Who are the Ameshāspands?
1. According to Zoroastrianism, divine beings of various hierarchical levels reside in the spiritual world, the main among which are the Ameshāspands, Yazatas and Fravashi.
2. The more important among them are known by a name and a day in the Zoroastrian calendar is dedicated to them. In this way they can be remembered in our daily life. The seven Ameshāspands preside over the first seven days of the month.
3. Ameshāspands (Av. Amesha Spenta) are highest among the spiritual beings. The word Ameshāspand means “beneficial immortals.” With Hormazd (Ahura Mazda) as their head, the Amesha Spentas are seven in number. Ahura Mazda is their father and preceptor. All seven work with one accord and are united in action. They preside over spiritual powers, virtues, qualities and material creations. The seven Ameshāspands are:
i. Hormazd: Though Hormazd is the name of the creator, in a limited sense, he functions as the first Ameshāspand, looks after mankind, and presides over the virtue of wisdom.
ii. Bahman: He presides over cattle. He also presides over the evolved mind which ultimately leads to the Cosmic Mind.
iii. Ardibahesht: He presides over fire and energies. He also presides over the virtue of Truth which symbolically eradicates the darkness of lies, falsehood and deceit,
iv. Shahrevar: He presides over metals. He also presides over power, strength and the virtues of a leader.
v. Spandarmad: She presides over the earth. She looks after the virtues of love, tolerance and understanding.
vi. Khordād: He presides over water. He also stands for the religious truth of the ultimate perfection of the soul and the world.
vii. Amardad: He represents the vegetable kingdom and also over the religious teaching of immortality of the soul and immanence of the spiritual world.
4. The above is a very simplistic explanation of the concept of Ameshāspands, although this concept is very deep and profound and works at ethical, physical, mental, psychological, spiritual and cosmic levels.
Who are the Yazads? What does the word Yazad mean?
1. Yazad is a word in the Avestan language which literally means “worthy of veneration.” Hence all divine beings including Ahura Mazda may be regarded as Yazads. In fact the first of the 101 names of Ahura Mazda is Yazad.
2. Technically the word Yazad is referred to a group of divine beings who work under Ahura Mazda and the Ameshāspands. Each of the seven Ameshāspands has hamkar Yazads, that is co-worker Yazads who work in co-ordination and co-operation with them and do similar tasks.
3. Divine beings like Sarosh, Adar, Behram and Rashne are Yazads. Each Yazad has a special function either on the physical, spiritual or ethical level. Some Yazads have multiple functions.
4. Spiritually, Yazads are channels of divine energy. Each channel has a specific role and purpose to play. They emanate from the Endless pool of energy of Ahura Mazda.
5. In Avesta, it is mentioned that there are innumerable Yazads. However about 40 Yazads are more important and are mentioned by name. Many of these Yazads are included in the days of the roj and preside over a particular creation or virtue.
6. Prophet Zarathushtra, though a mortal, is given the status of a Yazad.
Is there a hierarchy of divine beings in the Avesta?
1. The Avesta mentions divine beings of different types and status. The highest among them is Ahura Mazda who alone has the title dādār “creator” prefixed before his name.
2. After Him comes the Ameshāspands who individually look after each of the seven creations. Under the seven Ameshāspands work the Yazads.
3. There are innumerable Yazads working in the universe, but only a few from these are mentioned by name. The names of the Roj and Māh are dedicated to some of these Yazads mentioned by name.
4. Of the 30 days (roj) of the month, the first seven are named after the Ameshāspands and the rest 23 are dedicated mainly to the Yazads. Three to four Yazads are appropriated to each of the seven Ameshāspands and work under them. These are called the Hamkars of the Ameshāspand.
5. Among these 23 Yazads there are a few who are called ‘Mino’ who work predominantly over spiritual qualities and purposes. The rest work predominantly at the material level and for worldly tasks.
6. Another type of Yazads are Ratus. They predominantly work with nature and are connected with seasons.
7. Fravashis and Asho Ravans (realised souls who have already reached Garothmān – the Highest Heaven) are also divine beings in their own right. They too work under and with the Ameshāspands and Yazads.
What are hamkārs?
1. In Zoroastrian religious tradition, the term hamkār refers to divine beings (Ameshāspands and Yazads) who have similar or common functions and hence work with each other. The word hamkār literally means “co-workers.”
2. In the schema of the 30 roj of the month, the first seven roj are the Ameshāspands who are the chief of the other 23 roj. Each of the seven Ameshāspand has 3 to 4 Yazads with similar works, as their hamkārs. The list of the 7 Ameshāspands and their hamkārs is in all Khordeh Avestas.
3. The hamkārs assist the Ameshāspands in looking after the seven creations. For instance Adar, Sarosh and Behram Yazads are the three hamkārs of Ardibahesht Ameshāspand. All the hamkārs, like their chief Ameshāspand, are connected to fire and divine energy.
4. Some of our religious traditions are connected to the concept of hamkārs. For instance, on Ardibahesht roj and hamkārs connected to him, Zoroastrians are expected to go to the fire temple. That is why these days are marked in red in the Parsi calendar.
5. Another example is of Bahman roj who looks after cattle. His hamkārs are Mohor, Gosh and Ram Yazads. On all these days we abstain from eating meat and observe them as an-rojā as a mark of respect to Bahman Ameshāspand.
What is a Fravashi? Is it a separate from the soul?
1. A Fravashi is one of the three spiritual constituents of a human being. In Gujarati it is referred to as “farohar.” The soul is a different spiritual constituent of a human being. In Gujarati it is referred to as rawān or ruwān.
2. Fravashi and soul are distinctly different and separate from each other in every away. The only similarity is that both are spiritual and hence indestructible.
3. The soul is the active agent and the chooser in the life of a person. It makes choices and takes good or bad decisions with the help of the mind. Hence it is judged after death and gets its due place in heaven or hell, when it leaves the world on the dawn of the fourth day after death (chahrom).
4. The Fravashi on the other hand is an essence of the divine energy of Ahura Mazda. It is an individual and personal guide to the soul. It does not involve itself with the affairs of the life. It is totally incorruptible and hence it is not judged after death. It keeps on helping the soul in life and even after death till the soul requires its help. Then this Fravashi joins the collective of Fravashis, referred to as Ardāfravash.
5. Though the Muktad is to thank and celebrate the Fravashis, the souls also descend into this world during these days.
6. Zoroastrians wear the symbol of Fravashi as a pendant or use it as stickers. It is a very ancient Zoroastrian motif to symbolize the divine in men. It reminds us that we are always connected to Ahura Mazda and that we can always seek help and guidance from Him through our personal Fravashi.
Why is Āvān Ardvisur Yazad invoked by pregnant ladies?
1. Āvān Yazad presides over water and all other fluids, including fluids in our body.
2. The reproductive process is largely governed by fluids and hence Āvān Yazad presides over the entire process of reproduction, right from conception to post natal nursing.
3. In Āvān Yasht and Āvān Ardvisur Nyash it is stated that Āvān Yazad helps to improve the quality of semen, nurture a healthy child in the womb, and bring timely milk to mothers.
4. In the Zoroastrian tradition, pregnant ladies are recommended to recite the Āvān Ardvisura Nyash and/or the Āvān Yasht during pregnancy, especially during the later months, in order to invoke Āvān Yazad, also referred to as Ardvi Sur Banu.
Why is Āvān Yazad (Āvān ardvisur banu), which presides over waters, not a hamkār of Khordād Ameshāspand, who presides over water?
1. The term Hamkār is used to denote the Yazads who are co-workers of Ameshāspands. Each of the 7 Ameshāspands have 3 to 4 hamkār Yazads to help them in their work.
2. Khordād Ameshāspand presides over water, but Āvān Yazad is not among his hamkārs. Instead Āvān Yazad is a hamkār of Aspandād Ameshāspand who presides over the earth. There is a very logical reason behind this.
3. Āvān Yazad presides over water that flows under the earth. This includes waters of the rivers, wells and springs.
4. Khordād Ameshāspand presides over water connected with the process of rainfall, that is lake water and sea water.
5. For this reason Āvān Yazad is a hamār with Aspandād Ameshāspand who presides over the earth and not with Khordād Ameshāspand which presides over water.
What is the importance of Tir Yazad in Zoroastrian religion?
1. Tir Yazad, known as Tishtrya in Avesta, and Teshtar in later Iranian languages, is one of the more important Zoroastrian Yazads. In the Parsi calendar, the 13th roj and the 4th māh are dedicated to him.
2. Tirangān festival is celebrated on Tir roj of Tir māh in honour of Tir Yazad. This festival celebrates an historical event of the Peshdadian times. When the Iranian king Minocheher and the Turanian king Afrasuyab were on the verge of a war, a truce was worked out under the condition, that an archer would shoot an arrow (Tir) from Mount Khshutha, and the spot where it landed would be the new boundary between the two countries. Archer Erekhsha was selected, who by his inner strength shot the arrow, which traversed from dawn to dusk, resulting in Iran getting a big territory, without fighting a war.
3. Tir Yazad presides over rain. In the Tir Yasht, Tir Yazad in the form of a white horse battles Apaosha the demon of drought, in the form of a black horse. Finally Tir Yazad overcomes Apaosha with the help of the prayers of the people of the world.
4. Tir Yazad also looks after eyes and hence he is connected with healthy eyesight. In the Khorshed and Meher Nyaishnas we pray tishtrim dravo chashmanem yazamaide that is “We venerate Tishtrya (Tir Yazad), who is the giver of healthy eyesight (chashman).”
5. Tir Yazad is identified with the planet Mercury, which, among other things, presides over communication, Hence Tir Yazad is the giver of fluent speech and the power of effective communication, both of which are essential tools for building self- confidence.
What is the importance of Meher Yazad in Zoroastrian religion?
1. Meher is one of the more prominent Yazads in Zoroastrian religion. He is one of the three Yazads who find a place in the names of the 12 months of the Zoroastrian calendar. The Meher Yasht, dedicated to Meher Yazad is one of the longest Yashts.
2. The 7th month of the Zoroastrian calendar year, and the 16th day of the month are dedicated to Meher Yazad. In Avesta, Meher Yazad is known as Mithra, which originally means “contract, friendship, love.” The Indian word mitra “friend” owes its origin to this ancient Indo-Iranian word. The Hindus too have a god by the name Mitra whose functions are similar to Zoroastrian Mithra.
3. Meher Yazad is present wherever two parties are involved, and hence presides over all such activities like justice, friendship, promises, contracts and wars. He is also one of the judges of the soul at the dawn of the 4th day after the death (Chahrom).
4. Meher Yazad is associated with light. He looks after all cosmic lights, including the sun light. He also looks after the atmospheric spheres, wide spaces and expanses.
5. Meher Yazad has authority over rituals. He is lord over rituals and ritual spaces. On account of this, a Zoroastrian house of worship, especially in Iran and the West, is referred to as a Dare-Meher or Darbe-Meher which means “House of Meher Yazad.”
6. The day on which the day Meher falls in the month of Meher, is referred to as Meherangān. This day is connected with the historical event of Pishdadian King Faridun freeing Iran from the tyranny of the evil Zohak, and a Jashan being celebrated to commemorate this event.
7. Just as Meher Yazad (Mithra) is closely related in name and function with Vedic Mitra, there are also similarities between Meher Yazad and Archangel Michael, who is venerated by the Jews as well as in other Christian denominations.
8. The popularity of Meher Yazad today can be judged by the plethora of male and female Zoroastrian names connected with Meher Yazad, like Meher, Maher, Meheru, Mehera, Meherzad, Mehernaz, Mehernavaz, Mehernosh, Mehershad, Meherwan, Meheryar, Meherangiz Meherbanu, Meherdad and Buzorg-Meher.
What is the importance of Sarosh Yazad in Zoroastrian religion?
1. Sarosh Yazad is one of the most important Yazads, who is given the title Sālār-i-dāmān-i-Hormazd, that is “commander of the creations of Ahura Mazda.” The 17th day of the Zoroastrian month is dedicated to him. He is a co-worker of Ardibahesht Ameshāspand.
2. The word Sarosh means “obedience.” Sarosh Yazad presides over obedience to divine laws and laws of nature. The number ‘Five’ is associated with Sarosh Yazad in prayers, primarily because obedience to divine laws is possible through the five senses and their perceptions.
3. He presides over divine guidance, inspiration, intuition, and revelation. He gave divine revelation to prophet Zarathushtra, and divine guidance to kings like Gayomard, Jamshed and Faridun.
4. An important function of Sarosh Yazad is to protect the souls of the living as well as the dead. Immediately after death, when a soul leaves the body, its state is like that of a new born child. Sarosh Yazad looks after such souls for the first three days and nights, till the Individual Judgement takes place on the dawn of the fourth day after death. Sarosh Yazad is also present at the time of the Judgement of the soul.
5. Sarosh Yazad is closely connected with holy words of prayers (mānthra-vāni). He is called tanu-mānthra, that is his body is made of words of prayers. He is responsible for taking our prayers to the divine world. That is why we Zoroastrian daily prayers start with the Sarosh Baj.
6. Rooster is the symbol of Srosh Yazad. It wakes up man from sleep early in the morning to remind him of his duties, especially of offering prayers. Aeshma, the demon of wrath and anger is the rival of Sarosh Yazad.
7. Sarosh is the most powerful Yazad at night. He protects people against all evils at night. That is why we have a tradition of saying Sarosh Yazad Panāh-bād “May Sarosh Yazad protect you” before going to bed, and which is like a Zoroastrian “Good-night.”
8. Sarosh is the only Yazad in whose honour there are two Yashts in the Khordeh Avesta. The Sarosh Yasht Vadi is to be recited only in the Aiwisruthrem geh, and the Sarosh Yasht Hadokht can be recited in any of the other four gehs. In fact, Sarosh Yasht Vadi is the farazyāt prayer for the Aiwisruthrem geh.
9. The divine beings Gibrael of the Islamic faith and Gabriel of the Catholics have functions and attributes similar to Sarosh Yazad.
Why is Behram Yazad considered important?
1. Behram Yazad presides over success and victory. He bestows courage and confidence to people working for a righteous cause. He is also known by his epithets (qualities) Fattehmand, Perojgar and dushman jadār all of which mean “victorious over opponents.” He is a Hamkār (co-worker) of Ardibahesht Ameshāspand, and his co-workers are Ama and Vanainti Yazads. Behram Yazad’s chief opponent is Vyāmbur daeva.
2. Behram Yazad was very popular in Iranduring Sasanian and post Sasanian times. Five Emperors of the Sasanian period were named Behram. They are: Behram I (272-275); Behram II (275-292); Behram III (292-293); Behram IV also known as Kermanshah (388-399) and Behram V also referred to as Bahramgur (420-440).
3. The Avestan word for Behram is verethraghna which means “success, victory.” Some of his functions may be comparable to Ganesha the ishta devta (chief God) of the Hindus, whose epithet Vighna-harta is very similar to Behram Yazad’s epithet mushkel āsān.
4. Behram Yazad is also associated with travel. In that context, he is referred to as Panth Yazad. He is invoked before departing on a voyage or a journey.
5. Behram Yasht is the Avestan invocation to Behram and Ama Yazads. Its recitation gives confidence and success.
What is the role of Ram Yazad?
1. The name Rām is the Pazand form of the Avesta word rāman. As a common noun it means “joy” and as a proper noun, it is the name of the Yazad who presides over joy. The name of the Hindu god Rāma has no connection with this Yazad.
2. Rām Yazad is the Hamkār (co-worker) of Bahman Ameshāspand, who presides over the ‘good mind.’ Hence, if one wants to be joyful, one needs to have control over the mind and keep it good. Since Rām Yazad is the Hamkar of Bahman Ameshāspand, we observe Rām roj as an an-roja (no meat day).
3. Since Ram Yazad presides over joy, pleasure and domestic happiness he is invoked at the time of marriage by the performance of the Varadh-pattar bāj just before marriage ceremony. In fact the phrase shādi rāmashni means “happiness and joy.”
4. Since Rām Yazad presides over joy of life, and one of his functions is to unite, the mention of his name is omitted from the ‘Jasa me avanghe mazda, amahe hutāshtahe’ prayer, when recited in some after-death prayers and rituals, as death is the separation of the soul from the body and hence not a joyous happening.
5. Rām Yazad works along with Meher Yazad in looking after the space between the earth and the sky. That is the reason why a bāj is recited in honour of Rām Yazad just before the Chāhrom (dawn of the fourth day after death) to request him to give a safe passage to the soul of the deceased on its way to the spiritual world.
6. Vāyu Yazad is an associate of Rām Yazad. Whenever Ram Yazad is invoked, Vāyu Yazad is always invoked along with him. Vāyu Yazad is described as travelling by a golden chariot with golden wheels. Vāyu Yazad also presides over the space between the earth and the sky – the path which the souls of the departed ones have to travel on the dawn of the fourth day to reach the other world. Vāyu is an Indo-Iranian divine being and hence worshipped by both the Indians and the Iranians. In the Rig Veda too, the divine being Vāyu presides over the wind and is depicted as traveling swiftly in a chariot drawn by horses.
Why is Mino Ashishwangh Yazad invoked?
1. The word Ashishwangh come from two Avestan words ashi and vanghuhi and means “good blessings.”
2. Mino Ashishwangh Yazad bestows spiritual and material wealth. However, nowadays people invoke her mostly for material wealth and prosperity.
3. Ashishwangh Yazad is the equivalent of Goddess Lakhshmi among the Hindus.
4. The co-worker of Ashishwangh Yazad is Pārendi Yazad, who too is invoked for wealth and prosperity. After daily prayers, the line “Yā vanghu-dāo vanghuhim pārendim yazamaide” for invoking Pārendi Yazad may be recited several times (101/301/501) followed by an Ashem Vohu for ensuring prosperity.
Why should we pray to Hom Yazad?
1. Hom Yazad has been worshipped since very ancient times, even before prophet Zarathushtra and Peshdadian king Jamshed. The Vedic god Som has characteristics very similar to Hom Yazad.
2. The Avesta word for Hom is haoma. This word signifies three different things–the yazata Haoma, the plant Haoma and a saintly, heroic Iranian man. The plant Haoma, which is referred to in the Vedas as Soma, has similar characteristics and is now identified with plants belonging to the ephedra family. These plants grow on dry mountainous terrains and have medicinal properties.
3. Though Hom Yazad is not one of the Yazads mentioned in the 30 days of the calendar, he is the 32nd of the 33 Zoroastrian Fareshtas associated with the calendar.
4. Hom Yasht is a prayer dedicated to Hom Yazad. It consists of chapters 9 and 10 of the Yasna. There is a shorter version of the Hom Yasht too, referred to as the Nāni Hom Yasht.
5. In the larger Hom Yasht we are told that 4 men – Vivanghat, Athwya, Thrita and Pourushaspa – invoked Hom Yazad. Eash was blessed with illustrious son/s – king Jamshid, king Faridun, heroes Urvakhsh & Kersasp and prophet Zarathushtra, respectively. Prophet Zarathushtra too worshipped Hom Yazad and the Yazad appeared before him.
6. Hom Yazad is a giver of good health. He invigorates the body, gives long life, keeps disease and death away, helps fight poisons, protects against unseen evils and black magic. He also benefits the soul by helping it attain spiritual power and religious knowledge. He is also the bestower of intelligence, strength, speed, victory, prosperity and other boons.
Who is Airyaman Yazad?
1. Airyaman Yazad is a very powerful Zoroastrian Yazad. However, he is not so well known as no Roj is dedicated to him nor is there any Yasht in his honour. Yasna chapter 54 and Vendidad chapter 22 are entirely dedicated to him. Yasna chapter 54 can be separately recited to invoke Airyaman Yazad.
2. The meaning of the word Airyaman is “having a noble mind.” He is also referred to as ishya, that is, desirable and loved. In the Hāvan Geh, he is described as desirable, strong, victorious and free from malice. Praying to him is regarded as important as reciting the 5 Gathas.
3. The two main functions of Airyaman Yazad are maintaining harmonious relationships, especially in marriage, and giving health and immunity to fight diseases. Along with Ardibahesht Ameshāpsand, he is regarded as the chief healing Yazads, who has a cure for all diseases. He is invoked in the Marriage benedictions as he presides over marriages, along with Rām Yazad. He will help the future savior in bringing about Frashokereti, the final renovation.
4. He is an associate of Ardibahesht Ameshāspand, and is remembered along with him. In the Ardibahesht Yasht, he is mentioned as a Yazad who needs to be invoked, and who is helpful in overcoming black magic and sorcery.
5. The Vedas have a divine being by the name Aryaman, who belongs to the group of good divine beings called Adityas, and whose qualities are similar to Airyaman Yazad. He is an associate of Mitra and Varuna.
Do Zoroastrians have something like Valentines’ day?
1. Valentine’s day, celebrated on the 14th of February in the Christian calendar every year, is the day dedicated to St. Valentine, the patron saint of romantic love between a man and a woman.
2. In Zoroastrian religion, such love is predominantly looked after by Ram Yazad who presides over joy and pleasure. Another divine being, Airyaman Yazad who presides over harmonious relationships, also presides over romantic love.
3. At present, there is no particular day in the Zoroastrian calendar year, on which such a day is celebrated. However since one day in every month in the Zoroastrian religious calendar is dedicated to Ram Yazad, that can be the Valentines’ day every month.
4. If at all one is looking for one such day in the whole year it could be the day of Ram in the month of Amardad (immortality) symbolizing immortal love.