5 Nyāsh – An Understanding

The five Nyāsh are some of the most primary prayers in the daily prayer book Khordeh Avesta. They are some of the most often recited prayers, as the first two Nyāsh are Farajyāt (obligatory) prayers for the daytime.

The word Nyāsh originally means ‘a hymn; a song of praise’. It is derived from Avestan root gā- “to sing” with prefix ni- and suffix –shna. The 5 Nyāsh are in honour of natural luminous creations, all of which are either store–houses or transmitters of Khwarenah “divine energies.”

Nyāsh were composed during the Sasanian times from passages taken from larger Avestan texts like the Yashts and the Yasna. The beginning and the ending of all Nyāsh are in the Pazand language.

We will now have a look at each of the five Nyāsh individually:

1) Khorshed Nyāsh is in honour of the sun, and also invokes Khorshed Yazad who presides over the sun. It is taken from Khorshed Yasht, and passages from Yasna 33.10; 36.6; 43.6 and 68.10, 22-23.

2) Meher Nyāsh is in honour of sunlight and other cosmic lights, over which Meher Yazad presides. It is taken from Meher Yasht,

The Khorshed and Meher Nyāsh are never recited individually, but always together, immediately one after another, followed by Doā Vispa Humata, Doā Nãm Setayashne and Homage to the Four Directions. This set of five prayers comprise the day time Farajyāt bandagi “obligatory prayers”. They should be recited only during day time, either in the Hāvan, Rapithwan or Uziran geh. They should be recited in sunlight or at an open place, like near a window, on a verandah or a balcony. One should not recite them before the fire.

3) Mah Bakhtār Nyāsh is in honour of the moon, over which Mohor (also referred to as Māh) Yazad presides. It is almost identical to the Māh Yasht.

It can be recited daily in any of the 5 gehs. Zoroastrian religious text recommend to pray it at least on the New Moon Day (Chānd-rāt), Full Moon Day (Punam) and No Moon-Day (Amās). It is preferable to pray this Nyāsh in the presence of the moon, if one is praying it at night. The recitation of this prayer is beneficial for the mind and gives mental peace and relaxation.

4) Avan Ardvisur Nyāsh is in honour of waters, especially, flowing waters, over which Avan Ardvisur Anahita Yazad presides. The Nyash was compiled from Avestan texts taken from Avan Yasht and Yasna 65.

This Nyāsh should be recited only during the daytime in Hāvan, Rapithwan or Uziran geh. This practice emanates from the Zoroastrian belief that the waters get their intrinsic strength from the sun. This Nyāsh should preferably be recited near a natural source of water like, well, river or sea. If that is not possible, then one can take a little water in a small glass and pray before it. It can be recited daily, or otherwise at least on roj Aspandād, Āvān, Din, Ashishvangh and Marespand.

5) Atash Nyāsh is in honour of fire and Khwarenah “spiritual energies”, over which Ādar Yazad presides. It is taken from Yasna 62, Siroza Yasht 9 and stanzas from Gatha Ahunavaiti (Yasna 33.11-13 and 34.5).

This Nyāsh can be recited at any time of the day or night, in any of the five gehs. It has to be preferably recited facing the fire, or if that is not possible than near an oil lamp or any other available light.

It can be recited daily, and if not, then especially on roj Hormazd, Ardibehesht, Ādar, Sarosh and Behrām. It is mandatory to pray this Nyāsh facing the fire when one visits an Agyari or Atash Behram.

One should always stand while reciting Atash Nyāsh, as a mark of respect to the sacred fire. Traditionally, whle prayin this Nyāsh,  a handkerchief is held in one’s left hand masking the mouth, so as not to desecrate the fire by one’s breath or spit whilst praying, even if it is from a distance.