SSS2. Ardeshir Bābekān {Part 1}

A gold coin of king Ardeshir Pāpakān

The Sasanian Empire, was founded by Ardeshir / Artakhshīr Bābegān/Pāpakān, referred to as Artaxerxes by the Romans, who had an illustrious ancestry. His maternal grand-father was Bābak and his father was Sāsān.

Ardavan (Gk. Artabanus IV), the last Parthian emperor ruled over a vast kingdom which included Shiraz, Istakhra and Esfahan. Istakhra, situated in the province of Fars, was entrusted to Papak/Bābak a local administrator of royal lineage.

Sāsān was a member of a family which traced its descent from Kayanian and Achaemenian kings. He stayed in Istakhra and eked out his livelihood by tending cattle and looking after camels. When Sāsān was not able to make ends meet, he went to Bābak to seek livelihood. Bābak, struck by his royal looks, immediately appointed him as a care-taker of his horses. Impressed by his sincerity and work, he later promoted him as the supervisor of the royal stables.

Once, on three successive nights, Bābak saw three different dreams. In the first dream, he saw the sun shining over the head of Sāsān, giving light to the whole world. On the second night, Bābak saw Sāsān riding an elephant with a sword in his hand, and people passing by bowing down to him with respect. On the third night, Bābak had another dream in which he saw the three spiritual fires of Ādar Gushasp, Ādar Khordad and Ādar Burzin Meher blazing high in the house of Sāsān, and exuding a sweet fragrance.

Babak’s dream

When Bābak asked his council of wise men to interpret the dreams, he was told that the person in the dream or his immediate descendant was destined to be an emperor.

Bābak summoned Sāsān and inquired about his ancestry. Reluctant on account of fear, Sāsān hesitated, but when Bābak assured him of his safety, he disclosed his royal ancestry. Highly touched by his nobility, Bābak gave Sāsān royal clothes and wealth, gifted him a palace and in due course married him to his daughter Gohar-āfrid.

In 180 CE, Sāsān was blessed with a son, who resembled his royal ancestors. He was named Ardeshir. As Bābak had no child, he raised up Ardeshir as his own son. Later the title Bābekān/Pāpakān was added to his name. He grew up to be a brilliant and brave young man. Soon he attained fame in Pars as an accomplished, virtuous and brave prince, well versed in arts, statecraft and military skills.

Ardavan summons Ardeshir

When Emperor Ardavan heard about Ardeshir, he summoned him to his palace in the capital city of Rae so that he can keep an eye over him, since he feared that a subordinate prince may gain greater power and glory.. As king Bābak was a subordinate of emperor Ardavan, he could not refuse. With a heavy heart, he sent Ardeshir to Ardavan, who kept him along with his own four sons and trained him in arts of warfare. Ardavan, always felt that Ardeshir was far superior then any of his princes, hence he always harboured feelings of insecurity.

Once, when Ardavan went hunting with his princes and Ardeshir, while chasing an onager (asian wild ass, known in Iran as gur-khar), they got separated. Ardeshir, who was the fastest among the lot, shot an arrow piercing the heart of the onager. When Ardavan caught up with them, he saw the skill with which the arrow was shot, and inquired about the identity of the archer. Ardeshir as well as and one of the princes claimed to have shot it. There was a quarrel between the two in which Ardeshir scorned the prince and called him a liar.

Ardeshir and princes hunting an onager.

Ardavan unhappy with Ardeshir

Ardavan was angered by Ardeshir’s harsh words and as a punishment sent him to the royal stables and asked him to work and stay there. Ardeshir was greatly pained, as he knew that Ardavan had acted unjustly. His pride was wounded and he started to nurse a grudge against Ardavan. He wrote a letter to his grand-father Bābak about this. After reading the letter, Bābak replied, reprimanding Ardeshir for behaving rudely with the prince. He dispatched the letter along with ten thousand Dinars (gold coins).

Ardeshir felt comforted on receiving the letter, and merrily spent his time in enjoyment. He befriended Gulnar, a royal lady who was the chamber-maid at the king’s palace. Some sources claim that the lady was Arta-dukht, the daughter of Ardavan. Both of them saw each other daily and in due course started sharing sentiments of love and loyalty with each other.

After some time, Bābak passed away in Pars. Ardavan, instead of giving Ardehsir his rightful crown,  instituted prince Bahman on the throne. When Ardeshir came to know of this, he was angry since he was the rightful heir. He harboured feelings of resentment and contemplated ways and means to get back the throne which was rightfully his.

On day, in the palace, when Ardavan was consulting soothsayers, he asked them about his future. He was told that a young man from a noble family who was in his service, would flee within three days and take over his throne. Ardavan was shocked on hearing this grim prognostication.

Ardeshir flees

Gulnar had overheard the prophecy of the soothsayers and conveyed it to Ardeshir. When Ardeshir heard about the prediction for the emperor, he realized that it was in consonance with his own plans. It gave him an impetus to flee Rae. He asked Gulnar whether she would help him to flee and accompany him if he fled, to which she readily agreed. At night, Gulnar brought some precious gems, made arrangements for two horses, and the two fled. Ardeshir kept a sword ready for their defense.

Emperor Ardavan was very fond of Gulnar. She used to wake him up every morning. Hence, he noticed the absence of Gulnar in the morning. On inquiring he was told that Gulnar and Ardeshir were not to be found and two horses, one white and the other black, were missing from the stable. Ardavan immediately realized that Gulnar had fled with Ardeshir.

Gulnar and Ardeshir fleeing

Ardavan immediately set off with a few soldiers to look for them. On the way, he inquired whether anybody had seen a man and a woman on a black and a white horse pass by at dawn. He was told that such a couple had indeed passed by and were followed at a distance by a stately white sheep.

Ardavan inquired with his advisors about the white sheep. He was told that it symbolized potential royalty for the young man. If the sheep caught up with the person, it would mean that the person would become a great king and spell doom for Ardavan. A tired Ardavan, took some rest and then resumed his search for Ardeshir.

Ardeshir and Gulnar rode without halting. By afternoon their heads were reeling under the heat of the sun and their throats were parched with thirst. They stopped at a pond in order to take some rest. But before they could alight from their horses, two stately young men approached them, and told them not to get down, as they could not afford to lose a single minute. The duo heeded the advice and started riding ahead, and did not stop till the end of the day.

Ardavan was close behind them. In the evening when he reached a city, he once again inquired about the two. He was told that two such riders were seen moving towards Pars at dusk. They further added that a stately white sheep was swiftly running next to the man’s horse.

On inquiring with his advisor, Ardavan was told that luck was favouring the young man. He was told to ask his son Bahman in Pars, to try and find Ardeshir and not let him have the milk of the sheep, or else he would acquire the Khoreh (divine energy) and then nothing could stop him from being the Emperor of Iran.

Ardavan halted in a nearby city for the night and asked his soldiers to return. He wrote a letter to his son Bahman ruing about the escape of Ardeshir, the grim prognosis, and asked him to act fast.

By night Ardeshir had reached close to Istakhra. A fisherman recognized him on account of his royal looks and stately behavior. He informed the people, who recognized him and rallied round him. Ardeshir addressed them, “My dear people, you know what Alexander had done to our ancestors. When I, a descendant of the Kayanian prince Asfandyar, am alive, there is no reason why Ardavan should rule over us. If you agree with me, I will not allow anybody to occupy the throne.”

The people immediately agreed. A wise man from among them told Ardeshir, “Go ahead and fight Ardavan. You have our support. You may find it difficult. But once you have overpowered him, nobody will dare to stand against you.”

Encouraged by these words, Ardeshir proceeded towards Pars. When Bahman came to know about this, he assembled his army to counter Ardeshir.

Ardeshir gets an ally

Ardeshir got his first supporter and ally in Tabak/ Banāk, the elderly governor of Jarrom city. Initially Ardeshir was doubtful of Tabak’s sincerity as he used to be Ardavan’s supporter. However, later he was convinced of his genuineness.

Very soon more support poured in, and Ardeshir had an army of about fifty thousand young men. He thanked Ahura Mazda for this unexpected help. Assured of support, he proceeded to attack Bahman. However, he did not have to fight, as the king’s army surrendered and opened up the treasury. Ardeshir reached Pars and declared himself king of Pars in 208 CE, and gradually consolidated his position.

SSS1. Sasanian Dynasty (224-651 CE)

From today, we start our series of Serialised Stories of the Sasanian dynasty from the Iranian epic Shahnameh, with historical traditional inputs.

The establishment of the Sasanian Empire opened a brilliant epoch in the history of Iran. The kings of this dynasty restored to a great extent the glory of ancient Iran and revitalized the Zarathushti religion. The province of Pars gained complete independence and its kings, like those during the pre-Achaemenid period, ruled over an empire.

After the downfall of the Achaemenian empire, the Seleucid dynasty of the Greeks ruled over Iran for about eighty years from 330 BC to 247 BC. For five centuries after the downfall of the Seleucid dynasty in Iran, the Parthians/Arshkanians ruled.

However, in the province of Pars, people lived in independent states under the provincial kings. They preserved and practiced their national, ancestral Zoroastrianism religion, without outside influence. Zoroastrian traditions and religion  were supreme in Pars and hence the even Greeks could not influence it much. Zoroastrianism was preserved in its pristine form and the sacred books of the Avesta were preserved orally. Thus it was in Pars that the Zoroastrian renaissance commenced.

This renaissance spread throughout the Iranian empire after Ardeshir, the king of Pars, defeated the Median emperor in 226 CE and consolidated his power as the emperor of Iran.  Re-gathering of the scattered Avestan Nasks commenced and was accomplished during this period. Reigns of many kings were marked by religious activities like setting up of religious schools and establishing consecrated fires, in spite of the fact that the empire included large populations of other religions too.

Though the Sasanian kingdom was predominantly Zoroastrian, a large part of it, especially in the West, was occupied by the Christians. These regions were often the bone of contention during the wars in the last century of the Sasanian Empire.

The Sasanian era also witnessed vast strides in architecture, learning, the arts and the military. The birth of Prophet Mohammed and the spread of Islam marked the later part of this dynasty.

From tomorrow we start with the story of Ardeshir Bābekān / Pāpakān, the founder of the Sasanian dynasty.

(The abbreviation SSS in the title implies Shahnameh Stories Sasan)

5. Concept of Fire

Zoroastrians regard fire with great reverence. They consider it a living, breathing representative of Ahura Mazda and hence figuratively refer to it as “son of Ahura Mazda.”

The Avestan word for fire is ātar, which literally means “heat, motion, energy.” It is derived from root at– “to diminish, to transform.” Heat and motion have the ability to transfer matter into energy.

Myths about fire:

On account of their immense reverence to fire, some myths have plagued to explain its unique place in the Zoroastrian religion:  

1. Fire was a tool: Zoroastrians venerated fire as it was a useful tool, valuable weapon, cooked food and gave heat, and also possibly because primitive man was afraid of fire. This is not true as king Hoshang had discovered the effulgence of Ahura Mazda in fire.  

2. Fire is just a symbol of the religion: This is not correct as Zoroastrians consider fire as a living, breathing representative of Ahura Mazda in the material world (Ys.36.5). Whereas ‘a symbol’ is an inert sign, shape or object used to represent a quality or an idea, like the Olympic torch which symbolises peace and friendship, fire is a living entity.

3. Zoroastrians are fire worshippers: Though Zoroastrians pray before the fire, they do not worship it. They just consider it as a means to reach God.

These myths were propagated by people who did not understand the spirit of the religion. Wise men like Firdausi Toosi, Bishop Murin and G.R.Mackay have maintained that Zoroastrians are not fire worshippers.

Firdausi in the Shahnameh cautions people against calling the Parsees Fire-worshippers in the following words: Ma gui ke ātash parastā budand, Parastande-e pāk yazdān budand. “Do not call them fire worshippers, Through fire they are worshippers of God.”

In Zoroastrian religion fire is seen as the omnipresent energy of Ahura Mazda. A living entity, which is invariable for our spiritual development, and a spiritual implement which takes prayers to the spiritual world and brings Khoreh “divine energy” to us.

Atar (Fire) is Energy:

When the term ātar is used in Zoroastrian religion, it does not just mean the physical fire, but it refers to the different forms of energy. Zoroastrian religion refers to the following 6 types of Fire energies: 

a) Berezi Savangh: The highest form of fire energy which permeates all creations. It reaches humans through luminescent creations, especially the sun, and through fires.

b) Vohu Frayan: The energy in the bodies of humans and animals to give them warmth. It departs at the time of death. In humans it is transported through the Ushtan.

c. Urvazisht: The energy in plants, which prevents the sap from freezing.

d. Vazisht: The energy in clouds, atmosphere and lightening. It purifies the atmosphere. Scientifically, when lightening strikes, it changes oxygen gas to ozone and thus maintains the ozone cover. It also oxidizes other gases and makes them harmless.  .

e. Spenisht: The fire burning in this world for domestic, industrial and commercial purposes. After consecration it is established as Atash Adarans and Atash Behrams.

f. Nairyosangh: The energy which carries guidance and intuition, especially to kings and holy people.

Universal Reverence to Fire

The reverence to fire is universal, across different civilizations and religions.

Hindus: Agni is considered a major God in Rig Veda. The 9th Mandala of Rigveda is dedicated to Agni. The Hindus light diyā (lamps) during Diwali. They also have fires burning in their YAGNA rituals. Some of their priests are referred to as the AGNIHOTRI “fire tenders.”

Greeks: Theyhad the HESTIA fire burning in every house.

Romans: They had the VESTA fire burning 24 hours in Vesta temples, which were tended by priestesses called Vestal virgins.

Jews: In Judaism, God appeared to MOSES on Mt. Sinai in the form of a burning bush. This fire is said to manifest even today, once every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter, and spontaneously ignites 33 candles.

Christians: According to the Leviticus, the Christians use fumigation as part of their religious practices.  Candles in Churches represent the Purification of Mother Mary.

Sikhs: An oil lamp is burnt in Sikh Gurudwaras.

Islam: Muslims have the practice of fumigation. According to Ain-i-Akbari, Mughal emperor Akbar instructed his minister Abul Fazal to have a fire burning in the palace for 24 hours as a representative of Allah.

Fire in Zoroastrian History

Even before Zarathushtra, fire was venerated in Iranian Zoroastrian history throughout the five dynasties. In ancient Iran, there were 4 spiritually burning fires:

1.Adar Khurdad 2. Adar Farnbagh, 3. Adar Gushnasp and 4. Adar Birzin-Meher, associated with different historical persons.

Hushang, the Peshdadian king started the practice of revering fire as a divine being. He accidentally came across the divine brilliance in fire when his stone weapon, hit another stone lighting up the dry grass, resulting in a huge blaze. On seeing this fire, he said. “This is the effulgence of God, if you are wise you should revere it.” He asked the Mazdayasnis to make a Kibla (object of focus for worship) of the fire and pray before it. He celebrated Jashane Sadeh to commemorate the discovery of divinity in fire. This fire was established as Adar Khurdad.

Jamshed, another great Peshdadian king established Adar Frah / Farnbagh on Mt. Khvarehomand. He created a class of professionals called Athravans “tenders of fire” to look after it. This fire burned till the 9th century AC. It prevented evil Zohak from taking the Khvarenah of Jamshed. King Minocheher of the Peshdadian dynasty established it at the Nav Bahar Atash Kadeh.

The Kayanian king Kae Khushru established Adar Gushnasp on Mt. Asnavant. The Sasanian kings Ardeshir I, Behramgur, Khushru Parviz and Yazdegard III went on foot to pay respect to it. When Heraclius, the Roman emperor, destroyed Azar Baizan in 610 AC, the fire was taken on a mountain and again brought down when peace was established.

Zarathushtra, offered reverence to fire (Y.9). He proclaimed fire to be the representative of Ahura Mazda, and made Ardibahesht Ameshaspand its guardian. He presented Adar Burzin Meher, to Kae Gushtasp, which he then established on Mt. Raevant. This fire was without fumes and did not require fuel.

On Achaemenian reliefs, kings Darius I and Xerxes I are seen standing before the fire in a gesture of reverence. On another relief, an attendant stands before fire with a hand on his face. Some Achaemenian seals and coins depict kings tending fire.

Parthian king Vologeses VI’s coins depict a fire altar. Another seal depicts a fire altar with an attendant. A sculpture near Mount Bahistun shows a Parthian nobleman offering incense to fire.

Sasanian king Ardashir I established several Atash Behrams. On a coin of Hormaz I, he is seen tending a fire. A coin of Shapur III has an image of a divine being emerging from fire. A coin of Narseh, shows the king himself tending a fire.

Different Roles of Fire

1. In image of God: Fire is made in the image of God, hence referred to as “son of Ahura Mazda.” Like a son, fire furthers Ahura Mazda’s work. In qualities too both are alike. Like Ahura Mazda, fire is light giving, life giving, warmth giving, a fighter against evil, store house of Divine Energy and impurity destroying. Like Ahura Mazda, fire is Omnipresent as it permeates all creations. Fire as motion and energy, is present in every atom. It is the best representative of Ahura Mazda in the material world, and His visible symbol through which one can reach Him (Y. 36).”

2. A medium /link: Fire is the best medium between the two worlds. It carries our prayers, brings boons and energy and connects us with the divine.

3. Fire and Energy: Fire is the store-house and distributor of Khvarenah, the Divine energy. The divine being Adar presides over both. The Khvarenah of Zarathushtra was transferred to him through the hearth fire in the house of his mother Dogdo banu.

4. Representative in ceremonies: All Zoroastrian ceremonies are performed in the presence of fire. The assistant priest is referred to as ātarvakhshi “one who tends the fire.”

5. Divine judge: In ancient Iran, innocence of people was often judged by the fire ordeal. In the Shahnameh prince Siyavaksh had to pass a burning pyre. Ordeal through molten metal or sulphuric liquid are mentioned in the Avesta.

6. A warrior: Fire is referred to as a ratheshtār “a warrior” who keeps evil away. It is an ancient Mazdayasni tradition to keep embers in the house with ritual purity, as they draw divine energy, keep away evil and protect the inhabitants. In the Atash Nyaishna, the devotee expresses the desire to keep fire burning in the house. Even after death, fire protects a man’s soul from the demon Vizaresh. 

7. A King: When a consecrated fire is ceremoniously enthroned, it is given the status of a King (Guj. pādshāh). It is enthroned on the stone hindholā which is regarded as its throne. The dome of the sanctum sanctorum signifying the sky, symbolises the jurisdiction of the king. The metallic canopy is its crown. The fire is brought to its throne in a procession, followed by priests in their priesthood regalia with weapons like spears, swords and gurz (mace) in their hands.

8. Fire in Fire temples: The consecrated fires in fire temples, which are the focus of worship, are specially made. They are collected from different sources (16 for Atash Behram, 4 for Atash Adaran), purified and consecrated, thus transferring their status from ordinary to sublime.

One of the first tasks performed by Zoroastrians after landing at Sanjan from Diu was to consecrate an Atash Behram, later known as Iranshāh “the king of Iran.” After settling in Bombay, one of their first acts was to install consecrated fires.

A consecrated fire unites the physical fire with Ahura Mazda’s Khvarenah. Such a fire draws divine energy from the spiritual world. A consecrated fire has a physical body, consciousness and the power of hearing and seeing. It carries our prayers to the divine world and divine beings, brings boons and energy from the divine world and thus connects humans with the divine. It is capable of bestowing gifts and rewards and gives retributions to the wrong-doers.

Zoroastrians are required to stay in the vicinity of fire temples and visit them regularly as it invigorates them spiritually and have the presence of divine beings in them.

 9. Fire as a co-worker of man

Fire and human beings depend on each other for their physical and spiritual survival. There are several other striking similarities between the two. Priests are referred to as Athravan “Protectors of fire.” Their main work is to tend fires. There are uncanny similarities between the two:

* Both are alive, breathe and need oxygen for survival.

* Both need food (fire needs fuel) to survive.

* Both have hierarchical status.

* Both have physical and spiritual constituents.

* Both are links between physical and spiritual worlds.

* No two are ever the same.

* Both are able to create another like them, which though similar is unique.

* Both can be used for good or evil.

* Both have to be warriors (Av. rathaeshtāra) against evil.

* Both have to work towards bringing about Frashokereti.

Duties towards fire:

Zoroastrians approach fire with great dignity and respect, especially if the fire is consecrated. When approaching a fire, Zoroastrians are expected to take gifts of dry, fragrant and pure wood with honestly earned money.

Physical and ritual purity is to be maintained before approaching fire. The rules include taking a bath, wearing appropriate clothes and doing the Kasti.

Zoroastrianism is against smoking, since fire is abused by the act of smoking. While smoking, fire comes in indirect contact with saliva, and when saliva is out of the mouth, it is considered “polluted matter”. Smoking is anti-religion, also because it is injurious to health.

 

The Atash Nyash prayer relates how the fire should be venerated, what we can ask from the fire and how the fires blesses its devotees. Fire gives blessings of heaven, wealth, prosperity, alertness, fluent tongue, brilliant children, health and soul consciousness to those who offer proper fuel.

Admonitions of fire:

When standing before a fire, one receives several silent admonitions

1. Equality: The ash of the fire is applied to the forehead by devotees in the fire temple gives the message of equality. Just as wood burns and turns to ash, men have to return to their basic elements. Thus in their final outcome all men are equal.

2. Sacrifice: One needs to be sacrificing like wood, which, in the process of giving fragrance, heat and light to mankind turns itself into ash.

3. Purity: Fire purifies the environment, reminding men to be pure.

4. Spiritual Evolution: Fire always moves upwards, reminding man to evolve in life. It points upwards making man aware of the soul’s ultimate destiny.

5. Link: Fire teaches man to keep connected between physical and spiritual worlds.

6. Symbolises knowledge: Fire as a source of light, symbolises knowledge which dispels ignorance, symbolized by darkness.Conclusion: The Zoroastrian concept of fire is unique and lofty. In Zoroastrianism, the term fire has a very different perspective and connotation. It gives a completely new meaning to the word fire, as it indicates the all permeating light and energy. Physically burning fire is regarded as a living representation of Ahura Mazda, and a co-worker of mankind in the universal battle against evil.

4. Concept and role of Humans

Role of Man in the universe: Human being is the most precious of God’s creations. He has been entrusted sovereignty over other creations, by virtue of the power of his thought and speech. Man has been created with a purpose. It is with the active and willing participation of man, that Frashokereti “the final renovation” will happen.

Man has the freedom to either tread the good path of virtue, industry and philanthropy, or the evil path of vice, slothfulness and selfishness. However, he will have to face the consequences of all his actions.

Man and evil: In this world, man has to safeguard himself from various types of evils (daeva), which can be physical (men, animals, creatures, germs, contagion, disease), moral (vices and bad temperament) or spiritual (evil spirits and forces). 

The human body is sacred. It is the duty of each person to keep it pure.  However, purity in Zoroastrian religion is not just bodily and physical, it also extends to the unseen aspects encompassing material creations. In order to safeguard oneself from all types of evil and be in touch with the spiritual world, man has to observe the laws of ritual purity given by the religion, in daily life.

Safeguard against evil: All Zoroastrian religious institutions, rituals and acts are governed by laws of ritual purity. Zoroastrian fire-temples and places of worship are built with special boundary lines (Av. karsha, Phl. Kash, P.Guj. pāvi), which are furrows or channels, marked on the ground or constructed in the floor, to enclose ritually purified places. When the ritually purified place is in use, the boundary lines must not be crossed or else the ritual purity is vitiated.

All Zoroastrians –males and females, priests and laymen – have to observe the laws of ritual purity in their daily lives, in order to preserve Divine Energy in accordance with the principles of Asha and Khvarnah. Prayers and Fire are the main mediums through which man can augment his Khvarnah “Divine Energy.” They are also his links to the spiritual world.

Human Constitution: It is in light of the above, that is, ritual purity, safeguard against evil and divine energy, that we have to understand the make-up of man.

A human being is made up of nine constituents (Yasna 55.1). Out of these, three are physical, three semi-spiritual and three spiritual. A human being is made of earthly elements which are endowed with spiritual powers, without which life cannot be sustained.

After death, the physical constituents decompose. Spiritual pollution sets in the physical body when it is attacked by the fiend of putrefaction (druj-i-nasu), and hence the physical body has to be disposed as soon as possible, without harm to other creations. The invisible elements of three semi spiritual constituents disintegrate gradually into nature, and the immortal spiritual constituents survive indefinitely after death.

A human being is geared towards spirituality from birth for two main reasons. Firstly he has come from the spiritual world and deep down within he knows his original home. Secondly, the composition of a human being is essentially spiritual along with physical constituents.

I The Physical

The Avestan tradition about the physical body is different from the Western or Indian notions. It is neither hedonistic and materialistic on one extreme, nor ascetic and puritanical on the other.

Spiritual constituents, faculties and beings can reach deep down into matter. The very purpose of existence is to realise divinity in perfect bodily form. It is one’s duty to keep the body so clean that it can serve as an abode for the divine beings. When man does not allow Evil to dwell in his body, it will disappear from the world.

Physical evil can either generate within the body or may come from outside the boundaries of the body. In the struggle between good and evil, the body is an outer wall of defense. It is for this reason that one has to be vigilant and alert about safeguarding one’s body.  This idea is unique to the Zoroastrian religion and is in stark contrast to some of the Eastern and Western attitudes, which see the body as a citadel of sin.

Moreover, one’s body is the gateway to one’s moral and spiritual nature. It has to fight a battle against spiritual demons to keep them at bay. The main ones are: Greed (Av. āzi, Phl. āz), Envy (Av. arēshk), Lust (Av. vasna; Phl. waran), Wrath (Av. aēshma; Phl. ēshm) and Shame (Av. fsharema; Phl. nang).

In the material world, the body is more important than the soul, as it is the ‘shield of the soul.’ The body and the soul need to complement each other so that no evil comes to the other because of it. In Zoroastrianism, spirituality is not meant to be separate from the body, since at every stage of spiritual growth, the body is the greatest ally of the spirit.

The three physical components make up the visible corporeal body. They are necessary for survival. As long as there is life, the human body has power to resist evil. However, when life departs, the physical constituents decompose and the human corpse becomes a source of physical and spiritual contagion. It is a danger to all living creations and hence is to be disposed as soon as possible, with the least contamination to the other creations. A speedy disposal of the body is also beneficial to the release and progress of the soul and other non-physical constituents.

The three physical constituents are:

1. Tanu, the physical body, which comprises of the outer covering made up of muscles, sinews and skin.

2. Gaethā,the body’s soft organs like the eyes, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.

3. Azdi, the skeletal frame of the body.


II The Semi-spiritual

The semi-spiritual constituents act as a link between the physical and spiritual. They are invisible, yet finally perishable. They gradually disintegrate after death.

They three semi-spiritual constituents are:

4. Kehrp, the invisible etheric body is the receptacle of energies and the location of energy centres. The baodhangh (Av. divine intellect) and ravān (Phl. soul) are also connected to the kehrpa. It is the astral form of the body. All animate creations and even divine beings have a kehrpa.

It is the counterpart of the physical body. Its condition affects the physical body and vice versa. Hence it is an important component in healing. Zoroastrian practices for ritual purity, which are embodied in its ritual observances referred to as tarikats, are meant to safeguard the kehrp and keep it clean.

Kehrpa is the unseen boundary which protects one from mental, elemental and spiritual evils. If breached, it has to be repaired as soon as possible. It is highly susceptible to good as well as evil influences of the surroundings. The kehrpa merges into its elements after the disintegration of the physical body. Hence, the speed of the disintegration of the kehrpa largely depends on the speed of the disintegration of the physical elements of the body. Finally, the kehrpa merges with the cosmic lights through the sun light.

5. Ushtān is the life energy which gives heat and force to the body. It circulates though our breath in the body along with oxygen. It gives life to the body by permeating every cell and keeping it warm. A healthy ushtan results in a healthy body and long life. After death, ushtan merges with air. The Avestan ushtan is akin to the Prāna of the Indian and the Ki of the Oriental traditions.

6. Tevishi is the desire body, created and nurtured by the feelings and emotions arising out of the mind. It can be compared with the vāsnā sharir “desire body” of the Indian tradition. It is a cumulative result of man’s tendencies, desires and inclinations. Values, beliefs and religion mould and shape the tevishi, which then becomes the driving force for man’s thoughts, words and actions.

Each individual has a distinct tevishi. Animals too have the chain of desire-thoughts-actions, but man has the power to transcend it. When man transcends tevishi, he gets closer to attaining divine status.

The tevishi affects the physical body too. Psycho-somatic science delves at length on this connection. A balanced mind and emotions, help the body to heal itself.

The tevishi is very strong at the time of untimely and violent deaths like accidents, suicides, murders and wars. At such times it is difficult for the soul to break free from the worldly bonds and desires which have been unfulfilled on account of the sudden death. All traditions advise man not to think materialistic thoughts but engage in reciting or hearing divine chants at the approach of death.

Tevishi is made up of thought energy and it merges with similar energies in space after death of a person.

III The spiritual

The spiritual constituents are invisible, immortal and indestructible. They survive indefinitely after death in the spiritual dimension. These components by themselves, do not make man divine, but their proper use lead man to spiritual evolution.

They three spiritual constituents are:

7. Baodh/ Baodhangh: It is the repository of the innate wisdom, and embodies the Consciousness which covers the conscious, sub-conscious and super-conscious levels of the mind. Through these three levels, it permeates every cell of the body. It closely manages the delicate balance of life and hence, when it separates from the body, death takes place.

The baodh works at the following three main levels of the mind

Conscious level: It manages the senses, sense perceptions, reasoning, rationalizing and decision making.

Sub-conscious level: It manages the automatic functions of the body and the involuntary processes that regulate life, like breath, heart pumping and blood pressure. It is also the store house of the thoughts, emotions and information collected throughout life.

Super-conscious level: It works with divine intelligence and energies in the universe. It is instrumental in receiving divine inspiration and guidance.

8. Urvan is the Soul, which is potentially divine. It is the Chooser of man’s actions, after receiving inputs from the mind and other faculties. It gets reward or retribution after death for actions performed during the life time. The soul is judged on the fourth day after death, after which it is given its due place in Vahishtaahu “Heaven”, Hamestagān “purgatory” or Dushakhva “hell.” Before the end of time, all souls which have not yet reached Garothman will have to undergo a second and final Judgment which will be sort of an ordeal, especially for the souls who have not been able to advance.

9. Fravashi is God’s essence which guides man. Every human being has a personal Fravashi, which acts like its Guardian spirit. It guides the soul during life and even after death. The Fravashi is incorruptible, and hence it is never judged.

The image of the Fravashi is an enduring ancient Iranian symbol, since the Achaemenian times. In this image, the central circle is symbolic of Perfection and God. The wings signify spirituality. The human face is the connection of the Fravashi to humans. The two tassels at the bottom are reminders of the principle of polarity. The image of Fravashi reminds man of his unity with creations, his divine origin and his life’s purpose.

Other divine faculties

To help man fulfil his divine purpose, human beings have been endowed with several powers and faculties, over and above the nine constituents.

These are: Ahu (awareness, the overself), Daenā (introspective quality, conscience, questioning one’s actions) good from evil), Vir (Will Power), Hosh (Discernment of good from evil), Kherad (Wisdom), Khvarnah (Divine Energy), Aoj (Strength) and Jān (life). With their help man had to make the utmost of his God given gifts and be the perfect man that Ahura Mazda expects him to be.

3. Zoroastrian Teachings & World-view

To know and understand a religion one has to understand its world-view and teachings, as each religion and spiritual tradition has distinctive and exclusive teachings that sets it apart.

Much of Zoroastrian world-view is in the Pahlavi book Bundahishn and the philosophical and spiritual teachings are from the Avestan texts, especially the Gathas.

World-view (Cosmology): A world view is necessary to have a perspective on our life and surroundings, which enables us to answer the existential questions like who we are, from where have we come, and what is the purpose of our life. It also helps one to understand the beginning, purpose and end of the Universe.

Cosmogony gives the religious view of the beginning of Creations. In the beginning the supreme divine energy (Ahu) dwelled in timelessness as Endless Light. From that energy, a thought emanated as a plan of creation, which came to be known as Mazda. Later the title Ahura became a part of the name, and the divine energy came to be referred to as Ahura Mazda.

After the primordial thought, Asha – the immutable Law and Order – was created on the basis of which the Universe would be created. Then Spenta Mainyu was created as the creative benevolent Spirit to assist the process of creation – first the spiritual and then the physical. On the basis of the Law of Polarity Angra Mainyu, the Evil Spirit, came into existence. The creations were crafted and created from ‘Endless light’. Ahura Mazda represents the purest light, then the divine beings in their hierarchical order, and then the material creations.

The account of creation in the Bundahishn, symbolically divides the span of creation into 12 hazāra. It then divides it into four periods of 3 hazāra each. The Pahlavi word hazāra is generally translated as a period of 1000 years, since hazār means a thousand, but this may just be a symbolic period of time. Traditional wisdom says that one hazāra may be about 7000 earth years.

In the first 3 hazāra, perfect spiritual creations were created. Angra Mainyu, owing to his inherent destructive nature, attacked them. Ahura Mazda protected the creations by chanting the Ahunavar, and Angra Mainyu was stupefied. After the 3rd hazāra, Ahura Mazda conferred with the divine beings and set up a period of 9 hazāra after which evil would be totally annihilated.

In the second of these 3 hazāra period Ahura Mazda created the material creations in a perfect state. Together, the first two periods of 3 hazāra are referred to as the creation stage – Bundahishn

The third and fourth 3 hazāra periods Angra Mainyu attacked and inter-mingled with the seven material creations. Together, these two periods of 3 hazāra are referred to as Gumezishn “the Mixture.”

The end of the fourth hazāra, will be is marked by heightened conflict between good and evil, at the end of which will appear the Saoshyant, the last savior. The last Judgement will take place, followed by Ristakhez (rising of the ‘dead’) and Tane-pasen (new body), a Zoroastrian concept which has been adapted as Resurrection in Abrahamic religions.

At the end of the 12 At the end of the 12 hazāra, evil shall be completely annihilated and vanquished, resulting in complete renovation. This event of distant future, known as Frashokereti or Frashogard (Renovation) will be brought about by the united, conscious efforts of men and Spiritual Beings., evil shall be completely annihilated and vanquished, resulting in complete renovation. This event of distant future, known as Frashokereti or Frashogard (Renovation) will be brought about by the united, conscious efforts of men and Spiritual Beings. This period is referred to as Vizarishn “the Separation.”

After this, creations will revert back to their perfect spiritual states.

The four hazāra of the Zoroastrian world-view are reminiscent of the 4 YugasSat, Treta, Dvāpar and Kali in the Hindu philosophy.

The main religious teachings:

1.Belief in one God, 2.Existence of the spiritual world, 3.Two opposing forces in the Universe, 4. Immortality of the Soul, 5.Sanctity of Creations.

1. Monotheism – Belief in One God – AHURA MAZDA

Mazdayasni belief system was the first to reveal the concept of Monotheism, that is, the belief in one Supreme Uncreated Force, referred to as Ahura Mazda ”Lord of Wisdom.” This Supreme power is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. Wisdom is His intrinsic nature. He sustains all His creations through wisdom. Since He is all-knowing, He is undeceivable.

Ahura Mazda is the sole creator and the absolute ruler of the Universe. He is without a beginning and an end and hence eternal and immortal. He has no equal or opponent. His power and intelligence governs the Universe. He is the bestower of all good things. All that is good and positive comes from Him. He is kind, forgiving, understanding and merciful. He is a friend and brother to mankind, provided they lead a righteous life.

Ahura Mazda has fixed the laws of Nature, in accordance with which all creations operate. These laws work on the cosmic, physical, moral and spiritual fronts. He never interferes in the working of these laws.

He is invisible to the physical as well as the spiritual world, a Spirit among the Spirits. He is full of light. By His thought-force, He first filled heavenly realms with light. The blazing sun and the radiant fire are the living representatives of Ahura Mazda on earth.

Ahura Mazda is aware of whatever man does. He is the supreme judge of man’s actions. He is totally perfect. He is present in all creations, and yet above them.

Ahura Mazda is the embodiment of Wisdom. At a cosmic level, Wisdom permeates the Universe. Every atom of matter and every cell of the body is intelligent. The universe organizes itself and reacts to its own internal events, just like the cells in the human body.

2. The Spiritual world

In the creation of the Universe, Ahura Mazda first created the spiritual world, in which He created Ameshaspands, Yazads, Ravans and Fravashis.

Ameshaspands “the beneficent immortals” are the uppermost in the hierarchy. They are seven in number. Though Ahura Mazda is the creator and preceptor of the other six, He is also one of them and works in one accord with them. They preside over spiritual powers, virtues, material creations, as well as the human spiritual centres.

Yazad is a general term used for worshipful spiritual beings. The term Yazad signifies spiritual beings working in the universe as co-workers of Ameshaspands. They preside over creations like the sun, the moon, stars and the earth. Yazads can be invoked for help for various purposes.

Ravans are the souls and Fravashis are the guardian spirits of all creations

Human beings in the material world have to work in tandem with the spiritual world.

3. Two spirits or forces

After Ahura Mazda created Spenta Mainyu “the beneficent spirit”, Angra Mainyu “the evil spirit” was created on the basis of the law of polarity. These two diametrically opposed cosmic forces work in the universe.

Spenta Mainyu is wise, life-giving and benefiting. Angra Mainyu is harmful, wicked, destructive and life-destroying. He is devoid of wisdom, is full of deception and thrives on ignorance. It exists in the material world on account of man’s ignorance and wrong choices.

The two spirits manifest in humans as mentalities. Evil is parasitical in nature. It can exist only if man allows it to grow and thrive on him. Man should not allow physical, mental, moral, emotional and spiritual evils to grow on him. Men should strive to be on the side of Spenta Mainyu.

Metaphorically, the good spirit is compared to light and the evil spirit to darkness. Light has an existence of its own and can dispel darkness, but darkness cannot exist on its own. At a moral level, evil is a moving away from goodness, just as darkness is moving away from light. Evil is thus illusory and transitory. It is only as real as an image in a mirror.

In material terms, evil may be compared to entropy which is the universal tendency of order to break down into disorder. It is inherent in the physical makeup of the universe, and is the core reason why earthly things deteriorate and age over time. The nature of the material world is such that it has to finally dissipate and hence entropy catches up with evolution. Anything that is created needs to be destroyed as the world has a finite existence. Existence necessitates non-existence and thus the destructive spirit is in a way a necessity for the relative world.  

Since man has consciousness, he has the free will to choose between Good and Evil. When man’s consciousness level rises and man lives with awareness, he makes correct choices, evil becomes ineffective and redundant. When mankind totally moves away from evil, it will disappear. Man’s good acts are rewarded and evil acts are punished in this world and the next.

Zoroastrian Philosophy is of Freedom of choice with responsibility. It is not a philosophy of Commandments that are laid down to follow.

Animals: Animals possess a Fravashi. They also have a Baodhangh working at an elementary, evolutionary and instinctive level. They do not have to make moral and conscious choices. They can’t rationalize and judge.

On the basis of the law of polarity, they have been divided into Gospand “beneficent animals” and Khrafastar “harmful/noxious creatures”. Cattle and most domestic animals are Gospands, whereas wild animals, reptiles and insects are referred to as Khrafastars. In his fight against spiritual, moral and physical evils, man is advised to nurture and protect the Gospands and exterminate the Khrafastars if they are a threat to the good creations.

The Indo-Iranian preference and liking for dog is well known. According to Zoroastrianism, dog is the only animal which has the inherent, instinctive power to recognize and repel evil.

Cats and snakes are considered evil. In fact, the Evil Spirit itelf is referred to as a snake (Vd.22.2). Though some Khrafastars may be helpful to the world in a limited way, their overall worth to mankind is less than the danger that they pose to the good creations.

4. Immortality of the soul after death

Recognition of spiritual elements – within the self and in the Universe are necessary for the knowledge and evolution of the self. According to the Avesta, every human being is mortal, and death is destined for all. Death is seen as a transformation and not total destruction. It is the ‘passing away’ of life-giving spiritual elements from the physical body leading to its decomposition. Every person has spiritual components, one of which is the soul, which is immortal and outlives the physical body after its destruction (death).

 

A corpse is considered the greatest source of contagion and putrefaction (nasu) and has to be disposed in a way that causes least harm to humans and least pollution to creations. For this reason, Avestan tradition has recognised the mode of disposal of dead which involves exposure of the corpse on an elevated place to sunlight and scavenging birds.

Soul is rightly referred to as urvan “the chooser.” It is the only spiritual constituent which exercises a choice. It is responsible for the good or evil actions done by man in this life. After a man passes away, the soul remains in this world for three days and nights in the care of the divine being Sraosha. During this period several rites and rituals are performed, to ensure a safe passage of the soul into the spiritual realm.

At the dawn of the fourth day, the soul crosses over to the spiritual world through theallegorical chinvato peretu (Chinwad Puhl)“the selection bridge”. The Daena or Kerdar “representation of actions (in life)” confronts the soul in the form of a maiden. If the soul’s actions in life were good, the Daena appears as a beautiful lady, but if the soul’s actions were wicked, the Daena, appears frightful, and the soul experiences misery and distress. Thereafter the soul appears before a heavenly tribunal, and divine justice is administered. Good souls go to heaven and souls of the evil are dragged to hell. In the end all souls will have to pass through the Final Judgment.

At the end, evil shall be vanquished, and all creations will pass on to a blissful, spiritual state.

5. Creations

God created the creations in seven stages – sky (metals), water, earth, plants, animal, man and fire. Among the seven creations, man has been created superior. Every creation is sacred and man is enjoined to keep them clean and pure. Since a divine being presides over each creation, respecting the creations amounts to respecting the divine being presiding over it.

Polluting the creations would also allow evil to get a foothold over them. Many Zoroastrian practices, like the mode of disposal of the dead, are geared towards protecting the sanctity and purity of the creations. Next to man, fire is the most important creation as it entrusted the task to fight evil along with humans. Fire gives light, warmth, life and energy. Zoroastrians connect with Ahura Mazda through fire.

2. Zarathushtra, the Prophet

Status of a Prophet:

Generally the term ‘prophet’ is defined as a divinely inspired and divinely appointed teacher who brings the message of religion, reveals and interprets God’s commandments, and instructs men as to the conduct of life in this world. The prophet is a higher soul, inspired by God and Spiritual Beings and advanced in spiritual insight.

According to the Avesta, Zarathushtra was the divinely appointed and divinely inspired prophet.In Avesta, Zarathushtra is accorded a very high and lofty status. He is referred to as a Yazata, that is, a divine Being. In many places he is remembered immediately after Ahura Mazda, before other Divine Beings. Zarathushtra himself was also a priest. He belonged to the brotherhood of priests called Magava

Antiquity:

ZOROASTRIANISM is the oldest revealed religion in the world and its prophet, the first prophet in the world. The extant Avesta scriptures do not provide any direct evidence as to the age in which Prophet Zarathushtra lived, and hence it is calculated from various other indirect sources based on historical, literary, linguistic, astronomical, geological and archaeological evidences. The existing general opinion of the scholars place him between 6500 B.C. to 2000 B.C.

Birth place:

The actual birthplace of Zarathushtra is a contentious issue, but it is generally agreed that he was born in the North-Western part of modern day Iran. The Avesta (Vd.19) only mentions that the house of Zarathushtra’s father was in the Airyana Vaejah near the river Veh Dāiti. Bundahishna chapters 20.32 and 24.15 corroborates this reference. Some Pahlavi sources place him in West Iran in Azarbaizan, Ragha or Shiz.

Name and Family:

The personal name of the Prophet, as it occurs in the Avesta, is Zarathushtra which means  “one possessing An old camel” and  “the golden star.” However in esoteric writing ushtra also means consciousness. Thus the word Zarathushtra can also mean “one having exalted consciousness.” The meaning of Zoroaster, the Greek form of the prophet’s name, is “golden star.”

Zarathushtra’s father was Pourushaspa “one possessing gray horse”, who was the son of Peteraspa. Zarathushtra’s mother’s name was Dughdhova often shortened to Dogdo “one who milks.” She was the daughter of Frahimvā Zavish.

Divine appointment:

According to Yasna 29.1 Geush Urvan (the Soul of the Earth) complained to the Creator about the abuses being heaped upon her. The Creator consulted the Divine Beings and proclaimed that there was just one being who can help – Zarathushtra Spitama. The Soul of the Earth was not convinced at first, but afterwards, she accepted the appointment of Zarathushtra.

Three days before Zarathushtra’s birth, his entire village was bathed in white light, one of the signs signaling the coming of the great prophet. Finally, Zarathushtra was born during the early morning hours. on Roj Khordad, Mah Fravarden. This day is celebrated presently as Khordad Sal.

Zarathushtra is the only child who laughed at the time of his birth, since he was aware of his divine mission and the victory of good over evil in the end. Seven neighbouring ladies, who had come with the intent to hurt the child, retreated on seeing this great miracle.

At the birth of the prophet, all creations in nature rejoiced and cried out in joy ‘Ushtā no zātō āthrava yō spitāmō zarathushtrō’, that is, “Rejoice, for us is born the priest Spitama Zarathushtra.”

Childhood & attempts on life:

The evil and wicked persons were terrified by the divine light. As soon as they came to know of the birth of this divine child, they trembled as they were afraid that he would put an end to their evil powers and practices. They decided to kill babe Zarathushtra.

Chief among the wicked followers of Ahriman was the evil chief Dorasrun.He tried several times to have Zarathushtra killed, but each time the child was divinely saved.

Dorasrun had the baby thrown into a fire, but the fire did not burn the child. Then Doroasrun then had the child placed in the pathway to a herd of cattle, so that he may be trampled upon by the animals. However when the herd came that way, a white cow, stood over the child, protecting it from the rest of the cattle.

Infant Zarathushtra was then kept in the pathway of horses going towards their watering hole. There too a white horse protected it. Finally, the angry Dorasrun tried one last dirty trick. He placed Zarathushtra in a den of wolves, but there too the child was divinely protected.

Finally Dorasrun decided to kill baby Zarathushtra himself with a dagger, but as he tried to stab, he lost strength in his hands and his hands were paralysed. Thus child Zarathushtra grew up protected by Ahura Mazda.

When Zarathushtra reached the age of 7, he was sent to be educated under a teacher named Burzin Kurush. Here he kept asking about the reason for there being so much evil, pain and misery in the world, but was not satisfied by the explanations.

Attempts on his life continued. When he was 12 years old, two evil magicians- Bratrokesh and Dorasrub tried to frighten Zarathushtra by their magic. Once when Zarathushtra’s was ill, they went to his  house dressed as physicians and gave him poisonous potions instead of medicine, but Zarathushtra, by divine guidance came to know of the evil trick and did not drink it.

At 18, Zarathushtra’s quest for divine truth intensified and he decided to set off in search for the Truth. He sought permission from his father, who, knowing the divine destiny of his son, readily agreed. When he asked Zarathushtra as to what he would like from his possessions, Zarathushtra answered that he would just like to have the Kasti. This showed that Zarathushtra was eager to accept the good teachings and practices from the Mazdayasni religion in which he was born.

Divine Revelation:

When Zarathushtra was 20, he was divinely guided to a secluded place on Mount Ushidarena, ‘the Mount holding divine intellect’. He stayed on the mountain for 10 years, and devoted his time and energy in prayer, meditation and communion with Divine Beings. There he received divine inspiration and message of the Religion through Divine Beings, particularly Vohu Manah and Sraosha.

Early Struggle:

At the age of 30, Zarathushtra returned to the people to preach the religion. Prophet Zarathushtra accepted many of the teachings and practices of the Mazdayasni faith into which he was born.  In the initial stages, the Prophet had to struggle to spreading his unique message, as he had no following. Finally, Prophet Zarathushtra triumphed. His first disciple was his paternal cousin Maidyoimaongha, the son of Arastya.

In the court of King Vishtasp:

In Balkh, Kayanian King Vishtasp / Gushtasp invited him to his court and given a high status.

Jealous courtiers poisoned the king’s mind by planting materials used for black magic in his room. The king was heart-broken when the materials were found. He ordered Zarathushtra to be imprisoned, where he spent his days with great dignity.

Once the king’s favourite horse, Aspe-sihā’s legs got embedded in his stomach. None was able to cure the horse. Zarathushtra offered to heal the horse on certain conditions to which the king agreed. Zarathushtra healed the legs by chanting the Ahunavar prayer. As per the condition, the king, Prince Aspandiyar, queen Katabun / Katayun / Hutaosa accepted Zarathushtra and the guard of the room was questioned, whereby Zarathushtra’s innocence was proved.

Prophet Zarathushtra preached his religion in the court of King Vishtasp. After intellectual discussions and spiritual experiences King Vishtasp recognized Zarathushtra as the true prophet of Ahura Mazda and he became the patron-king of Zarathushtra.

Gifts for the King:

Prophet Zarathushtra presented three gifts to King Gushtasp as a further proof of his prophetship:

1) Adar Burzin, a spiritually burning fire which did not need fuel to burn, and did not give out smoke while burning. This fire is often seen in prophet Zarathushtra’s hand in some of his pictures. Later the King enthroned the Adar Burzin fire on Mount Raevant.

2) A Cypress tree named ‘Azad-Sarva’ which had an advise for King Gustasp on its every leaf .

3) 21 Volumes (Nasks) of Avestan texts, containing all the knowledge of the world. Each of the Nask was based on one of the 21 words of the Yatha Ahu Vairyo prayer.

One of the 21 Nasks also contained the 5 Gathas of prophet Zarathushtra.

The Gathas contain the prophet’s personal experiences and his spiritual teachings in a highly mystical poetic language. The five Gathas are: Ahunavad, Ushtavad, Spentomad, Vohukhshathra and Vahishtoisht. Because of the highly philosophic teachings in the Gatha, the prophet is referred to as one of the greatest philosophers of all time. However, for this reason, many people just consider the prophet as a great philosopher. This is a very mistaken idea as prophet Zarathushtra was a divine being of a high spiritual status and one who was born for a divine purpose.

Wife and children:

In the Avestan there is no reference either to the prophet’s marriage or about his wife and children. In later works we are told that prophet Zarathushtra married Havovi, daughter of Frashoshtra, and had six children – three sons Isad-vastra, Haurvatat-nar and Khurshed-cheher; and three daughters Freny, Thrity and Pouruchishti.

Ascension (Passing away):

Zarathushtra spent the later part of his life at the Navbahar Atash Behram with Kae Lohrasp, father of King Vishtasp.

Prophet Zarathushtra  passed away at the age of 77 years and 11 days. Nothing has been stated, directly or indirectly in the Avesta about passing away of Prophet Zarathushtra. It is mentioned only in Pahlavi and Persian books. The special phrae used in Pahlavi for passing away of the Prophet is vihez i zartusht  ‘rising up/ ascension of Zartusht.’

The day of passing away of the Prophet is known in Gujarati as Zarthosht no diso “the (death-)day of Zarthosht”, and is observed on Roz Khorshed, Mah Dae.

After the prophet’s passing away from this world, Jamasp, the minister of King Gushtasp who was one of his foremost disciples, became the religious head. Jamasp, and all religious heads after him came to be known a Zarathushtrotemo.

Zarathushtra’s legacy:

Prophet Zarathushtra gave a powerful religion to the people of Iran by reinforcing the teachings of the existing Mazdayasni belief system and adding to it his own teachings. In this religion there was a strong moral order, a set of rituals, practices for daily life and 21 Volumes (Nasks) of religious scriptures in the Avesta language.

1. Ahura Mazda, the God.

A. Concept of GOD

God is the SUPREME DIVINE POWER, the Uncreated force who created the Universe, who is present everywhere (omni-present) and who looks after everything.

Every religion believes in and understands this Supreme Power – God – in its own way, and gives it different names. Though the power behind all these names is the same, the understanding differs. Hindus call Him ISHWAR (Lord of Will) or BHAGWAN (Fortune/prosperity giver), Muslims call Him ALLAH (the sole God), Jews call Him JEHOVAH (Lord / God ), Sikhs call Him WĀHE GURU (Wonderful teacher), Christians call Him GOD (fit to be invoked). Zoroastrians refer to their God as Ahura Mazda. Ahura “Lord” and Mazda “Wisdom.” Hence Ahura Mazda means “The omniscient Lord.”

Different religions relate to their God in different ways, some religions may consider that destruction is also a power of God, some consider that being strict, chastising and punishing is part of God’s work, some religions may consider God as all good. Moreover God may be perceived as  personal or impersonal, anthropomorphic or non-anthropomorphic, immanent or transcendent.

B. Names of Ahura Mazda

To have belief and faith in Ahura Mazda we have to know Him. The best way to know Him  through His qualities and attributes, which are referred to as His names.  From prayers like the 101 names of God, Doa Nām Setāyashne and Hormazd Yasht we get to know His names and attributes.

C. Knowing Ahura Mazda (Nature and Powers of Ahura Mazda)

King Gayomard, the first king of the Peshdadian dynasty was the first man to communicate with Ahura Mazda. He taught people to believe in one God – Mazda. Mazdayasni belief system. The title Ahura “lord” was later added. The people who accepted Gayomard’s teaching came to be known as Mazdayasni, “those who venerate Mazda,” which later became the Mazdayasni belief system. The title Ahura “lord” was later added. The name Ahura Mazda was later condensed to Hormazd or Ohrmazd.

Ahura Mazda is also referred to as Dādār/Dādārji (creator), Yazad (worthy of veneration), Yazdān (foremost in veneration), Khudā/ Khudāiji (self-created), and Parvardegār (nourisher).

Ahura Mazda is invisible. He is without shape and form. Whenever He is to be visualized, we think of a very bright, white and powerful light. He is full of radiance (Khorehmand) and His abode is Endless Light (Aneran). All bright and radiant things like the fire and the sun remind us of Ahura Mazda.

He is without a beginning or an end. He was, He is and He will be forever. For this reason, alone it is impossible to fully understand him, as our limited mind can only comprehend things which are limited, which have a beginning and an end.

Ahura Mazda is all powerful. He neither has an equal nor an opponent. There is a grave misconception that the Zoroastrian religion believes in Dualism – in other words, it believes in two Gods. This idea came about as it was believed that Ahriman was equal to Ahura Mazda. This supposition is totally erroneous. Ahura Mazda is the sole creator and the supreme being, without an equal or opposite. He created Spenta Mainyu as the creative spirit, and as per the low of polarity Angra Mainyu (Ahriman) came into existence as an opponent of Sepnta Mainyu.

Inspite of being All powerful, he is always good, kind, helpful, merciful and forgiving. That is why he is referred to as bakhshāyandeh, bakhshāyazgar and meherbān, “giver of all good things, forgiver of mistakes and compassionate.” No evil ever comes from Him.

We need to have total BELIEF and FAITH in Ahura Mazda. We should never doubt His existence just because we cannot see Him. One of the ways in which we can ‘know’ and ‘see’ Ahura Mazda is through His creations and the order inherent in them – like the rising and setting of the sun, the growing of a seed into a plant, the ebb and tide in the ocean and the growing of a baby into a man.

Ahura Mazda is the creator of every good thing. He has created the whole world with wonderful creations so that man can live a happy life while making use of these creations. He created man superior to other creations, gave him intelligence and sovereignty. Along with that, He also gave him the responsibility to look after other creations like air, water, earth, minerals, plants and animals which are for man’s use. Man should use them with wisdom and temperance, and never misuse, overuse or abuse them. Ahura Mazda has created this world with a purpose.

D. Ahura Mazda’s helpers

When Ahura Mazda created this Universe, He first created the spiritual world. In it He created the Ameshaspands (Amesha Spenta), Yazads (Yazatas) and Farohars (Fravashis). When the material world was created, Ahura Mazda appointed these spiritual BEINGS as helpers for the creations of the material world. His six main helpers are the Amshaspands who can be compared to Arch-angels. They were assigned the task of looking after the creations. The Ameshaspands also embody important aspects of Ahura Mazda.

BAHMAN AMESHASPAND looks after beneficent animals. He represents the first thought of Ahura Mazda which still permeates the Universe. He reminds man to keep his mind good, pure and calm so that peaceful and harmonious thoughts may come, leading him to divine wisdom.

ARDIBAHESHT AMESHASPAND looks after the fires and fire energies of the world. He was assigned the task to establish order in the Universe. He inspires man to be truthful and righteous and understand his purpose in life, especially with respect to the divine Plan of Creation.

SHAHREVAR AMESHASPAND looks after metals and minerals. He encourages man to be firm for the cause of goodness, a necessary quality for kings and all benevolent leaders.

SPANDARMAD AMESHASPAND looks after the earth and teaches man to think right and beneficial thoughts, so that he may become loving, devoted and tolerant. 

KHORDAD AMESHASPAND looks after water. He also looks after seasons and time. He inspires man to strive for perfection leading to spiritual liberation.

AMARDAD AMESHASPAND looks after trees, plants and vegetation. He reminds man of the immortality of soul and the need to be mindful of it.

Human beings are looked after by Ahura Mazda Himself. In this role, He is considered as an Ameshaspand. Thus, with Ahura Mazda, there are Seven Ameshaspands, who are assisted by Yazads and Farohars.

 E. Ahura Mazda is a friend

Ahura Mazda is a friend, father, brother and guide to everybody and hence we need not fear Him. We have to first ask for His friendship and take the first step towards Him by being good and following the religion. If we take the first step, He will take several steps towards us and be our lifelong friend. Then we have to take care to see that we do not do anything that hurts Ahura Mazda.

Ahura Mazda remains our friend and wants to help us, irrespective of our conduct. He never punishes us. However, by our wrong choices and bad actions we close ourselves to His help. Whenever we are unhappy, it is not Ahura Mazda punishing us. We are unhappy because of our actions. The law “Evil unto evil, good blessings unto the good” (law of action and reaction) works automatically in the world. Whoever sincerely and faithfully works for Ahura Mazda, gets His help and support.

F. Ahura Mazda is always with us

We should have the firm belief that Ahura Mazda is with us at all times. In order to put this belief into practice we should constantly keep Him in mind. Whenever we commence anything, be it work, leisure or journey, we should remember Him. Just as we begin our prayers with the words Khshnaothra ahurahe mazdāo “for the pleasure of Ahura Mazda” or Ba nāme yazad “in the name of Yazad (Ahura Mazda), we should begin all our work with His name.” 

In the past, when Zarthushtis used to meet, they would greet each other with the words Yazdān Panāh Bād! “May God protect you.” The reply to this greeting was Der Zi O Shād  Bād! “May you be blessed with a long and happy life.” This salutation keeps us mindful of Ahura Mazda at all times.

G. Making Ahura Mazda happy and not being upset with Him

All creations have been created by Ahura Mazda. If we harm any creation, including human beings, He becomes unhappy. However, if a man becomes evil and hurts others, we have the duty to stop him and try to reform him.

When we are happy we should remember Ahura Mazda and thank Him for His blessings. When we are in troubles and difficulties, we should have faith in Ahura Mazda’s justice and seek His help. We should have patience and always remember that “This too shall pass.” With our own efforts and Ahura Mazda’s help, it is possible to overcome all difficulties.

Whenever we feel that justice has not been done or that we are wronged, we have to remember that the justice of Ahura Mazda may take a long time, but it will definitely be done. It is necessary to be patient. God works in His own mysterious ways, which we may not immediately understand. “The Mills of God grind slow, but they grind exceedingly well.”

After our best efforts if our desires are not fulfilled, we have to understand that they may not be good for us, and so God in His wisdom is not fulfilling them. At such times we have to firmly believe in the adage “God’s Will be done.”

H. Communicating with Ahura Mazda

The best ways to communicate to Ahura is to pray to Him through our Mānthravāni prayers. Whenever we perform the Kasti, our innermost thoughts can reach Ahura Mazda.

However, since Ahura Mazda is also our friend, brother and guide, we can communicate with Him whenever we feel an urge to talk to somebody, but do not know where to go. There are three essential things we need to communicate to Ahura Mazda. Our gratitude, apologies and needs.

While communicating with Ahura Mazda, we must first THANK Him for giving us a wonderful life, parents, relatives and friends.

Next, we should seek FORGIVENESS from Ahura Mazda for any mistakes done by us knowingly or unknowingly. Lastly, we can ask for HELP from Ahura Mazda for anything that we need. However, the things that we ask for should not create difficulty, trouble or harm to other people. After asking our heart’s desire, we should leave it to Ahura Mazda’s wisdom, whether to grant it or not.

0. Introduction to religion & Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrianism is one of History’s greatest wonders. This world’s oldest religion has existed mainly in Central Asia and Iran (90%), and more recently in India (10%). It had once covered 2/3 of the then known world and more than 60% of the people of the world were its followers.

It is a religion which is so strong that its message has survived thousands of years and its beauty is still being discovered and admired. It has a universal ethical and spiritual message, but is exclusive in practice.

A. What is religion?

Religion means different things to different people. The different terms used for religion give us an indication about what religion means to different people of different cultures:

1. The word ‘Religion’ comes from two words ‘Re’ and ‘lege’ which means “bind together.” Thus the primary purpose of religion is to bring together: man with God and then man with other creations. Hence ‘unity’ and ‘harmony’ are the basis of ‘religion.’

2. The word ‘Dharma’ means “Duty, obligation.” Not to just think about the self but also think about others. This idea reflects in the Zoroastrian concept of ‘spenta.’

3. The word ‘Din’ means “religion.” It comes from √dī “to see within, to introspect.” Originally the word means divine knowledge acquired by introspection.

B. How to understand religion?

To understand any religion, it has to be considered through its three main aspects: 1. Ethics (goodness), 2. Teachings (The framework, world view and concepts), and 3. Practices (Based on teachings to derive practical benefits)

C. Why is knowing religion necessary?

Need for religion in life:

1. For identity and self pride, which can be known from the history of the religion.

2. For developing courage and self–confidence by understanding our own latent powers and the help provided to us by divine beings.

3. For knowing about one’s life and its purpose, through the philosophy of the religion.

4. For working on one’s inner happiness (spirituality)

5. For knowing the self and things beyond the physical body, through the concept of man.

6. For understanding the world, knowing things beyond the world of senses by studying cosmology.

D. What is necessary for being religious?

For being religious Knowledge, faith and goodness are necessary.

4 ways of approaching religion:

“Worship, adoration, propitiation and knowledge”, referred to in Zoroastrianism, as Yasnāicha, vahmāicha, khshnaothrāicha and frasastayaecha.

In Hinduism these approaches are referred to as Gnān, Bhakti, Karma and Yoga.

E. What gives religion a bad name?

Religion has acquired many negative connotations. It has become dogmatic, ritualistic and often fundamentalist. Religion gets a bad name when hatred, pride, ego, inferiority and superiority complexes propels it, instead of goodness.

 

F. Terms related to Zoroastrian religion:

Mazdayasni: Zoroastrians recognise Ahura Mazda as God. The term Mazdayasni means “a worshipper of Mazda” and is generally applied to Zoroastrians.

Zarathushti: The  term Zarathushti means “a follower of Zarathushtra, a Zoroastrian.”

Mazdayasni Zarathushti: A believer of Mazda following the teachings of Prophet Zarathushtra, is known as Mazdayasni Zarathushti.

Parsi: The term ‘Parsi’, means “belonging to Pars.” Pars was a south-western province in ancient Iran. Many of our prominent Iranian kings like Cyrus, Darayus and Ardeshir were from this province. They referred to themselves as Parsas. Later the term acquired a religious connotation, and was used for the all Zoroastrian residents of Pars. After the Arab conquest of Iran, the term ‘Parsi’ was used for those residents of Iran who remained steadfast to the Zoroastrian Faith.

G.  What is Unique about Zoroastrian religion:

1. Zoroastrian religion is the oldest revealed religion in the world, started in remote antiquity by Prophet Zarathushtra Spitama, who belonged to the Mazdayasni belief system.

2. Monotheism was established as a religious teaching for the first time in the history of mankind.

3. Fire was regarded by Zoroastrians as the living embodiment of Ahura Mazda in the material world. Though all ancient religions respected fire, Zoroastrian religion gave a very exalted status to fire, unparalleled in any other religion.

4. Veneration of nature and all natural creations is a central principle of the religion. The concept of nature was woven together with the concept of divine beings and man’s duty to look after them. It embodied into one unit the ethical, physical and spiritual worlds in a very beautiful manner and is enshrined in the Zoroastrian concept of the 7 Amesha spentas.

5. It was a religion which gave mankind the freedom of choice and asked them to use their faculties to choose between good and evil. It allowed them to choose their thoughts words and actions, with a sense of responsibility and cautioned them to be in readiness to bear the consequences.

6. Zoroastrianism has a cosmic character. There is an inter-connection between Macro (Universe) and Micro (Man). What is outside is also within. Energy, consciousness, order, strength, love and perfection have Macro as well as Micro characters.

7. Asha is the Cosmic Law which underlies all creations from the atom to solar systems. It governs everything – from the cell to a universe.

8. Importance of the mind in shaping human life and destiny in the material and spiritual worlds.

H. What is the basis of Zoroastrian religion?

The best definition of Zoroastrian religion comes in the oft repeated phrase: Fravarane mazdayasno zarathushtrish vidaevo ahura-tkaesho, that is: “I profess to be a Mazdayasni, follower of Zarathushtra, who is against negativities, and is a promoter of life.” 

This definition is re-iterated in this line:  Khshnaothra ahurahe mazdao taroidite angrahe mainyeush, “For propitiation of Ahura Mazda and contempt of angra mainyu (the evil spirit)”.

I. Misconceptions about Zoroastrian religion

Misconceptions about the religion arise either because of ignorance, bias or too simplistic interpretations of the lofty religion.

Misconception 1. Zoroastrian religion is just about Humata “good thought” Hukhta “good word” Hvarshta “good deed.” 

Fact: Religion is not just about Humata “good thought” Hukhta “good word” and Hvarshta “good deed.” These 3 words form a very small part of the ethical framework of the religion. In fact these words have a much deeper significance. Moreover, being good is a requirement of all religions

Misconception 2. “Freedom of choice” in Zoroastrian religion allows one to do whatever one wants. 

Fact: The “freedom of choice” in Zoroastrian religion is only between good and evil in life, and one has to be prepared to face the consequences. If there was total freedom of choice, there was no need for the prophet and other advanced souls to come to this world to teach men the right way of living.

Misconception 3 : Zoroastrians worship fire.

Fact:  Zoroastrians consider fire as the living, breathing representative of Ahura Mazda on earth. It is the creation which most resembles Ahura Mazda, who is full of light, energy and life. Zoroastrians worship Ahura Mazda through fire, and get his blessings and energy through the agency of fire. Zoroastrians do not focus their worship to fire and thus do not worship in itself.

J. Impediments to a religious way of life

There are several difficulties which a person faces in order to adopt a religious way of life. Some of them are:

1. Ignorance: Ignorance often is connected with excuses like – there are no religious materials, authentic books and teachers.

2. Fear/Shame (lack of pride) /Inferiority Complex (about one’s identity).

3. Lethargy: Lethargy to practice religion seeps in through many guises – excessive wealth, luxury, aping western culture and lifestyle and excessive freedom.

4. Indifference: People often become indifferent to religion. They say that – the religion is not meant for us, it is meant for old people, it is the opium of the masses, it is not suited to our life-style etc.

5. Convenience: Many a times people develop their own style of religion by borrowing from philosophies and practices of other religions.

K. Efforts necessary for being religious

Being religious does not come automatically. Will, determination and efforts have to be made, especially in the beginning stages. As it is stated in the Shahnameh even the great king Faridun had to make efforts to rise to greatness.

Faridun farrokh fireshteh na bud, Ze mushko ze amber serashteh na bud,

Ba dādo dehash chun ān nikui, Ba dādo dehash chun Faridun toi.

“Glorious Faridun was not born an angel, neither was he made of musk and amber. By observances and charity he became good. By observances and charity, you too can become like Faridun.”

After starting a religious life, one has to make efforts to maintain it and keep evolving. 

Conclusion:

Just knowing and understanding religion is not enough.  Religion can be of value only if it is practiced in all aspects daily life – in thoughts as well as practice. In this course, we will concentrate on the aspect of “knowing” the religion. The desire to practice will automatically follow if one believes in the teachings.

How has Bai Motlibai Maneckji Wadia contributed to enrich the Parsis? (TMY, JJ of 19 & 26-1-20)

1. Motlibai Wadia was a descendant of Lowji Nusserwanji Wadia, the famous ship-builder. However, she was not born in the ship-builders’ line of the family, but in the line which had turned towards trade and commerce. Her grand-father Nusserwanji Maneckji Wadia had set up a vast business in France and was the agent of the French Government in Bombay. Her father Jehangirji had inherited this business.

2. Motlibai, born on 30th October 1811, was the only daughter of her parents. She married her father’s brother’s son Maneckji who also was with his father in the family business. Maneckji, however, died early and Motlibai became a widow at the age of 26 years. She had two sons Nowrojee and Nusserwanji.

3. Motlibai lived the rest of her life very purposefully, and also looked after her two sons. Like the other members of the Wadia family, she too contributed large sums of money to charity, mostly towards building, repairing and upkeep of fire temples. She also had two Towers of Silence built at Diu and in Surat. The total amount of her public charities alone was estimated to be about Rupees Twenty six lakhs.

4. Over and above her public charities was a vast number of private humanitarian charities that she did, to help the poor for their weddings, Navjotes and after-death rituals, the real extent of which, we will never know. She also supported a large number of poor, needy and destitute families by giving them monthly stipends and generously donated towards other causes like hospitals, dispensaries and schools.

5. In 1851, she contributed Rupees Twenty thousand towards the reconstruction of a Daremeher in Navsari. She also contributed a piece of land, the income from which was to be utilised towards the upkeep and maintenance of the place.

6. On 10th June 1863 she had a fire temple consecrated at Pitha Street in Mumbai. In 1941, the sacred fire from that fire temple was shifted to the Wadiaji Atash Behram. On 29th April 1966, this fire was taken from the Wadiaji Atash Behram and shifted to Malcolm Baug, Jogeshwari, on account of the requests of the residents of the Colony. 

7. In 1893, she had the Iranshah Atash Behram at Udvada rebuilt at the cost of Rupees Eighty thousand. Her stately and majestic photograph adorns the Atash Behram Hall.

8. Motlibai passed away on 24th May, 1897, at the age of 86, after a brief period of illness and immediately after the unfortunate and untimely death of her younger son Nusserwanji. A rare honour was bestowed upon her at her Uthamna when Dasturji Dr. Darab Peshotan Sanjana instructed the priests of those times, to take her name in all the rituals they perform, along with the names of other hallowed and great Parsis. This honour, uptil then was reserved almost exclusively for the gentlemen of the Community.

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.