The Navjot ritual is performed for Parsee Zoroastrian children – both boys and girls, generally between the ages of 7 to 9. The word Navjot is derived from Nav and Zot, “a new offerer of prayers.” In rare and unavoidable cases, Navjot may be performed till the age of 15.
The main purpose of the Navjot is to ceremoniously invest the child with Sadra “the sacred shirt” and Kasti “the sacred girdle” and re-establish the child’s spiritual connection with his/her religion of birth. Before being invested with the Sadra and Kasti, a child re-confirms its faith in Ahura Mazda, prophet Zarathushtra and Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion by reciting the Din no Kalmo prayer.
Navjot is the most important ritual in a child’s life and hence is to be performed with utmost care. Traditionally it was performed in the morning in a Fire temple. The ritual begins with the giving of the Nahan, a ceremonial bath to the child, which cleanses its body, mind and soul. The child is then led to a platform where it is invested with the Sadra and Kasti by a senior priest. The priest then blesses the child whilst sprinkling a mixture of rice, flower petals, coconut shreds and raisins. Family and friends then give gifts and wish health and happiness to the child.
After Navjot, Zoroastrians are enjoined to wear the Sadra and Kasti throughout life and untie and re-tie the Kasti, along with the chanting of prayers several times in the day. This practice helps remind the basic tenets of the religion as well as give a sense of security of being protected by payers and spiritual beings.
Sadra – Kasti
Avestan texts like Yasna 30.5 and Yasna 9.25 mention the divine garment and divine belt of the Divine Beings. Sadraand Kasti are representations of these spiritual vestments. In the Avesta, Sadra is referred to as vastra and the Kasti as aiwyaonghana. From the time of Navjot a child is enjoined to put on these vestments throughout life. They are spiritual implements necessary for offering prayers.
The Sadra is the white cotton vestment which Zoroastrians are enjoined to wear after their Navjot. It serves the purpose of a spiritual armour and also gives the wearer a sense of purpose and identity. It has nine seams, each emphasizing a teaching of the religion. It is made of white muslin cloth in a particular shape with a Gireban – a pocket shaped appendage in front, which is also called kisse I kerfe “the bag of merit.” It is believed that the merit collected in this small pocket accompanies the soul after a person’s death. Hence it is the duty of every Zoroastrian to be diligent in symbolically filling up this bag during one’s life. The Sadro is an emblem of purity and virtue. It indicates the religious path of life. Being a spiritual armour, its acts as a protection against vices and evil forces.
The Kasti is the woolen waistband worn along with the Sadra. It is intricately made by weaving together 72 fine threads of lamb’s wool into a girdle. It passes round the waist thrice – with four knots, two in the front and two at the back. The Kasti remindsone to be in harmony with creations – as it is made of anmal’s wool, and the 6 lars remind one of the Gahambars – saeasons.
The 3 principles of humat, hUkht & hvarsht “good thoughts, good words and good deeds.” and 4 knots represent 4 essential obligations of human beings. The word kasti means “‘boundary.” It reminds us to keep within the boundary of religious duty. The circles around the waist represent kasha “boundary lines” around the body. The Kasti also signifies a belt to gird oneself to perform our duties.
Performance of Navjot.
According to religious traditions, the Navjot ritual is performed in the morning during the Havan geh. Before that the child is expected not to eat or drink anything, perhaps due to the fact that the child must be on an empty stomach at the time of taking the Nahan.
The Nahan ritual
At the outset, a priest is required to go to the place of Navjot. He should take with him Nirang (consecrated bull’s urine), Gaomez (unconsecrated bull’s urine) and a few pomegranate leaves.
The priest himself performs Padyab kasti, and takes about a teaspoonful of Nirang in a small fulyu (metallic cup) for giving to the child for sipping and another teaspoonful of Gaomez (taro) in another fulyu for applying on the body child’s body.
Then the child washes his hands and face recites the kasti prayers. After that a white handkerchief is placed on the right hand of the child on which three to five tender pomegranate leaves are placed. The child is then made to recite the grace for meals, after which it is made to chew the pomegranate leaves and spit out the residue. The white handkerchief is retained on the right hand and on it the fulyu of Nirang is placed and the child is made to thrice recite the line In khuram in pāki-e tan yaozdāthri-e ravān rā in his mind.
After each recitation, the child is made to sip a couple of drops of Nirang from the fulyu. Thereafter the fulyu has to be kept down, the mouth wiped clean by the handkerchief and then the concluding portion of the grace for meals has to be recited.
In the past, at this point, the priest used to make the child recite the Patet Pashemāni. Nowadays the child just recites the Yatha Ahu Vairyo and the Priest giving the Nahan recites the entire Patet Pashemani prayer on behalf of the child.
Thereafter the ladies of the house take the child for the bath. After removing the clothes, taro is applied over the body. After the taro dries, the child is given a bath. Then the child wears a Pyjama and a cap. A shawl or a white cloth is draped over the shoulders. The child is now not supposed to talk till his Navjot is completed. The child is then led in a procession to the place where the Navjot is to be performed.
Before stepping onto the stage or the mat, the mother of the child or a senior lady of the family performs the traditional āchu-michu after which the child steps onto the mat and sits facing east (as according to tradition Navjots were performed only in the morning) on the special place prepared for him – a short wooden stool (pātlo) over which a white cloth (chādar) is spread.
Navjot ritual proper
On the mat 4, 6 or 8 priests including the Vada Dasturji or Panthaki saheb performing the Navjot sit around the child. Along with the child, the number of persons on the mat should be odd. The senior-most priest (either the Vada Dasturji or Panthaki saheb) starts the Patet Pashemaniprayer from the Khordeh Avesta and the rest of the priests join in from the words okhe awākhsh and finish the Patet Pashemani. If the child knows the Patet Pashemani then he/she prays with the priests, otherwise he/she recites Yatha Ahu Vairyo (21 times) and Ashem Vohu (12 times).
Then the child is made to stand facing the east, whether the Navjot is in the Havan or Uziran Geh. Then the priest performing the Navjot stands facing the child. He makes the child hold the right sleeve of the sadra in his right hand and the left sleeve in the left hand while softly reciting two Yatha ahu vairyos, then join the two hands and make the child recite the Din no Kalmo (Pazand).
The priest then recites a Yatha Ahu Vairyo, and on the word shyaothananām makes the child wear the Sadra. All the priests present, as well as the child recite a Yatha ahu vairyo with the main priest.
The child is made to face the sun – he faces east in the Havan Gah and west in the Uzirin Gah. The priest performing the Navjot goes behind the child holding the Kasti in his hand. The child holds the little finger of the priest, who then recites the initial part of the Hormazd Yasht, while the child stands silently. After that, the priest and the child together recite the Ahura Mazda Khodaeand Jasa Me Avanghe prayers. All through the Ahura Mazda Khodae prayer, the child holds the little finger of the priest.
The priest makes the child hold the front knots with his index fingers and asks the child to join hands. Passing his hands over the child’s shoulders the priest recites the Jasa Me Avanghe Mazda. The passing of the hands over the shoulders is symbolic of transferring the divine energy from the priest into the child.
After this the priest makes the child sit facing the east. The priest performing the Navjot sits facing the child. He first apples a tika on the forehead of the child with kanku (red vermilion paste), then keeps a few rice grains over it. A flower garland is then put around the child and the child is given a coconut, a betel leaf, a sopari and an envelope of money in his hand all symbolic of the auspicious occasion (sagan). Finally the bouquet is kept in the hands of the child. If the child is a girl, a Sari is draped around her shoulders.
Thereafter the Dasturji/priest who has performed the Navjot stands facing the child and blesses the child reciting the Doa Tandarosti and showering a mixture of rice, shredded almonds, raisins, coconut pieces, rose petals and pomegranate seeds on the child from a metallic tray.
Afterwards the child is dressed in new clothes and taken to the nearby Agyari or Atash Behram where the child offers sandalwood to the fire and seeks blessings from the fire.