8. QA about PRAYERS

Why should we pray?

1. Prayers soothe, calm and relax the mind. This is beneficial to an individual’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

2. Secondary benefits of prayer include good health, immunity and wellness leading to happiness.

3. Prayer is the best way to communicate with the divine world. It conveys our thoughts of gratitude, apology and help to the divine world.

4. Prayers helps one to be in touch establish and maintain links with Ahura Mazda, prophet Zarathushtra and the divine beings.

5. Prayer is the time tested way to obtain divine energy, which is necessary for one’s overall well-being.

Is there something like praying excessively or praying too much?

1. Prayer is a very personal and subjective experience. The time that one devotes to prayers is also relative from person to person. Although about 20-30 minutes of prayers in the day are a must, some may enjoy praying for 2 hours, and some may get tired in 10 minutes.

2. In everything, including prayers, balance or moderation is the key. One should pray till one mentally enjoys it. One should feel spiritually uplifted and should not be physically exhausted. One should not pray for the sake of praying, or to set records.  For one person 20 minutes may be more than enough, for another, three hours may not be sufficient.

3. An important principle in prayers is that one should not pray at the expense of one’s work and duties. About twenty minutes devoted to prayers in the morning invigorates one for all other daily activities.

4. Hence one should make it a point to pray as early in the morning as possible before any household compulsions or job related work starts, demanding one’s time and attention.

What is your suggestion for those who don’t pray?

1. People who don’t pray generally fall under 3 categories: a. Those who don’t pray because of lack of time, b. Those who don’t pray because they don’t know how to pray, and c. Those who don’t pray because they don’t believe in the effectiveness and powers of prayers.

2. Among the above three categories,  most people fall in category (a), that is, they don’t pray because of lack of time. For those who don’t believe in prayers (category c), they will not mind experimenting or trying out if it does not require much time and effort. For those who don’t know how to pray (category b), a short and simple prayer is the best solution.

3. For all the above three types of people, the best solution is to start with the shortest and simplest of Zoroastrian prayers of Yathā ahu vairyo and Ashem Vohu, which can be prayed at any time and any place.

4. These are not just prayers, they are very powerful Mantras or chants. The power inherent in these prayers is sure to transform the life of the person who chants them. The more frequency of the chanting, the greater the benefit.

5. The best thing about these short prayers is that they can be chanted anytime, anywhere and under any circumstances.

6. Ashem vohu being a calming and soothing prayer is best prayed at home and when restless, agitated or angry. Yathā ahu vairyo being pro-active, is a prayer for protection. It is best prayed when going outside, starting a new work, meeting challenges or when one is feeling scared or insecure.

7. These two short prayers can be prayed in different combinations. The most basic combination of  2 Yathā ahu vairyo and 1 Ashem vohu can be prayed when seeking God’s help and blessings while initiating any work.

8. These two prayers can be prayed in different numbers and combinations, and for different purposes.

How does praying in a language that we do not understand help us?

1. Prayer is a beautiful mechanism given by all religions to fulfil the mental, emotional and spiritual needs of mankind.

2. Prayers can help us in two ways, by telling us about the religion and by doing things which otherwise we would not be able to accomplish. These two ways are described as informative and performative aspects of prayer. Informative aspects guide us about the teachings of the religion and performative aspects do astonishing, miraculous things for us, especially through our own faculties of the mind and the kehrpa (spirit body).

3. For the performative aspect of the prayer to have effect, it is not necessary to understand the meaning of the prayers. Prayers recited sincerely, with devotion and concentration give us the perfromative benefits of prayer, like health and divine energy, relax our mind and protect us from seen and unseen evils.

4. Thus increasing our knowledge about religion is not the sole purpose of our prayers. In James Montgomery’s words, prayers is “the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed, the motion of a hidden fire that trembles in the breast.”

5. If one wants to know the meaning of prayers, and reflect on them, one can study the Avesta language and understand the meaning from the original texts, or read their translations which are available in English, Gujarati and several other languages.

What is the concept of 5 gehs in Zoroastrian religion?

1. The concept of Time is very important in the Zoroastrian religion. The physical world was created as a fixed period of time, from Endless Time. To be connected to God and divine beings, it is necessary to connect through Time. Hence Zoroastrian religion divides time into several divisions, the smallest of which is called the geh.

2. A day is divided into five parts called the 5 gehs. They are Havan, Rapithwin, Uziran, Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin. The names of the five Gehs are originally from the Avesta language. Havan means “time of pounding Haoma,” Rapithwin means “half part of the day,” Uziran means “high part of the day”, Aiwisruthrem means “time for singing prayers” and Ushahin means “enhancing consciousness.” As can be noticed, the names are significant to one or the other aspect of the day. The name of the geh is not only the name of that part of the day but also the name of a Yazad who presides over that period.

3. The idea of dividing the day into parts is a very ancient one. From the Gathas we come to know that in the time of prophet Zarathushtra there were 3 divisions of the day – Morning (Usha), mid-day (Arem-Pithwa) and night (Khshapa). The five-fold division of the day came later, keeping in mind four fixed points in the 24 hours day: sunrise, mid-day, sunset and mid-night.

4. It is pertinent to note that each of the 5 Geh has an average time span of 4 to 5 hours. They are mainly to fulfil the purposes of facilitating prayers, performing rituals, recharging our spiritual energies, cleansing invisible negativities and regularly being in touch with the divine world. The first (Havan) and last (Ushahin) gehs are longer to facilitate performance of higher rituals – Yasna and Vendidad respectively. Havan geh is the best time to perform most rituals.

5. The beginning of each geh is marked by the performance of Boi ritual in the fire temple. This is done to periodically strengthen the sacred fire and the good forces in their on-gong battle against evil.

6. Some Zoroastrians scholars, like Mr. Sohrab J.Bulsara, Er. Ratansha R.Motafram and Mr. Behramsha Pithawalla, have showed that each of the five divisions of the day, also indicate the five stages of the progressive development of the soul.

7. Havan geh indicates the first stage. The word Hāvan literally means pounding and is the stage at which the soul faces several trials and tribulations. The soul has to overcome this stage without succumbing to negativities or being defeated by the challenges of life. The soul has to be strong to take the poundings from the circumstances of life. It has to think about benefiting (sāvanghi) society (visya) despite the hardships. Meher is the guiding Yazad at this stage, along with Airyaman Yazad who presides over harmony, and Mino Rām Yazad who gives joy amidst the everyday struggles for existence.

8. Rapithwin geh indicates the second stage, when a balance is set and most doubts are cleared.  The person is at the mid-point (arempithwa) of his evolution, poised to realise the powers of his mind and soul.  At this stage the wisdom of the sages and prophets, start making sense, and a spiritual guide can make a marked difference. The soul is no longer over-whelmed by negativities, but starts understanding and gracefully accepting them. It becomes conscious of its role in the world, and about its broad purpose in life.  At this stage the person learns to respect all creations and creatures and works for their progress (frādatfshu). Ardibahesht Ameshaspand, who helps in the striving to reach the Ultimate Truth, and Adar Yazad who presides over spiritual fires and divine energies, preside over this stage.

9. The third stage is Uzairina – the spiritual awakening of the soul. In this stage, man is in complete harmony with fellow human beings and works for their progress (frādatvira).  The exalted soul now yearns to corroborate with the divine beings. Berez Yazad and Āvān Yazad, who govern divine currents, presides over this stage.

10. In the fourth stage, the soul is fully evolved and is able to hear (sruthrema) the communication form higher (aiwi) dimensions. The man on this stage works along with the Fravashis for the progress of all good creations (frādat-vispām hujyāitim). His work is marked by the courage of conviction (ama) and crowned with success (verethraghna).

11. The final stage of the soul is the realization and identification of its individual consciousness with the Universal consciousness. Under the guardianship of Sarosh, Rashne and Ashtad Yazads the soul becomes exalted (berezya).

12. Each of the 5 gehs has two types of prayers in the Khordeh Avesta. One is the short three line prayer to be recited within the Fravarane prayer in Nyash and Yashts. The other is the full larger prayer dedicated to each geh, to be recited after the Sarosh Baj and before beginning any other prayer.

13. The injunction of praying five times a day in Islam had been adopted from the Zoroastrian teaching of five gehs.

Why is it necessary to recite the particular geh in every prayer?

1. The concept of Time has a deep and unique understanding in the Zoroastrian religion. It starts with the Geh (division of the day), and goes on to the Roj (day), Māh (month), Sāl (year) and Gahambārs (seasons), in a progressive manner.

2. Each Zoroastrian prayer has the ‘Fravarāne’ paragraph in which the relevant ‘short geh is recited.’Over and above that the long / full Geh is recited after the Sarosh baj, before reciting any other prayer.

3. The reason for this is to connect with the Yazads presiding over the geh before beginning the invocations of other Yazads and Ameshaspands.

4. Through prayers, Zoroastrians connect to the Spiritual world. The geh, which is the smallest division of finite Time, is the first level of connection to Endless Time, which leads to the infinite spiritual world.

Why should certain prayers be recited only at certain times?

1. According to Zoroastrian religion, a day is divided into 5 parts called Geh. Each geh has divine beings presiding over it and a special prayer dedicated to it.

2. Certain prayers dedicated to certain creations have to be done at particular time in a particular geh, for instance the Khorshed and Meher Nyash, prayers dedicated to the sun and sun light, are recited only during the 3 day time gehs of Havan, Rapithwin and Uziran

3. The prayers dedicated to water and its divine being – Avan Ardvisura Nyash and Avan Yasht, are also recited only during the 3 day time gehs. The reason why Avan Yazad cannot be invoked after sunset is that, the vital powers in water gets their strength and efficacy from the sun rays.

4. The prayer Sarosh Yasht Vadi is recited only in the Aiwisruthrem geh, especially because Sarosh Yazad is the most powerful destroyer of evils at night and his help is most required in the first part of the night (Aiwsruthrem geh) when the forces of evil are at their peak.

5. Since Sarosh Yazad helps mankind in other ways too, he can be invoked in the other four gehs by reciting Sarosh Yasht Hadokht.

6. The Hoshbam prayer, dedicated to dawn, is generally recited about an hour before and after sunrise. However, the best time to pray it is an hour before sunrise, which is still the Ushahin Gah.

What is Farjyāt bandagi “prayer”?

1. The basic minimum prayer which a Zoroastrian is enjoined to recite daily as a religious obligation, is called Farajyāt bandagi. The words literally mean “obligatory prayers.”

2. These daily prayers, though obligatory, should be done with joy, as a mark of gratitude to god. They not only provide us with our daily requirement of spiritual energy but also serve as a mental relaxation programme. If a person is fluent with these prayers, they take about 20 to 25 minutes.

3. The prescribed Farajyāt bandagi for day time can be done in any of the three day time gehs, but preferably in the morning in the Havan geh. These prayers are; (i) Kasti (ii) Sarosh Baj (iii) Havan / Rapthwin / Uziran Geh (iv) Khorshed Nyash  (v) Meher Nyash  (vi) Doā Vispa Humata (vii) Doā Nām Setāyashne (viii) Chār dishāno namaskār  (ix) 101 names of god (x) Doā Tandarosti.

4. The prescribed Farajyāt bandagi for Aiwisruthrem geh are: (i) Kasti (ii) Sarosh Baj (iii) Aiwisruthrem Geh (iv) Sarosh Yasht Vadi with Nirang (v) Doā Nam Setāyashne (vi) Divā/Cherāg-no-namaskār (vii) 101 names of god (viii) Doā Tandarosti.

5. The prescribed Farajyāt bandagi for Ushahin geh are: (i) Kasti (ii) Sarosh Baj (iii) Ushahin Geh (iv) Sarosh Yasht Hādokht with Nirang (v) Doā Nam Setāyashne (vi) Divā/Cherāg-no-namaskār (vii) 101 names of god (viii) Doā Tandarosti. It is pertinent to note that if the Farazyat Farajyāt bandagi has to be done in the Ushahin geh, it has to be done at least an hour after the geh starts.

6. It is obligatory to pray the Mah Bokhtar Nyash at least thrice a month on No moon day (amās), New moon Day (chānd-rāt) and Full moon Day (poonam). Āvān Nyash may be recited when one is near a well and Atash Nyash is mandatory when one is in the fire temple.

7. Yasht of the Yazad connected with the particular roj may also be recited on that particular day.

Why are Khorshed and Meher Nyash recited as daily obligatory (Farajyāt) prayers ?

1. The Khorshed and Meher Nyash followed by the short prayers of Doā Vispa Humata, Doā Nām Setayashne and Chār Dishā-no-amaskār recited after Sarosh baj and the relevant geh during the day time are the daily obligatory prayers for a Zoroastrian.

2. The Farajyāt bandagi has to be preferably done in the Havan geh, the first thing in the morning, but if that is not possible it can also be done in the Rapithwin or Uziran Geh.

3. The sun (presided over by Khorshed Yazad) and its light (presided over by Meher Yazad) are a source of life and sustenance at a physical as well as the spiritual level.

4. The Khorshed and Meher Nyash have to be recited in sunlight or in an open place where sunlight can come in.

Should there be a particular order in Zoroastrian daily prayers?

1. A certain particular order is very necessary while reciting daily Zoroastrian prayers. The selection of prayers differs according to the different gehs.

2. Prayers always start with the Kasti ritual followed by the Saorsh Baj. Thereafter any of the five larger gehs are prayed according to the time of prayer.

3. The prayers that follow the larger gehs are different in the different gehs:

  1. In the first three gehs it is mandatory to recite Khorshed Nyash, Meher Nyash, Doā Vispa Humata, Doā Nām Setāyashne and Chār dishā-no-namaskār in this particular order.
  2. In the fourth geh (Aiwisruthrem) the Sarosh Yasht Vadi and its Nirang is to be recited followed by the Doā Nām Setāyashne.
  3. In the fifth geh (Ushahin) the Sarosh Yasht Hadokht and its Nirang is to be recited followed by the Doā Nām Setāyashne.

4. The above prayers are considered the Farajyāt bandagi for that particular geh. After that, any Nyash or Yasht can be recited in any order, after the end of which a Doā Nām Setāyashne needs to be recited.

5. If Patet Pashemani, Patet Ravān-ni or Satum no kardo has to be recited, it has to be done at the end. If one is doing ‘Sarosh Patet” for a deceased in the Aiwisruthrem geh, Patet Ravān-ni is to be prayed immediately after Sarosh Yasht Vadi, its Nirang and Doā Nām Setāyashne.

6. If one recites Patet Pashemani or Satum no Kardo, as the penultimate prayer, the Doā Nām Setāyasne should be recited before that and not after that.

7. The daily prayers end with the recitation of Doā Tandarosti. Certain short prayer like the Din no Kalmo, 101 names and Cherāg-no-namaskār (in Aiwisruthrem geh only) can be recited immediately after the Kasti or in end just before the Tandarosti.

8. In case one wants to recite the Hoshbam prayer at dawn, one has to do the Kasti, Sarosh Baj and Ushahin geh if it is to be recited about an hour prior to sunrise. Kasti, Sarosh Baj and Havan geh has to be recited if the Hoshbam prayer has to be done within about an hour after sunrise.

9. The time of dawn (Guj, bāmdād) is regarded as the best time for prayer as it is conducive to a meditative, contemplative and reflective state of mind. It is the calmest part of the day, when there is very little external disturbance. The benevolent, positive forces of nature are strongest and the currents of spiritual energy are undisturbed at this time.

Why should Zoroastrians not walk barefoot, especially while praying?

1. Zoroastrians are enjoined not to keep their bare feet directly on the ground, while praying. They should be wearing a footwear, preferably a leather one, or thick socks. Bare feet may be placed on a carpet or a cotton mat, but never directly on the ground. Also, one is required to keep both feet, or at least one foot, covered by footwear, on the ground while praying.

2. Prayer is an act in which, among other things, there is an exchange of energies. The soles of the feet are believed to be the places from where unwanted energies go out to be grounded to the earth.

3. The power generated by the Kasti prayers and rituals is vitiated if, after performing the Kasti, bare feet are placed on the ground. In Gujarati this is referred to as ‘Kasti tuti gai’, which implies that the protective power of the Kasti ritual has been vitiated. 

4. Hindus generally go bare feet in temples. The idea behind this practice is that dirt on the footwear should not be taken inside the temple. Though the Zoroastrian religion strongly believes in cleanliness and purity, it has a different outlook on this point, as seen above. This shows how practices change from religion to religion on the basis of their understanding of the world (world-view).

Why are certain prayers to be recited facing certain objects/creations?

1. There are several types of prayers in the Khordeh Avesta. Some prayers are for venerating creations, some for invoking divine beings (Yazads and Ameshaspands), a few for the self or for the souls of departed ones.

2. The five Nyash and several Namaskars are for paying homage to the creations. When these prayers are recited, one has to face the particular creation, or at least be in presence of that creation.

3. Thus the Khorshed and Meher Nyash are to be prayed in presence of the sun, the Mah Bokhtar Nyash facing the moon (or in the open when one can’t see the moon), the Avan Ardvisur Nyash near waters (preferably flowing waters) and the Atash Nyash near fire or natural light.

Why are Zoroastrian devotees enjoined to face the south while reciting a particular passage in most prayers?

1. In the Avesta, the north side (apākhtar) is referred to as the side of the demons, so Zoroastrians do not face this direction for prayers or ritual purposes.

2. The south side is diametrically opposite to north. It is referred to as the House of God (dādāre gehān), and hence we face the south while saying these words at the end of all Nyash and Yashts.

3. Zoroastrians are required to face the sun during the day while praying. In the northern hemisphere the sun never appears in the north. There is only one prayer, the Chāri-dishāno-namaskār, which requires a devotee to face all four directions, including the north.

Why are parts of some prayers recited in Baj (silence)?

1. More than 90 % of Zoroastrian prayers are in the Avesta language, composed thousands of years ago in and around the times of prophet Zarathushtra.

2. A very few prayers had been composed by Dasturji Adarbad Mahrespand during the early Sasanian period, in the fourth century AC, in the Pazand language by Dastur Adarbad Marespand, who also

compiled the Khordeh Avesta.

3. In most Avestan prayers there are one or two Pazand passages. When a Pazand paragraph comes in an Avestan prayer, it is not recited aloud, but said in the mind (bāj), because the simultaneous recitation of prayers in two different languages is not proper.  When a Pazand prayer is recited by itself or separated by an Ashem Vohu, it can be said aloud.

4. Prayers like Ahura Mazda Khodāe in the Kasti prayers, Kerfeh Mozd, Doā Nām Setāyashe, Doā Tandarosti, Patet Pashemāni and the 36 Setāyashnas are entirely in the Pazand language, and hence are recited aloud.

Why and what should be prayed at night before going to sleep?

1. It is necessary to do Kasti at night before going to bed. 2. Other prayers that could be done at night before retiring for bed, are: a. The Pazand Nirang of Sarosh Yasht Vadi; b. 5 Yatha ahu vairyo  and 3 Ashem vohu; c. The phrase “Sarosh Yazad Panāh bād” thrice followed by an Ashem vohu.

2. One may also recite the night time Monajat (Gujarati devotional song) Khudāvind Khāvind O Parvardegār.

3. There is a tradition of saying the following short prayer of repentance, culled from Yasna 1.21,  before going to bed: yezi thwā didvaēsha, yezi manangha yezi vachangha yezi shyaothna, yezi zaosha yezi azaosha, ā te anghe fracha stuye nī te vaēdhayemi yezi te anghe avā-ururaodha yat yasnahecha vahmahecha.  Ashem vohu 1. It means “O Ahura Mazda! If I have offended Thee, deliberately or unknowingly, with my thoughts, words or actions, (or) if I have been neglectful in my praises and prayers, I bow to Thee in repentance, and invoke Thee in prayers.”

Can prayers be said in a hospital or in a bed, especially since prayers are needed more during an illness?

1. Avesta mānthravāni prayers have to be said within the observance of certain rules of ritual purity. Since places like hospitals and beds do not have the required ritual purity, regular prayers should not be recited there.

2. However, three shortest Zoroastrian prayers – the Yathā ahu vairyo, Ashem vohu and Yenghe Hātām are beyond the regular rules of ritual purity and hence can be recited at any place, any time and under any circumstances. They can be recited in combination or individually. They may be recited by keeping a count or could be chanted continuously.

3. One can also recite names of Ameshaspands and Yazads in such situations and seek their help, as just chanting names and remembering our divine beings does not require rules of ritual purity.

Do Zoroastrians have a powerful mantra like ‘Om’?

1. Aum / Om in Hindu tradition is the primordial word, by the vibrations of which the cosmos was created.

2. According to the Zoroastrian tradition, the primordial word for cosmic creation is Ahuna which is very similar in sound and structure to the word Aum. The word Ahuna is the first part of the word Ahuna-var which is the Avestan name of Yathā ahu vairyo prayer.

3. Ahunavar is the most powerful and the oldest chant in the Universe according to the Zoroastrian text of Yasna 19. It states that in the beginning of created time, vibrations of the Yathā ahu vairyo prayer permeated the universe resulting in the creations.

4. According to the Bible, the ‘logos’ (Latin for “the word”) was the beginning of the creations of the cosmos.

Why are there so many Yashts in the Khordeh Avesta?

1. Yashts are prayers which are generally dedicated to invoking individual Ameshaspands and Yazads, except for the Haptan Yasht which is for the 7 Ameshaspands and Siroza Yasht which is for all the divine beings connected to the Zoroastrian religious calendar.

2. There are in all about 22 Yashts in the Tamām (complete) Khordeh Avesta.  Each Yasht is supposed to be recited on the day to which the Roj is dedicated, but can be recited on any other day as well.  Thus Hormazd Yasht should be preferably recited on Hormazd roj in particular but on any day in general. A Yasht may also be recited to fulfil a particular purpose like curing an illness or getting a boon. For instance, Tir Yasht may be recited for help in eye problems or to induce rains. Avan Yasht may be recited for help in conception, reproduction and neo-natal care. Haptan Yasht is recited to overcome planetary afflictions and strengthen the effect of weak planets.

3. Most larger Yashts contain a lot of historical information about the Peshdadian and Kayanian periods. Hence they are considered ‘epics’ among Avestan texts. In this context Zamyad Yasht is considered the best and most complete, as it contains the complete chronological history of the Kayan Khoreh.

Why are Zoroastrians enjoined to offer a prayer (jamvāni bāj) before meals?

1. The term baj has several meanings in the Zoroastrian religious tradition. In the above context it means a short prayer recited before and after the act of eating food. The part of the prayer recited before the act is called ‘taking the bāj’ and the part recited after the act is called ‘leaving the bāj.’

2. After ‘taking the bāj’, one should refrain from speaking, and hence the meal has to be taken in silence. One may talk only after ‘leaving the bāj’, that is after reciting the prayers after the finishing eating.

3. The Jamvāni baj is recited in the Nahan ritual and thus all of us may have recited it while taking the Nahan before the Navjot.

4. Apart from the Jamvani bāj, there are other short bāj, like bāj for bath, toilet etc. The rationale of taking such a bāj is that it protects the person from negative influences, since the person is more vulnerable to attacks of evil when such acts are being performed.

Why should we hold the Girebān of the Sadra whilst reciting the Divā/Atash no Namaskār?

1. Girebān, also referred to as the pocket of good deeds, is on the front side of the Sadra. It is a reminder of the need to bring in goodness in our life and collect good deeds.

2. Holding the Girebān while praying, is symbolic of pledging to faithfully practice the tenets of the religion, with the fire as a witness, so that goodness may automatically be a part of life.

What are the different ancient Iranian languages?

1. Languages develop over a period of time. The oldest existing Iranian language is Avesta, which is very similar to Vedic Sanskrit, as both these languages developed almost simultaneously.

2. The Avesta language was the medium of communication in very ancient times.  Prophet Zarathushtra and his immediate disciples used it along with the science of Staota Yasnya (science of sound) to compose Zoroastrian prayers.

3. Today, Avesta is regarded as a dead language, that is, a language which is grammatically understood but no longer used for communication, mainly on account of intricate grammar and a very limited and archaic vocabulary.

4. After thousands of years, a new Iranian language developed from Avesta which was used by the Achaemenian kings, and which today we know as the Old Persian language. It was written in the Semitic cuneiform script and primarily used by Achaemenian kings like Cyrus and Darius the Great.

5. After more than a millennia, a new language, Pahlavi, was derived from the older language, which became the state language of the Sasanian empire. Several religious, historical and admonitory books were written in this language.

6. After several centuries, the Persian language developed from the Pahlavi language. The Iranian epic Shahnameh is written in one of the purest forms of the Persian language. The modern Persian language that is predominantly used in Iran, has a lot of Arabic influence.

7. Persecuted Zoroastrians in Muslim Iran needed a language to communicate among themselves. This gave rise to the Dari language which is a language spoken only among the Zoroastrians of Iran. It is only a colloquial language and is not written down.

 Why do some people hold handkerchief in their left hand while praying?

1. We often see Zoroastrian priests as well as laity, holding a handkerchief in their left hand while praying. This practice has evolved from the tradition of holding a handkerchief near the mouth as a sign of reverence and respect to the object of prayer.

2. Zoroastrians shows great reverence to all creations, especially, fire. Whenever they pray before an object, especially fire, they take care that saliva should not pollute it while praying. Though one may be praying far away from the object, a handkerchief is held as a mark of respect.

3. It is for a similar reason that priests wear a padān over their mouth while praying before a fire, so as not to pollute the fire with their saliva, which may inadvertently slip out of the mouth while praying.

4. In ancient rock reliefs of Achaemenian times attendants are seen covering their mouths while talking to the king. This shows a sense of respect and reverence to the king.

Why do the words yasnāicha, vahmāicha, kshnaothrāicha and frasastayaecha repeatedly occur in Zoroastrian prayers?

1. There are various way of approaching the divine. The words yasnāicha vahmāicha kshnaothrāicha and frasastayaecha “worship, adoration, propitiation and knowledge” are the four main ways in which a person may approach the divine and may move towards a spiritual goal.

2. Yasnāicha is the path of worship and veneration through religious observances and practices (tarikats and prayers) which ultimately lead to God. Zoroastrian practices like performing the kasti, farazyat prayers and other tarikats have the power to directly align the person with the divine world and other divine forces.

3. Vahmāicha is the path of devotion. It is the unconditional love that one may feel for God. It does not ask questions, does not need logical reasons, and believes with faith, the need to attune to the supreme being. Gradually this love for God, percolates towards other creations as one starts realizing the underlying unity of all. This helps one to live in peace and harmony with the self and our surroundings.

3. Khshnaothrāicha is the path of pleasing God by doing His work. All human beings are hamkārs, that is, co-workers of Ahura Mazda in the world’s battle field. By being his soldiers and doing his work, a person takes on himself some of His burdens of establishing justice and order in the Universe.

4. Frasastayaecha is the path of knowledge. When a person has True knowledge about God and His workings, he intellectually realises the greatness and vastness of the supreme being and also perceives the underlying unity under the perceived diversities. In this manner a person can appreciate the greatness of God through the grand design of His universe.

5. The words yasnāicha, vahmāicha, kshnaothrāicha and frasastayaecha repeated in Zoroastrian prayers indicate the four different ways in which a person can connect with Ahura Mazda and other divine beings. These paths are not mutually exclusive but one may predominate over the others on the basis of one’s inherent nature and disposition.

6.Hinduism too has given the four paths of Knowledge (Gnān), Devotion (Bhakti), Action (Karma) and Spiritual practices (Yog/Raj) to reach one’s ultimate goal.

Why does the word yazamaide occur frequently in Zoroastrian prayers?

1. The word yazamaide is generally translated as “we venerate” or “we worship.” It is one of the most frequently occurring words in Avestan prayers.

2. The ‘worship’ indicated in the word yazamaide, is not an impersonal worship of a distant object or being. It is the worship which comes out of admiration and appreciation of the good qualities of that being or creation. Such admiration should naturally result in emulation, and an effort to be like the object of worship.

3. The range of the objects of ‘worship’ of the word yazamaide is vast. Right from Ahura Mazda and Zarathushtra  to Amesha Spentas, Yazatas, souls and Fravashis, to collections of prayers, ritual implements, physical creations and also one’s own soul and Fravashi are “worshipped” this way.

4. The word yazamaide is also translated as “we attune.” This meaning is closer to the essence of the word, as one has to be in tune to the object of admiration and veneration.

5. Whenever the word yazamaide is recited in prayers, a conscious effort has to be made to identify with the object of ‘worship’ mentioned in the prayer, which is not difficult in most cases.

Why do Zoroastrians click fingers while saying dushmata, duzukhta duzvarshta in the Kasti and other prayers?

1. The words dushmata, duzukhta, duzvarshta mean “evil thoughts, evil words and evil deeds.”

2. According to Zoroastrian tradition whenever prayers are recited to banish evil, the activity becomes more efficacious if some sound is created along with the recitation of these words.

3. Cases in point are the Vanant Yasht where the devotee claps while reciting certain passages which indicate banishing of evil.

4. When a priest does the boi ritual in the fire temple, he rings the bell on the words dushmata, duzukhta and duzvarshta to drive away evil.

5. In a special ritual called the “Vanot Baj”, the priest makes a sound by striking a nine-knotted wooden stick (navgar) on the stone platform (hidhorā).

6. For the above reason, a person performing the Kasti or reciting any other prayer clicks his fingers while saying dushmata, duzukhta, duzvarshta, to strengthen the resolve of banishing evil.

Why and when should the Ashem vohu be recited?

1. Ashem vohu is the shortest Avestan prayer. It has 12 words distributed over three lines. The prayer is in praise of Asha Vahishta “the Divine Plan of the Universe.” In order to understand this Divine Plan, one has to practice Best Righteousness and understand the Cosmic Order, so that eventually one may attain Ushta “inner happiness.”

3. Recitation of the Ashem vohu prayer soothes and relaxes the mind, and helps keep away negative thoughts.

4. An Ashem Vvhu is to be especially recited while getting up from bed, while going to bed, after finishing any work and at the news of death.

5. This prayer, like the Yatha ahu vairyo, can be recited under any conditions, even if one is without head covering, or when one is travelling, swimming, or in an hospital.

In prayers, why sometimes Ashem vohu and sometimes Ashone ashem ohu is recited?

1. There is only one prayer – the Ashem vohu, which has 12 words, an addition of one more word, ashaone, would make it a 13 words prayer.

2. Sometimes, in some prayers the word ashaone has been prefixed to the Ashem vohu prayer in some manuscripts at a later date.  It is not part of the prayer, but has been separately prefixed to the prayer.

3. The word ashaone means “for righteousness.” Hence when one prays the Ashem vohu, prefixed with this word, it means that one is praying the Ashem vohu, which is the prayer for righteousness, for the praise of righteousness.

Why and when should the Yatha ahu vairyo be recited?

1. The Yatha Ahu Vairyo, also referred to as the Ahuna-var, is the oldest Avestan prayer. It has 21 words, distributed over three equal lines, each line having 16 syllables.

2. This prayer tells us about the importance of Asha Vahishta (Divine Plan of the Universe), the need to dedicate our life’s actions to Ahura Mazda and the benefit of helping deserving needy people 

3. Reciting this prayer, gives one protection and helps fight evil. It is regarded as the most powerful and victorious of all prayers.

4. Ahura Mazda used it for creating the creations and thereafter for making Ahriman temporarily ineffective. Prophet Zarathushtra used it for defeating physical and spiritual evils. Sarosh Yazad uses it as a weapon against all evils.

5. Different numbers of Yatha ahu vairyo are recited for various purposes. One Yatha ahu vairyo is to be recited when leaving the house, when seeking protection or when taking a seat. Two have to be recited when beginning any work or for seeking help and blessings. Seven are to be recited to invoke the help of Yazads and Ameshaspands.

6. The 21 Volumes (Nasks) of the Avesta texts were named after each of its words. All of these Volumes except one, are now lost.

7. This prayer, like the Ashem vohu,  can be recited under any condition, even if one is without head covering, or when one is travelling, swimming or in an hospital.

What is the importance of Yenghe hātām prayer?

1. The three shortest and strongest Zoroastrian prayers are the Yathā ahu vairyo, Ashem vohu and Yenghe hātām. They are beyond the regular rules of ritual purity and hence can be recited at any place, any time and under any circumstances. They can be recited in combination or individually. They may be recited by keeping a count or could be chanted continuously.

2. The Yenghe hātām is lesser known than the other two short prayers as it generally does not occur as a stand alone prayer in the Khordeh Avesta. However, it is a part of almost all larger prayers.

3. Like the Yathā ahu vairyo and Ashem vohu, the Yenghe hātām prayer also has three poetic lines, totally having 15 words. Like the other two prayers, its commentary is there in the Yasna, in chapter 21.

4. There is a prayer called Lākhi nu bhantar, in which a combination of 570 Yathā ahu vairyo, 210 Ashem vohu and 120 Yenghe hātām, totaling 900, is recited with the invocation of Sarosh Yazad, which is mainly done during Muktad days.

5. In Yasna chapters 61 and 72 we are told that the vibrations of Yathā ahu vairyo, Ashem vohu and Yenghe hātām keep on resonating between the earth and the sky all the time.

6. In the Yenghe hātām prayer allliving men and women are remembered and respected, who excel in goodness on account of their diligence for the Truth. It also states that such people are recognized as better humans by Ahura Mazda Himself.

7. Yenghe hātām is a prayer seeking harmony with righteous people. Reciting it regularly makes our prayers, wishes and desires more effective.

Why are different numbers of Yathā ahu vairyo and Ashem vohu recited in prayers?

1. In the Khordeh Avesta, Yathā ahu vairyo and Ashem vohu are prayed at different places in particular numbers and combinations. This is so because specific tasks and divine beings are associated with a specific number of recitals.

2. From internal evidence we can infer the reason for most of these numbers. In the case of Yathā ahu vairyos, 1 is recited for seeking protection, 2 before asking for blessings, 4 for venerating nature, 5 for invoking Sarosh Yazad, 7 for invoking most other Yazads and Ameshaspands, 8 for invoking Fravashis and 10 for invoking Ahura Mazda. It may be noticed that certain number of Yathā ahu vairyos like 3, 6, 9 are never recited.

3. In the case of Ashem vohus, 1 Ashem Vohu is to be recited after expressing a wish, thinking a beneficial thought or completing any work; 3 Ashem vohus before a firm and determined resolve; and 12 are recited for elevating consciousness. 2,5,6,7,8, or 9 Ashem vohus are never recited in any prayer. 

4. Yathā ahu vairyo and Ashem vohu are also recited in combinations as follows: 2 Yathā ahu vairyo and 1 Ashem Vohu before beginning a new work; 5 Yathā ahu vairyo and 3 Ashem vohu to remember Sarosh Yazad and especially for protection at night; 21 Yathā ahu vairyo and 12 Ashem Vohu to evolve consciousness.

5. Random recitation of Yathā ahu vairyo and Ashem vohu while sitting idle, travelling or walking is also very beneficial.

Why are Ahmāi raeshcha, Hazanghrem, Jasame avanghe and Kerfeh mozd recited at the end of every prayer?

1. The four short prayers of Ahmāi raeshcha, Hazanghrem, Jasame avanghe and Kerfeh mozd form a part of all larger prayers. The first three are in Avesta language and are gleaned from larger Avestan prayers.  Ahmāi raeshcha is a prayer of blessings, gleaned from Yasna 68. In it, boons for divine energy, health, wealth, progeny and long life are sought for the self and others. The Hazangharem, taken from Hormazd Yasht, asks for blessings of complete health. The Jasa me avanghe Mazda, taken from Hormazd Yasht and Siroza Yasht asks for help from Ahura Mazda, Behram Yazad, Ram Yazad, Vayu Yazad and other divine beings.

2. Kerfeh Mozd, the fourth short prayer is in the Pazand language. It is an affirmation to perform good deeds and to keep away from sins.

3. When praying for departed ones, the first and fourth prayers and certain lines from the third prayer are omitted, since the first prayer asks for boons for the body, the last prayer is about performing good deeds, and the omitted lines are about the joys of life – all of which are not valid for a departed person.

Why do we have 2 different Jasa me avanghe Mazda prayers in the Khordeh Avesta?

1. Two prayers in our Khordeh Avesta begin with the words Jasa me avanghe Mazda, which mean “Come to my help O Mazda!” These words also occur in Khorshed and Meher Nyash and Hormazd Yasht.

2. Both the Jasa me avanghe Mazda prayers have entirely different contents. The one in Kasti is to affirm one’s commitment to the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion. The other, prayed towards the end of Sarosh baj and all Gehs, Nyash and Yashts, is for seeking help from Yazads like Behram, Ram and Vayu.

3. The Jasa me avanghe Mazda prayer in Kasti, after the first four words, that is from māzdayasno ahmi, is taken from Yasna 12, the other Jasa me avanghe Mazda prayer is taken from the Siroza Yasht.

4.  Just as all prayers beginning with the words Khshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao “For the pleasure of Ahura Mazda” or ba nāme yazad “in the name of God” are not similar in any manner, so the two prayers which begin with the words Jasa me avanghe mazda are not similar in any way.

Why is the Din no Kalmo prayer recited?

1. The words Din no Kalmo, mean “confession of faith.” It is a prayer in Avesta and Pazand languages. It is taught to a child before the Navjote and is recited by the child on the stage before the Anjuman “gathering” at the Navjote.  

2. This prayer is recited just before the child is made to wear the Sadra. The reason for this is, that by chanting this prayer, the child, promises accepting Ahura Mazda as his God, Zarathushtra as his prophet and Mazdayasni Zarthushti as his religion for the whole life, only after that he chooses to wear the Sadra-Kasti all his life.

3. This short prayer can be recited daily after one’s Farajyāt prayers. It may even be recited as a ham-bandagi prayer by the Community to foster love and devotion to one’s God, prophet and religion among its members.

What is the significance of the Hoshbām prayer?

1. The word Hoshbām literally means “bright (bām) dawn (hosh).” Hoshbām is the name of an Avestan prayer to be recited at the time of the day just about an hour before and after sunrise.  This time of the day is also referred to as Hoshbām. This prayer can be recited at the end of the Ushahin geh as well as the beginning of the Hāvan geh.

2. Dawn is regarded as the best time for prayer, as it is conducive to a meditative, contemplative, reflexive and relaxed state of mind. Not only is it the calmest part of the day, it is also the time when benevolent, positive forces of nature are strongest. It is the time when the mind is fresh, relaxed and most receptive. In Indian tradition this period is referred to as amrut belā “the time for (receiving) nectar (from heaven).”

3. In the beginning of Hoshbām, the victorious powers of the Yatha ahu vairyo is extolled. The prayer ends with the beautiful line asha vahishta, asha sraeshta, daresāma thwā, pairi thwā jamyāma, hamem thwā hakhma, “O Ahura Mazda! Through the Best Truth, through the most excellent Truth, may we get a glimpse of Thee, may we come near Thee, and may we stay in Thy perpetual friendship.”

Why do we recite the Patet Pashemani?

1. The three main attributes of Ahura Mazda are bakhshāyandeh, bakhshāyazgar and meherbān, that is “kind, merciful and forgiving.” Ahura Mazda is compassionate and forgiving. He never holds anything against us and loves a sinner as much as he loves a saint. But the fact that Ahura Mazda forgives us does not mean that our mistakes, sins and transgressions are forgiven. Since each and every creation is bound by the laws of cause and effect, every action will have an equal and opposite reaction. Hence the consequences of the smallest of wrong actions will have to be borne. Thus, though Ahura Mazda is forgiving, our sins are not forgiven, that is we have to bear the retribution of our actions.

2. Close to the idea of forgiveness, are the Zoroastrian ideas of repentance and atonement.  Repentance is a strong resolution of not repeating the wrong act that we may have done knowingly or unknowingly. Sincere repentance goes a long way in lightening our burden and preparing us to bear the consequences of our acts. Atonement means doing a positive act to balance the wrong act that has been committed.

3. We may commit sins daily as we are live in an imperfect world with an imperfect self.  Patet Pashemani is the prayer for repentance which constantly reminds us of the potholes of sins that we may come across on the highway of life. Zoroastrianism expects its followers to repent for sins committed knowingly or unknowingly, sins of omission or commission by reciting the Patet Pashemani prayer, daily, monthly or at least once a year on Pateti – the last day of the Zoroastrian calendar year. 

4. If it is not be possible to recite the Patet Pashemani prayer, there is a small substitute for it in the Kasti prayers. The second half of Ahura Mazda Khodāy is a short repentance prayer that is recited several times in the day. It begins with the words az hamā gunāh patet pashemānum which means “thrice I repent for all my sins.”

What is the difference between “Patet Pashemani” and “Patet Ravān-ni” prayers?

1. Expressing repentance for mistakes committed knowingly or unknowingly is a key teaching of the Zoroastrian religion. A daily repentance is done in the Kasti ritual, when in the second part of ‘Ahura Mazda Khodāy’ one prays az hamā gunāh patet pashemānum “I am sorry for all the mistakes I have committed.”

 2. Patet Pashemani is a specific prayer of repentance.  It is in the Pazand language and was composed during the Sasanian times by Dastur Adarbad Mahraspand. Reciting this prayer does not take away the retributions of mistakes/sins, but helps one to atone for them, that is do something positive to balance their ill effects. It is also helps one to repent, that is, sincerely feel sorry for the mistakes.

3. In the past, it seems that repentance was to be expressed in public. Hence Patet Pashemani was expected to be recited before Dasturs, wise men and honourable people.

4. Patet Pashemani may be recited daily, but it should especially recited on the last roj (Anerān) of each Zoroastrian calendar month and more importantly on the last day of the year (Gatha Vashistoisht), the day also referred to as the Pateti.  Patet Pashemani is also to be recited after undergoing the nahan ritual, and by a child at the time of Navjot. In the Navjot ritual, priests too recite the Patet Pashemani along with or on behalf of the child.

5. Patet Ravān-ni is the prayer of repentance to be recited on behalf of the deceased by his/her near and dear ones or the priest. This prayer is very similar to the Patet Pashemani, except that words for ‘I’ or ‘me’ arereplaced by the phrae “I recite it on behalf of the deceased “so and so (falān)”.

6. In this prayer the name of the deceased has to be taken singly, and not with the father or husband. The name is taken in three different ways. For instance, if the deceased’s name is Behdin Rustam, the name is taken in the payer as ‘behdin Rustam’ ‘khud behdin Rustam’ or ‘behdin Rustam khud behdin Rustam.’’

7. Patet Ravān-ni is to be recited preferably in the Aiwisruthrem Gah after reciting the Sarosh Yasht Vadi. Such a practice is referred to as “Sarosh Patet karvi.”

8. Patet Ravān-ni is recited for the deceased by priests in after death rituals of Sarosh-no-Kardo/Pātru and Uthamna. It is not advisable to recite the Patet Ravān-ni during the Muktad.

9. When one is attending the Pāydast, Uthamnā or Sarosh-no-Kardo rituals, one can recite the Patet Ravān-ni for the deceased after one’s Farazyat prayers.

Why is the Bahman Yasht not included in the Khordeh Avesta?

1. In the past, there was a Yasht in the Avesta language for each of the Ameshaspands and Yazads. Today, only about 18 of these Avestan Yashts exist. The Avesta version of the Bahman Yasht was also lost. The Bahman Yasht that we have now is a Pazand prayer. It contains an account of the future fate of the Iranian nation and the religion of Zarathushtra.

2. This present Bahman Yasht has been derived from a Pahlavi text Zand i Vohuman Yasht, which suggests that it is a ‘commentary’ on the Avesta Bahman Yasht, which no longer exists. Since it is not an Avestan Yasht, it is not included in the Khordeh Avesta.

3. The Bahman Yasht was first published as a prayer in Gujarati script in a separate booklet in 1947 by Jehangir Karani & Sons in the form of a Yasht.

What are the Gathas? Why are they so named?

1. In present Zoroastrian tradition, the word Gathas is used in two different but connected senses. The first is the name of a set of texts, and the other is the name of special days at the end of the Zoroastrian calendar year.

2. In the first sense, the Gathas are the sublime poetical compositions of prophet Zarathushtra in the oldest form of Avestan language. The word Gatha literally means “a song.” The Gathas contain prophet Zarathushtra’s personal thoughts and communications with Ahura Mazda, right from the beginning of his quest for the Truth to his ultimate acceptance as the Prophet in the court of king Vishtasp.

3. The 17 chapters of the Gathas form a part of the larger text of Yasna, from Chapters 28 to 34, 43 to 51 and 53. They are divided into five sections, totally comprising of 896 lines and about 5660 words.

4. Each of the five Gathas are named after the first word of the first chapter of that group. The names of the five Gathas are: Ahunavad (Chapters 28 to 34), Ushtavad (Chapters 43 to 46), Spentomad (Chapters 47 to 50), Vohu-khshathra (Chapter 51) and Vahishtoisht (Chapter 53).

5. The translation of the Gathas is highly abstract, metaphysical and philosophical and hence very difficult to understand.  Many different scholars have translated the Gathas, each translation differing somewhat from the other.

6. Several subjects are covered in the 17 chapters of the Gathas. As they are spread all over, no particular chapter covers any one topic in full. The subjects covered are about: Prophet Zarathushtra, Ahura Mazda, six attributes of Ahura Mazda (later known as Ameshaspands), two spirits, Immortality of the soul, Principle of Divine Justice, Maxims for Life, Manthra (prayers) and Rituals. Most of these topics are not dealt with in detail in Gathas. They are elaborated in later texts like the Vendidad. The Gathas also explain the essential Zoroastrian teachings, namely – Belief in One God, existence of the Spiritual world, existence of the two spirits or forces and belief in the immortality of the soul.

7. The word Gatha is also used to denote the last five days of a Zoroastrian Calendar year, which form a part of the five Hamaspathmaedhem Gahambar days, and constitute the latter five days of the Muktad. These days were named after the 5 divisions of Gathas of prophet Zarathushtra, as these compositions were held in high esteem by Zoroastrians.

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