Zoroastrians all over the world celebrate the last ten days of their religious calendar year, that is, from roj Ashtad of mah Spandarmad to the Vahishtoisht Gatha, as the Muktad. The word Muktad, also referred to as Muktāt, is derived from mukt ātmān, the Sanskrit rendering of the Avestan word ashāunām “righteous.”
Muktad is a joyous occasion for remembering and welcoming the Fravashis. It’s the time when we can show our love and gratitude to them, as they have helped us in many ways. We have to thank the Fravashis helping in Nature, as well as those helping individual souls of men – living as well as departed. Celebrating the Muktad is regarded as one of the foremost duties of a Zoroastrian.
During the days of Muktad, the Fravashis come collectively to this world and go to their respective houses. Whenever the Muktad are properly celebrated and the Fravashis are duly propitiated, the affairs of those people are successful, and there is all round prosperity. People are blessed with health, strength, happiness, protection and abundance of waters. The Fravashis even bless the city and nation in which they are remembered.
During these days, the souls of the departed too come down to the earth, accompanied by their guardian Fravashis (Saddar Bundahishn). All souls are liberated, from wherever they are. The souls of the pious are as happy as a traveler returning home. The souls of the wicked do not experience much joy as they dread the prospect of returning back.
Zoroastrians erroneously believe that during Muktad days, one has to just remember their own departed ones. The fact is that Muktad are days for the collective worship of all Fravashis, followed by the remembrance of individual souls and Fravashis of one’s dear departed ones.
Preparation for Muktad:
In the past, especially when Muktad was mainly celebrated in the house, preparations were made in the house. The full house or a particular room was cleaned and white-washed. Provisions and fuel were stocked at least to last the days of Muktad and new Year. This was done so that one did not need to go shopping during these days. People, as far as possible do not go out of the house, as souls and Fravashis come home, and it is not proper to leave them and go. Sometimes night long vigil was also kept by people. People of the house, especially women who were actively involved with preparations, took a Nahan.
All family members used to contribute their share towards buying house-hold items. This sharing gave rise to the term Behru, a Persian word, which means “share” Today, what we understand by the term Behru is the consecrated vase or karasya in which water and flowers are kept during the days of Muktad. The Behru is symbolic of the unity of the family and does not necessarily represent the departed person.
Duration – 10 or 18 days
Today generally we celebrate 10 days of Muktad, starting from Roj Ashtad of Mah Spandarmad and ending at Vahishtoisht Gatha. Zoroastrian texts have references to 10 Farvardegan days. (dasa pairi khshafnao in Farvardin Yasht XIII, Phl Vd.VIII.22, Sdr Bnd, 52.1-3, Persian Revayats, Dhabhar). The later five days of the 10 day Muktad are the days of the sixth and the last Gahambar- Hamaspathmaedhem.
Since a long time in India, Muktad was celebrated for 18 days. It started on Roj Ashishwangh of Mah Spandarmad and ended on the dawn of roj Amardad mah Fravarden. The earliest evidence of 18 days Muktad is through references in a book which relate such celebrations since the 15th century
The reason Muktad were lengthened to 18 days was that the 7 days after Vahishtoisht Gatha are important since they belong to 7 Amshaspands: Hormazd Roj is Navroz, Ardibahesht roj is Rapithwin consecration, Khordad roj is Khordad sal. Hence these six days were clubbed together to form 18 Muktad days. It should be noted that though the Muktad are said to be of eighteen days, on Ashishwangh roj and Amardad roj hardly any prayers are done.
In the early seventies, especially due to the initiative taken by Dasturji Khurshed Dabu and others, Muktad were once again gradually reverted back to 10 days.
Purpose of Muktad
In most religious traditions, the departed ones are specially invoked once a year. The Hindus refer these days as Shradh and the Christians as Lent (before Good Friday). According to Zoroastrian tradition the Fravashis descend at the end of the year.
During the Muktad, one has to devote time for prayers, do works of charity and keep routine work to the minimum. During the days of Muktad when the Fravashis descend to the house they have to be remembered and worshipped. If they are happy, they give blessings of prosperity and happiness. They should not go back dissatisfied. Great rewards can be obtained by the observation of Muktad.
Muktad is a time for REPAYING the debt of gratitude to our ancestors – those whom we know and the countless others whom we don’t know, but who have made a difference to our lives.
These days also help us to renew the MEMORY of our dear departed ones. They also help us realise our RESPONSIBILITY for the future generations. Just as we reap the rewards of the actions done by our past ancestors, we should do something for the future generations.
Special prayers for Muktad, especially for laity:
1. For the first five days, Framraot Hā (commentary of Ashem Vohu) or 1200 Ashem Vohu in the khshnuman of Ardafravash has to be recited.
2. For the five days of Gathas, each Gatha on the respective day or 1200 Yatha in the Khshnuman of Gatha has to be recited.
3. Muktad no namaskar.
4. Lākhi nu bhantar: 570 Yatha + 210 Ashem + 120 Yenghe (total 900) in the khshnuman of Sarosh – is to be recited daily for 10 days.
Customs for Muktad
1) Not to cut hair and nails, so as not to create naso and impurity.
2) Not to stitch clothes or other such avoidable chores, so that one could devote time to prayers and remembrance of Fravashis. Men should not engage in activities except doing their duty and performing meritorious deeds, so that the Fravashis may return with delight and pronounce benedictions.
3) To keep fire in the house and offer fragrance to it, praise Fravashis, recite the Fravarden Yasht, perform Afringan and recite Avesta prayers so that the Fravashis experience comfort, joy and delight and confer blessings.
Some customs arose out of ignorance and were later discontinued. For instance, a Jama (long white robe) was hung on sugarcane sticks to remind of the presence of the souls of departed persons. There was also a custom of cleaning the corners of the house with a broom immediately after Muktad to make sure that all the souls and Fravashis depart, lest some may stay back and take back the soul of a living person as company.
Presently there is a practice of going from Agyari to Agyari to pay homage to Muktad. This practice is not in agreement with the spirit of Muktad, wherein we need to stay at home, pray and invite the Fravashis in our houses. Moreover, in the past Muktads were mostly celebrated at home and not in Agyaris.
Important days during Muktad
1. Roj Marespand – Din Beh Mino Marespand: On this day the Zarathushtra was accepted as a prophet by King Vishtasp.
2. Hamaspathmaedhem Gahambar days: To consecrate Gahambar preferably on Ahunavad Gatha or any of the five Gathas.
4. Vahishtoisht Gatha is known as Pateti – day of Repentance. On this day, preferably in the Ushahin Gah, Patet has to be recited to seek forgiveness for sins committed knowingly or unknowingly during the year. The night of Vahishtoisht Gatha is also referred to as Valāvo, that is, send off (for the Fravashis).
Muktad are the days of heightened communication between the material and spiritual worlds– our need for health, happiness, peace and prosperity is fulfilled through the blessings of the souls and the Fravashis, and their need for our remembrance is fulfilled by our sincere prayers and invocations.
Celebrating Muktad in the house
Zoroastrians all over the world celebrate the last ten days of their religious calendar year, as the Muktad. Generally Muktad is viewed in a very limited way as the days of remembering the dead. This is not so. The Muktad is a joyous occasion for welcoming the souls and the Fravashis to this world and in our houses, remembering them and offering them hospitality. It’s the time to show them our love and gratitude, for all the unseen help they provide us.
During these days, the souls and Fravashis of dear ones visit to their respective houses. Hence, it is necessary to create a pious and pleasant atmosphere in the house and celebrate the Muktad in the house, even in a small way, irrespective of whether regular Muktad of the family are done in the Agyari or not.
Muktad can be observed in the house in a very simple and small way as follows:
- Select a small corner in the house, which has to be kept relatively clean. If necessary it can be covered by a curtain.
- Keep a small table there.
- On the table keep a small clean metallic glass, karasya or vase with clean water and one or two flowers in it, preferably roses.
- Clean the glass, karasya or vase daily and change the water daily. Wash the flower/s and re-use them till they are fresh.
- Have a continuously burning diva on the table, if possible.
- Members of the house can do their Kasti and daily prayers there. It is advisable to do Kasti there in every geh.
- Each member of the house, young
or old, should devote some time, at least a few minutes, in prayers there. One
can select from among the several prayers, either or multiple of which can be
done in that corner, from the simplest to the elaborate, after doing the Kasti,
- Praying 12 Ashem Vohu (especially for children)
- Praying ‘Muktad no namaskar’ (from the Khordeh Avesta)
- Praying ‘Satum no Kardo’ (after farajyat prayers).
- Praying Framraot Ha (first 5 days) or Gathas (later 5 days).
- Praying ‘Farvardin Yasht’ (after farajyat prayers).
- Pray 570 Yatha ahu vairyo + 210 Ashem vohu + 120 Yenghe hatam daily (especially for elders in the house if they have time.)
This will create a very fragrant and pleasant atmosphere in the house which is necessary for welcoming the souls and Fravashis and conducive for them to be guests in the house. Whenever the souls and Fravashis are pleasantly remembered and prayed to during these days, they return back, showering blessings, which bring success and prosperity to the house and blessing its inhabitants with health, strength, happiness, protection and abundance.