What is the status of a horse in Zoroastrian religion? (TMY – JJ of 8-7, 15-7, 22-7 and 29-7-18)

  1. According to Zoroastrianism, horse is one of the foremost animals belonging to the Gospand or beneficent category. Since early times Iranians had started taming horses and kept them in stables. Herodotus, while talking about Iranian education in the Achaemenian times had said that “The Persian children were taught to speak the truth, ride a horse and shoot a bow right from the age of five.”
  2. There are five different words used for horse in the Avesta. The most common among them is aspa. The other words are aurvant, vastāra, yukhta and hita. Each of the name give an idea of the usages of horse in ancient times.
  3. In the Avesta, the horse is shown to be an animal with amazing powers of strength, health, well-being and eyesight. The remarkable eyesight of the horse is described as being able to distinguish a hair and its type even in the darkest of the nights. Warriors, kings and devotees prayed for strength of their horses.
  4. The use of chariot almost immediately followed the domestication of horse. In the Avesta the word for a warrior is rathaeshtār which means “one standing on a chariot”. The adjective aspāyaodha “fighting on horse-back” is exclusively used for Zarir, brother of King Vishtaspa. Even in those times, horses were made to wear horse-shoes, which were made of lead, but sometimes decorated with gold.
  5. The gift of horses was symbolic of the gift of wealth. When compared with the special metals gold and silver, a horse was compared to silver whereas a camel was compared to gold. Yazads used to bestow their devotees with gifts of horses. Ashishwangh Yazad gives a gift of a thousand horses. Meher Yazad gifts good horses to those who are faithful to him.
  6. In the Avesta a horse is regarded as the vehicle of Avan, Sarosh and Khorshed Yazads. Avan Yazad and Sarosh Yazad ride a chariot of four swift white horses. Tir Yazad assumes the form of a white horse having yellow ears and a golden caparison. In opposition the demon of drought Apaosha assumes the form of black, ugly and loathsome horse to fight Tir Yazad. This is the only instance where a demon is shown assuming the form of a hideous horse, otherwise the horse is always associated with good divine beings and heroes.
  7. The word for horse was also used allegorically to indicate the ‘senses’ which are originally untamed like the horses and need to be tamed in order to be of any use. There could be no better metaphor for senses than a horse. Though both are very essential, left to themselves both are wild and need to be restrained. Both have the ability of harming the person who uses them without proper knowledge but immensely helps those who use it cautiously and wisely.
  8. A classic example of the word horse used metaphorically comes in Gatha Ushtavaiti where prophet Zarathushtra asks Ahura Mazda for ten pregnant mares, a stallion and a camel as a reward for his exertions. Dr.I.J.S.Taraporewala was one of the first to point out that there was more significance to the words horse and camel than literally understood. He cited the Kathopanishad (I.3.3-6) where the Soul is called the Lord of the Chariot, the Body is the Chariot and Senses are the Horses. He suggested the same explanation – number ten, indicating the ten senses – five senses of perception and five senses of action and the stallion indicating the Mind.
  9. Among Zoroastrians, several names are associated with horses. In fact no other animal is used so much for proper names as a horse. Some of these names are: Drvāspa “having a healthy horse”, Tehmāspa “having a strong horse”, Jāmāspa “having steady flow of horses”, Kersāspa “having a lean horse”, Vishtāspa “having several horses”, Dejāmāspa, “having abundant flow of horses” Haechataspa “having a trained horse”, Frināspa “having a loving horse”, Pourushaspa “having many horses”, Aurvat-aspa “having a swift horse”, Hitāspa “having a restrained horse”, Habāspa “having a good horse”, Raevat-aspa “having an illustrious horse”, Yukhtāspa “having a skilled horse”, Fraothat-aspa “having a foaming horse”, Āsu-aspa “having a fast horse”, Hazanghra-aspa “having thousands of horses” and Renjat-aspa “having agile horses”.
  10. Apart from using horses for domestic and war purposes there were special swift running horses used for racing. These horses were specially made to run on race-courses. Chariot racing was an important royal sport. At different places, king Kaekhushru prays to different Yazads to help him to finish and win horse races.
  11. Several stories connected with a horse abound in the Zoroastrian religion. One is about infant Zarathushtra saved from stampeding horses by a white stallion. The other is about prophet Zarathushtra healing the king’s favourite horse Aspe-sihā. Another one is from the Shahnameh about Kaekhushru being guided by a light near the ear (gush) of his horse (aspa) which helped him win a fortress and subsequently establish his claim over the throne.
  12. In the Shahnameh there are various incidents of the bravery and presence of mind of Rakhsh – the powerful chestnut coloured horse of the great paladin Rustom. He was a very faithful horse and saved his master from certain death several times. The stories about Rustom finding him and later their brave escapades together form a significant portion of the Shahnameh. The Shahnameh also tells us about Behzad, the favourite horse of king Kaekhushru, which came down to him from his father Siyavakhs. Folklore also tells us about Shabdiz, the favourite horse of Sasanian King Khushru Purviz.

What is the concept of 5 gehs in Zoroastrian religion? (TMY – JJ of 17-6, 24-6 and 1-7-18)

  1. The concept of Time is very important in the Zoroastrian religion. The physical world was created for a fixed period of time from Endless Time. To be connected to God and divine beings, it is necessary to connect through Time. Hence Zoroastrian religion divides time into several divisions. The smallest of these divisions is called the Geh.
  2. A day is divided into five parts called the 5 gehs. They are Havan, Rapithwin, Uziran, Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin. The names of the five Gehs are originally from the Avesta language. Havan means “time of pounding Haoma”, Rapithwin means “half part of the day”, Uziran means “high part of the day”, Aiwsruthrem means “time for singing prayers” and Ushahin means “enhancing consciousness.” As can be noticed, the names are significant to one or the other aspect of the day. The name of the Geh is not only the name of that part of the day but also the name of a Yazad who presides over that period.
  3. The idea of dividing the day into parts is a very ancient one. From the Gathas we come to know that in the time of prophet Zarathushtra there were 3 divisions of the day – Morning (Usha), mid-day (Arem-Pithwa) and night (Khshapa). The five gehs came later keeping in mind four fixed points in the 24 hours day: sunrise, mid-day, sunset and mid-night.
  4. It is pertinent to note that each of the 5 Geh has an average time span of 4 to 5 hours. They are mainly to fulfil the purposes of facilitating prayers, performing rituals, recharging our spiritual energies, cleansing invisible negativities and regularly being in touch with the divine world. The first (Havan) and last (Ushahin) gehs are longer to facilitate performance of higher rituals – Yasna and Vendidad respectively. Havan geh is the best time to perform most rituals.
  5. The beginning of each geh is marked by the performance of Boi ritual in the fire temple. This is done to periodically strengthen the sacred fire and the good forces in their on-gong battle against evil.
  6. Some Zoroastrians scholars, who have deeply studied the religion, like Mr. Sohrab J.Bulsara, Er. Ratansha R.Motafram and Mr. Behramsha Pithawalla, have showed that there is an inherent spiritual message in the idea of the 5 gehs, where each of the divisions of the day, also indicate the progressive development of the soul.
  7. Havan geh indicates the first stage. The word Hāvan literally means pounding and is the stage of trials and tribulations for the soul. The soul has to overcome this stage without succumbing to negativities or being defeated by the challenges of life. The soul has to be strong to take the poundings from the circumstances of life. It has to think about benefiting (savanghi) the society (visya) despite the hardships. The Yazads guiding at this stage are Meher Yazad who presides over justice and friendship, Airyaman Yazad who presides over harmony, and Mino Rām Yazad who gives joy amidst the everyday struggles for existence.
  8. Rapithwin geh indicates the second stage, when a balance is set and most doubts are cleared. The person is at the mid point , poised to realise the powers of his mind and soul. At this stage the wisdom of the sages and prophets, start making sense, and a guide can make a marked difference to one’s evolution. The soul is no longer over-whelmed by negativities, but starts understanding and gracefully accepting them. It becomes conscious of its role in the world, and about its broad purpose in life.  At this stage the person learns to respect all creations and creatures and works for their progress. The divine beings presiding over this stage are Ardibahesht Ameshaspand who indicates a striving to reach the Ultimate Truth, and Adar Yazad who presides over spiritual fires and the divine energies.
  9. The third stage is Uzairina – the spiritual awakening of the soul. In this stage man is in complete harmony with fellow human beings and works for the progress of his fellow men (frādat-vira). The exalted soul now yearns to corroborate with the divine beings. Berez Yazad and Avan Yazad, who govern divine currents, presides over this stage.
  10. In the fourth stage, the soul is fully evolved and is able to listen (sruthrema) to the communication form higher (aiwi) dimensions. At this stage man works for the progress of all good creations (rādat vispām hujyāitim)along with the Fravashis. His work is marked by the courage of conviction (ama) and crowned with success (verethraghna).
  11. The final stage of the soul is its identification with the consciousness. It is the realisation that individual consciousness is the same as Universal consciousness. The soul becomes exalted (berezya). Sarosh, Rashne and Ashtad Yazads are the guides of man at this stage.
  12. In the Khordeh Avesta, each of the 5 gehs has two types of prayers. One is the short three line prayer which is to be recited within the Fravarane prayer in all Nyash and Yashts. The other are the larger prayers dedicated to each geh which are to be recited after the Sarosh Baj and before beginning any other prayer.
  13. The injunction of praying five times a day in Islam had been adopted from the Zoroastrian teaching of five gehs.

Can rituals be performed for animals like a pet dog? (TMY – JJ of 10-6-18)

1. In Zoroastrianism, animals are divided into two groups – the Gospand (benign) and the Khrafastar (harmful) on the basis of their instincts and basic nature. Cattle and most domestic animals belong to the former category, whereas wild animals, reptiles and insects belong to the latter category. Man is advised to protect the Gospands and guard against the Khrafastars. Though the Khrafastars may be helpful in a limited way, their worth to mankind is less than the danger they pose.

2. Zoroastrian religion considers several animals like the dog, cow, bull, rooster, camel and horse as beneficial and useful. However, there is no tradition to offer prayers for living or dead animals by taking their names. In all Zoroastrian prayers it is necessary to take the religious title of the person (like Behdin, Osta, Osti etc.) before the name. Animals do not have such religious titles.

4. The only known ritual for an animal is the Geh-sarna ritual for a Varasyaji (sacred albino bull) after its death. This is because the Varasyaji is consecrated during its lifetime so that a hair from its tail can be used as a ritual implement for inner rituals like the Yasna and Vendidad. But in this ritual too, the name of the sacred animal is not taken.

5. Prayers are done for the soul of a person. For the deceased, the prayers serve as a catalyst for the progress of their souls. In Zoroastrianism it is generally believed that animals do not have a soul (faculty to make conscious choices and decisions). They only have an elementary consciousness (Baodh) and a Fravashi. Animals operate mainly by instincts and not by conscious will.

How is an Agyari consecrated? (TMY – JJ of 3-6-18)

  1. An Agyari is a fire temple which generally houses the second grade of fire, that is, the Adaran fire. Very rarely the Dadgah fire is used as the main sacred fire in an Agyari. The consecration of an Atash Adaran can be divided in six stages:
  2. Fire is collected from hearths of four professional groups: the priests (athornan), the warriors (ratheshtar), the farmer (vastryosh) and the artisan (hutokhsh).
  3. The 4 fires are then purified by a special process.

iii. Each of these fires are consecrated separately, by the performance of a Yasna and Vendidad for three days.

  1. On the fourth day, the fires are amalgamated and Yasna service is performed over it.
  2. Now the Sanctum sanctorum (kebla) and the agyari building are cleaned and consecrated by the performance of Yasna and Vendidad rituals.
  3. Finally the sacred consecrated fire is brought in a procession to the Fire temple building and enthroned.
  4. To have a consecrated Dadgah Fire, it is not necessary to collect fire from different sources, nor is it necessary to perform elaborate rituals over the fire. At the most a Baj or Yasna is performed over it.
  5. The process of consecration (Guj: Ijvanu) unites the physical fire to its original source in the spiritual world which is with Ahura Mazda’s Khvarenah “divine energy” from where it draws divine energy. The consecrated fire has consciousness. It carries our prayers to the divine world and brings blessings for us in the material world.

4. Zoroastrians are required to stay in vicinity of a fire temple and visit it regularly. Not only are these power houses of divine energy, but they are also regularly visited by divine beings.

How is an Atash Behram consecrated? (TMY – JJ of 27-5-18)

1. An Atash Behram is a fire temple which houses the highest grade of fire, the Atash Behram fire. The consecration of an Atash Behram generally follows the same six stages as that of an Adaran fire. However the main difference is that in an Atash Behram, fire from 16 different sources are used, over which more than one thousand Yasna and Vendidad are performed, spanning a period of more than a year.

2. We find a description of these 16 fires in Vendidad Chapter 8 and Rivayat of Kamdin Shapur.  They are fires from: Burning corpse, Dyer, Public bath, Potter, Brick maker, Bronze maker, Goldsmith, Mint, Blacksmith, Weapon maker, Baker’s oven, Brewer, Army camp, Shepherd, House of a Zoroastrian and Lightening. The number of purifications and consecration of the different fires range from 30 to 91 over each individual fire.

3. Between the Agyari and the Atash Behram, there is a vast difference in the process of offering Boi, the number of Atash Nyaishnas recited herein, the number of bells rung, the offering of Machi, and the preparation of priests for performance of Boi.

What are the miracles associated with the life of prophet Zarathushtra (TMY – JJ of 6, 13 & 20-5-18)?

  1. Many miracles have been associated with prophet Zarathushtra, starting from much before his birth. He was divinely selected and appointed decades before his birth and the procedure to send his physical and spiritual constituents to this world had started even before the birth of his parents.
  2. The account of putting together of his different physical and spiritual constituents is truly miraculous. His Khoreh (divine energy) travelled from Endless Light through all spiritual stations and then to his mother Dogdo. From her, it entered into Zarathushtra when he was in the womb.
  3. His Fravashi (guardian spirit) was brought into a stock of Hom plant through 2 birds tree near the house of his father. Bahman and Ardibahesht fixed the thought of Pourushasp to get that Hom. When he thought that the Hom was too high for him, the branch was miraculously brought down to his level. Then Pourushasp gave the branch to Dogdo for safe keeping.
  4. The Gohar (essence/nature) of Zarathushtra came to him through water and plants with the help of Khordad and Amardad Ameshaspands. First it was sent to the clouds, then through the rains to grass, which was eaten by six white cows, who without giving birth gave milk with Zarathushtra’s essence in it. Then Dogdo milked those cows.
  5. Hom kept with Dogdo for safekeeping was pounded with milk and so the Fravashi and Gohar of his body came together. Pourushasp and Dogdo drank it and so the Fravashi, Gohar and Khoreh of Zarathushtra came together. Then Dogdo gave birth to Zarathushtra
  6. Three days after Zarathushtra’s birth, the whole village was illuminated. Wicked persons were terrified by the divine light as they thought that the divine child would put an end to their evil. They decided to kill the child. Dorasrun, the evil chieftain, tried several times to have it killed, but each time the child was miraculously saved.
  7. Dorasrun had the baby thrown into a fire, but the fire did not burn the child, as Adar Yazad, made the fire cool, and so the baby was unharmed. Dorasrun then had the child placed in the pathway of a herd of cattle. However when the herd came, a white cow, inspired by Gosh Yazad, stood over the child, protecting it from the rest of the cattle. The infant was then kept in the pathway of horses. There too a white horse, inspired by Dravasp Yazad, stood over the child and protected it.
  8. The angry Dorasrun then placed the child in a den of wolves after having the wolf cubs killed, thinking that the wolves will tear the child apart. When the wolves returned, they tried to attack the child, but they were stopped by an unseen fortification, and could not approach the child. Later, Bahman Ameshaspand and Sarosh Yazad came in the form of goats and fed the hungry child.
  9. Dorasrun now decided to kill baby Zarathushtra himself. He took a sharp dagger and went to the house of Pourushaspa. As soon as he came near the child, he brought out his dagger and raised it to stab the child. But instantly, he lost strength in his hands and they were paralysed.
  10. Another miracle happened when Zarathushtra was 12 years old. Two evil magicians, Bratrokesh and Dorasrub came to his house dressed as physicians and gave him poisonous potions. Zarathushtra was divinely guided not to drink it. He drove them away. When they were returning, they were struck by a fatal disease.
  11. The next miracle happened when Zarathushtra was nearing 30 years. One day, near the Vehdāiti river, Bahman Ameshaspand led him to a conference with Ahura Mazda. He received divine knowledge of the Religion through Bahman Ameshaspand and Sarosh Yazad. This was the divine revelation, by which he became the prophet.
  12. The next miracle was in the palace of king Vishtasp where he cured his horse Aspe-Siha by the chanting of prayers. Later, he was able to give miraculous gifts to his foremost disciples. After performing a Jashan, prophet Zarathushtra presented offerings to four of his foremost disciples. King Vishtasp was given the consecrated wine and his wish of visiting heaven was fulfilled. Minister Jamasp was made to smell a flower and he got the gift to see into 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 body became as strong as bronze.
  13. Another miracle was the giving of the three gifts by the prophet to King Vishtasp as a proof of his divine mission. He gave the king Adar Burzin Meher, a spiritually burning fire, a Cypress tree by the name Azad-Sarva, which had a message for the king on every leaf and 21 Nasks (Volumes) of Avestan scriptures, containing all the knowledge of the world.
  14.  The passing away of the prophet was also miraculous. The elements of his body directly merged into the elements of nature, and his soul ascended directly to the highest Heaven, in the act of destroying the collective evil. True to his lofty stature, the life of our beloved prophet Zarathushtra is full of miracles.