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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
The injunction of praying five times a day in Islam had been adopted from the Zoroastrian teaching of five gehs.