What is the position of camel in Zoroastrian texts? (TMY JJ of 14-10-18)

  1. Ancient Iran, being largely a desert region, camel was the main mode of transport and hence was considered a very valuable animal. Special shelters were built for housing camels. The camel was described as “having a high hump, abundant thinking power, swift runner and carrier of heavy loads.”
  2. The word for camel in Avesta is ushtra. It is most probably derived from Öus- “to tame.” Two other words are used in the Avest to describe a camel, both of which refer to a camel’s hump. They are stvi-kaofa, literally meaning “having a large mountain” and saeni-kaofa, literally meaning “having the peak of a mountain.”
  3. A camel was regarded as the most valuable domestic animal, more valuable than a horse, a cow, an ox and an ass. When compared with special metals gold and silver, a horse was compared to silver whereas a camel was compared to gold.
  4. In the Avestan times, wealth of a person was often ascertained by the number of camels they possessed. Those who owned camels were considered wealthy and had great respect in society. Camels were desired as gifts and granted as a boon by Yazads.
  5. Some proper names in the Avesta had the word ushtra in them. For example, Zarathushtra “possessing mature camels”, Frashaoshtra “possessing excellent camels”, Ratushtra “possessing the leader among camel” and Ranghushtra “possessing healthy camels.” Ushtra by itself was also used as a name.
  6. The word ushtra is also used metaphorically in the Avesta to denote higher consciousness, since another derivation of the word ushtra is from Öush– “to burn, to shine.” In that context the meaning of the name of prophet Zarathushtra is “one having a brilliant and high consciousness.”
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Why should Kavasji Edalji Kanga be remembered by the community? (TMY JJ of 30-9 and 7-10-18)

  1. When we read a Parsi ‘Who’s Who’, we come across personalities connected to politics, military, business, theatre, medicine, science, law, arts and sports. Rarely do we read about a person who has contributed to and changed the religious life of people. In this column, we will see some people who have immensely contributed to the religious life of the Parsis and to whom we Parsis owe a lot, but have forgotten to express our debt of gratitude.
  2. If we properly understand all our prayers and Avestan texts today, it is largely due to the efforts of late Ervad Kavasji Edalji Kanga and others like him. Er. Kanga was born on 4th June 1839. He practiced for some time as a priest in Navsari. He became one of the greatest indigenous scholar of Avesta, Pahelvi, Persian and Sanskrit languages and was also knowledgeable in some European languages like Latin, English, German and French.
  3. He studied at Elphinstone Institution and later taught at Elphinstone High School. He studied elementary Indo-Iranian languages under Ervad Erachji Sorabji Meherji Rana and the grammar and philology of Avesta under Mr. Kharshedji Rustomji Cama. He was among the first batch of pupils of Mr. K. R. Cama, along with other stalwarts of his time like Ervads S.D.Bharucha, T.D.Anklesaria, E.K.Antia, J. Nadirsha and K. Kateli.
  4. In 1863 he joined Mulla Firoz Madressa, an institute teaching Indo-Iranian languages, as a teacher of Avesta and Persian and the very next year he was appointed its Head Master, where he served for 41 years till the end of his life. In 1885 he was appointed a Fellow of the Bombay University, and then was appointed an examiner of Avesta for B.A. and M.A. exams at the University.
  5. His greatest contribution towards the field of Iranian languages in general and Parsis in particular are his translations of the entire Avestan into Gujarati, most of them word to word, a work which is unparalleled as yet in the history of Avestan studies. Books of his translations, like Khordeh Avesta Ba Maeni, Yasht Ba Maeni and Gatha Ba Maeni are the most sought after books by people who want to understand Avesta prayers, even after more than a hundred years. His translations were totally unbiased, objective and close to the text. Another of his unparalleled contribution are the Avesta grammar book and two dictionaries – Avesta to English in 1900 and English to Avesta in 1909, which are still very actively used.
  6. In all, he produced 11 invaluable books in Iranian languages. He was by nature humble and an introvert. He carried on his Avesta studies in solitude without any fanfare. Mr. K.R.Cama said about him, “He was one who knew a lot but showed a little. All of his pupils should emulate this quality of his.”
  7. He donated much of his meagre wealth to his beloved Mulla Firoz Madressa. He passed away at the age of 65 on 10th March 1904. A month after his passing away, Dastur Kaikhushru Jamaspji suggested in the newspapers to all priests to recite his name at all public ceremonies. A public condolence meeting was held for him by his friends, admirers and pupils, on 9th April 1904 under the chairmanship of Mr. K. R. Cama.

Please explain the after death ritual Sarosh-no-Kardo or Sarosh-nu-Patru. (TMY JJ of 23-9-18)

  1. Sarosh-no-Kardo or Sarosh-nu-Patru is an after death ritual which is performed on the first, second and third days following death, at the beginning of the Aiwisruthrem gāh, after sun-set. It could be performed either at the Doongerwadi, Agyari/Atash Behram or in any other ritually clean place.
  2. This ritual cannot be performed at the Bangli in the presence of the dead body, when the body is lying in the Bangli. Hence, if Paydast is on the second day, the Sarosh-nu-Patru will not be performed on the first day. In cases when the body is not in the Bangli and yet not disposed, for instance, if it is in the morgue or has yet not arrived from abroad, then the Sarosh-nu-Patru can be performed.
  3. For this ritual, two priests perform a specialised Āfrinagān ritual in honour of Sarosh Yazad. They sit on the mat face to face on either side of the Afringan (Pātra or Pātru for holding the fire, hence the name of the ritual) and first recite the Sarosh Baj, then the Aiwisruthrem Gah followed by Sarosh Yasht Vadi, its Nirang and the Doa Nam Setayashne.
  4. The Zoti, that is, the senior priest, has a metallic tray (khumcho) before him, which contains a metallic container (karasyo) of clean water and a few flowers, eight of which are arranged in a particular order. The other priest sits on the opposite side. The Zoti begins the Afringan with the recitation of the Dibache (lit. introduction), in the Pazand language, wherein he invokes Sarosh Yazad, the name of the deceased is mentioned over here. After the Dibache is finished, both priests recite the Afringan Kardeh aloud in which the seventh Kardeh (section) of Srosh Yasht Vadi is prayed. The ritual ends with both priests reciting the Pazand prayer Patet ravan-ni.

How is the Uthamna kriya performed? (TMY JJ of 16-9-18)

  1. Five, seven or nine priests participate in the ritual. They are mostly in odd numbers. A Dasturji may join in as a special mark of respect to the deceased. The priests first perform the Pādyāb-Kusti ritual, then go to the place where the ritual is to be performed, and assemble on the carpet in two rows.

 

  1. In the afternoon Uthamna, priests stand on the mat (Shetranji) facing West. Nothing else is kept on the mat at that time. First they recite Khorshed and Meher Nyash for themselves. Then they repeat Khorshed and Meher Nyash for the deceased, followed by Doā Nām Setāyashne and Char dishāno namaskār.
  2. Then priests arrange chādar (a white cloth), afarganyu and other requirements of the ritual on the mat, and sit down in two rows facing each other. They recite Uziran geh, Sarosh Yasht Hadokht and Doā Nām Setāyashne. One priest (two priests if Jorānu Uthamnu) stand up for Dhoop sārana part of the ritual, which is recited with the invocation of Sarosh Yazad, in which, at a particular point, the standing priest mentions the name of the deceased.
  3. The Dasturji or the senior-most priest, facing west, starts Patet ravān-ni, rest of the priests join in from ‘okhe avākhsh pashemān’ and complete the recitation of Patet ravān-ni. At the end all priests recite the Doā Tandarostī.
  4. In the Uthamna in the Ushahen geh, all priests are seated. They recite the Sarosh Baj, Ushahen geh, Sarosh Yasht Hadokht, Mah Bokhtar Nyash, Atash Nyash (Standing), Doā Nām Setāyashne, Patet Ravān-ni, Dhup Nirang prayer and Doā Tan-Darosti.
  5. After either of the Uthamna, an attendant takes around a tray of flowers – white flowers and rose petals, in one hand and a rose-water sprinkler (gulābāz) in the other. The attendant moves about the attendees with the tray of flowers and the attendees hold their hands above the tray. Then the attendant sprinkles some rose water on the hands. At this point, the people may make a mental pledge to perform some charity or have some rituals performed in memory of the deceased.

What is Jora nu Uthamnu ? (TMY JJ of 9-9-18)

  1. If the death is of a spouse whose partner is still alive, either male or female, the person can opt for a Jorā nu Uthamnu, that is, the Uthamna in which the name of the living spouse is also taken. This is akin to doing the Jindeh-ravān done of the spouse. If a Jorā nu Uthamnu is done, then along with the the Chahrom ni Baj, other Jindeh-ravān Baj are also performed for the living spouse.
  2. If the death is of a married man whose wife is alive, and the widow’s name is to be taken in the Uthamna (jorā nu Uthamnu), she is required to go through a Nāhan ritual and wear white clothes, new ones if possible. Following this, she may not be touched by anyone until the end of the Uthamna, and is assigned a special place close to the carpet on which the ritual is to take place.
  3. For the performance of the Uthamna, a carpet is laid on the ground, with the ritual utensils beside it. These include a metallic tray (khumcho) with a Sadra, a second tray containing a sprinkler (pigāni), with rosewater (gulābjal), two little metallic cups one containing jasmine oil (mogrel) and another having spice water (ākho masālo). In another metallic tray sandalwood/babul wood pieces, sandalwood filings (tāchho) and aromatic powders (vaher, lobān) are kept. In the fourth metallic tray, rose petals are scattered over white flowers. Next to this is a fire-vase, an oil lamp and other related metallic implements.
  4. In case of a Jorānu Uthamnu, there will be two fire-vases on the carpet. In recent years it has become customary for close relatives and friends to bring flowers and hand these to a family member. The flowers, which are often white, are arranged by family members in vases, to be placed on the carpet. Sometimes wreaths and flower arrangements are laid beside the carpet. When the participants arrive,  they bring sandalwood pieces with them and lay them on a metallic tray provided for the purpose.

What is the significance of the Uthamna ritual (TMY JJ of 2-9-18)

What is the significance of the Uthamna ritual (2-9-18)

  1. The Uthamna ritual is performed twice on the third day after death, the first time in the Uziran geh at about 3.45 pm (IST) and the other towards the end of the Ushahin geh at around 4.15 am (IST).
  2. The ritual can be performed either at the Doongerwadi, Agyari/Atash Behram or in any other ritually clean place. The derivation of the word Uthamnu is not very clear. It is believed that in the past, during Geh-sarna ritual, people had to sit down on mats on the floor and for subsequent rituals they could sit on chairs. Hence the word Uthamnu may have come from uthi javu “getting up.”
  3. Uthamna can be considered a sort of a condolence meeting where friends and relatives of the deceased attend the ritual to console the family members of the departed. In a way, this is the last day of the soul in the material world, before the soul begins its heavenly journey on the dawn of the fourth day (Chahrum ni Bamdad).
  4. In the past, announcement of charities in memory of the deceased was done by friends and family in the Uthamna. The benefit of this charity would accrue to the soul of the deceased, as its judgment has not yet taken place.
  5. In the past, if the deceased did not have a child, then the appointment of a religious heir, the Gujarati word for which is pālak, was done after the Uthamna. It would be the duty and responsibility of this pālak, who would generally be a male, to see that the minimum religious rites are performed for the soul of the deceased at least for a year. The Head Priest would give a token amount in his hand and make him pledge accordingly. This was called sos bhanvi – in which the pālak would say “I will have bist o chahr darun done.” It is said that if the deceased did not have an heir, the priests did not get up from the mat after the Uthamna till the pālak was declared.

Did prophet Zarathushtra start the veneration of fire in Zoroastrian religion? (TMY JJ of 19 & 26-8-18)

  1. The veneration of fire was an established practice of the Mazdayasnis much before the time of prophet Zarathushtra. Fire had been venerated not only as a symbol of the divine, but also having a divinity of its own.
  2. King Hoshang of the Peshdadian dynasty started the reverence to fire, centuries before the advent of prophet Zarathushtra. While hunting, King Hoshang accidentally came across the brilliance of fire when he tried to kill a huge snake. Regarding this Firdausi says, “Nushad mār Koshtah valiken zarāz, azān tab-e-sang ātash āmad farāz “The snake did not die, but from the latent energy of the stone fire came out.” He asked the Mazdayasnis to make a Kebla (centre of worship) of fire and pray before it.
  3. In the Shahnameh, Firdausi says, ke urā kurughī chunin hadayah dād, hamīn ātesh ān gāh kebleh nehād, be goftā kurughīst in izadi, parastī be āyad agar bekhardi. “God bestowed on Hoshang the gift of light, and he immediately made a Keblā of that fire. He said, “this is the nur (light) of God, he who is wise shall venerate (parastesh) it.” This fire was then established as Adar Khurdad. It was the first fire to be established in a place of worship. Then King Hoshang celebrated Jashane Sadeh to commemorate the discovery of divinity in fire.
  4. King Jamshed established Adar Farnbagh on Mount Khorehmand. He specially created a section of society called Athravans (priests tending fire) to look after it. This fire prevented Zohak from taking charge of the Khoreh (divine energy) of Jamshed. Kayanian king Kae Khushru established the special fire Adar Gushnasp on Mout Asnavant.
  5. Prophet Zarathushtra himself was a fire-priest (āthravan) and used to pray before fire. Later as one of the proofs of his being a prophet, Zarathushtra gifted the special fire Adar Burzin Meher to king Kae Gushtasp. About this fire, Firdausi says Ke bi khāko ābesh bar āvarde ham, negeh kun bud ātash chun kardeh ham; Ke ān meherburzin bi dud bud, munavvar ne az hizmo az ud dud. “This fire was made without physical elements or water, this fire – Adar Burzin Meher is without fumes, it does not require fuel or incense.” Later Kae Gushtasp established the Adar Burzin Meher on Mount Raevant.
  6. When prophet Zarathushtra established the Mazdayasni Zarthosti religion, he accepted fire as the living emblem of Ahura Mazda. He extended the understanding of the concept of fire to embrace the idea of physical and spiritual energies. In Zoroastrian religion, Asha Vahishta, that is, Ardibahesht Ameshaspand, became the guardian of fires and energies.