How is the formation of rain explained in Zoroastrian religion? (TMY – Jame Jamshed of 16-7-17)

  1. Tishtrya or Tir is the name of the Yazad who presides over stars in general and the star Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major in particular. This Yazad also presides over rain. The process of rainfall is described in Tir Yasht and the Vendidad.
  2. In the Tir Yasht, it is allegorically described that Tishtrya in the form of a white horse battles Apaosha the demon of drought, who appears in the form of a black horse. Finally Tishtrya overcomes Apaosha and brings rains for the people of the earth.
  3. The Vendidad offers a scientific explanation for the rains. It states that rain occurs on account of the evaporation of water from the seas and rivers, which forms into clouds between the earth and the atmospheric planes. The clouds are scattered with the help of the wind (Govad Yazad).
  4. The Farvardin Yasht informs us that the Fravashis (Asho Farohars) help in the distribution of the rainfall and dispatch the clouds to places which are needy and deserving of rains.

What are Monajats? (TMY -Jame Jamshed of 9-7-17)

  1. Monajats are Zoroastrian devotional songs. The word Monajat is from the Persian language, and the earliest Monajats were in Persian, many of them composed by Dastur Mullan Firoz bin Kaus.

 

  1. Later, Monajats were composed in Gujarati, the language understood by the majority of Zoroastrians. The earliest Gujarati Monajats were published in the mid 19th century on historical and religious subjects.

 

  1. Some well known Parsis who composed Monajats are: Kaekhushru N. Kabraji, Jivanji Modi, Behramji Malbari, Savaksha Shroff (Firozgar), Ardeshar Khabardar, Dosabhai Desai, Dara Printer, Kariman Adajania, Parvez Katrak, Kersi Mistry, Vistasp Balsara and Irach Kuka.

 

  1. Some popular Monajats are Khudavind Khavind, Nekini Kharidi, O Daadgar O Daavar, Sanjan March etc.

 

  1. What is the meaning of the song ‘Chaiye Ame Zarthoshti’, which is generally regarded as the community anthem. (JJ 11-6-17)
  2. The song Chaiye Ame Zarhtoshti is based on an English tune “Blue bell” composed by Theodore F. Morse in 1904. Later that tune was adapted in a song for a Parsi play. It has four verses and a chorus. The Gujarati song was written by poet Firoz Batliwala. His first name appears as the last word of the last line of the lat stanza of the song.
  3. The first verse of the song eulogises the characteristics of good Zoroastrians who live with dignity as friends of the whole world. Though being just a handful, they adorn the whole world, and hence all men and women are expected to sing its praises.
  4. The 2nd stanza talks about the world famous Zoroastrian virtue of charity. It praises the Parsis as active and efficient who did not forsake their religion even amidst great calamities, which in fact was their secret of receiving God’s help. The 3rd stanza is about education among Parsi girls, which brings out the best in them. It is a combination of skills and goodness, which helps keep her family happy. Even her sense of dress is well appreciated in the world, and these qualities make them proud ladies of this Community.
  5. The last stanza lauds the faithfulness of the Parsis to their rulers. The Parsis would fight like lions for their country. They would be grateful to their benefactors and sympathetic to a right cause. The poet Firoz says that the community is happy today because of its sterling qualities.
  6. The chorus is the most powerful and meaningful verse of all. It talks about the world famous Kayani lineage (Guj. tokham) of the Parsis is the cause of their virtues, and which has led them to prosperity. The poet exhorts the Parsi Community to always maintain its strength and vigour and remain prosperous.

What is a Gahambar? (TMY-Jame Jamshed of 2-7-17)

  1. The Gahambars are a special 6 sets of 5 days in a year to thank God for His 6 Good Creations – Sky, Water, Earth, Vegetation, Animal & Man – in their evolutionary order. The word Gahambar comes from the Pahlavi gāsānbār which literally means “the time for collection.”  The ‘collection’ here refers to collecting Nature’s Blessings. It is the time when nature is most generous in distributing her blessings.

 

  1. The celebration of Gahambar includes two components: a. Performance of rituals like Afringan, Baj, Visparad and Yasna, and b. Feasting, where traditionally rich and poor eat on a common platform, without barriers of rank and class. Hence Gahambar is a time for community bonding.

 

  1. Presently, in India, a Gahambar is celebrated as a community event where Zoroastrians congregate for a thanks giving lunch or dinner generally preceded by the performance of a ritual. The feasting may be sponsored either for a living person, in memory of a dear departed or simply as an act of spiritual merit. Generous Zoroastrians sponsor a Gahambar in memory of their dear departed ones as an act of spiritual merit. In Iran the Gambars are still celebrated in the original spirit, with prayers and communal food.

 

  1. Each of the six Gahambars is celebrated during the Zoroastrian calendar year for a period of five days each. They are celebrated on 5 particular roj (days) in the months of Ardibahesht, Tir, Shahrevar, Meher, Dae and on the 5 Gatha days.

 

  1. Religious texts consider the celebration of Gahambar an act of highest religious merit. And one of man’s religious duties. Since some Zoroastrians may fail to celebrate Gahambars when they are alive, Gahambars are also celebrated in their honour after their passing away.

 

6. The celebration of Gahambar can foster the spirit of unity and harmony in the Community. It can lead beyond the rich and poor divide, beyond the rank and class barriers. Its celebration is an opportunity for the community to come together forgetting the differences and work towards the common end of progress and prosperity.

Who was Dasturji Jamshedji Sorabji Kukadaru? (TMY – Jame Jamshed of 18 & 25-6-17)

  1. Dasturji Kukadaru (also known as Kukana) is one of the most revered Zoroastrian priests of recent times. People devoutly remember him. His blessings and help are sought, especially on his death anniversary on Roj Behram of Mah Farvarden. He is also remembered on his birthday on Roj Zamyad of Mah Avan. He was born in Surat, but spent most of his life in Mumbai. His name and fame has spread far and wide.

 

  1. He was simple and humble man, who was engrossed in religious studies and prayers for most part of his leisure hours. His needs were frugal. He would eat just one meal a day – usually ghee (clarified butter) and khichdi (yellow rice), which he would himself cook. He used to wash his clothes himself. He preferred to walk and rarely took vehicles to go from one place to another.

 

  1. He was also a reputed astrologer. He had accurately predicted the day and time (to the hour) of the deaths of Dastur Peshotan Sanjana, Queen Victoria and Sir Dinshaw Petit. He had tremendous inner strength. He had outwitted a Muslim pir who had challenged him. Once, when a marriage procession was passing through Chira Bazaar in Mumbai, he sent word asking the procession to halt for an hour, but no one paid heed. Within a short time, a building collapsed and the bridegroom was crushed on the spot. Had they waited for an hour, the accident could have been averted.
  2. Dasturji Kukadaru had deep knowledge of Avesta, Pahlavi and Persian languages. He served as a chief instructor at Seth Jijibhai Dadabhai Zand Avesta Madressa at Fort from its inception till it closed down. He translated a few volumes of the Denkard and regularly contributed religious articles to the weekly magazine Yazdan Parast from 1868-1889. He had also published a few booklets on religion and community matters.

 

  1. As an erudite priest, he was invited to deliver lectures on religion as well as on social issues like the census. He commanded tremendous respect as a priest at the Kappawalla Agiary in Mumbai, which he served as a Panthaki right since its inception.

 

  1. Till 1861 he was referred to as Ervad, however since 1862 he was referred to as a Dastur, which was given to him on account of his piety, knowledge, simplicity and the deep understanding of Zoroastrian religion, rituals, history and spiritual practices.

 

  1. Dasturji Kukadaru also knew the art of healing by prayers which he acquired through his ashoi (righteousness) and manthravani (prayers). He was able to cure jaundice, which was quite a fatal ailment in those times, by placing a brass bowl full of clean well water near the ailing person. As he prayed, the water in the bowl turned yellow and the person began to recover.
  2. Dasturji Kukadaru is most remembered by the miracle connected to the establishment of the Anjuman Atash Behram in Mumbai. He was a member of the managing committee of the Anjuman Atash Behram during the time of its construction. Dasturji Kaikhushru Jamaspji, while raising funds for the Atash Behram, approached Dasturji Kukadaru for his contribution. Dasturji Kukadaru requested Jamaspji to go to the next room and sell the item found there. The item happened to be a gold brick, which fetched close to ten thousand rupees. He was publicly thanked for this munificent gift. For this magnanimous gesture, it was decided that the ground floor hall be named after him. He was also presented with a shawl at the time of the opening of the Atash Behram, as a mark of respect.
  3. Today, his portrait adorns the walls of several Atash Behrams, Agiaries and homes. His Fravashi continues to bless those who remember him in prayers. Spiritual men like Dasturji Kukadaru constantly remind us of the great power in Zoroastrian religion and spirituality and the immense possibilities it offers.

What is the meaning of the song ‘Chhaiye Ame Zarthoshti’, which is generally regarded as the community anthem? (TMY – Jame Jamshed of 11-6-17)

  1. The song Chhaiye Ame Zarhtoshti is based on an English tune “Blue bell” composed by Theodore F. Morse in 1904. Later that tune was adapted in a song for a Parsi play. It has four verses and a chorus. The Gujarati song was written by poet Firoz Batliwala. His first name appears as the last word of the last line of the lat stanza of the song.
  2. The first verse of the song eulogises the characteristics of good Zoroastrians who live with dignity as friends of the whole world. Though being just a handful, they adorn the whole world, and hence all men and women are expected to sing its praises.
  3. The 2nd stanza talks about the world famous Zoroastrian virtue of charity. It praises the Parsis as active and efficient who did not forsake their religion even amidst great calamities, which in fact was their secret of receiving God’s help. The 3rd stanza is about education among Parsis girls, which brings out the best in them. It is a combination of skills and goodness, which helps keep her family happy. Even her sense of dress is well appreciated in the world, and these qualities make them proud ladies of this Community.
  4. The last stanza lauds the faithfulness of the Parsis to their rulers. The Parsis would fight like lions for their country. They would be grateful to their benefactors and sympathetic to a right cause. The poet Firoz says that the community is happy today because of its sterling qualities.
  5. The chorus is the most powerful and meaning full verse of all. It talks about the world famous Kayani lineage (Guj. tokham) of the Parsis is the cause of their virtues, and which has led them to prosperity. The poet exhorts the Parsi Community to always maintain its strength and vigour and remain prosperous.

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.

Why is Lake Chaeschist important in the Zoroastrian religion? (TMY – Jame Jamshed of 30-4-17)

  1. Lake Chaechist is a sacred lake, the waters of which have special spiritual and therapeutic powers. It is mentioned in the Avesta and Pahlavi texts and the Shahnameh. It is believed to be connected to the Sea Vourukasha.
  2. It is mentioned in Avestan texts like Atash Nyash, Avan Yasht, Gosh Yasht, Ashishwangh Yasht and Siroza Yasht. It is especially remembered as the place where King Kae Khushru prayed to different Yazads. He also established the spiritual fire Adar Gushasp, the fire which helped him become the king, near lake Chaechist. It was again at lake Chaechist that king Kae Khushru captured and defeated the evil Turanian king Afrasiyab.
  3. Lake Chaechist, is one of the several lakes mentioned in the Pahlavi text Bundahishn. The Pahlavi Bahman Yasht states that fire Gushasp burns on the banks of Lake Chaechist. It further states that the lake is deep and has medicinal water which drives away diseases.
  4. In present times, Chaechist Lake is identified with the Caspian Sea, which is the world’s largest lake. It is situated on the Northern border of Iran.  It is bounded by Kazakhstan to the northeast, Russia to the northwest, Azerbaizan to the west and Turkmenistan to the southeast. Its waters are believed to have therapeutic qualities and excellent for relieving rheumatism. Lake Chaechist is also identified with lake Urumiyah in northwest of Iran by some scholars.

Who is Airyaman Yazad? (TMY – Jame Jamshed of 16-4-17)

  1. Airyaman Yazad is a very strong and powerful Zoroastrian Yazad. However, he is not so well known among Zoroastrians as no Roj is dedicated to him nor is there any Yasht dedicated to his honour. However Yasna chapter 54 and Vendidad chapter 22 are entirely dedicated to him. Yasna chapter 54 can be separately recited as a stand-alone prayer for invoking Airyaman Yazad.
  2. The meaning of the word Airyaman is “one having a noble mind.” He is always referred to as ishya, that is desirable and loved. In the Havan Geh prayer, Airyaman Yazad is remembered as desirable, strong, victorious, free from malice, who keep away all harm. Praying to him is regarded only next to praying to the 5 Gathas.
  3. The two main functions of Airyaman Yazad are maintaining harmony in relationships, especially marriage, and giving health and immunity and fighting against diseases. Along with Ardibahesht Ameshapsand he is regarded as the chief among healing Yazads. He is said to have a cure for all diseases. He is always invoked in the Marriage benedictions (lagan naa ashirwad) as he is regarded as the Yazad presiding over marriages. He will help the future savior in bringing about Frashokereti, the final renovation.
  4. He is an associate of Ardibahesht Ameshaspand, and is always remembered along with him. In the Ardibahesht Yasht, he is mentioned as a powerful Yazad who needs to be invoked, and who is helpful in overcoming black magic and sorcery.
  5.  The Vedas have a divine being by the name Aryaman whose qualities are similar to Airyaman Yazad. Aryaman belongs to the group of good divine beings called Adityas. He is an associate of Mitra and Varuna. Aryaman too presides over marriage.