What does the Kasti symbolize? How is it made? (TMY – Jame Jamshed of 22 & 29-4-2018)

  1. The Kasti is the thin woollen waistband worn over the Sadra, which passes thrice around the waist. It is made by weaving together 72 fine threads of lamb’s wool. In the past it was prepared by ladies from priestly families while chanting manthravani prayers. Wool is known to have the inherent property of absorbing and retaining vibrations.
  2. The word kasti means a boundary, and it reminds one to keep within the boundary of religious duty. The word Kasti comes from Avesta aiwyāonghana “that which is girded around” and Pahlavi kosht “boundary (of religious duty).” The word is also derived from Avestan word karsha “spiritual boundary which keeps evil away.”
  3. The Kasti is to be worn thrice round the waist. The number three, among other things, represent the principles of humata, hukhta & hvarshta “good thoughts, good words and good deeds.” While tying the three rounds, two reef knots are tied, one at the front during the second round and the second one at the end of the third round. Each reef knot includes the tying of two knots – two in the front and two at the back.
  4. Hence, in the Kasti there are in all four knots. Each knot is connected to the one of the four promises given by a child while saying the Din-no-Kalmo prayer on the day of the Navjot. The four promises are; I will consider Ahura Mazda as my only God. ii) I will consider Zarathushtra as my only prophet. iii) I will consider Mazdayasni Zarthoshti as my only religion. iv) I will be faithful to my God, prophet and religion all my life.
  5. The Sadra and Kasti are the religious implements of the Zoroastrians. They form an invisible circuit of prayers around physical body, which if properly kept, protects one from negative forces, and leads one on the path of piety and duty.
  6. Making of Kasti: Lamb’s wool is first woven on a spindle. Then threads from two spindles are combined together in one ball. The double yarn is then twisted and passed 72 times around the loom (Gujarati jantar). These 72 threads are then divided into 6 sets of 12 strands each. It is in a circle, which is then cut by a priest while saying a particular prayer. The rest of the weaving is done by hand. 1 lar and 3 laris are made on each end. Then the Kasti is flattened, washed, dried and fumigated and folded, ready for use.
  7. Most of the parts of the Kasti symbolize something and remind us of a religious teaching. Lamb’s wool symbolizes innocence. The 72 threads remind us of the 72 chapters of the holy text of the Yasna which are recited in the Yasna ritual. Hence, the number 72 represents all the sacred Zoroastrian texts and the lofty Zoroastrian rituals.  The six laris (three on each side) reminds us of the six Gahambars – the seasonal festivals and teach us to be in sync with the seasons and nature.

What are the days of the Zoroastrian religious year which are specially connected with prophet Zarathushtra? (TMY – Jame Jamshed of 8 & 15-4-2018)

  1. Three days in the Zoroastrian calendar year are directly connected with the prophet. They are: Khordad Sal, Din-beh-Mino Marespand and Zarthost-no-diso.
  2. Khordad Sal is the birthday of the prophet and it falls on Khordad roj of Fravardin mah. On this day the entire nature rejoiced at the birth of the prophet and exclaimed: Ushtā no zāto āthrava yo Spitāmo Zarathushtro, which means “Rejoice that for us Zarathushtra Spitama is born, who is an Athravan (belonging to the priestly family).” On this day we thank Ahura Mazda for sending the prophet and pray to the Fravashi and soul of the prophet to help and guide us.
  3. The festival of Din-beh-Mino Marespand is on Marespand roj of Aspandad mah, which falls during the Muktad days. It is to celebrate the day on which king Vishtaspa accepted and proclaimed Zarathushtra as the chosen prophet of Ahura Mazda.
  4. Zarthost-no-diso, or the ‘Day of death of Zarathushtra’ is on Khorshed roj of mah Dae. It is the day when the prophet passed away from the material existence to the spiritual existence in a special manner, wherein his physical body and all the other constituents immediately and simultaneously merged with their sources, bringing an end to his journey in the physical world.
  5. Incidentally, the last 5 days of the year, which are called the Gathas, are also connected with prophet Zarathushtra as they are named after the five Gathas which are the celestial metrical prayers personally recited by Zarathushtra.
  6.  Zarathushtra is our beloved prophet and the above mentioned days are the special days connected to him. However, the teachings and memory of the prophet should always resonate in the hearts and minds of each Zoroastrian, every day of every month, year after year.

Who was Manekji Limji Hataria? (TMY – Jamd Jamshed of 25-3 & 1-4-2018)

1. In the mid 19th century, the “Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund” was founded in Bombay by a few wealthy Zoroastrians including Sir Dinshaw Maneckji Petit, to improve the conditions of their less fortunate co-religionists who were persecuted in Iran. In 1854, Maneckji Limji Hataria was appointed an emissary by the above organisation to go to Iran.

2. Maneckji was born in 1813 at the village of Mora Sumali near Surat in Gujarat . From the age of fifteen he travelled widely as a commercial agent in India. In his work he gained a lot of experience and self-reliance. These resources proved invaluable in his future work.

3. He arrived in Iran on 31st March 1854, and for a year studied the general conditions of the persecuted community. He found the Zoroastrians to be uneducated and suffering from diseases and malnutrition. Centuries of oppression and persecution had taken a heavy toll on their spirit.

4. To teach the Iranians, Maneckji established schools, published books and employed teachers. He talked about the advantages of collective social work and communal unity. He urged the Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman to form societies (anjumans). With his encouragement and support, marriages took place and jobs were provided for the newly wed couples. He was also instrumental in building Dharmashalas and Dokhmas in Iran.

5. Maneckji established a Council of Zoroastrians in Yazd, which persuaded Iranian Zoroastrians to emigrate to India. Many Iranis today are descendants of these people.

6. Manekji met the Qajar king Nasiruddin and negotiated with him several concessions for Zoroastrians in Iran, like the remission of Jaziya in 1882, and lenient laws for Zoroastrians from king Muzaffar-ud-din (1888).

7. He tirelessly worked for the people of Iran for 35 years until his death in 1890. He is fondly remembered even today in Iran. His bust adorns the prayer hall of the present-day Atash Behram at Yazd. His magnificent photograph can be seen at the Wadiaji Atash Behram in Mumbai.