Sadra (also written as Sudreh) and Kasti (also written as Kushti) are the religious vestments worn by Zoroastrians after the Navjot all through life. The Kasti is to be untied and re-tied on the Sadra, whilst chanting specific prayers several times in the day. This practice helps to remind the basic tenets of the religion, and also gives spiritual protection.
Sadra and Kasti are also the religious implements necessary for a Zoroastrian to perform prayers. They form a spiritual circuit around the person and protects one from negative forces. They represent the spiritual vestments of the divine beings mentioned in Avestan texts (Y. 9.25, 30.5 et al) as their divine garment and divine belt.
These vestments were conceived of and first worn by King Jamshed of the Peshdadian dynasty. Later other kings and prophet Zarathushtra himself also wore it. Religious texts like the Vendidad and Patet Pashemani consider not wearing the Sadra Kasti after a certain age a sin. Performing the Kasti in every geh reminds one of duties and obligations.
The Sadra is the white cotton vestment which Zoroastrians are enjoined to wear after Navjot. The word Sadra is derived from the Avesta vastra; Phl. vastra; Pers. sud rāh “beneficial path.”
The Sadra serves as a spiritual armour and also gives the wearer a sense of purpose and identity. It is a replica of the spiritual armour of the Spiritual Beings and acts as a protection against vices and evil forces. The Sadra reminds one of the beneficial (sud) religious path (rāh) of life, the path of Asha.
The Sadra is made of a single piece of fine white muslin cloth in a particular shape and is stitched with nine seams, each standing for an ethical or philosophical message of the religion. The nine seams are:
1. Girebān, also known as kisse kerfe “the pocket of good deeds.” Every Zoroastrian is enjoined to symbolically fill up this bag with good deeds. It is believed that the merit collected in this small pocket accompanies the soul after a person’s death.
2. Girdo is the moon shaped appendage on the back near the nape of the neck. It reminds one of the responsibilities towards God, religion, parents, society and self.
3-4. 2 sides, the front and the back, representing the material and spiritual worlds
5-6. 2 sleeves, symbolising labour, hard work and industry.
7-8. 2 Triangular seams called Tiris on the side seam of the right side, indicating care for vegetable and animal kingdoms.
9. 1 Parallel seam called Tiri on the side seam of the left side, indicating care for the minerals.
The Kasti is a thin woolen cord worn around the Sadra. It is made by intricately weaving together 72 fine filaments/threads from lamb’s wool, which symbolizes innocence. Wool is also known to have the inherent property of absorbing and retaining vibrations. It is worn on the middle of the body to signify moderation, that is middle path”
The literal meaning of the word kasti is ‘boundary’, and it reminds one to keep oneself within the boundary of religious duty. The circles around the waist represent kasha ‘boundary lines’ around the body. The Kasti also signifies a belt used to gird oneself to perform one’s duties. The word used for Kasti in Avesta is aiwyAonghana.
The process of preparing the Kasti is very elaborate and interesting. In the past, the Kasti was made only by members of the priestly family, especially ladies. The lamb’s wool is first woven into threads, and then 72 such threads are woven together to make a circular hollow cord. Then this circular cord is ceremoniously cut by a priest so that it becomes a long cord. The end of the 72 strands are divided into 3 tassels called lars, each with 24 threads. Each of the three tassels are further sub-divided into three smaller tassels called laris. The Kasti is girded thrice around the waist, reminding one of the 3 basic principles of humat, hukht & hvarsht “good thoughts, good words and good deeds.” There is one reef knot each at the front and at the back, reminding the wearer of the four promises given at the time of the Navjot – to be faithful to Ahura Mazda, Zarathushtra, Mazdayasni religion and living a Zoroastrian life. The Kasti is also a reminder to gird oneself up in readiness to perform one’s duties.