What are the different usages of the term Baj in Avesta? (TMY, JJ of 23 & 30-12-18)

1. The origin of the word bāj is doubtful. There are two probable derivations. First, from vac “word, speech.” This derivation seems meaningful in some of the uses of the term. The other from Persian wāj, used in the sense of “tribute, tax” This derivation makes senses when the word bāj is used for the after-death ritual, and serves the sense of repaying debts to the ancestors.

2. In contemporary Parsi usage, the word bāj is used for several purposes:

i) Prayers which precede and follow an action, in other words ‘frame’ an action.  It is generally a daily act like eating, drinking, bathing or answering the call of nature. Once the initial portion of the bāj preceding the action has been recited, silence has to be maintained till the bāj is concluded by the recitation of the concluding portion. The initial portion of the bāj is referred to as ‘taking the bāj’ (G. bāj levi, bāj dharvi) and the concluding portion as ‘leaving the bāj’ (G. bāj chhodvi, bāj mukvi). These bāj are found in the Khordeh Avesta. These bāj protects the person when the act is being performed, as the act somehow breaches some boundary of religious appropriateness.

ii) The term bāj is also used for the prayer formulae before and after prayers like the Nyash, Yasht and certain Nirangs. These prayer formulae have a common invocation at the beginning and the end.

iii) In modern Parsi parlance, the term ‘praying in bāj’ refers to a particular suppressed tone of prayer, especially used to recite Pazand passage/s occurring between two Avestan texts.

iv) A Zoroastrian is not supposed to talk whilst reciting prayers. However, if he has to perforce talk, he is supposed to speak ‘silently’ or ‘inarticulately’ in a suppressed tone by pursing the lips together. Such a mode of conversation is referred to as ‘speaking in bāj.’

v) The Bāj-dharnā ritual is also referred by the shortened name bāj.  In the set of 4 after death rituals, this ritual is referred to as just the bāj. The other 3 are Afringan, Farokshi and Stum.

vi) Since the Bāj-dharnā ritual is generally performed in memory of departed ones, the days of monthly and annual commemorations are also referred to as ‘the person’s bāj.’

vii) One more unique use of the term bāj is in the short prayer Sarosh Bāj. Though this prayer is not a bāj in any sense of the word discussed above, and is a normal basic prayer, still it is called a bāj.

3. Thus, there are various understandings and connotations in which the word bāj is used by the Parsis.


What are the distinctive religious duties of a Zoroastrian according to texts? (TMY, JJ of 16-12-18)

1. The distinctive religious duties of a Zoroastrian are mainly outlined in two religious texts. One is the 17th century Persian book, Faraziyāt Nāmeh by Dastur Darab Pahlan of Navsari. The other is the Pazand Benedictions for Iranian Marriages. These duties are:

i. To wear the Sadra and Kasti, and regularly perform the Kasti ritual.

ii. Recite the Khorshed and Meher Nyāish three times in the day, or at least once.

iii. Recite the Māh Nyāish at least thrice a month, that is, on Amās (No moon day), Chāndrāt (New Moon day) and Poonam (Full Moon day).

iv. Perform regular worship of Sarosh Yazad. This can be done by reciting the Yasht for Sarosh Yazad or by reciting the Sarosh Baj at least once daily.

v. Observe the Farvardegan (Muktad) days by remembering all the Fravashis, and especially the Fravashis of the departed ones.

vi. Monthly and annually remember the souls of near and dear departed ones on the day of their passing away, one of the chief ways for this being the performance of rituals in their memory.

vii. Celebrate the six Gahambars, the seasonal festivals for thanksgiving of the six creations, or at least participate in their performance.

viii. Have the Rapithwin consecrated, or attend the performance of ceremonies to welcome it.

3. The above duties point out three distinctive Zoroastrian features : a. A person always has to be in touch with divine beings and the divine world. b. He has to show gratitude to divine beings and ancestors. c. A person has to live in harmony with the creations and nature.

4. One may notice that these duties deal more with rituals and not with virtues or ethics. However, the idea was that the regular performances of rituals inculcate the virtues of obedience to religion, gratitude to divine beings, respect to nature, a sense of obligation to the ancestors and acceptance of the sovereignty of Ahura Mazda. These duties also emphasise the Zoroastrian belief in the existence of the two worlds and two spirits.