The Arda Viraf Naamu or Arda Viraf Naameh, is the name of a Pahlavi book, originally written in the 3rd century CE, during the reign of the first Sasanian King Ardeshir Babegan. The name Arda Viraf Naameh means “the book of Ardaviraf or righteous Viraf.” Ardaviraf, a very holy priest was selected from among 40,000 priests to visit the spiritual world and get a first hand account. The result was this book, which is often compared to Dante’s “Divine comedy.”
The Arda Viraf Nameh was a very popular book among Parsis till some time back. It preaches morality and ethics, but in a different style. The first 4 chapters are narrative of the times of doubt and turmoil in Iran preceding the journey of Ardaviraf. 83 of the total 101 chapters are a graphic description of punishments of sins in Hell. 10 chapters are an account of Heaven. 4 chapters are admonitions from Ahura Mazda, Sarosh Yazad and the souls.
Excerpts from description of Heaven: Heaven is like a garden of flowers with smell of rose and amber and cool wind blowing. Meher Yazad sits on the throne next to Rashne Yazad who held weighing scales. Ardaviraf saw deceased members of his own family and conversed with them. From there Bahman Ameshaspand led him to the golden throne of Ahura Mazda. It was resplendent and surrounded by thousands of Yazads. Ardaviraf paid homage to the throne.
Excerpts from description of Hell: Souls have to wait for people whom they have offended and against whom they had sinned to come and forgive them. If they do not forgive them they have to keep waiting. Some souls floated in river with stinking water, shouting with fear of being drowned, but nobody heard them. Noxious reptile bothered them. The river was made from tears shed by relatives of the departed. A man biting his own arms. He was an ungrateful man who never thanked or blessed his benefactors. A group of souls who had neglected to wear the Sadra-Kasti, did not cover their head and the feet and did not follow the religion, were amidst reptiles and noxious creatures. A man surrounded by demons was being flogged with snakes, who bit him all over the body. He was a tyrant who abused his authority, made his subjects unhappy and did not listen to their pleas. Another man was receiving similar punishment because he took away his neighbour’s land. As long as the land remained in his family’s possession, he would have to suffer.
Excerpts of advice from Ahura Mazda: Adherence to religious laws brings benefits and rewards and their infringement brings punishments; As you sow so shall you reap; Ill gotten wealth is never enjoyed; the rich must believe in God, and not let prosperity turn away their minds; Deathbed repentance is useless, instead intentions should be kept pure; The precepts of Zarathushtra should not be feared or doubted.
Excerpts of advice from Sarosh Yazad & Adar Yazad: Without trouble nothing can be attained; Every labour and merit will be rewarded; People who do not accept the ups and downs of life suffer punishment for their attitude; Not to set heart exclusively on the pleasures of the world, as men cannot carry anything away with them after death; The body is like a horse and the soul like its rider. If either one is weak, the other is affected. As man needs to take greater care of himself than his horse, so he has to take greater care of his soul than his body; In wine, women, eating and drinking one should avoid excess, as they bring their own punishments; When asking boons from God, leave it to Him to grant it; Contentment is the happiest condition for man.
Advise from souls at various stages of heaven: Avoid sin, think of the last day, avoid temptations; Convey to men the necessity of prayer, of wearing the Sadra-Kasti, performance of rituals and good deeds; The joys of heaven are eternal, the joys of the material world are fleeting; It is necessary to have an heir in the world, as it is necessary to pass the Chinwad bridge. To hand down our names to posterity is one of the highest duties we owe to our Creator.
In Zoroastrian religion the word fire is referred not just to fires that we see burning, but to all types of fire energies in nature like the heat energy resulting from combustion, the energy in the atmosphere manifested in lightening and the heat produced by motion. Visible fires too are of different categories and grades, like Dadgah, Adaran and Atash Behram.
Moreover there are three spiritual fires created by Ahura Mazda at the beginning of creations which were sent to King Jamshed, King Kaekhushru and King Gushtasp as Adar Froba, Adar Gushasp and Adar Burzin-Meher respectively.
In Iran, there is yet another type of fire called Flying fires or special fires. These are somewhere between the physical and spiritual fires. They may appear as an ordinary fire, but have a very strong consciousness of their own.
There are a few such special fires in Iran. No one knows the origins of these fires except that they appear to a family, not necessarily that of a priest, and that family thereafter becomes the caretaker of these fires. Thus these fires are more or less private fires and not for community worship.
The unique characteristic of these fires is that they consume very little fuel and have a very strong consciousness by which they take decisions for their own safety.
6. The name ‘Flying fire’ often applied to these special fires, has given a very wrong impression about them, as if they were flying all the time. This is not so. The term ‘flying’ only indicates that they may fly away at their will if something untoward happens or if rules of ritual purity are not maintained. The ‘flying’ happens very rarely and hardly anybody in recent times has seen it.
Zoroastrians are enjoined to daily recite certain basic minimum prayers, which are called Farajyat bandagi which literally means “obligatory prayers.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yasht of the Yazad connected with the particular roj may also be recited on that particular day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.