Can you please explain the different steps involved in the Navjot ritual. (TMY, JJ of 22 & 29-12-19, & 5 & 12-1-20)

1. According to religious traditions, Navjote is the ritual to invest a Parsi Zoroastrian child with the spiritual vestments of Sadra and Kasti so that it could then be a nav “new” jot “performer of prayers” all his life. It is a ritual of the greatest religious and spiritual importance in a child’s life. It is not an entrance into the Parsi Zoroastrian fold as is generally believed. The child is already a Parsi Zoroastrian as soon as it is born to Parsi Parents. The Navjot ritual is to connect the child with the spirit of prophet Zarathushtra, who would be his life-long guide and teacher. It is also the ritual to formally present the child with the Sadra and the Kasti which are the religious implements necessary for performing the Kasti ritual and reciting all other prayers.

2. The ritual starts with the administering of the Nahan “ritual bath” by a priest to the child. In this ritual, the priest makes the child say some prayers, then chew a couple of tender pomegranate leaves, drink a couple of drops of Nirang that is “consecrated bull’s urine”, and then take a head-bath in which Gaomez/Taro that is “unconsecrated bull’s urine” is applied on the body before bathing with water. This ritual not only cleanses the child from outside but also mentally and spiritually cleanses the child from within.

3. After the Nahan, the child is made to wear a Pyjama and a cap. A shawl or a white cloth is draped over its shoulders. The child is now not supposed to talk or touch anybody till his Navjote is completed. The child is led in a procession to the place where the Navjote is to be performed. This elaborate preparation is a reminder of the great importance of the Navjote ritual.

4. Before the child steps onto the stage or the mat on which the Navjote is to be performed, the mother of the child or any other senior lady of the family, performs the traditional āchu-michu after which the child gets onto the mat and sits on the ground on the short wooden stool (pātlo) facing east. The performance of āchu-michu symbolises the taking of precautionary steps to avert any untoward happening in the life of the child, especially before the momentous ritual which is to take place.

5. The child then recites the Patet Pashemani prayer seeking forgiveness for its previous mistakes before starting a new life and a fresh new account of deeds with Ahura Mazda. If the child is not able to say the Patet Pashemani prayer, then it will recite 21 Yatha ahu vairyos and 12 Ashem vohus. The rest of the priests sitting on the mat also recite the Patet Pashemani prayer, on behalf of the child. This step is symbolic of the starting of a new responsible life for the child when the rewards of his good deeds and the punishments of his bad deeds start accruing to him, instead of his parents, which happened prior to the Navjote.

6. The child is then made to stand facing the direction of the sun. The main Navjote ritual has to be performed by a priest who is mature and capable enough to bless the child. At the outset he makes the child recite the Din no Kalmo prayer, in which the child effectively gives the following four promises before the Anjuman “congregation”: a. Ahura Mazda is my only God; b. Zarathushtra is my only prophet; c. Mazdayasni Zarthoshti is my only religion; d. I will be faithful to my God, prophet and religion all my life. Then the child does the actual first Kasti of his life holding the little fingers of the priest. The priest keeps on blessing the child on its shoulders at the end of the Kasti ritual. The act of the child holding the priest’s little fingers is symbolic of showing the child’s willingness to be led by the teachings of the religion, all his life. This part of the ritual highlights the life-long importance of Navjote in the child’s life where the child is equipped for the battle with the evils in his life, with the blessings of the priest, the connection of the prophet, the strength of his prayers and the conviction of his promises.

7. In the final act of the Navjote ritual, the chief priest applies a red vermilion mark (kanku-no-tilo) on the child’s forehead, and keeps a few rice grains over it. Then a garland is put around the child, and the child is given in its hands a coconut, a betel leaf and sopari and an envelope of money, all symbolic of the auspicious occasion (sagan). Finally the bouquet is kept in the child’s hands or lap. If the child is a girl, a folded Sari is draped her shoulders, which may become the first Sari of her life, later on.

Thereafter the chief priest who has performed the Navjot stands facing the child and prays for the health of the child by reciting the Doa Tandarosti prayer, showering a mixture of rice, shredded almonds (rarely used nowadays), raisins, slices of coconut and rose petals on the child from a metallic tray. This part of the ritual is a symbolic way blessing the child with health, wealth, happiness, fertility, plenty and prosperity.

Afterwards the parents thank the priest with flowers and monetary gifts. Then child is dressed up in new clothes and taken to the nearby Agyari or Atash Behram where the child offers sandalwood to the sacred fire and seeks blessings from it.

What do the ritual gestures in the Jashan ceremony convey? (TMY, JJ of 1,8 & 15-12-19)

1. The word Jashan is derived from the Avestan word Yasna which means a “ritual for veneration”. It is a ritual in which Ahura Mazda, Souls of the departed, Fravashis, Sarosh Yazad and other divine beings are invoked and venerated by the recitation of certain prayers accompanied by ritual gestures. All the seven creations – man, animals, plants, water, metal, earth, and fire – are represented in it.

2. Generally, Jashans are performed as thanksgiving for happy and auspicious occasions like birthdays and house-warming. They are also performed to commemorate important historical events, like Jashans of Navroz, Mehrgān, Tirgān and Sadeh, and also death anniversaries.

3. While a Jashan is in progress, certain ritual acts are performed along with the recitation of prayers, which convey important religious teachings. They are, in a way, a dramatic enactment of these key religious principles. These are:

a. Paevand “ritual connection”: This ritual act takes place several times in the Jashan. It is first done at the beginning of the Jashan. While reciting the Ātash Nyash, the Rāthwi/ Rāspi (assistant priest) touches the Afarganyu (fire censor) with a chamach (ladle) in his left hand and with the other hand, holds the hand of the Joti “chief priest.” If there are more priests in the Jashan, the Joti holds the hand of other priest/s and a chain of connection is formed. This ritual act symbolises that the Rāthwi is drawing energy from the fire and sharing it with the other priests. The fire gets its energy from the divine world.

This ritual act of Paevand is repeated by the Rāthwi several times during the Jashan, but in these later times, he does not hold the hands of other priests.

b. Flower ritual: Several times during the Jashan, the Joti arranges eight flowers in two rows of four flowers each, in the khumchā (metallic tray). The two flowers nearest to him are vertical, the others are horizontal. After some time, he lifts up two vertical flowers, and gives one of them to the Rāthwi. Afterwards he picks up, in a particular order, the rest of the six flowers arranged horizontally and gives them to the Rāthwi to hold. After some time the Rāthwi returns these flowers to the Joti, who then keeps it back in the khumchā. However, he does not mix them with the unused flowers, and every time he repeats this ritual gesture, he uses fresh flowers.

The arrangement of the flowers is to convey the religious injunctions about the material and spiritual worlds, as well as of the 7 Ameshaspands and the creations and virtues associated with them. The two vertical flowers represent Ahura Mazda and Zarathushtra, that is the spiritual world and the material world. The rest of the six flowers represent the other six Ameshaspands and symbolise the virtues they embody. The ritual enactment indicates Ahura Mazda giving the knowledge of the religion, including that of the Ameshaspands to Zarathushtra, and Zarathushtra then sharing that knowledge with the world. The final handing over of the flowers by the Rāthwi to the Joti, representing Ahura Mazda, indicates that the benefit accrued by practising the religious teachings is finally received by the person’s soul in the spiritual world.

c. Drawing of Karsha “furrow/fortification”: In this ritual act, a Karsha, that is, a symbolic fortification is created around the ritual space by touching the Chipyā (tong) or Chamach (ladle) to the four sides and four corners of one of the metallic vessels used in the Jashan, either a khumcha or a karasya (small water urn). This ritual act is like drawing of furrows, that is, lines of fortification, to protect the ritual area from surrounding impurity, and keep it pure. This ritual gesture also emphasises the omni-presence of Ahura Mazda, and His immanent presence in all four sides and four corners of the world.

d. Hamāzor “uniting in strength”: Hamāzor is a special hand-shake done between the participating priests in order to exchange spiritual energy. The literal meaning of the word Hamāzor is “uniting in strength”. It is done several times during the Jashan. The priests draw their spiritual energies through prayers and by being in paewand (connection) with the fire. They then periodically exchange this spiritual energy to strengthen each other.