are beloved of God.

 

 

FESTIVALS

Why do we celebrate Jamshedi Navroze?

  1. Jamshedi Navroz is celebrated by Zoroastrians and even some non Zoroastrians in many parts of the world on the 21st of March. The word Jamshedi Navroze means the “the new year day of (king) Jamshed.”
  2. As a vernal/spring equinox festival, Jamshedi Navroz has been celebrated throughout Zoroastrian history. Today, in India, Jamshedi Navroz is mainly celebrated as a seasonal and historical festival, to commemorate the coronation of King Jamshed after he saved the world from the great deluge and established the settlement ‘Var-e-Jam-Kard’, “the settlement of Jamshed”.
  3. Iranians have a special way of celebrating this festival, the main part of which is arranging a circular table in the house having seven items starting with the letters ‘shin’ or ‘sin’ of the Persian alphabet are arranged.
  4. On the “Hafta-shin table” the seven items may include: Shir “milk”, sharab “wine”, shakar “sugar”, shama “candle”, somagh “sumac” shikeh “coin”, sib “apple”, sonbol “hyacinth”, sabzi “vegetables’, shisheh “glass”, sarkeh “vinegar” etc. Additionally items like a goldfish bowl and a picture of the Damavand mountain, are also kept for six to thirteen days.
  5. Jamshedi Navroz is a festival of hope, life and colour. It brings the message of renewal, rejuvenation, hope, gratitude, joy, light, life, equality and victory of good over evil. May this Jamshedi Navroz bring a happy, cheerful and bright year for all humanity.

 

Why is Jamshedi Navroz celebrated, and how can I celebrate it?

  1. Jamshedi Navroz is a festival which brings Zoroastrians close to their religion, history, culture and nature. It is celebrated on the day of Vernal or spring equinox which comes around 21st of March. This day marks the coronation of king Jamshed, following Ahura Mazda’s divine message to the king through Sarosh Yazad to save the world from the great deluge. Hence the name ‘Jamshedi’ Navroz – the New year day of Jamshed
  2. This day is celebrated as the religious New Year by Zoroastrians following the Fasali calendar. Many Islamic countries including Iran celebrate this day as their secular and financial new year.
  3. We can celebrate the day by first going to the fire temple and seeking the blessings of God. Generally Falooda or water melon juice is served on this day.
  4. This day being the ‘birthday’ of the sun – Khorshed Yazad, Khorshed Nyaish Meher Nyaish has to be especially prayed on this day. Some sections of our community have a tradition of praying three sets of three Khorshed Nyaish and one Meher Nyaish in the Havan Geh, two sets of three Khorshed Nyaish and one Meher Nyaish in the Rapithwan Geh, and one set of three Khorshed Nyaish and one Meher Nyaish in the Uziran Geh, to mark this special day for the sun.
  5. This day our Iranian brethren lay the haft shin table. Parsis too can celebrate the day by having such a table prepared in the house in advance. This table has seven items starting from the Persian letters sin/shin like ‘Shir’ “milk”, ‘sharab’ “wine”, ‘shakar’ “sugar”, ‘shama’ “candle”, ‘somagh’ “sumac” ‘shikeh’ “coin”, ‘sib’ “apple”, ‘sonbol’ “hyacinth”, ‘sabzi’ “green vegetables”, ‘shisheh’ “glass”, ‘sarkeh’ “vinegar” etc. The table generally also has a photo of the Demavand mountain and a gold fish in a glass bowl. Traditionally the table has to be kept for 13 days after Jamshedi Navroz, but it may be cleared a few days after the Navroz.
  6. Astronomically this day gives the message of equality as on this day of the vernal/spring equinox, the day and night are of equal duration. This day also conveys the idea of rejuvenation, as the sun enters its first house Aries on this day.
  7. This is a great day for festivities when people can get together, meet and greet and bask in the freshness of nature offered by the advent of spring.

 

Why should Zoroastrians celebrate the Mehrangan festival on Meher mahino and Meher roj?

  1. Meherangan, that is Meher mah and Meher roj is the day on which the important festival of Mehrangan is celebrated. It is a big festival in the Zoroastrian calendar and a big day in Iranian history.
  2. As is evident, this day is dedicated to Meher Yazad who presides over cosmic lights, open spaces, love, friendship, justice, contract, promises and rituals.
  3. According to the Shahnameh, Meherangan is the day on which King Faridun of the Peshdadian dynasty decided to have the Jashan-e-Mehrangān performed, to celebrate the defeat and imprisonment of the evil Zohak in the Demavand mountains followed by his ascension to the throne on Hormazd roj of mah Meher.
  4. This Jashan is celebrated even today to commemorate the end of Zohak’s evil rule and the beginning of the auspicious reign if King Faridun. Hence Mehrangan is a festival to celebrate a religious and historic event and an integral part of the Zoroastrian religious and historic tradition. It is the festival which epitomizes the ultimate victory of good over evil.

 

PRIESTS

Why are there different titles for priests like Ervad, Mobed and Dasturji?

  1. Priests in India are divided under three titles: Dastur, Mobed and Ervad. Once a child from a priestly family undergoes the first priestly initiation of Navar, he is referred to as an Ervad, a term which is derived from the Avestan word aethrapaiti which means a teacher. A candidate who undergoes the second initiation of Maratab and performs simple ceremonies in the fire temple, is still referred to as an Ervad.
  2. A priest who has undergone both Navar and Maratab initiations and regularly performs higher rituals like Yajashne and Vendidad is referred to as a Mobed. The word Mobed comes from Iranian magav-paiti which means chief of the magavs (adept priests).
  3. The Dastur is a priest who is the leader of each of the five geographical priestly divisions– the Sanjana (Udvada and around), Bhagaria (Navsari and around), Godavra (Surat and around), Bharucha (Bharuch and around) and Khambatta (Cambay and around). Each priestly division had their own leader/s and hence there are as many or more Dasturs in India. Later there was a practice of some other locations or fire temple having their own Dasturs, and hence at a point of time there were about 16 Dasturs in India. At present there are 6 Dasturs in India.
  4. Since some people erroneously refer to any priest as a Dasturji, nowadays we refer to the Head priests as Vada Dasturjis.
  5. Panthaki is a term used for priests in charge of a fire temple and who cater to a Panthak (an area or a district having a few families).
  6. Nowadays the term para mobed is sometimes used to indicate a lay person who takes some priestly training and is authorized to perform certain outer rituals for the laity like Afringan, Farokshi, Stum and Boi of Dadgah sahebs in places where there are no priests. The term para mobed does not exactly suit the purpose and hence alternate terms like behdin pasban are used for lay persons who partially perform priestly duties in absence of priests.
  7. The titles work differently in Iran and India. The above titles are as they are used in India and its diaspora countries.

 

 

Why women cannot be priests?

  1. In Zoroastrianism priesthood is hereditary for male members belonging to the priestly family.

Historically, there are no concrete evidences to indicate that females had ever been priests.  However on account of some stray indirect references in texts, it is claimed by a few that in the past women were priests.

  1. The main reason why ladies were not initiated and ordained as priests, may be on account of their monthly menstrual cycle. When a lady is undergoing her menstrual periods she has to be away from prayers, ritual observances, performances and implements. Every month, she would not be able to serve for about a week. Sometimes the cycle is uneven and the periods may come abruptly leading to uncertainty in ritual work.
  2. Ladies who are in a ritually clean state do not need to be ordained as priests to perform certain outer rituals like Afringan, Farokhshi, Stum and tending to household Dadgah fire for their own selves and family after taking due training. Ladies can also help priests in preparing for rituals, as was being done in the past when rituals were performed in houses, where the priests would just go and pray.
  3. A few months back, it was reported that in Iran a few ladies were made Mobed-yars (lit. priest assistants). This was a certificate course where almost all their duties were such that any lay lady could do with proper training.
  4. The concept and duties of priest are different in Iran and India. The concept of higher rituals is presently non-existent in Iran. In fact no priestly initiations are performed in Iran now as is done in India.
  5. Ladies can also teach religious knowledge and prayers to children and elders, which is generally regarded as a priest’s duties.

 

Why is priesthood hereditary?

  1. King Jamshed of the Peshdadian dynasty divided society into 4 professional groups – Athornans “priests,” Ratheshtars “warriors,” Vastriyosh “farmers” and Hutaokhsh “craftsmen/ artisans.”
  2. The main reason for this fourfold division was to enhance the work quality, as the respective trades would be handed down from father to son, which would provide an opportunity to learn the trades early in life, perfecting them and then passing over the superior techniques to the following generation.
  3. The Athornans had to tend the sacred fires, devote their time to prayers, invoke the blessings of divine beings and ward off evil from the kingdom. The king looked after their requirements.
  4. The four professional groups were prevalent in society till the end of the Sasanian dynasty (642 CE). After coming to India the priest group maintained their exclusivity but the other three groups merged and are referred to as Behdins “those belonging to the Good religion.”
  5. The hereditary vocation of priesthood is in consonance with the ancient Mazdayasni tradition.

 

Why are there no women priests in Zoroastrian religion ?

  1. Though men and women are created equal and have equal position in the eyes of God, women and men have different functions to perform biologically as well as socially. Generally the hardy and rugged functions are those of men whereas tender and patient functions are those of women.
  2. Biologically a man is not designed to carry or nurse a child. That is the special and unique prerogative of a woman. By virtue of her biological uniqueness, necessary to conceive and nurture a child, a woman becomes ritually incapable to perform certain religious functions for certain days during the month. 3. This in no way diminishes the position of woman as far as spirituality is concerned. She can perform several priestly and semi-priestly duties which are within her bounds. But the prerogative of functioning as a priest, especially for the performance of higher rituals is not religiously ordained for a lady.

 

Why do boys becoming Navar carry the Guraj (gurz) on the day of Navar?

  1. The Guraj (gurz) is a metallic staff, about 15 inches long, with the head of a cow on one side.
  2. The word Guraj is derived comes from two words – gao which means “a cow” and raz which means “a mace.”
  3. The Guraj is generally placed in the Kebla of the Atash Padshah along with other implements used by soldiers, like the sword, the spear and the shield.
  4. King Faridun of the Peshdadian dynasty had such a weapon specially made, on a much bigger scale, to commemorate the cow Purmae, which had nursed him when he was a toddler. The weapon was specially made to fight the evil Zohak who had this special cow killed in his attempt to locate child Faridun.
  5. Since those times this implement has become symbolic of the victory of good over evil (Faridun over Zohak).
  6. A boy becoming Navar carries the Guraj in his hand in the procession on his way to perform the first Yasna of the Navar. This is to remind him of one of his functions in his role as a future priest, which is to always be on the side of the right in the cosmic battle between good (spenta mainyu) and evil (angra mainyu).

 

What is Navar (JJ 3 & 10-1-2016)?

  1. Navar is the first initiation into priesthood of a Zoroastrian boy from an Athornan (priestly) family. After undergoing Navar, the candidate can perform all outer rituals like the Afringan, Jashan, Farokshsi and Stum. A child is required to undergo Navar before puberty. After Navar the child attains the priestly title “Ervad.”
  2. The term Navar is derived from the words nav-bar which mean “a new carrier of offerings.” It signifies a new initiate to offer prayers and offerings to divine beings.
  3. For becoming full-fledged Navar, one has to learn by heart most prayers from the Khordeh Avesta, 72 chapters of the Yasna, 23 chapters of the Visparad, Afringans and Baj. Nowadays, many priestly candidates do not learn by heart all these and just read them from books. Such candidates cannot become full fledged priests later on and are called ‘kacchha Navar.”
  4. In the Navar initiation, the child undergoes the following 3 stages: a. Bareshnum – the nine days retreat for purification. For Navar, two Bareshnums have to be undergone – the first for self and second for the person who sponsors the Navar – either living or deceased. The days spent in the Bareshnum are to discipline one’s life leading to mental and spiritual evolution. One has to devote time to prayers and have a regulated diet. b. Gewra: This stage of the ritual, comes after the two bareshnums. In this, the two priests, who would initiate the candidate, perform the Yasna ceremony alternately for six consecutive days in the name of the person who sponsors the Navar. c. Navar ceremony proper: It consists of four days, the first of which coincides with the sixth day of the gewra. On this day, the candidate takes bath in the morning, puts on full priestly dress, drapes a Shawl on the left arm, holds Guraj (mace with bulls face) in right hand and coconut in the left. He is taken in procession to the place where Navar 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.
  5. On the first day of Navar, the two priests who had performed the gewra assist the candidate in performing the Yasna, Baj and Afringan rituals. On the second and third days, a Yasna is performed and on the fourth day a Visperad or Yasna is performed.
  6. On the fourth and last day of the navar ceremony proper, after the performance of rituals the candidate puts on the full dress. He then performs hamazor, that is, ritual handshake with the chief priest and other priests and is taken to his residence.
  7. In Iran there is only one stage of priestly initiation which is called Nowzudi. It is much simpler than the priesthood initiations in India. Bareshnum is not required, there is not much of learning, the initiation takes only one day and it may be undergone at an adult age too.

 

B. What is Maratab and Samel ? (JJ 17-1-2016)

  1. The second initiation into priesthood of a Zoroastrian boy from an Athornan (priestly) family is known as Maratab. The term Maratab means “exalted.” Maratab is generally performed a year or two after Navar, but it can also be performed later on. As a preparation for Maratab, the candidate has to fluently read the 22 chapters of the Vendidad interspersed with Yasna and Visperad.
  2. For the Maratab ritual, the candidate has to undergo one bareshnum for nine days and nights. On the morning of the tenth day, he along with a qualified priest, performs 2 Yasnas, stays in the fire temple for the whole day with ritual procedure and after mid-night performs the Vendidad. This completes the Martab. The candidate is now entitled to perform all Zoroastrian rituals.
  3. Undergoing the Maratab is not necessary for those who have not undergone a full-fledged Navar and those who are not desirous of taking up priesthood as a vocation.
  4. Samel is not a ritual, but a procedure to establish the mastery of the candidate who has undergone the Maratab. It is followed only among the Sanjana priests of Udwada. Priests belonging to the 9 priestly Sanjana families desirous of offering Boe at Iranshah Atash Behram are required to pass an exam to prove their expertise in prayer recitation and ritual practice (that is, bhantar and kriyakam). The Dasturjis of Udvada and senior priests are invited to examine the candidate’s knowledge of the intricacies of rituals and ritual texts. If they are satisfied, they give him permission to offer boe. The candidate can then enter the sanctum sanctorum along with and under the guidance of a senior priest and only thereafter he is allowed to give boe individually.

 

What is Para-Mobed, Mobed-yār and Behdin–Pāsbān (JJ 26-7-2015)?

  1. ‘Para Mobed’ was a term introduced in the mid 1970s for a course introduced under the guidance of Dasturji Navroz D. Moncher-Homji to train lay people (behdins) and non-Navar Athornans to perform certain essential outer rituals so that they can look after the needs of people at places where priests are not available. The candidates are just given certain training and no ritual initiations are performed.
  2. After some time an objection was raised for the use of the term ‘Para-Mobed’ applied to such people, since the word Mobed indicates a complete priest performing inner rituals. Later the term Para-priest and then Behdin-pasban was coined to replace the term Para-Mobed.
  3. There are several guide-lines, rules and regulations which such para-priests have to follow in India. For instance, they cannot wear the Pagdi – they must only wear white cap, they cannot wear the Padan, they cannot undergo the Navar initiation, they should not professionally perform at places where there are priests etc.
  4. They can perform outer rituals like Afringan, Farokhshi, Satum and Jashan, after death rituals like Geh-sarna, Uthamnu, Sarosh no kardo and bhoi agal nu bhantar and give boe for the sacred fire of the Dadgah Sahebs.
  5. In Iran such para-priests are referred to as ‘Mobed-yars.’ The word Mobed-yar literally means “assistant to priests.” On account of almost non-existence of properly ordained priests in Iran, most of the priestly functions there are performed by Mobed-yars. The Mobed-yar training is like a certificate course and no priestly initiations are involved. In recent years, even ladies are allowed to become Mobed-yars.  On account of this, a misunderstandings arose that there are lady priests in Iran. This is not correct, as Mobed-yars cannot be considered priests.

 

 

CALENDARS

Why do we have 3 calendars?

  1. In ancient Iran, Zoroastrians had 2 calendars, one for religious and one for state purposes. The religious calendar started around 21st march and the state calendar started every time a new king was coronated.
  2. After the downfall of the Sasanian empire, there was only one calendar, which is today known as the Shahenshahi (lit. royal) calendar. It was the state calendar started from the coronation of the last Sasanian king Yazdezard Shaheriyar (Yazdegard III).
  3. The Kadimi (lit. ancient) calendar came into being when in 1721, Jamasp Velayati came from Iran and realized that there was a discrepancy of one month between the calendars in Iran and India. Those who accepted the calendar difference came to be known as Kadimis.
  4. In the first decade of 1900s, a group of Parsis led by Mr. K.R.Cama brought into existence a new calendar called the Fasli ( lit. seasonal) calendar, starting from 21st March to set right the perceived seasonal difference in the Shahenshahi and Kadimi calendars. Their year has 365 days, but every fourth year they add an extra day after the five Gatha days.
  5. Thus, in present times the Zoroastrians have 3 calendars – Shahenshahi, Kadimi and Fasali. The Iranis mainly follow the Kadimi calendar.

 

Why do Zoroastrians have 3 calendars?

  1. Since Sasanian times, Zoroastrians had two calendars. One was a shifting calendar which was meant for religious and ritual purposes. The new year in this calendar was always around the beginning of spring time. The second was a state calendar which started from the coronation of a king and ended with the coronation of a new king.
  2. After the downfall of the Sasanian empire, it was difficult to maintain two calendars and hence only the state calendar was used, in which some aspects of the religious calendar were merged. This came to be known as the Shahenshahi (“royal”) calendar. The Zoroastrians who came from Iran to India have been following this calendar which is in its 1385th year, referred to as the Yazdezardi year, as this calendar had started from the coronation of our last Sasanian king Yazdezard III.
  3. In the beginning of the 18th century it was discovered that our brethren in Iran followed a calendar which was similar but had a one month difference. Priests form Iran who had come to India made an attempt to make their Indian counterparts change their calendar. Only a few agreed. They were called the Kadimis, that is, those who followed the “ancient” calendar. Thus we got a second calendar in India.
  4. In the first decade of the 20th century, some religious reformers felt that the two religious calendars Shahenshahi and Kadimi were keeping on shifting as there was no leap day in them. Moreover they also felt that the calendars were not starting on or near spring time. Hence they recommended introducing a new fixed religious calendar which would always start on 21st March. The religious leaders did not approve of the idea, but the religious reformers went ahead with their new calendar which they called Fasali, which means “based on seasons.” A very few people follow this calendar.
  5. Thus we see that the Parsi community today follows three different calendars –Shahenshahi, Kadimi and Fasali, which, presently celebrate their New Years in the months of August, July and March respectively.

 

Why does the roj not change when the date changes?

  1. The day in the Christian calendar changes at 12:00 midnight and the day in the Parsi calendar changes in the morning at the time of the sunrise.
  2. This is so because a Zoroastrian day is divided by the 5 Gehs, the first of which, Havan geh, starts at sunrise, and the last of which, Ushahin Gah lasts till the next sunrise.
  3. Thus, in effect, when the date changes, say from the 1st to the 2nd at midnight, the roj does not change and continues to be the same till the time of the sunrise.
  4. Thus in Zoroastrian tradition if there is a birth or a death between 12:00 mid night and say about 6:00 to 7:00 a.m., then one has to be careful about the roj and date that applies to the person.

 

ANIMALS

Why is dog given a lot of importance in Zoroastrian religion?

  1. Among animals, dog is given the greatest importance in Zoroastrian religion as it is the only animal which has the power to ward off evil.
  2. This power is not conscious, but it comes naturally to a dog, especially its eyesight has the power to ward off evil.
  3. Two chapters in the text of the Vendidad are dedicated to the description and care of dogs.
  4. A dog is used in the Sagdid ritual performed after death. A chathru chasham “four eyed” dog is preferred for this purpose. In actuality such a dog is not four eyed but has two spots over its eyes. If such a dog is not available any dog can be used for Sagdid.
  5. A dog is also required in the Bareshnum ritual, wherein the candidate undergoing the Bareshnum has to tap the ear of the dog at a certain point in the ritual, so that the dog would caste its glance at the candidate, which would cleanse the candidate of unseen evil influences.
  6. Scientifically a dog has a wider range of hearing and sight. It can hear higher decibels than humans and see the ultra and infra ranges of light which humans can’t. Hence it is able to see beings that are invisible and hear sounds that are inaudible to humans.
  7. A dog’s uncanny abilities include detecting the coming of epileptic feats in humans which even sophisticated scientific devices are not able to predict.
  8. Till recent times, the kutraano buk “the morsel for dog” was invariably kept in a separate plate in the Satum ritual and given to the house-hold dog or the neighborhood dog later on.
  9. By nature a dog is faithful, sincere, protective and intuitive which makes it a favourite as a pet.

 

 

Why is a rooster considered important in Zoroastrianism? (JJ 19-5-2013)

  1. In the Avesta, rooster is referred to as paro-darsh, which means “he who foresees (the dawn)”. Its main function is to crow at dawn, which is believed to scare away the demon of sloth and laziness.
  2. When this demon, known as Bushyãsta, makes people drowsy and puts them to sleep, the rooster wakes them up. While crowing it seems to say “Oh men! wake up. Sleeping for long is not good for you.” Lazy people who do not appreciate the rooster waking them up, rebuke it by calling it Kahrkatas “a croaker”.
  3. Being an opponent of an evil force, a rooster becomes a natural ally of the good forces. The rooster has a special alliance with Sarosh Yazad and is considered his most faithful follower.
  4. It is believed that the rooster protects the world from the evil Zohak who is bound in the Demavand mountain and is waiting to unleash his evils on the world by trying to lick his chains and free himself at night. The crowing of the rooster foils his attempts to escape and his chains resume their thickness.

 

Why is there a tradition to feed animals like cow, dog, fish and rooster?

  1. In Zoroastrian religion animals are divided in two groups – gospand (beneficial) and khrafastar (hostile). Zoroastrians are supposed to care of gospands like cows and goats, and protect themselves from, or even exterminate if necessary, khrafastars like insects and reptiles.
  2. The dog, is a unique animal, as it alone has the innate and natural power, to recognize and fight evil, just by its presence and its sight. Therefore it has a role to play in after–death rituals and also food was specially kept for it in the Satum prayers in the past.
  3. Cow or bull is one of the foremost gospand, the first created animal, the animal which is a symbol of Bahman Ameshaspand. The urine of a cow or bull is used as taro and consecrated bull’s urine is used as Nirang. Hair from the tail of a special bull (Varasyaji), after consecration are used as an alat (ritual implement) for inner rituals.
  4. The rooster is the symbol of Sarosh Yazad. In the Vendidad we are told that the rooster wakes us up early in the morning so that we may not become lazy. By crowing it seems to say “Wake up Oh Man! Sleeping for long is not good for you.”
  5. Taking care of these animals by feeding, protecting and looking after them is considered meritorious in Zoroastrian religion.

BIOGRAPHICAL

Why is Mobed Arda Viraf remembered by Zoroastrians? (JJ 2-6-2013)

  1. In the 3rd century CE, the Sasanian King Ardeshir Babegan summoned 40,000 priests and selected Ardaviraf, the best and holiest among them, to visit heaven and hell and get a first hand account of the spiritual world. His other task was to ascertain whether rituals performed for the deceased reached them or not.
  2. After performing a ritual, Ardaviraf’s soul left his body for 7 days and visited heaven and hell, while his body remained in a state of repose. Escorted by Sarosh Yazad and Adar Yazad, he visited the several levels of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory and witnessed the souls in different states of pain or happiness.
  3. After returning, he had the account of his spiritual journey recorded by a scribe. This account is preserved in the Pahlavi book Ardaviraf Nameh having 101 chapters. It is the most elaborate description of Heaven and Hell in Zoroastrian texts. The account of punishments of sins undergone in Hell are graphically descriptive. The text also contains direct admonitions from Ahura Mazda, Sarosh Yazad and the souls to Ardaviraf.
  4. Dante’s “Divine comedy” is often compared to Ardaviraf Nameh and seems to be inspired from it.

 

Why is Dastur Adarbad Mahrespand remembered ?

  1. Dastur Adarbad Mahraspand, was the head priest and a high ranking minister in Iran during the Sasanian dynasty. He lived during the reign of King Shapur II (309-379). Other notable head priests in Iran during the Sasanian times were: Tansar, Ardaviraf, Kartir, and Buzorg-Meher
  2. He has made great contribution to the Zoroastrian religion as we practice it today. After prophet Zarathushtra and his immediate disciples, Adarbad Mahrespand is the only person who had the authority to compose prayers. All the prayers in the Pazand language, like Ahura mazda Khoday (in Kasti), Kerfeh Mozd, Doa Tandarosti, Patet Pashemani and the 35 Setayashnas have been composed by him.
  3. He is the most notable and prolific writer of the admonition texts in the Pahlavi language. Most of his practical advises in these books are applicable even today as much as they were more than one thousand five hundred years back.
  4. He is best known for undergoing the ordeal of pouring 20 maunds of molten metal on his chest to prove the power and efficacy of Zoroastrian prayers. When the molten metal was poured over him he would not be harmed. This established the greatness of Zoroastrian prayers at a time when the newly founded Christian religion was trying to gain converts. Unfortunately, we do not have any image or rock carving of Dastur Adarbad Mahraspand.

 

Why do we remember Dastur Tansar?

  1. Dastur Tansar (also written as Tosar) was the first Head priest of Sasanian Iran under the first Sasanian emperor Ardeshir Papakan (226-241 AC). He was of royal birth but devoted himself to the service of religion.
  2. He is mentioned in the Pahlavi book Denkard as “the restorer of religion.” His title was Erpataan – Erpat “Priest of priests.”
  3. He had to perform the responsible task of making Zoroastrianism the state religion of Iran. Several Atash behrams were built and maintained under his supervision.
  4. The work of re-gathering the scattered Avestan texts as also collecting and structuring the 21 Nasks commenced under Dastur Tansar’s guidance.

 

Why is Buzorg-Meher remembered?

  1. In ancient Iran several wise priests (Mobeds) served the king in various capacities like judges and ministers and administrators. Some also assisted the kings as their chief ministers. One such wise and witty priest was Buzorg-Meher who served the great Sasanian king Cosroe I (531-578 AC), better known as Noshirwan Adel or Noshirwan the Just .
  2. The full name of this priest was Buzorg-Meher Bokhtagaan. He hailed from the city of Marv in Iran. He was discovered by the king as a young student when he emerged as the only person in the whole of Iran who could decipher the king’s cryptic dreams.
  3. Buzorg-Meher was to king Noshirwan, what Birbal was to Akbar – a wise and witty minister who was indispensable to the king, but who was also wronged and punished by the king on account of a straight-forward attitude.
  4. Buzorg-Meher gave correct prophetic interpretations to many of the king’s dreams, including one in which the king dreamt about the birth of Prophet Mohammed during his reign.
  5. Buzorg-Meher solved the game of chess (Iranian – Chatrang) sent as a riddle by the Indian king. He then created the game of back-gammon and sent it to the Indian king as a riddle to be solved.
  6. Buzorg Meher is mentioned with great respect by Arab as well as European historians and poets. His influence extended to Indians, Romans and Arabs.
  7. His teachings on topics like wisdom, destiny, fate, impermanence of life, friends and enemies of the soul are recorded in 2 Pahlavi books: ‘Handarz-ī-Vazurg Mihr’ and ‘Vicharishn-ī-Chatrang.’
  8. Even today in some Iranian cities, streets and avenues are named after Buzorg-Meher.

 

Why do we remember Dastur Dinyar?

  1. Dastur Dinyar, also known as Behzad, was a saintly and knowledgeable priest during the reign of king Khusro (Cosroes) II, also known as Khushru Parvez, who ruled between 590-628 A.C.
  2. In those times Iran was torn by internal discord and strife. Dastur Dinyar tried hard to bring about unity, amity and peace among the opposing factions of the Iranians.
  3. He became unpopular among the warring factions and was framed in a crime that he did not commit. Tradition tells us that he inadvertently committed some wrong to his mother. He was forced to flee from Iran.
  4. He took refuge at Medina where he later became associated with Prophet Muhammad. The prophet recognized his value. He became an asset to the prophet and assisted him in all his works.
  5. On account of Dastur Dinyar’s wisdom, learning and piety, he is referred to as Salman i Fars“the Parsi Solomon.”

RELIGIOUS LITERATURE

Why is Jamaspi so popular among the Parsis? (JJ 27-10 & 3-11-2-13)

  1. JAmAspi or JAmAsp NAmakwhich means “The Book of Jamasp” is a text in Pahlavi, Pazand and Persian languages. It is one of the most well known Pahlavi book among the Parsis because it is generally believed to be the book of Oracle or Prophecy and Jamasp considered the Nostradamus by Zoroastrians.
  2. Much of the original book of Jamaspi is now lost. Only about 8 out of 30 pages remain with us. It was written by Jamaspa Hvogva also known as Jamaspa Habub, the Head priest as well as the chief minister of Kayanianking Kae Vishtasp.
  3. Jamasp was one of the first disciples of prophet Zarathushtra, and the prophet bestowed on him the divine gift of prognostication – the power of knowing the past and future events. Some of the first books on religion were written by him and his brother Frashoshtra.
  4. Jamasp was the successor to prophet Zarathushtra, as the prophet appointed him as the spiritual head after him. Hence he is also referred to as Zarathushtra-temo which means “successor of Zarathushtra”

 

  1. The contents of the existing Pazand and Persian Jamaspi are as follows: Religious and philosophical teachings about creation, list of Iranian kings before and after King Vishtasp with the years of their reigns, the coming of the savior in future, some climatic information about India and China and some predictions for the future..
  2. The main predictions are not earth-shattering. The prophecies are about: The Arab conquest (which happened about 1350 years ago), after that the coming of a common man who would become the king of Khorasan and Rome and then will disappear (whose identity and year is not known), the rule of the Turks, and the coming of a savior hero from Sistan (perhaps a reference to the coming of Shah Behram Varzavand).
  3. There are other general predictions that there will be evil times in future with the decrease of goodness and increase of promise-breaking, falsehood, oppression and magic, nights will be brighter and stars will change their place.
  4. Several popular editions of Jamaspi were published in Gujarati among the Parsis which contained unrelated and added information like prescriptions of Indian drugs and the Wheel of Fortune. At a point of time anything and everything under the sun was published under the title Jamaspi, so much so that in the mid nineteenth century the Bombay Parsi Panchayat had to suppress one such Jamaspi lest it may bring shame and disgrace to the name of the Community.
  5. The text of Jamaspi was authentically translated into English in 1903 by Er. Dr. Sir Jivanji J. Modi and may be available for reading at the K.R.Cama Oriental Institute Library, if one is a member there.

 

What is Bundahishna? (JJ 4-12-16)

  1. The word Bundahishna means “origin of creation.” This word denotes two things. The first is the name of a very important Pahlavi book which contains the story of creation. Te second is the Zoroastrian story of creation. A detailed account of the Zoroastrian story creation had come in a previous TMY under the question “What is the Zoroastrian story of creation?”. Today we will just talk about the book Bundahishna.
  2. The book Bundahishnais to the Zoroastrians, what the Biblical ‘Book of Genesis’ is to the Christians. It is the Zoroastrianaccount of the origin of the creations of the spiritual and material worlds, their nature, characteristics, and functions. The book also deals with ancient Iranian history, geography, traditions, astronomy, astrology, natural science and a number of other subjects. There are two versions of the text.  The shorter version, which is generally known as ‘Indian Bundahishna’ and the longer version, which is generally known as ‘Iranian Bundahishna’.
  3. The Bundahishna has thirty four chapters. The main story of creation is contained in the first chapter, from which the book gets its name. The first chapter of this book allegorically states that the entire period of creation is for 12 hazāra or 12000 years, and this is further divided into four parts, each of 3000 years. The Hindu idea of Yuga is similar to the Zoroastrian idea of four fold division of created time. According to the Hindus there are 4 YugasSat Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvāpar Yuga and Kali Yuga.
  4. The rest of the book of Bundahishna covers topics like creation of 12 Zodiac signs and 28 constellations,

the attack of the Evil Spirit on the seven creations, 7 planets, Mount Alburz, solstices, defense of the creations against the attack of the Evil Spirit, the different lands (seven Keshvars), mountains, seas, species and types of animals (including birds), men (the first human pair of Mashya & Mashyane), the five different types of physical and spiritual fires, the three spiritually created fires, main rivers, mountains and lakes.

  1. The full translation of Bundahishna, done by Professor Eugene W. West, can be found in the fifth volume of the Sacred Books of the East, which may be available in most prestigious Oriental libraries.

 

What is the Denkard? (JJ 11-12-16)

  1. Denkard or Denkartis a ninth century voluminous encyclopaedic work on religious, philosophical, historical and other subjects in the Pahlavi language. The word Denkard literally means “Acts or Knowledge of the Religion”.
  2. Originally it was compiled in nine books, but the first two books and the initial portion of the third book have now been lost. Among other things, the book includes the life-story of prophet Zarathushtra, admonitions and teachingsand most importantly, a list of the contents of 19 of the 21 AvestaNasks, in the eighth book.
  3. The work of compiling the Denkard was started in the Sasanian dynasty by Aturfarnbag son of Farrokhzat and was completed by Aturpat i Emit in ninth century AC.
  4. The Denkard has extensive quotes from materials thousands of years older, including hitherto lost Avestan texts. It is the single most valuable source of information on the Zoroastrian religion after the Avesta.
  5. Dasturji Dr. Peshotan Byramjee Sanjana, started the work of editing and translating the Denkard in 1876, which was later continued by his son Darab. Presently the full work is compiled in 18 volumes.

 

COMPARATIVE RELIGION

Why are there similarities between Zoroastrian and Hinduism?

  1. There are several similarities as well as some diametrically opposite differences between Zoroastrian and Hinduism. Many people believe that this is so because of the interaction between the two religions after Zoroastrians came from Iran to India about 1300 years ago. This is no true.

2.Zoroastrians and Hindus belong to the same Aryan stock. The ancestors of both the religions have been together right since pre-historic times dating back thousands of years. They spoke the same language and inhabited the same space, referred to as Aiyana Vaeja by the Zoroastrians and Arya Varta by the Hindus.

  1. The two languages – Avesta of the Zoroastrians and Sanskrit of the Hindus have evolved from a common mother language and hence are remarkably similar. In fact, the word Hindu itself is an Avestan word. It does not occur in the Sanskrit language till much later times.
  2. Iranian kings of the Achaemenian, Parthian and Sasanian times ruled over parts of North India. Iran and India had trade and cultural relations since at least 2500 years.
  3. Practices like venerating the natural elements, praying to the sun early in the morning, honoring the fire, use of cow/ bull’s urine for religious purposes and performance of rituals have been common since ancient Aryan times. The preparing of the Hom juice in the Yazashne ritual is similar to the practice of preparation of the ‘Som ras’ in the Vedas. The Sapta padi (seven steps around the fire) of the Hindu wedding is reflected in the taking of the cotton thread seven times round the marrying couple in Zoroastrian religion.
  4. The names of many of the divine beings like Hom and Som, Mithra and Mitra, Armati and Aramaiti are similar. The names of some pre-historical personalities like Yama and Yima, Thrita and Trita, Vivanghan and Vivasvat are also remarkably similar.
  5. From the point of view of Society too, there are similarities. There were four professional divisions of society in both the religions. Athornan (priests), Ratheshtar (administrators / warriors), Vastryosh (tillers) and Hutoskhsh (artisans) in Zoroastrianism and Brahmin (priests), Khshatriya (administrators / warriors), Vaishya (tillers) and Shudra (workers) in Hinduism. Among these four, the first three are identical but a difference arose in the fourth among the Hindus in later times. Among the Hindus, the fourth group Shudra later on came to be regarded as those doing menial and lowly work and serving others.
  6. Just before the advent of prophet Zarathushtra there was a great schism between the two groups – and some concepts were intentionally polarised. The good divine beings Ahura became the evil asura of the hindus and the good devas of the Hindus became the evil daevas of the Zoroastrians. Some good Hindu divine beings like Indra and Nasatya have taken on negative connotations in Zoroastrianism.

 

Why are there similarities between Zoroastrian and Judaism – Christianity?

  1. Zoroastrian religion apart from being the first revealed religion in the world, had a very strong presence when Judaism was developing and Christianity was born.
  2. The Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great freed the Jews from their seventy year Babylonian captivity in 536 B.C., allowed them to go to their native land, returned their treasures and helped them rebuild the temple of Solomon. The Achaemenids benevolently ruled over the Jews for nearly two centuries. Their policy of tolerance immensely raised them in the esteem of the Jews. It is for this reason that the Jews were influenced by Zoroastrian teachings, especially the concept of God, Celestial Hierarchy, Death and Judgement, Heaven and Hell, Resurrection, Life Everlasting and the coming of a future Saviour.
  3. Since ancient times Zoroastrianism and Judaism shared similar practices and beliefs. Both religions advocated an agriculturist life style, believed in divine help and advocated repentance of sins. Both had their religious life revolving around issues of ritual purity, temples and rituals, followed the practice of covering the head by a cap. In both the religions there are observances of seasonal festivals connected with religion and religious history which remind people of their duties, shared difficulties and ethnic identity. Both have been a persecuted lot, living away from their homeland since centuries.
  4. As for Christianity, at the time of prophet Jesus’s birth, Parthian kings were ruling. The borders of the Roman Empire were just outside Palestine, from where the Parthian Empire began. Mainly through=gh Judaism, Christianity adopted the Zoroastrian teachings of the end of the world, Resurrection, triumph of good over evil and immortal life. Zoroastrian ideas of purity, impurity and seclusion can be seen in the book of Leviticus of the New Testament of the Bible.
  5. The three Magis who went to Bethlehem to welcome and offer presents to infant Christ, are strongly believed to be Zoroastrian priests. The Magis, with their precise knowledge of astronomy knew the exact location of the prophet’s birth and were the first to go and pay respects to infant Jesus.

 

Why are there similarities between Zoroastrianism and Islam?

  1. Prophet Mohammad was born in the reign of the Sasanian king Khushru I (Nosherwan Adel) and the religion of Islam was established when king Khushru II (Khushru Purviz) was ruling. Thus Zoroastrian religion had a direct and distinct influence on Islam.
  2. The most important contribution of Zoroastrianism to Islam was the Iranian Zoroastrian Behzad or Dastur Dinyar who later came to be known as Salman-i-Fars. He helped prophet Mohammad at Medina while he was compiling the Quran.
  3. In the Quran every Chapter, except the ninth, begins with the words bismilla ar rahmaan ur rahim “In the name of the merciful and compassionate Allah” which is similar to the Zoroastrian invocation ‘ba naame yazad bakhshaayandeh bakhshaayazgar meherbaan’ “In the name of Yazdaan (God), the benevolent, the merciful and the just.”
  4. Just as Ahura Mazda is assisted by Ameshaspands (arch-angles) and Yazads (angels) in His work, Allah is helped by angels and archangels and their duty is “to bring man forth out of the Darkness and into the Light.” Also similar is the belief in Islam and Zoroastrianism that evil undoes the work of God and tempts man to be wicked.
  5. The Chinvad Bridge in Zoroastrian eschatology, which a soul has to cross on the dawn of the fourth day after death, is reflected in the Islamic idea of the Bridge of Al Sirat which leads to Heaven and Hell where the Judgement of all deceased persons takes place.
  6. The Zoroastrian idea of Resurrection and coming of the Saoshyant also found its way into Islam, wherein it is believed that the Saviour Mahdi will come at the end of time to bring about Resurrection.
  7. The most visible symbol of the Islamic religion – the Crescent Moon with the Star of Venus inside it – originally belonged to Zoroastrian Iran. It is found on some coins of Pre-Islamic Sasanian kings, as it is an auspicious conjunction and a rare astronomical phenomenon.
  8. The injunction of praying five times a day had been adopted by Islam from the Zoroastrian concept of five Gehs.

CULTURE

Why is learning Gujarati important for Zoroastrians?

  1. Zoroastrians have used several languages as their lingua franca, that is, their medium of communication. In most ancient times we had Avesta language, which after a period of centuries gave way to languages like Pahlavi and Persian.
  2. After coming to India from Iran, Zoroastrians settled in Gujarat, where Gujarati was the local language of communication. In order to avoid mistrust among the local people by the usage of a foreign language, Zoroastrians gradually adopted Gujarati as their mother tongue.
  3. In the last three centuries, especially after the advent of the printing press, reams of religious and historical literature has been written in the Gujarati language, which is an asset for any person wanting to learn the Zoroastrian religion. For this a knowledge of Gujarati is very essential.
  4. Most of our Khordeh Avestas, our daily prayer books, are in the Gujarati language. Books in proper Gujarati give accurate pronunciations which are closest to praying from the Avestan script.
  5. For a person knowing Hindi script, the ability to read Gujarati is a matter of just a couple of weeks. There are marginal differences in 19 letters in the two alphabets and a couple of basic differences in writing. If one is able to understand these, with some amount of practice, one can start reading the Gujarati language, our mother tongue from our adopted mother land.

 

NUMBERS

Numbers have deep meaning and significances. Many a times they have a story to tell and unique messages to convey. We will observe the significance in religion numbers 1 to 10, and the value in the numbers of ashem vohu and yatha ahu vairyo that we recite.

 

Why and how is number one important in Zoroastrian religion?

  1. In the Zoroastrian religion, number one stands for the one supreme uncreated God – Ahura Mazda who is without an equal or opponent. In the photos of our prophet Zarathushtra, the index finger of his right hand points upwards, signifying this profound truth.
  2. Number one also stands for the one unique path – the path of Asha (Truth) which is the only proper path for all Mazdayasni Zarthoshtis.
  3. One Yatha ahu vairyo is to be recited while seeking protection and defense from negative forces.
  4. One Ashem vohu is to be recited at the end of prayers and after asking for boons or expressing a wish or desire. It puts a stamp or a seal to all thoughts, and brings them to fruition.

 

Why and how is number two important in Zoroastrian religion?

  1. The concept of duality is an important part of Zoroastrian philosophy, hence number two is an important number in Zoroastrian religion. Number two in Zoroastrian religion primarily stands for the 2 spirits – Spenta Mainyu the creative spirit and Angra Mainyu the destructive spirit, which regulate the cycle of creation, nurturance and destruction.
  2. Zoroastrian religion was the first to postulate the idea of ethical dualism, that is the existence of the good and evil forces in the world. Man in his life has to make a choice between good and evil and then bear the consequences.
  3. Number two also stands for the two worlds – material and spiritual. Men have to always be aware of the existence of both these worlds. The words Ahu and Ratu, signifying Ahura Mazda and prophet Zarathushtra respectively, signify the ideals of these two worlds.
  4. Number two also reminds man of his own two-fold constitution – material (constituting the physical body) and spiritual (soul, Fravashi etc.
  5. Certain prayers, especially in the Gathas and Haptan Yasht, have to be repeated two times for emphasis.
  6. Two Yatha ahu vairyos are to be recited while conferring blessings on someone. We recite two Yatha ahu vairyos before the Tandarosti prayer, which is a prayer for blessings.
  7. Two Ashem vohus are never recited together in our prayers.

 

Why and how is number three important in the Zoroastrian religion? (JJ 21-6-15)

  1. Number three is philosophically and mystically a very important number in Zoroastrian religion as it is the sum of numbers one and two. Whereas number one symbolizes the absolute uncreated God and the spiritual world, number two indicates the material world, which is full of duality. Number three is the combination of one and two and symbolizes the two worlds that we human beings have to straddle between.
  2. Number three also tells us the story of our soul, which comes from the spiritual world, lives in the material world and prepares to go back to the spiritual world. Thus, the most important thing in life sum up to number three.
  3. The Yatha ahu vairyo, Ashem vohu and Yenghe hatam prayers have three poetic lines each. The Yatha ahu vairyo has 21 words and the ashem vohu has 12 words, both numbers adding up to number three. The Yenghe hatam has 15 words, which adds up to 6, and two times three is six.
  4. There are 30 days (roj) of the month and 12 months (mah) of the year, again both adding up to number three, thus in a way each day reminding us of the story of our soul.
  5. Zoroastrian religion has 33 Fareshtas (divine beings) connected with the Zoroastrian calendar which include Berez, Hom and Daham Yazads along with the Ameshaspands and Yazads connected with the 30 roj.
  6. The three basis of an ethical life are humata hukhta hvarshta “good thoughts, good words and good deeds” and the three things to avoid are dushmata, duzukhta and duzvarshta “bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds.” These are also the name of the three stages of heaven and three stages of hell.
  7. The three or nine bells struck in fire temples are generally rung on the three words dushmata, duzukhta and duzvarshta indicating that the sacred fire fights and drives away all negativities and instructs us to do so too.
  8. As nine is three times three, it is also an important number. A human being comprises of nine constituents of which three are physical, three semi-spiritual and three spiritual.
  9. Nine is a significant number even in our rituals – the darun has nine marks on it, a special metallic plate in the Yasna ritual has nine holes in it, the Yasna has 72 (7+2=9) chapters, the Kasti has 72 strands and the Sadra has 9 seams.
  10. Surprisingly, three Yatha ahu vairyos are never recited at any point in our prayers.
  11. Three Ashem vohus are to be recited before giving any commitment or making a declaration. In our prayers, 3 Ashem vohus are recited before the Fravaraane paragraph, which is a declaration of our Mazdayasni Zoroastrian faith.

 

How is number four important in Zoroastrian religion?

  1. The Avestan word for four is chathru. Four sides are recognized in the avesta: Ushastara (east), daoshatara (west), rapithwintara (south) and apakhtara (north)
  2. Four daruns are offered in most Baj-dharna rituals. This is to express gratitude for corn and water to Gods.
  3. Zoroastrians were divided into four professional groups right since the times of Peshdadian king Jamshed. They are Athornan (priests), Ratheshtar (administrators and soldiers), Vastryosh (farmers) and Hutaos (artisan and craftsmen). These four professions are attested to even in the Avesta.
  4. Four days in the Zoroastrian religious calendar month are dedicated to Ahura Mazda. They are Hormazd, Dae-pa-Adar, Dae-pa-Meher and Dae-pa-Din. They effectively divide the calendar into four parts of 7 or 8 days, each dedicated to a particular group of divine beings.
  5. Chahrum, that is, dawn of the fourth day after death is the most important time for the soul of a deceased, as its judgement takes place on that day and its starts its journey to the other world severing all connections with this world.
  6. For consecrating the second grade fire of an Adaran, fire is collected from four different sources – from the house of a priest, warrior, farmer and artisan.
  7. A four eyed dog (chathru chasma) is preferred for the Sagdid ritual. The term indicates a dog having two spots above its eyes thus giving an indication of having four eyes.
  8. Four Yatha ahu vairyos are connected to seasons and are used for invoking the Gahambars. Four Ahem vohus are to be used when we end any task that we have begun and brought to a successful completion.

 

How is number five important in Zoroastrian religion?

  1. The word for number five in Avesta is pancha. This number has great significance in Zoroastrian religion, especially and most importantly because it is the number connected with Sarosh Yazad.
  2. Sarosh Yazad presides over obedience and hence he looks after the 5 sense organs and their perceptions, on account of which, man either becomes virtuous or sinner.
  3. Number five is also connected with the 5 gehs which are the five divisions of the day in Zoroastrianism. They are Havan, Rapithwin, Uziran, Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin.
  4. Five are also the division into which the society is divided. In an ascending order, the are: Nmāna “house”, visa “village”, zantu “town”, dakhyu “country” and zarthushtrotem “world authority”
  5. Five is also the number of the Gathas – the divine songs of Zarathushtra. They are – Ahunavad, Ushtavad, Spentomad, Vohu-khshathra and Vahishtoisht.
  6. The ten days of the Mktad are divided into two periods of five days each. The first five days from roj ashtad to aneran are referred to as panj-i-keh “the lesser five days” and the later 5 days, which are named after the 5 gathas are referred to as paj-i-meh.
  7. Five is also the number of thin metallic rods in the ritual implement of barsom when it is used to perform most baj-dharna rituals. Even in the ancient times a barsom with 5 sticks was used.
  8. The five main virtues according to the Yasna are good thoughts, good words good deeds, obedience and righteousness. The five main vices are bad thoughts, bad words, bad deeds, disobedience and wickedness.
  9. Five are also the geographical divisions among which the priests distributed themselves in the 12th century for professional reasons. They are: Sanjānā (from the river Dantorā to the river Pār), Bhagariā (from the river Pār to the river Tāpi), Godāvrā (from the river Tāpi to the river Narmadā), Bharuchā (from the river Narmadā to the river Māhi) and Khambātā (from the river Māhi to the river Sābarmati).
  10. As to Yatha ahu vairyos and ashem vohus there is a tradition of saying 5 Yatha ahu vairyos in our prayers and rituals whenever Sarosh Yazad is to be invoked. We never recite 5 Ashem vohus.

 

How and why is number seven important in Zoroastrian religion? (JJ 28/8 and 4/9)

  1. Seven is a very important number from the point of view of Zoroastrian religion. There are 7 Ameshaspands, the highest divine beings in Zoroastrian religion, who look after the 7 creations. Creator Ahura Mazda, who is the father of the other six Ameshaspands, is also considered an Ameshaspand. Their names are: Dadar Hormazd, Bahman Ameshaspand, Ardibahesht Ameshaspand, Shahrevar Ameshaspand, Aspandad Ameshaspand, Khordad Ameshaspand and Amardad Ameshaspand. Collectively they are referred to as the “haft Ameshaspand”, that is, seven Ameshaspands, and the Haptan Yasht is dedicated to them.
  2. 7 Yatha ahu vairyos are recited to individually invoke the Ameshaspands and Yazads.
  3. There are 7 creations who are looked after by the 7 Ameshaspands. These creations, in order of the Ameshaspands are: Mankind, animals, fire, metals, earth, water and plants.
  4. There are seven main virtues, each associated with one of the 7 Ameshaspands. These virtues, in order of the Ameshaspands are: Wisdom, Peace, Truth, Courage, Love, Perseverance (for Perfection) and Awareness (of immortality). All other virtues are derived from these basic virtues.
  5. There are 7 stages for the souls of the departed in the spiritual world. Three stages are of Hell, which referred to as Dushmata, Duzukhta, Duzvarshta, three stages are of Heaven, which are referred to as Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta. The middle stage is called Hamestakān (Purgatory) where souls whose good deeds and bad deeds are equal are taken.
  6. According to the Pahlavi book Denkard, there were 7 Nurses present at the time of prophet Zarathushtra’s birth. Ilm-e-Khshnoom interprets that these seven nurses are an allegorical representation of the presence of seven main heavenly bodies – the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in favourable positions at the time of prophet Zarathushtra’s birth.
  7. Our texts prayers mention “hafta keshvar zamin”, that is, seven regions of the earth – they are further mentioned as Arezah, savah, Fradadafsh, Vididafsh, Vouru Baresht, Vouru Zaresht and Khvaniras.
  8. There is an Iranian tradition of settng the Haft-shin table just before the Jamshedi Navroz. On this table 7 (haft) articles starting from the letter shin (or even sin) are set on the table. The seven items may include any of the following: Shir “milk”, sharab “wine”, shakar “sugar”, shama “candle”, somagh “sumac” shikeh “coin”, sib “apple”, sabzi “vegetables”, sonbol “hyacinth”, shisheh “glass”, sarkeh “vinegar” etc.
  9. When a Parsi couple marries, 7 rounds of sutar (cotton) thread from a cotton ball (sutar no daro) is taken around the chairs of the couple as they are sitting opposite each other with the cloth of arantar between them.

SPIRITUAL WORLD

Are Heaven (Behesht), Hell (Dozakh) and Chinwad bridge (Pul) real places? (JJ 29-11-15).

  1. According to Zoroastrianism, every human being is mortal, and death is destined for all, as it is an inevitable part of the world’s plan put in place by God for us.
  2. Death is a transformation for the soul and not total destruction. It is the ‘passing away’ of spiritual elements from the physical body leading to its decomposition. What seems to be destroyed is the physical body, which too is later transformed from matter to energy.
  3. The soul or ravān is a spiritual element in all humans which outlives the physical body. In this life, the soul has the choice to be either good or evil, and is responsible for its actions in this life.
  4. At the dawn of the fourth day, the soul is judged by Meher, Rashna and Ashtad Yazads. The Fravashi of the soul remains with the soul, till its final evolution, tha is, till it enters Gaorthman – the House of Ahura Mazda.
  5. After the Judgement, the soul crosses over to the spiritual world through the allegorical Chinwad Puhl “the selection bridge.” This bridge symbolises the connection between the physical and spiritual worlds. From here the soul would go either to Heaven or Hell or Hamestagaan (if its good and bad actions are equal).
  6. If the soul’s actions in life were good, it is easy for the soul to cross the bridge. But if the soul’s actions were wicked, the Chinwad bridge becomes narrow and the soul falls into hell.
  7. Many Zoroastrian religious texts describe Heaven, Hell, Hamestagaan and Chinwad bridge. The Pahlavi book Ardaviraf Nameh gives one of the most detailed description.

8. Some believe that there are no special places like heaven and hell. That they are the states of happiness or sadness of the soul. We are not sure of this. Just as a place where many people throw garbage becomes a garbage dump, and a place where people grow flowers become a garden, a place where many miserable souls meet becomes Hell and the place where happy souls meet becomes Heaven.

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