Who was Afrasiyab? (TMY – Jame Jamshed of 4-6-17)

  1. Afrasiyab was the evil king of Turan. He is likened to kings like Zohak and Alexander. In the Avesta, his name is Frangharasya. He ruled over Turan for a very long period. His reign started from the time of Peshdadian King Minocheher and he ruled continuously when seven different kings successively ruled over Iran.
    2. Afrasiyab was the son of Pashang, grand-son of Zaad-sham and great grandson of Tur. As the Peshdadian king Faridun was the father of Tur, Afrasiyab was descended from an Iranian lineage. However since his intentions acts were always evil, he did not receive help from the Yazads and Ameshaspands.
  2. He was very evil and crooked. He never adhered to the code of war and broke peace treaties several times at his convenience when he saw Iran in trouble or difficulty. He tried to seize the Kyani Khoreh thrice, in order to become the emperor of Iran but was unsuccessful every time.
  3. The lengthy wars between Iran and Turan depicted in the Shahnameh were fought between him and the Iranian king Kaekhushru, to avenge the unjust death of his father Siyavaksh, who had married Afrasiyab’s daughter Ferangez but was later killed by Afrasiyab at the instigation of his wily brother Kasrevaz.
  4. Though Kaekhushru was Afrasiyab’s own maternal grandson, the former brought about his end near Lake Chaechist. Afrasiyab’s son Jehan and later grand son Arjasp continued to rule over Turan after him.
  5. Afrasiyab even killed his own noble brother Agreras as he was just and was favourably disposed towards the Iranians.
  6. The great Rustom Pahelvan was Afrasiyab’s strongest adversary. He was brought near the jaws of death several times, but each time the crafty Afrasiyab managed to escape. Afrasiyab was also instrumental in Sohrab’s death at the hand of his father Rustam as he had given a huge army to Sohrab when he went to Iran to look for his estranged father.
  7. Just as Rustam Pahelvan is famous among Central Asian countries for his valour, Afrasiyab is known there for his notorious and evil acts.

Are Dakhmas in Iran same as in India? (TMY – Jame Jamshed of 21 & 28-5-17)

1. The Zoroastrian religious texts state that the mode of disposal of death should have the following four criteria:

(a). The mortal remains of a departed person be taken to an elevated place. (b). It should be as much away from habitation as possible. (c). The corpse should be exposed to carrions (corpse eating birds) like vultures, kites and crows. (d). The corpse should be exposed to the rays of the Sun (khurshed nagirashni)

  1. Since ancient times, even before prophet Zarathushtra, the Mazdayasnis used this system of disposal of the dead. Later prophet Zarathushtra too accepted this system and fortified it further. Throughout the Shahnameh there are references of kings desiring to be exposed in the dakhmas, and the Iranian kings giving the benefit of Dokhmenashini even to their adversaries.
  2. Since ancient times, Zoroastrians have been vehemently against any other system or mode of disposal of the dead like burning, burying or keeping in water, as each of the other modes not only use up a lot of natural resources, but also pollute one or the other element of nature.
  3. The Dakhmas of ancient Iran were not like the Dakhmas that we know of now. In pre-Zoroastrian times, though the four above mentioned criteria were observed, there was no surrounding wall. Gradually a surrounding wall was built.
  4. The earliest Dakhmas were very elementary stone structures with a platform inside and a pit in the centre. In Iran, after every few decades, the place of the Dakhma was shifted.
  5. The Dakhmas prepared with elaborate rituals that we have in India now, were developed in India when it was realised that it would not be possible to regularly shift the position of Dakhmas.
  6. The Dokhmenashini system is the most ecological and nature friendly way of disposing the corpse. Dokhmenashini is essential even from a spiritual point of view, as the spiritual constituents of the body need to be re-united with their natural constituents like air and sunlight.

How is a Dakhma constructed and consecrated? (TMY – Jame Jamshed of 7 & 14-5-17)

  1. The Dakhma is a religious institution which is almost as important as a fire temple. Whenever Zoroastrians settled at a new place, they would have a Dakhma built and consecrated as soon as there were 8 to 10 families. There were about 120 Dakhmas in India in 1906.
  2. When the Dakhma is to be constructed, an elevated ground away from habitation is selected.

A well is dug about 300 paces from the site to provide water for the rituals and for subsequent use. The ground is cleaned with taro by letting cows graze there for some time. Then water is sprinkled and the ground is surrounded by a cloth curtain, and Baj-dharna rituals and a Jashan is performed.

  1. A senior priest recites the Baj of Sarosh and digs the ground with a pick-axe reciting 21 Yatha ahu Vairyos. This is called the “Kodali Marvani Kriya.” Thereafter labourers dig the foundation which would be about 8 feet deep, which takes about two weeks.
  2. After this, the “Tāno purvāni kriyā” is done in which 101 very fine cotton threads are thrice taken around 301 nails with particular weight specifications, the heaviest nail weighing about 20 Kilograms. The total weight of all the nails comes to 100 Kilograms. The Tana ceremony takes about three hours to complete. It is meant to control the nasā (physical and spiritual contagion) emanating from the corpse.
  3. Thousands of devout Zoroastrians gather to witness the Tana ceremony. The visitors throw gold, silver and copper coins, currency notes and even ornaments in the pit as their contribution towards the building of the Dokhma. It is considered meritorious to witness the construction of a Dokhma. The place is kept open for viewing for about two weeks, to enable people to come and witness the Tana.
  4. The construction of the Dokhma starts over the nails and threads. First the circular structure is built and then the pavis are made inside with the central pit (bhandar). The ratio of the structure to the bhandar is about 3:1.

8. After the construction is complete, a day is fixed for its consecration. The consecration process goes on for four days, during which several Baj-dharna, Yazashne and Vandidad rituals are performed. On the fourth day, a Jashan is performed before the assembled gathering and the Tandarosti is recited for the person sponsoring the construction of Dakhma. Now the Dakhma is ready for use, in which, preferably the first body to be laid should be of a child or a pious man.