The Zarthoshti-pedia® is a mini encyclopedia of terms connected to Zoroastrian religion, Iranian history, languages and Parsi culture.
3 CHANTS 3
AHURA MAZDĀ 3
AIRYAMAN YAZAD 4
ALBURZ /ALBORZ 6
ARDĀVIRĀF NĀMEH 6
ARDESHIR BĀBEKĀN 10
ARTAKHSHĪR PĀPAKĀN 11
ARTĀ VIRĀZ NĀMAG 11
ASHEM VOHU 12
ASPANDĀD AMESHASPAND 12
ĀTASH BEHRAM 12
ĀTASH DĀDGĀH 13
BAHMAN AMESHASPAND 14
BAHMAN YASHT 14
BARESMAN / BARSOM 15
BOI RITUAL 16
CHAESCHIST (LAKE) 16
CHINWAD BRIDGE 16
DARIUS (KINGS) 17
DASTURJI KUKADARU 18
ELBURZ / ELBORZ 19
FARAZYĀT / OBLIGATORY PRAYERS & DAILY PRAYERS 20
GĀH / GEH 26
INNER RITUALS 29
IRANIAN LANGUAGES 29
JAMSHEDI NAVROZE: 30
JASHANE SADEH 31
KAE KHUSHRU (KING) 32
KAE LOHRASP (KING) 32
KAVASJI EDALJI KANGA 32
KHĀNDHIĀ / NASESĀLĀR 33
KHORDEH AVESTA 33
KHVARENAH / KHVARREH/ KHOREH 34
LOHRASP SHAH 34
MEHER / MIHR 36
NIRANG-DIN RITUAL 40
OUTER RITUALS 41
SPANDARMAD AMESHASPAND 46
VAHISHTA AHU 47
XERXES (KINGS) 48
YATHĀ AHU VAIRYO 52
YENGHE HĀTĀM 53
3 chants: The 3 Avestan chants (prayers) Ashem Vohu, Yathā ahu vairyo (Ahunavar) and Yenghe hātām – are mighty and mystic short independent Avestan prayers. They had been existing before the time of prophet Zarathushtra. In religious tradition, they are referred to as Azad Manthras “independent prayers” because they could be recited by anybody under any circumstances, at any time and in any place, even without observing purity laws and regulations.
These three prayers are composed in the oldest Avestan language. They are metrical in nature. The three together permeate the sky and the earth and they withstand all evil influences lurking between them.
The three chants have an invaluable message and timeless philosophy. The basic Zoroastrian teaching of asha is the common thread running through all the three prayers. However, to get the spirit of the prayers from the translations is well nigh impossible. The main reasons for this are, the poetic composition, the archaic language and the technical words in these prayers. Moreover, the Ahunavar has only one verb which adds to the difficulty of the translator and makes the translation all the more subjective. These prayers are recited more for what they can do, then for what they mean.
Ābān: See Avan
Ādarān (Phl; lit. “belonging to Adar”): The second of the three grades of fire. It is a consecrated which is created by taking fire from 4 different sources, and over which Yasna rituals are performed over a period of 4 to 6 days by one pair of priests. The fire-temple housing this type of fire is referred to as an Agyari or Ādarān.
Āfringān (lit. Prayer for blessings): It is an outer ritual performed in memory of departed souls on all death services from the fourth day after death. It could be recited every day after this for as long as one wants. However, it is especially recited on the following days: a) Every month on the roj (day) of death, b) On the tenth, thirtieth and three hundred sixty-fifth days after death.
The prayers in this ritual includes invocations to the collective Fravashis (Ardafravash lit.“righteous fravashis”), divine beings Dahm Yazad and Sarosh Yazad followed by 3 Pazand Afrins (prayers for blessings) – of Ardafravash, Buzorgan and Haft Ameshaspand.
When the Afringan ceremony is performed with the invocation of Ahura Mazda for the well-being of the souls of living ones, it is called a Jashan.
The ritual acts performed during the Afringan are 1. Paevand “ritual connection” which involves touching the fire censor with a ladle while holding hands of participating priests, 2. Flower ritual, which is an arrangement of eight flowers in a particular order, and then picking them up in a particular order, 3. Karsha “furrow” drawing ritual, in which a ladle or tong is touched to the four sides and four corners of a metallic vessel, and 4. Hamazor “uniting in strength”, which is a special handshake performed by participating priests.
Ahunavar: In the Avestan texts the Yathā ahu vairyo is referred to as the Ahunavar “The Will of the Lord” on the basis of the 2nd and 3rd words of this prayer. (See Yathā ahu vairyo)
Ahura Mazdā (Av. Ohrmazd; Phlv. and Paz. Hormazd) “Lord Wisdom”: The supreme uncreated power according to the Avestan, who is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. Wisdom is His intrinsic nature. He sustains all His creations through wisdom. Since He is all-knowing, He is undeceivable.
The first day of the month and the 10th month (Dae) of the Zoroastrian calendar year are dedicated to Ahura Mazda. The 8th, 15th and 23rd days of the month are also dedicated to Ahura Mazda.
Ahura Mazda is also reckoned as one of the Amesha Spentas as the guardian of mankind. His attributes are represented by the rest of the six Amesha Spentas. His attributes are mentioned in the 101 names of God, the Doa Nam Setayashne and the Hormazd Yasht. In Atash Nyaishna, fire is referred to as son of Ahura Mazda.
Ahura Mazda is the sole creator and the absolute ruler of the Universe. He is without a beginning and an end and hence eternal and immortal. He has no equal or opponent. His is the only power and intelligence that governs the Universe. He is the most beneficent Spirit, the bestower of all good things. All that is good and positive in the world comes from Him. He is kind, forgiving, understanding and merciful. He helps mankind like as a friend, brother and father, provided they lead a righteous life.
Ahura Mazda has fixed the laws of Nature, in accordance with which all creations operate. These laws work on the cosmic, as well as the individual, the macrocosmic as well as microcosmic fronts covering the physical, moral and spiritual aspects of life. He never interferes in the working of these laws.
He is invisible to the physical as well as the spiritual world, a Spirit among the Spirits. He is light. By His thought-force, He first filled heavenly realms with light. The blazing sun and the radiant fire are His living representatives on earth.
Ahura Mazda oversees all creatures with His sharp, piercing gaze. He is aware of whatever man does. He is the supreme judge of man’s actions. He is totally perfect. He is present in all creations, and yet above them, on account of His Wisdom.
Ahura Mazda is the embodiment of Wisdom and through wisdom He created and sustains the universe. At a cosmic level, Wisdom permeates the Universe. Every atom of matter and every cell of the body is intelligent. The universe organizes itself and reacts to its own internal events much as our cells do.
Airyaman Yazad: The word Airyaman means “noble mind.” Airyaman Yazad is a co-worker of Ardibahesht Ameshaspand. The word Airyaman means “noble mind.” He is regarded the chief Healer Yazad among all Divine Beings. He was created to counter the innumerable diseases in the world (Vd. 22). He helps in healing diseases that arise out of internal imbalances and also gives overall health.
He also presides over relationships and is invoked for a fulfilling relationship in friendship and marriage, for mending strained relationships as also for compatibility with friends, colleagues and marriage partner. He is invoked for help to find the right marriage partner. He also protects against untimely death, against black magic and all sorts of unseen evils.
In the Vendidad this prayer is referred to as chathrushāmruta “recited four times.” In the prayer of Havan Geh, Airyaman Yazad is invoked as strong, victorious and one who keeps away harm. The prayer of Airyaman is regarded as second only to the 5 Gathas in efficacy.
Yasna Hā 54 is called the Hā of Airyaman Yazad. It contains the prayer of Airyaman which can be recited separately as the Ā airyemā ishyo prayer. This prayer is also a part of marriage benedictions showered on the wedding couple. If the marriage couple practice the teachings of this prayer with a noble mind (airya “noble”, man “mind”), and give love, care and affection to each other, they will be able to have a happy married life.
In the third paragraph of Ardibahesht Yasht it is stated, “the prayer of Airyaman (Hā 54) is the best and most excellent, as it helps overcome pain and disease, especially when the person who prays is righteous.”
The Airyaman Yazad prayer given below, should be ideally recited after doing the Kasti, Farazyat Bandagi, Ardibahesht Yasht and its Nirang. If under certain circumstances, it is not possible to do the full Farazyat bandagi and Ardibahesht Yasht, one can recite this prayer after doing Kasti and Sarosh baj.
Ba nāme yazade bakshāyandeh bakshāyazgar meherbān.
Yānim mano, yānim vacho, yānim shyaothnem ashaono zarathushtrahe.
> Ā Airyemā ishyo rafedhrāi, jantu nerebyaschā nāiribyaschā, zarathushtrahe vangheush rafedhrāi manangho, yā daenā vairim hanāt mizdem, ashahyā yāsā ashim yām ishyām, ahuro masatā mazdāo. < (Recite > to < 4 times.)
Ashem Vohu 3.
Airyamanem ishim yazamaide, amavantem verethrājanem vitbaeshanghem, mazishtahe ashahe sravanghām, gāthāo spentāo ratu-khshathrāo ashaonish yazamaide, staota yasnya yazamaide, yā dātā angheush pauru-yehyā.
Yenghe hātām āt yesne paiti vangho, mazdāo ahuro vaethā ashāt hachā,
Yāonghāmchā tāschā tāoschā yazamaide. Ashem vohu 1.
The meaning of the above prayer is:
“In the name of the kind, forgiving and merciful God.
Worthy of reward is the thought, worthy of reward is the word, worthy of reward is the deed of righteous Zarathushtra.
May the much desired prayer giving happiness and peace of mind reach us for delight and goodness of the Zarathushtrian men and women, who venerate the religious laws and pray for the exalted reward of righteousness which is much desired by exalted Ahura Mazda.
We revere the much desired prayer giving happiness and peace of mind, victorious, malice removing, the most exalted in the righteous order of prayers. We revere the righteous exalted Gathas having power. We revere Staota Yasnya which created the supreme existence.
Ālāt: The word ālāt is originally an Arabic word and is now used in Persian and Gujarati languages. Literally the word means “apparatus or instruments.” In Zoroastrian ritual parlance, the word is used to denote implements necessary for rituals.
In Zoroastrian religion, the word ālāt is used in the sense of apparatus and implements used in rituals:
1. as conduits for spiritual power.
2. as part of offerings
3. to acquire spiritual energies.
4. as storage for accumulated spiritual energies.
In totality, there are no particular or fixed number of ālāts. Different rituals require different ālāts. The most basic Kushti ritual requires the ālāts of Sadro and Kasti as conduits and storage.
Priests require several ālāts to perform rituals. However the most basic ālāt of a Mobed (priest) is his padān (mouth-veil). Hence, in priestly parlance, taking away the padān of a priest is an idiomatic way of saying that a priest will not be allowed to perform rituals.
The bareshnum purification of a priest is the basis for the performance of all rituals. The ālāts necessary for the bareshnum purification are Nirang and Āv from the Nirang-din ritual and sacred ash from an Atash Behram.
Several Ālāts are required for the performance of inner rituals like Yasna and Vendidad. The stone stool in these rituals on which most of these ālāts are placed is called “ālāt-khvān.’ The ālāts are:
1) Metallic cups (fulyu): Small metallic cups used to keep water, para-hom, hom juice.
2) Metallic saucers (tashtā). They are used for carrying zaothra and other ritual requisites. One metallic saucer with nine holes in it (surākhdār tashtā) is used as a sieve to strain Haoma juice.
2) Baresman/Barsam: The Baresman originally constituted a bunch of twigs of varying numbers the gachh plant was used. At present pieces of metallic wires, tied together, are used.
3) Aiwyāonghan: A band to tie the Barsom. In the past date palm leaves were used to tie the Barsom, which mainly constituted of twigs. Nowadays in the Baj ritual the Aiwyāonghan is a metallic chain, whereas in higher rituals date palm leaves are used to tie the metallic barsom. It should be noted that the word Aiwyaonghan is also used for the sacred girdle kasti.
4) Hāvana/ Hāvanim: Hāvanim is the name of the ritual utensil in the shape of a big wine cup, which and is made up of mixed metals. It is used to pound dry Haoma twigs (available only in Afghanistan and Iran) along with pomegranate twigs, goat’s milk and water. The juice thus prepared is partaken by the priests as well as the laity. Originally stone, clay and metallic Hāvanim were used, but nowadays only metallic Hāvanim are used.
5) Lālo: Lālo or lāleh is the name for the pestle which is used to pound the mixture in the Hāvanim. The word lālo literally means tulip flower. This name is give to this implement because its non-pounding end is shaped like a tulip. The lālo is made of mixed metals, and when struck against the hāvanim it gives out a sweet ringing sound.
6) Māhrue: The word māhrue means “that which looks like the moon (māh).” It is a crescent shaped three legged metal stand on which the bundle of barsom is placed. It is also called the barsom-dān “receptacle for the barsom.”
7) Varesa: It is a metallic ring tied with consecrated hair of varasyaji (consecrated albino bull). The word is from Avesta, and it means “hair.” In certain variations of rituals (where invocations begin with vispaesha, and where Fravashis are invoked) the varesa ring is uncovered, otherwise it is covered by a small metallic cup (fulyu). In olden times, the varesa was used for straining Haoma juice. It appears that in the past a sieve made from consecrated bull’s hair was used for straining Haoma juice in inner rituals. At present a metallic saucer with nine holes is used for that purpose, and the ring with the hair is just placed in the saucer.
8) Kundi: A big metallic water receptacle in which most of the above ālāts are kept before they are brought on the ālāt-khwān.
9) Fire: In all rituals, fire is present as an emblem and a direct representative of Ahura Mazda’s Endless Light. It also serves as a receiver and transmitter of Khoreh (divine energy).
To create a new ālāt is very difficult. In recent history a new ālāt had been created in Aden in the early 1880s, to consecrate an Atash Adaran, as per the account of late Er. Erachsha Karkaria of Navsari, At the outset, two senior priests took a Bareshnum without pre-existing alat. Then they performed a Nirang-din ritual in which they created the required ālāts. Thereafter they used those ālāt to take a fresh Bareshnum, after which they had the power of a Bareshnum.
For creating the Atash Behram in Sanjan, India, our ancestors sent two priests to Khorasan in Eastern Iran via land route to get the ālāt necessary to give ritual power to priests to consecrate the Atash Behram. These ālāts were Nirang, Āv, sacred ash of Atash Behram, consecrated varas (hair) from Varasyaji and haoma twigs.
Alburz /Alborz : The Alburz mountain range is situated in the North-east of modern day Iran, stretching from the borders of Azerbaizan and Armenia in the west to the southern end of the Caspian Sea, and ending in the east at the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. It is the highest mountain in West Asia. It is 60 to 130 km wide and consists mainly of sedimentary rocks over a granite core. Its highest peak is Mount Demavand which is located in the city of Amol in the province of Mazandaran.
Alburz is known in the Avesta by the name Hara with the adjective berez. In Pahlavi it is known as Harburz, a compound of Hara and Berez. The mountain is referred in cosmological, historical as well as mythological writings. In cosmology it is described as one of the ends of the world.
In the Avesta it is regarded as the first mountain to appear on the earth (Zamyad Yasht, 1). Ahura Mazda created it for Meher Yazad, so that the heavenly bodies could go around it. At its peak there is no darkness, no night, no cold or hot wind, no pestilence bringing disease, no diseases created by evil, and clouds cannot reach there. It also helps the Ameshaspands to oversee the entire material world (Meher Yasht, 50-51). The stars, moon and the sun moves around its peak (Rashne Yasht 25, Bnd. 9,6).
According to Pahlavi sources, Mount Alburz goes around the whole world. There is a lake on the top and thousands of rivulets flow into the lake from the South to get purified (Bundahishn Ch.5). Also rivers flow down from the Alburz to Khvaniras (Selections of Zadsparam, 20).
The Shahnameh has several references to Mount Alburz, which is often used as a simile to indicate something gargantuan.
Infant Faridun’s mother Faranak left him on Mt. Alburz in the care of a holy man, where he was trained. At the age of sixteen he came down along with Kaveh to defeat the evil Zohak.
Saam, the king of Zabulistan, cast away his albino son Zaal on the Elburz mountain, where Seemurgh the saintly man, who could metamorphose himself into a bird, looked after him and brought him up till he was found sixteen years later and brought back to the city. Much later, the same Zaal sends his own son Rustam to Alburz mountain to look for Kae Kobad and bring him to take over the reigns of Iran, thus starting the Kayanian dynasty. King Kae Kaus, the second king, ordered the foot of Mt. Alburz to be excavated and two cellars dug under it to serve as stables for war steeds and sturdy mules.
It is also considered to be the dwelling place of Peshotan, brother or king Kae Vishtasp, who was given the blessing by prophet Zarathushtra to have an immortal body till the end of material world.
Ardāvirāf: See Ardaviraf Nāmeh
Ardāvirāf Nāmeh (Guj. Ardāvirāf Nāmu): Lit. “The Book of righteous Viraz.” This is a book in the Pahlavi language describing the journey to heaven and hell undertaken by Arta Viraz (popularly Ardaviraf) during the reign of Ardeshir Papakan (226 CE). It contains one of the most elaborate descriptions of Heaven and Hell in the entire Zoroastrian texts. This journey was undertaken to dispense doubt in the religion and rituals. Dante’s Divine comedy is often compared to Arda Viraz Namag.
The Arda Viraz Namg (AVN) is one of the most popular book among Parsis. It is a book preaching morality and ethics, but written in a different style. 60% (83 of the total 101 chapters) of it is a graphically descriptive account of punishments of sins undergone in Hell. 20% is an account of Heaven. 10% of the text (first 4 chapters) is situational narrative of the times of doubt and turmoil preceding the journey. 10% of the text are direct admonitions from Ahura Mazda. Sraosha and the souls to AV.
Summary of the Book:
Selection: King Ardeshir Babagan summoned 40,000 priests in the fire temple of Atur Farnabag. Out of them 400 were selected – all very conversant with Zoroastrian religion. Then 40 were selected and finally 7. The 7, then selected the best and holiest among themselves and that was Ardaviraf, who was studying religion from the age of 7.
Family: 7 Sisters of Arda Viraf were worried about him. The King assured them of his safety and of the subsequent greatness and fame that awaited him. He told them that their brother was under special protection from heaven and will come back to them in 7 days.
Only the 7 holy men were left in the fire temple. The king and other 40,000 priests circled the temple. Inside Arda Viraf drank consecrated wine from a golden cup. He remained in a state of repose for 7 days, after which he got up, ate food and asked for a scribe to whom he would dictate all that he saw.
After his soul left his body, it went to the spiritual world. Sarosh Yazad received the soul and told it that it had come before his time. Arda Viraf recounted the purpose of his visit. Sarosh Yazad verified his intentions, found them to be true and took him across the Chinwad Bridge.
Heaven: Sarosh Yazad escorts and explains Arda Viraf all through his spiitual journey. From Chinwad Bridge Arda Viraf could see the earth. He saw the soul of a man who had just died. It was sitting happily at the head of the body. The soul was aware that on account of its goodness, wisdom and love of god, the Chinwad bridge will become broad. The heaven was like a garden of flowers with smell of rose and amber and cool wind blowing. Before him came a beautiful and benign maiden, his daena (conscience). Her beauty was on account of his virtues of faith, hope, charity, preservation of the sacred fire, and sincerity in performance of ceremonies. They journeyed across the bridge together, hand in hand. Their first step took them to the Star Payag (2nd heaven), at the second step they were in the in the Mah Payag (3rd Heaven), at the third step in Khorshed payag (4th heaven) and at the fourth step in Garothman (5th and highest heaven). The other two higher stages of heaven are Asar Roshnih, the 6th Heaven and Anaghra Raochah the 7th heaven.
Sarosh Yazad then led Arda Viraf to the bridge. One side of the bridge was dark and the other bright. Arda Viraf saw a dog with a collar and golden chain on the bright side. Sarosh Yazad told AV not to fear as Dahm, Rashn, Ashatad, Vay i Veh, Din and Adar Yazads were with him. All these Yazads became visible to AV. The dog was Zarrin Gosh (lit. one having golden ears). He was keeping a watch and making noise to frighten Ahriman to prevent his approach. Arda Viraf was instructed to enjoin the people of the world to care of these animals.
Then Arda Viraf saw Meher Yazad on the throne. Next to him was Rashn Yazad holding scales and 5000 Yazads on his right side. Arda Viraf also saw members of his own family and conversed with them.
From there Bahman Ameshaspand led him to a golden throne of God. It was resplendent and surrounded by thousands of angels. Arda Viraf paid obeisance to the throne.
Arda Viraf was then again taken to the Chinwad bridge, on one side of which was Hamestagān – the place where people with equal good and evil deeds have to stay. Here, their only vicissitude is excessive heat and cold.
Dry Wood on fire: Ardibahesht Ameshaspand came to Arda Viraf and told him that he had once put wet wood on fire. Arda Viraf assured him that he will take care to use only the best and driest wood. Ardibahesht Ameshaspand told AV that the wood should be dried for atleast 12 months. Ardibahesht Ameshaspand and Sarosh Yazad then led AV to a river which was emanating foul stench, as it was made of fluids issuing from wet wood.
Hell: Then Sarosh and Ardibehesht Amesaspands took Arda Viraf down to hell to see the punishments inflicted on the wicked. Souls were floating in river with fetid water, shouting with fear of being drowned but nobody heard them. Noxious reptile bothered them. The river was made from tears shed by mankind for the departed. Grieving immoderately is considered a heinous sin. To pray for the souls is the duty but to grieve for them is sinful. Hope for the future existence and faith in the justice of God should banish any regrets about death.
Down from the Chinwad Bridge, on the dark side, Arda Viraf saw a soul of a man recently dead, sitting at the head of the body and lamenting. He was being tormented by demons. As the soul was trembling and creeping, the most disgusting wind emanated and from that the most demonical form appeared . He said – your evil works has made me ugly. Then it held the soul by the neck and brought it to the foot of the Chinwad bridge, which became as narrow as the edge of the sword. The soul tried to totter on it but fell in the abyss below.
Arda Viraf came across a cold, fetid and dark place. There he saw souls guilty of unnatural sex crouching and feeling lonely and miserable, gnawed by noxious animals, serpents and scorpions. He also saw a woman being compelled by demons to drink horrible liquid from a cup. This woman did not take care of sacred things at the time of her periods.
The he saw a very hungry man biting his own arms. He was an ungrateful man who never thanked or blessed his benefactors and never helped the poor from his surplus.
A group of souls were amidst reptiles and noxious creatures. They had neglected to wear the Sudreh and the Kasti, and did not cover their head and the feet and did not follow the laws laid down by the religion.
Then Arda Viraf saw a man who was made to drink horrible liquid and when he resisted they flogged him and showered blows. This man used false weights and measures and used adulterated goods.
A man surrounded by devils was being flogged with snakes, who bit him all over the body. He was a tyrant who abused his authority, made his subjects unhappy and was not listenting to their petitions.
A man who was a tormentor of animals was being cut to pieces by the devil. A man was being torn apart by dogs, limb by limb harmed dogs in his lifetime.
A man tied by the hand and foot was being crushed in a metallic press. He neglected his duties, was idle and ill tempered. His foot was exempted from hell as once it had performed a good deed of kicking fodder towards a sheep.
A man was made to eat garbage, gore and carrion as he had oppressed the poor and amassed his wealth by cheating them.
A man who dishonoured his word and broke agreements was surrounded by devils who were tearing his flesh and bones with iron combs.
A man was flogged with whips made of snake because he took away his neighbour’s land. As long as the land remained in his family’s possession, he would have to suffer.
The above are some of the punishments in hell mentioned in the book for the wrong doers.
The books also has sever advises and admonitions from people form different sources:
Advise from Ahura Mazda
• Instruct men what you have seen. Tell them the benefits and rewards of adherence to the laws and punishments for their infringement.
• Ill gotten wealth is never enjoyed.
• Let the rich believe in God, let prosperity not turn their minds.
• Deathbed repentance is useless. Instead keep your intentions pure and have faith in God.
• Do not fear or doubt the precepts of Zarathushtra.
• As you sow so shall you reap.
Advise from Sarosh Yazad & Adar Yazad:
• Without trouble nothing can be attained.
• Every labour and merit will be rewarded.
• Happiness and prosperity may be followed by sickness and poverty. People who cannot accept the ups and downs of life have to suffer punishment for their attitude.
• Not to set heart exclusively on the pleasures of the world, as men cannot carry anything away with them after death.
• Prepare well for the journey to the spiritual world.
• God is a friend who will assist you, but first you must walk in his ways and put faith in Him.
• The body is like a horse and the soul like its rider. Both require good deeds to support them. If either one is weak, the other is affected. As man needs to take greater care of himself than his horse, so he has to take greater care of his soul than his body.
• God requires two things from men: To keep away from sin, and always be grateful to Him for His blessings and teach others to do so.
• Be not very proud of health, vigour, riches and prosperity as all these may pass away some day. Nothing remains but God.
• In wine, women, eating and drinking avoid excess, as they not only bring their own punishments in the world, but they also lead the soul to hell.
• When you ask of boons of God, leave it to Him to grant it to you. For if you ask for an offspring, he may bring disgrace to you.
• Let not greed and ambition deprive you of your sleep. Remember Kai Kaus whose ambtion to conquer Mazandaran led him to a lot of pain and trouble.
• Contentment is the happiest condition for man.
• Let parents set good examples to their children and masters to their servants.
• Advise from souls at various stages of heaven:
• Avoid sin, think of the last day, avoid temptations.
• Convey to men the necessity of prayer, of wearing the Sudreh Kushti, performance of rituals and good deeds.
• The joys of heaven are eternal, the joys of the lower world are fleeting.
• It is necessary to have an heir in the world. One cannot pass the Chinwad bridge without having an heir. To hand down our names to posterity is one of the highest duties we owe to our Creator.
• Souls near the Chinwad bridge said that they have to wait for people whom they have offended and against whom they had sinned to come and forgive them. If they do not forgive them they have to keep wandering.
Specimen translation of First Chapter of Arda Viraf Nameh
1. Thus they say that holy Zartusht accepted the religion (and) propagated (it) in the world.
2. And till the completion of 3 hundred years, the religion was in purity and men were in doubtlessness.
3. And then accursed (Evil) Spirit, wicked, in order to make men doubtful of the religion, (instigated) the accursed Alexander, the Roman, dwelling in Egypt, so that he came to the country of Iran with heavy might, battle and devastation.
4. And he killed the ruler of Iran, destroyed the palace of the sovereigns and made (them) desolate.
5. And this religion which (includes) the entire Avesta and Zand written upon cow hides with golden ink was deposited in the Fortress of Writing in the Stakhra of Papak.
6. And the antagonism was brought over by ill–fortuned, wicked, heretic evil-doer Alexander the Byzantine, dwelling in Egypt and he burnt (the religious books).
7. And he slayed many priests, judges, teachers, Priest chiefs, upholders of the religion, resourceful ones and the wise ones of the country of the Iran, and he introduced revenge and discord among the great ones and petty rulers of the country of Iran, one with the other, and he himself broke (down) and hastened to hell.
8. After that there was strife and quarrel among men of the country of Eran, one with the other, so that, for them there was no king, ruler, leader and priest well–versed–in religion.
9. And in the matter of Yazads (i.e. spiritual matters) there was doubt and many kinds of faith, beliefs, different ways, doubtfulness and different laws came into manifestation in the world.
10. (This went on) till that (time) when was born saintly immortal–soul Aturpat, son of Mahraspend, who performed a religious ordeal thereon, and poured molten metal on (his) chest.
11. And he made many laws and judgements with those of different faith and those of different beliefs since there was confusion in the religion and people were in doubt.
12. And then there were other men and priests of religion.
13. From (them) a number (of persons) became submissive and full of fear.
14. And by them an assembly was called in the court of victorious Aturfaranbag.
15. And there were many kinds of speeches and deliberations on this (subject) that: It is necessary to seek remedy by us, so that one of us shall go, bring information from the spirits, so that men who are in this time shall know this – whether this Yazishna, Dron, Afringan, rites, purification ceremony of high order which we bring into practice, reach unto the Yazads or unto the demons. And (whether) it reaches for the help of our soul or not.
16. And then with unanimity of the priests of the religion, all men were called by them to the court of Atur faranbag.
17. And by them , from all (men) 7 were selected who were doubtless about the Yazads and the religion.
18. And their own thought, speech and action (were) very embellished and very honest and (the Mazdayasnis) said: You yourself sit down and from you select one ( person) who (is) better, more sinless and more renowned for this world.
19. Then those 7 men sat down, and from seven 3 (were selected) and from 3 was selected 1, Viraaz by name, and he is one whom they (also) call Weh-shapur.
20. Then that Viraz as he heard these words stood on (his) feet, and took (his) hands under arm–pit and said: If it (so) appears to you, then I am unwilling. Do not give me Ceremonial drink till you Mazdaysnans and I throw dice, and if dice comes to me, willingly I shall go to that place of the holy ones and the wicked ones, and I shall bring correctly this message, and deliver (it) truthfully.
21. Then those Mazdayasnans and I brought dice.
22. First time with Humat, second time with Hukht and third time with Hvarsht, all three time the dice came to Viraz.
The Sasanian Empire, was founded by Artakhshīr Pāpakān (also known as Ardeshir Bābekān) (226 – 241 A.D.). He was the son of Sasan, who was in the service of Pāpak (or Bābak), the king of Pars. The province of Pars was then under the Parthian Emperor Artabanus (or Ardavan V).
According to the Pahlavi book “Karnamak-i-Artakhshir-i-Pāpakān” (Book of Deeds of Artakhshir-i-Pāpakān), King Papak saw dreams on three consecutive nights as follows: the first night he saw the sun shining over the head of Sasan giving light to the whole world; on the second night he saw Sasan sitting on a white, caparisoned elephant and people paying obeisance to him; on the third night he saw that the three spiritual fires of ancient Iran – Farnbag, Gushnasp & Burzin Meher blazing in the house of Sasan. The interpreters of dreams were consulted by Papak, who told him that the son of Sasan would be the future emperor of Iran.
Papak summoned Sasan before him and inquired of his descent. Sasan told Papak that he was a descendant of the ancient royal family of Pars. Sasan was raised to a high position in the court and Papak gave his daughter in marriage to Sasan.
Birth and early life: To Sasan and the daughter of Pāpak, a son was born who was named Artakshir (or Ardeshir). He later came to known as Artakhshīr-i-Pāpakān “Artakhshir of the family of Pāpak.” The name of the dynasty and empire that he established came to be known as Sasan after the name of his father.
Ardeshir received princely education and training in arts, statecraft and military sciences. He became famous in Pars as an accomplished young prince of high quality, virtue and valour.
When the Parthian Emperor Ardavan heard of the fame of Ardeshir, he invited him to his court at Ray, assuring him royal treatment. Accordingly, Pāpak sent Ardeshir to the court of Ardavan at Ray where he was royally received. During his stay at Ray, Ardeshir excelled in arts, sports and military skills.
Once, Ardeshir, along with Emperor Ardavan and the princes, had gone hunting when a quarrel arose between Ardeshir and the princes over a hunting exploit. An altercation ensued, and Ardeshir challenged the princes with harsh words in the presence of the king. Enraged at this incident, Ardavan deposed Ardeshir from his royalty and appointed him to look after the royal stables. Ardeshir felt that Ardavan had acted unjustly in order to lower his prestige. This wounded young Ardeshir’s pride & he became antagonistic towards Ardavan.
After some time, Ardeshir managed to escape from Ray accompanied by and with the active support of Artadukht (Gulnar, according to some sources), a daughter of Ardavan, whom he later married. All attempts of Ardavan to capture them proved futile, because they were protected by the Kayanian Khoreh – the divine Glory of kingship. The duo arrived in Pars, where the nobles and the people rallied around Ardeshir. He also received support from other provinces and he raised an army against Ardavan.
A battle ensued in which at first Ardavan’s sons were defeated. In another fierce battle fought for about 40 days Ardavan was finally defeated. Ardeshir founded his independent kingdom and established his sovereignty over other provinces in the west and the east. In 226 A.D., Ardeshir ascended the throne and assumed the title Shāhān Shāh-i-Ērān, King of Kings of Iran. He had the ambition of restoring the Zoroastrian religion and the Iranian empire to their full splendour. Rock reliefs at Naqsh-i-Rustam and Naqsh-i-Rajab at Persepolis show the king, receiving the diadem of sovereignty from a high priest, most probably Dastur Tansar.
In thanksgiving for establishment of the Sasanian Empire, Ardeshir ordered Ātash Bahrāms to be installed at various places. In memory of his victory over Ardavan, he founded a city called Khvarrah-Ardeshir, ‘Glory of Ardeshir’, which is modern Firuzabad, the ‘city of victory.’ It was one of the first capitals of the Sasanian Empire.
Administration of the Empire: In Sasanian times, the Emperor was the supreme ruler. The Sasanian aristocracy was divided into four groups: 1) The Provincial kings who were appointed from members of the royal family and the military commanders, and were responsible to the Emperor. 2) The Village heads who were under the Provincial kings, 3) The Feudal lords, and 4) The Nobles.
Contact with the Romans: Like the Parthians, Sasanians too were involved in long drawn out wars with the Romans. After establishing himself on the throne of Iran, Ardeshir set out to regain from the Romans all territories which were formerly in possession of the Achaemenians. The Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, hearing of Ardeshir’s plan of invasion, sent a letter to the Sasanian king advising him not to be over-ambitious. In response to the letter Ardeshir sent a delegation to the Roman Emperor with a message that the Romans should vacate all those provinces of Asia Minor which were formerly under the Achaemenian rule. Ignoring diplomatic etiquette and common principle of decency, the Roman Emperor badly insulted the Iranian envoys and took them prisoners.
War was declared. The army of Pars conquered Mesopotamia. The Romans replied by sending three armies, one of them under the personal command of the Roman Emperor. After a prolonged war of fluctuating fortunes, hostilities ended without any decisive result and peace was declared in 232 A.D. Ardeshir then proceeded to Armenia whose king Chosroes put up a strong defense and refused to yield. But finally his country was overrun and annexed to Pars. Later Ardeshir also conquered Kurdistan, and Kerman which had a rebellious provincial ruler.
Reforms of Ardeshir: (1) Ardeshir was a staunch Zarathushti and firmly believed that religion and sovereignty were inter-dependent. He rejuvenated the Zarathushti religion with the help of the High Priest Tansar who got the scattered Avesta literature collected. They were also translated to Pahlavi.
Another priest of supreme piety, Arda Viraf, performed a Baj ritual and went into a trance for seven days, during which period his soul journeyed to the spiritual world – heaven, hell and purgatory – and back. Thereafter he related to the people what he saw in the spiritual world, as stated in the Pahlavi work “Arda Wiraz Namag”.
(2) Ardeshir established institutions for secular and religious studies. He appointed inspectors who used to visit various schools and give the king recommendations of brilliant students for high posts in the administration.
(3) He promoted agriculture and trade. To facilitate commerce many cities were built on the sea-coast and river banks.
(4) He framed laws for the benefit of the people. His justice was tempered with mercy. He Ardeshir directed all provincial kings to rule with justice and harass people for revenue collection.
(5) Ardeshir raised a disciplined army for the protection of his country. His soldiers were forbidden to loot the conquered people. The army consisted of cavalry and infantry. Armoured cavalry played an important part in the Sasanian military affairs.
Ardeshir was a benevolent and wise king, a valiant warrior, a skillful organizer, and an efficient administrator. He passed away in 241 A.D. He left his newly founded empire to his son Shapur I.
Artakhshīr Pāpakān: See Ardeshir Bābegān
Artā Virāz Nāmag: See Ardā Virāf Nāmeh
Artāxerxes: Three Achaemenian kings were known by the name Artaxerxes:
ARTAXERXES I (465-424 B.C.) ruled for a long period of 41 years, but his reign was marked by internal conflict
ARTAXERXES II (404-359 B. C.): After Darius II, his son Arsaces ascended the throne as Artaxerxes II. He was reputed to have wonderful memory, and therefore, the Greeks called him Mnemon (Greek word for ‘mind, memory’). Artaxerxes was a wise and generous ruler, He inspired confidence even among the Greek States.
He was a much feared and respected king. He acted as a peace-maker, and strengthened the Empire. There was friction between Sparta and Pars. Athens joined Pars, and defeated Sparta in 387 B.C., resulting in a complete victory for the Parsi Emperor.
He issued an edict known as the “King’s Peace” which decreed that the Greek city states in Asia Minor and Cyprus belonged to the Parsi Empire. Representatives of Athens, Sparta and other Greek States accepted the edict. Thus, the will of the Persian King was law in Greece. It was engraved in stone, and kept as permanent record in the Greek states. He ruled for forty-six years, and passed away peacefully in 358 B. C. at the ripe old age of ninety-four years.
ARTAXERXES III (359-338 B. C.): His original name was Ochus. He was one of the three sons of Artaxerxes II, who came to throne after several members of the royal family and courtiers were murdered for political reasons. He too was finally poisoned by his courtier Bagaos. His youngest son Ariaspes occupied the throne in 338 B.C., but even he and his children were put to death by Bagaos.
Asha : Asha is the basic cardinal virtue in Zoroastrianism. There is no exact English translation of the word and hence it is translated variously as “righteousness, truth, morality, rectitude.” The Vedic concept of rita and the Oriental concept of Tao are similar to the concept of Asha. Druj (lie) is the opponent of Asha.
In the Avesta, Asha is spoken of often and very highly. Two of the best quotations about Asha are: (i) aevo pathāo yo ashahe vispe anyaeshām apantām. “There is only one path, which is of Asha. All the others are no (that is, wrong) paths.”
(ii) asha vahishta, asha sraeshta, daresāma thwā pairi thwā jamyāma, hame thwā hakhma. (Hoshbam) “Asha is best, Asha is excellent, through it, mai I see Thee (God), come near Thee and be one in Thy friendship.”
Cosmologically Asha is the primordial cause and the primary law on the basis of which the universe came into being. The innumerable, all pervasive laws in nature that maintain the cosmic order are all connected to Asha.
Ashem vohu: The Ashem vohu is the shortest prayer in the Avesta language. It has 12 words which are distributed over three lines. It is in praise of Asha the most fundamental teaching of Zoroastrian religion. The word Asha is used in the Avesta in a very broad sense, covering physical and mental, material and spiritual aspects. It carries with it the idea of law, order, harmony, truth, righteousness, purity and piety. It is the chant of Peace, Bliss, Calmness, Soothing and Relaxation.
The recitation of Ashem vohu purifies the mind and helps keep away negative thoughts. Ahriman says that when Prophet Zarathushtra recited Ashem vohu, its heat melted him down. Yasna Ha 20 is a commentary on this prayer.
Text of the prayer: Ashem vohu vahishtem asti,
Ushtā asti ushtaa ahmāi,
Hyat ashāi vahishtāi ashem.
Meaning: Righteousness is good, it is the best. It is bliss. Bliss unto him who practices righteousness for the sake of best righteousness.
Free translation: To do the right thing is good as it will give inner happiness. If one always does right things with sincerity, he will have real happiness.
Zoroastrians have a tradition of reciting Ashem vohu at the news of someone’s death, to curtail negative thoughts, while going to bed, while getting up from bed and while finishing a work.
Zoroastrians have a tradition of reciting different numbers of Ashen vohu as follows:
1 Ashem vohu– To seal every thought.
Also – On waking up in the morning, – On going to bed at night.- When lighting a Divo.- Before meals, interview, exam etc. (to calm the mind)- Anytime you start something (car) or come across a hurdle.
– When an evil thought tends to enter the mind. – As an act of virtue.- After coming in contact with unclean things. – While remembering Asho Farohars. – Continuously in the ear of a dying person till Sachkar.- When receiving news of a death.- When performing Sezdo (last respect to a departed). – At the time of one’s own death.- After completing any work.
3 Ashem vohu – To reinforce a belief
10 Ashem vohu – To attune with the Supreme divine being
12 Ashem vohu – To realise one’s life’s purpose
121 Ashem vohu – For a meditative mode of the mind.
Aspandād Ameshaspand : See Spandārmad Ameshaspand
Ātash Behram (fire) : It is the highest of the three grades of fire. It is made from fire taken from 16 different sources. It takes eight to ten pairs of priests about a year to complete the consecration of an Atash Behram which requires Yasna and Vendidad to be performed over the 16 types of fires as follows:
No. Source Purifications, consecrations, Yasna & Vendidad
1. Burning corpse 91
2. Lightening 90
3. Dyer 80
4. Brick maker 75
5. Public bath 70
6. Potter 61
7. Weapon maker 61
8. Baker’s oven 61
9. Brewer /idol maker 61
10. Goldsmith 60
11. Mint 55
12. Blacksmith 51
13. Bronze maker 50
14. A Zoroastrian 40
15. Army chief/ camp 35
16. Shepherd /stable 30
The fire-temple housing this type of fire is referred to as an Atash Behram. There are eight Atash Behrams in India, with four being in Mumbai, two in Surat and one each at Navsari and Udvada, the oldest being the one at Udvada.
Ātash Dādgāh: (From Av. dāitya-gatu “proper place”). The lowest of the three grade of fire. It requires minimum or no ritual consecration. It can be looked after by a priest or a qualified lay person. Some fire temples where it is not possible to have a specially consecrated fire, especially in the local or international diaspora, opt for the Atash Dadgah.
Āvān (Paz.; from Av. āp): This Yazata presides over waters (especially flowing waters). She is also known as aredvi or anāhita. She may be compared to Nahid, Venus, Nana (Elamite), Saraswati and Artemis in other cultures. The veneration of Avan and Anahita can be traced back to pre-Vedic times.
The Vedic goddess Saraswati is often associated with Aredvi, though the name Saraswati is cognate with the river harakhaiti in the Avesta. Both Aredvi and Saraswati are givers of wisdom and knowledge, both are invoked for children and procreation, and both bestow strength and prosperity.
The term āp stands not only for water, but also for all other fluids over which Avan Yazad presides. In the human body there are several fluids like blood, digestive juices and semen. Hence health, conception and child-birth are dependent on Avan. According to Avan Nyaishn and Yasht, Avan bestows fertility, purifies the seeds of males and the womb of females and ensures effortless lactation to natal mothers. Avan also presides over other fluids like the sap of plants.
Since divine currents too flow, the word ap is also used to describe some of the divine currents in Nature, within the body as well as in the cosmos, and Avan Yazad presides over these currents too.
The practice of having Grecian style images of divine beings started in the Achaemenian period during the time of Artaxerxes II, who commissioned images of Aredvi, under the name Anahita and introduced them in Babylonia, Susa and Ecbatana, from where they spread to Persia, Bactria and Sardis. The royal inscriptions mention Mithra and Anahita along with Ahura Mazda.
Anahita was a popular divine being during the Sasanian times. Many Sasanian kings invoked her. In the Aban Yasht, Avan Yazad her is described as a beautiful, well dressed and ornamented woman. Several divine beings, kings and heroes prayed to her for the fulfillment of their wishes. Their boons were granted only if their intentions were noble.
Temples dedicated to Anahita around sources of flowing water were built during the Achaemenian and Sasanian times. Rituals dedicated to Anahita were performed there. Ruins of such temples exist in places like Kangavar near Hamadan.
Ancient Iranians celebrated the festival of Avan Yazad, known as Avagan, on the day and month dedicated to her in the Zoroastrian calendar. This festival is still celebrated. On this day people congregate near sources of water and perform collective or individual invocations.
Bahman Ameshaspand: Bahman Ameshaspand looks after beneficent animals, especially cattle. The 2nd day of the Zoroastrian month and the 11th month of the year are dedicated to him. In Avesta he is referred to as Vohu Manah “the good Mind”. Within man he presides over the Mind. His Hamkar (co-worker) Yazads are Mohor, Gosh and Ram. His opponent is Akoman, the evil mind.
In the Gathas, Vohu Manah is regarded as the son of Ahura Mazda. This is because, the Universe was created as the result of the first thought of Ahura Mazda, which emanated from the “mind’ of Ahura Mazda, and Bahman Ameshaspand is regarded as Ahura Mazda’s mind..
When prophet Zarathushtra went in his quest for answers on Mount Ushidaren, he expressed the desire to reach Ahura Mazda, Bahman Ameshaspand appeared before him as a bright, dazzling, handsome young man and led him to the celestial court of Ahura Mazda, where the prophet received revelation.
In the second line of the Yatha ahu vairyo prayer we are told that the gift of Voh Manah comes to him who dedicate his life’s actions to Ahura Mazda. In Kem na Mazda we pray we ask for guidance from Sarosh Yazad through Bahman Ameshaspand. The Sadra (sacred undershirt) that Zoroastrians wear is called the garment of Bahman Ameshaspand (Phlv. vohu manig vastra). The Kasti is made from lamb’s wool, which is an innocent representative of the cattle world, presided over by Bahman Ameshaspand.
Bahman Ameshaspand helps us gain wisdom. He helps us unlock Innate wisdom, and assimilate acquired wisdom. A person with the gifts of Bahman Ameshaspand is peaceful and harmonious. Bahman Ameshaspand is described in the texts as holding the key to heaven, sitting on the golden throne in heaven and welcoming good souls to heaven.
The idea of Vegetarianism is associated with Bahman Ameshaspand because he looks after the animal kingdom, more precisely, after cattle.
There is a tradition among Zoroastrians of not eating flesh for the month of Bahman, especially on the day of Bahman and other days connected to him, that is, of his co-workers Mohor, Gosh and Ram Yazads. In other months, non-vegetarian food is abstained from, during these four days of the month. This tradition is referred to as an-roja in Inida and nā-bohr in Iran. The concept of an-roja differs from person to person. Some people do not consider fish and egg as part of the animal kingdom and hence eat the same on an-roja month and days.
When man’s compassion and innate wisdom rises, he intrinsically and automatically turns to vegetarian food, since he empathises with all creations and hence does not like to eat non-Vegetarian food.
Bahman Yasht : Bahman Yasht is a Pazand prayer of about 4,200 words. It exists only in Pahlavi and Pazand form. It is a prophetic account of the future fate of the Iranian nation and the religion given by Ahura Mazda to Zarathushtra. This Yasht does not fit the characteristics of any of the Yashts. Moreover, among the extant Yashts it is the only Yasht which is not in the Avesta language, and hence not included in the Khordeh Avesta. It is regarded more as an apocalyptic text than a Yasht. It was first published as a prayer in Gujarati in a separate booklet in 1947 (later also in 1955) by Jehangir Karani & Sons in the format of a Yasht. Persian versions of Bahman Yasht also exist in prose text and in verse form.
The Pahlavi name of the text is Zand i Vohuman Yasht, which suggests that it is a ‘commentary’ of the original Bahman Yasht which must have once existed. No such Yasht exists in the extant Avesta. The Zand i Vohuman Yasht is based on the Sutgar Nask.
Bareshnum: It is the highest purificatory ritual of the Zoroastrians. It is also referred to as the Bareshnum-i-noh-shab “the Bareshnum of nine nights”, which is the time it takes to complete the ritual.
The word Bareshnum is derived from the Avesta word bareshna “top, head” since the cleansing starts from the head and moves downwards. Till about a hundred years ago, the Bareshnum ceremony was undergone by both Behdins (including women) especially those who had come in contact with Nasā, and priests, but presently it is undergone only by the priestly class.
The Bareshnum is the foundation of all inner rituals (See Zarthoshti-pedia), since no inner ritual can be done unless the Priest holds the power of the Bareshnum. The priestly initiations of Navar and Maratab begin with the Bareshnums – two for the former (three in case of the Kadimis) and one for the latter. The bareshnum is also required for priests who perform the Nirangdin ritual. Without the Nirangdin there can be no consecrated Nirang, which is central to all Zoroastrian rituals.
The injunction for the Bareshnum can be gleaned in the ninth Pargarad (chapter) of the Vendidad. This chapter deals with five issues – the procedure of administering the Bareshnum; the capabilities of a Bareshnum holder; the benefits of giving the Bareshnum correctly; the dangers of giving Bareshnum incorrectly; the methods of containing the pollution caused by the vitiating a Bareshnum and the punishment for those who vitiate a Bareshnum.
The place where the Bareshnum is administered is known as the Bareshnum-gah. This is an open ground, covered with sand, approximately 50 feet long and about 40 feet wide. Generally but not invariably, the Bareshnum-gah is attached to the fire temple premises itself.
On the fourth, seventh and tenth day in the morning, a special bath called Navsho is given to the candidate by one of the priests who had administered the Bareshnum. The Bareshnum ends on the morning of the 10th day after bath.
The priest who has undergon a Bareshnum and maintains its ritual power can perform other higher rituals ans is said to be a priest “with the power of the Bareshnum.”
Baresman / Barsom: It is a ritual implement (ālāt) used in all inner rituals like the Yasna, the Visperad, the Vidēvdād and the Bāj-dharnā, since ancient times. According to the Ram Yasht, King Hoshang of the Peshdadian dynasty worshipped Rām Yazad with a barsom on Mt. Alborz. In the Shahnameh, Sasanian emperor Yazdezard III asked for a barsom to perform a baj, before having his meal, though he was hungry since days.
The barsom consists of a bundle of thin metallic wires, generally brass or silver. Each individual wire is called a tāe. The word tāe originally meant “a twig.” Since Avestan times barsom was made from twigs of plants. Though, any type of tree was permissible, pomegranate and tamarisk (gaz) trees were preferred for preparing barsom. By 9th century AC, metallic barsom also came to be used.
Numbers of tāe in the barsom: According to Yasna 57.III, the divine being Srōsh was the first to use Barsom of 3,5,7 and 9 twigs, which extended “upto the knee, (reaching) the middle of the leg.” Presently, barsom with the following numbers of tāe are used in different rituals: 5 tāe for all variations of Bāj-dharnā except Mīnō Navar and Shahen Bāj, 7 tāe for Mīnō Nāvar, Bāj-dharnā with Farokhshi and Shahen Bāj, 15 tāe for the Yasna of Rapithwin, 23 tāe for the Yasna of all other divine beings, 35 tāe for Visperad and Vidēvdād.
Tying and re-using the ritually tied barsom: The barsom is ritually tied by a thin metallic chain/date palm leaf (Av.aiwyāonghan) with the recitation of certain prayer formulae at the commencement of the ritual. A barsom thus tied can be re-used for the performance of upto three Bāj.
Holding the barsom: During the performance of the Bāj-dharnā, the priest holds the barsom in his left hand from the time of its consecration till the ritual tasting. In all inner rituals the barsom is either held in the left hand or kept on the māhrūy (the special crescent shaped three legged stand) and connection is maintained by keeping index and middle fingers of the left hand on it. Only for the performance of ritual acts which require both the hands, is this connection temporarily broken.
Behesht (lit. “Best Existence”): It is a term used for the highest stage of heaven, which is bright & having all happiness. The devotee asks for vahishta ahu as one of the boons from fire in Atash Nyaishna. In the Ahmai Raescha prayer it is one of the 8 boons that the devotee seeks.
The opposite of Vahishta Ahu is Achishta Ahu which means the “worst existence.” It denotes one of the lowest stages of hell.
Boi ritual: The ritual performed at the commencement of each of the five watches to feed fuel/fragrant wood to the sacred consecrated fires along with the recitation of prayers and ringing of bells is called bui dadan or boi devi. The word boi comes from the word baodha (Av.) boe (Phl.) “fragrance.” The boi ritual differs for the three different grades of fire – Atash Dadgah, Atash Adaran and Atash Behram. This ritual is performed at the commencement of each of the five watches (geh) of the day. For the Dadgah fire the boi ritual has to be performed at least once a day. The general ritual in an Atash Behram consists of feeding fuel – wood or sandal wood to the fire, washing the stone platform, reciting Atash Nyaishna and ringing the bells and drawing of karshas whilst the prayer is being recited.
Priests with different levels of qualifications are required and different numbers of Atash Nyaishnas are recited for the three grades of fire. A Maachi is a special offering of fuel of 6 large sandalwood sticks, arranged in a special way, during the boi ritual for the Dadgah or Adaran fire. However, for the Atash Behrm fire, a Maachi of 6/7/9 pieces has to be offered in every geh, every day.
There is no specific injunction regarding whether one should stand or keep sitting when the bells are tolled at the time of the boi ritual. Since, generally the bells are struck on the words Dushmata, Duzhukhta and Duzhvarshta “bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds.” It is believed that the purpose of tolling the bells are to drive away the negativities and hence it does not seem necessary to stand while the bells are rung.
Chaeschist (Lake): Lake Chaechisht, near Atarpatakan (modern Azar Baizan), is one of the several lakes mentioned in the Bundahishn (XXII.1). Bahman Yasht III.10 states that fire Vishnasp (Gushnasp) burns on the banks of Lake Chaechisht which is deep, and has medicinal water which drives away diseases.
The Chaechisht Lake of the Avestan times is mentioned in Avan, Gosh, Ashishwangh and Siroza Yashts. It is the place where King Kai Khushru prayed, established the mystic fire Adar Gushasp and defeated Afrasiyab.
The Caspian Sea is generally identified with the Chaechisht Lake. The Caspian Sea is the world’s largest lake, 5 times bigger than the 2nd largest lake – Lake Superior (between U.S. and Canada). It contains 44% of all the waters in the world’s lakes. It has large tributary rivers but no outlet to the ocean. Its a salt water lake, since its source is connected with the ocean. However its water is only slightly salty, about one-third as salty as sea water. It is huge (6000 sq.km.) and has an average depth of 6 to 16 m. It is 28m below sea level. It is too salty for anything but the most primitive creatures. The waters are believed to have therapeutic qualities and excellent for relieving rheumatism. It is home to sturgeons, migratory birds, tortoise and Caspian seal. Sometimes the Caspian Sea is identified with Sea Vourukasha and Chaechisht with lake Urumiyah.
Chinwad Bridge (Av. cinuuatō peretu; Phl. Chinvad puhl; lit. “the Bridge of Separation” : It is an allegorical bridge which links the material world, from the summit of the Alburz mountains located at the centre point of the world, to the Spiritual world, and which the soul crosses on the fourth day after death its journey to the afterlife. The Chinvad bridge resembles a beam of which one side is broad, while the other narrow and sharp. The souls of the righteous cross the bridge without difficulty on its broad, flat side, but for the souls of the wicked people the beam rolls over revealing its sharp side and from which they plunge to the abyss below. From here the souls proceed either to Heaven or to Hell.
The Judgement of the soul takes place on the Chinwad bridge. The soul’s conscience (Av. daenā) appears to it in the form of a young woman. She drags the souls of the evil one down into darkness and escorts the souls of the righteous across the bridge. On the other side of the bridge the righteous soul first encounters Vohū Manah, who rises from his golden throne and addresses the soul; after this the soul reaches Ahura Mazdā, the Ameshā Spentas and its dwelling.
Daenā (Av; Phl./Paz dēn/dīn; lit “religion, conscience.”): The word is used in the general sense of divine knowledge and illumination acquired through introspection. It is derived from the root di- “to see (within)” and is hence largely translated as “conscience.” It is also used in the sense of a proper noun, referring to the name of a Yazata who presides over religion, religious knowledge and understanding. Din Yasht is composed in honour of Daenā. The 24th day of the Zoroastrian calendar month is dedicated to her. Her co-worker is Chishta Yazad.
Zoroastrian eschatology states that after death, the soul encounters its personal daenā just before crossing the allegorical threshold, Chinwad bridge, between the physical and the spiritual worlds. If the person was good in his life its daenā appears as a beautiful maiden and escorts the soul to heaven, but if the person was wicked, the daenā comes in the form of an old hag and drags the soul to hell. Here, the form of daenā seems to indicate the collective life’s actions of a person.
Damāvand (Phl.; lit. “covered with clouds): It is about 60 miles north-east of Tehran. It is about 60 miles north-east of Tehran. This conical mountain is the highest peak in Iran (5671 m., 19,000 ft.).
It is perennially covered with snow and continually spews out sulphuric fumes and hot air which are so strong that it kills stray sheep going higher. It was first scaled by W.T.Thomson in 1837. Though the mountain seems to be easy and accessible, it is a potentially dangerous climb. It can be seen on the 10,000 rial note. Today it is regarded as one of the national emblems. The mountain also adorned several of Shah Reza Pahlavi’s crests and medallions.
Mt. Demavand is shaped somewhat like Mt.Fuji in Japan. Though it is situated in the province of Mazandaran, it is more accessible from Tehran. The village of Damavand is to the south of the mountain.
According to Pazand prayer Afrin i Haft Ameshaspand and the Shahnameh, the evil Zohak was bound by Faridun in the Demavand. Tradition has it that the mystic teacher Behramshah Shroff was taken to the Demavand mountain by Abed Sahebs (highly evolved souls) and instructed in the mystical aspects of Zoroastrian religion.
Damavand belongs to the Alburz / Elborz mountain range. The word Alburz comes from Avesta Hara-berez. The mountain is referred to in cosmological as well as historical and mythological writings. It is mentioned in the Meher, Rashne and Zamyad Yashts. In the Shahnameh, Mount Alburz features in the episodes of Faranak & Faridun, Sam & Zal, Rustam & Kaikobād, and King Kaus.
Darius (Kings): Three Achaemenian kings were known by the name Darius:
Darius I or Darius The Great (521-486 B. C.): After the accidental death of Cambyses, there was no direct descendant of Cyrus. Rebellions spread throughout the Empire. An imposter by the name Gaumata seized power in Pars and Media, At such a time, Darius the Great, a member of the younger line of the royal family, courageously quelled the rebellions, ousted the imposter and consolidated the Empire.
In about 512 B. C., Darius led an expedition to the Scythian countries in Southern Europe by crossing the Bosphorus. He marched upto the Ister (the Danube). The Scythians retreated and Darius occupied their country.
Darius received “earth and water” as a token of submission from all the Greek States, except Athens and Sparta. Later in about 499 B.C., the Greek States rose in rebellion, attacked Iranian territory, and burnt Sardis. Darius sent an army which landed at Marathon. This battle proved a disaster. It is regarded as one of the fifteen decisive battles of the world.
Darius was a brave warrior, a benevolent monarch, and also a wise and skillful administrator. His Empire consisted of the countries of diverse peoples. Following the wise and benevolent policy laid down by Cyrus, he allowed the conquered nations to rule their countries, follow their religion, and observe their customs.
Darius built royal palaces at Persepolis, which was his administrative centre. Besides this, there were three other chief cities: Susa, Ecbatana and Babylon.
His Empire was divided into 30 administrative districts called Satrapies. In each Satrapy there were three independent authorities, and each responsible to the Emperor: (i) the Satrap, (ii) the Military Commandant, and (iii) the Chancellor.
The King’s Eyes and Ears: The Emperor maintained secret services, called “the King’s Eyes and Ears”. Special tribunals appointed under members of the royal family paid surprise visits to the provinces. They had powers to investigate and prescribe remedy or punishments for any irregularities found.
Means of Communication: Darius felt the need for an efficient means of communication to bring the far-flung countries of the Empire in close contact with the Capital and also with one another. He built roads and bridges and dug canals connecting the distant countries of the Empire.The famous Royal Road about 2550 kilometres (1,500 miles) long, was built as the highway connecting Susa with Sardis, with rest houses on the way.
Postal Service: Darius introduced the first postal system in the world. Along important roads, he postal stages were fixed at an interval of about 24 kilometres (14 miles). The post was carried by mounted couriers, and at every stage new couriers were ready with their fresh horses. A dispatch from Susa reached Sardis – a distance of about 2500 kilometres (1,500 miles) – in five or six days. Describing the Iranian postal systems, Herodotus said: “Nothing mortal travels as fast as these Persian messengers.”
A Canal in Egypt: Darius commissioned the construction of a canal connecting the Red Sea with the Nile. Remains of the same along with an inscription in four languages were discovered in 1866 while excavating the present Suez Canal.
Coinage: Darius the Great introduced a system of coinage in Iran about 493 B. C. The famous gold coins were known to the Greeks as dareikoi, generally called the daric coins, or ‘the coins of Darius’. The silver coin was known as siglos ‘shekel’. Sometimes the silver coins were also known as dareicoi.
Records: Darius has left a number of inscriptions, mainly in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian which shed important light on ancient Persian history. In his inscriptions, he proudly records his Parsi ancestry in the following words: adam darayavaush khshayathiya vazraka, khshayathiya khshayathiyanam……..parsa parsahya puthra ariya ariyachithra.”I, Darius, the great king, the king of kings….. a Parsi,the son of a Parsi, an Aryan, of Aryan family”.
Darius the Great passed away at the age of 65 years in 486 B.C. His ossuary is situated at Naqsh-i-Rustam.
Darius II (424-405 B. C.): His reign was not very consequential. He concluded a treaty with the Greeks in 412 B.C., and received tribute from them.
Darius III (336-331 B. C.): He was the last king of the glorious Achaemenian empire. He was at war with the Greeks. Alexander, the king of Macedonia refused to pay tribute to him. He marched in 334 B.C. from Macedonia and defeated the Persian army on the banks of the Granicus.
Mnemon the Commander-in-Chief of the Persian naval forces planned to invade the Greek States so that Alexander might be compelled to return home. However, in 333 B.C., Mnemon took ill and died. This was a severe blow to the Persian Empire. Alexander advanced unopposed, entered Syria, and took Damascus without a fight. In 332 B.C.he Alexander entered Egypt.
Darius sent envoys to Alexander offering friendship. To this, Alexander asked Darius to himself come and accept him as the master of all Asia or else prepare for a war. Another appeal of settlement from Darius was turned down by Alexander, who now demanded total surrender.
In the meantime, Darius mobilised another army. Alexander returned to Asia, crossed the Euphrates, and met the army of Darius at Gaugamela. This was the famous battle of Arabela in which Alexander defeated Darius in 331 B.C. Alexander conquered Babylon and Susa, and received immense treasure.
During the night, Alexander outflanked the defenders, surprised them from the rear, and took over Persepolis. He looted the royal palaces, secured enormous wealth, and burnt the palaces.
Darius was in a state of continuous flight since his defeat at Gaugamela. From Persepolis he fled to Ecbatana, from there to Ragha, and thence to the eastern provinces, hotly pursued by Alexander. In 330 B. C., when Alexander was about to capture Darius, the latter was killed by Bessus, the Satrap of Bactria. Darius passed away just as Alexander reached the chariot in which he was murdered and left dying. Alexander proclaimed himself the Emperor of Persia, put on the imperial crown, adopted Persian dress and married Rokhshana, the daughter of Oxyartes, a Bactrian prince.
Dasturji Kukadaaru: Dastur Jamshedji Sorabji Kookadaaru/Kukana (Birth: 26th May 1831, roz Zamyad of mah Avan; Death: 4th October 1900 (Roz Behram mah Fravarden) was born in Surat, but spent most of his life in Bombay. His name and fame has spread far and wide.
He was simple and humble priest, who spent much of his time in prayers. His material needs were frugal. A strict vegetarian, he would eat just one meal a day – usually ghee (clarified butter) and khichdi, cooked by his own hands. He used to wash his clothes himself. He always used to walk and rarely took vehicles to go from one place to another.
He was an astrologer. He accurately predicted the day and time (to the hour) of Dastur Peshotan Sanjana’s death. He had also accurately predicted the death of Queen Victoria and Sir Dinshaw Petit.
Once, when a marriage procession was passing through Chira Bazaar in Mumbai, he sent word asking the procession to halt for an hour. No one paid heed. Within a short time, a building collapsed and the bridegroom perished on the spot. Had they waited for an hour, the accident could have been averted.
Dasturji Kukadaru had deep knowledge of Avesta, Pahlavi and Persian languages. He had served as a teacher at the Seth Jijibhai Dadabhai Zend Avesta Madressa at Fort, translated certain volumes of the Denkard and contributed regularly to a journal called ‘Yazdan Parast.’ He had also brought out various booklets.
As a priest at the Seth Shapurji Kappawalla Agiary in Mumbai, he commanded tremendous respect. The title Dastur prefixed to his name is unique in a sense, because he neither inherited it nor was he nominated as a Dastur. The title was given to him posthumously on account of his piety, knowledge, simplicity and the deep understanding of Zoroastrian religion, rituals, history and spiritual practices.
Dasturji Kukadaru also knew the art of healing by prayers. He healed with the power of his ashoi (righteousness) and manthravani (prayers). He was able to cure jaundice, which was quite a fatal ailment in those times. To cure jaundice, he would place a brass bowl full of clean well water near the ailing person. As he prayed, the water in the bowl began to turn yellow and the person began to recover.
The miracle for which he is most remembered is connected with the establishment of the Anjuman Atash Behram. Dasturji Kaikhushru Jamaspji, while raising funds for the new Atash Behram, approached Dasturji Kukadaru for his contribution. He requested Jamaspji to go to the next room and sell the item which he found there. The item happened to be a gold brick which, fetched closed to ten thousand rupees. In commemoration of his contribution, the main hall on the ground-floor of the Anjuman Atash Bahram bears his name.
Today, his portrait adorns the walls of several Atash Behrams, Agiaries and homes. His Fravashi continues to bless those who remember him in prayers.
Denkard/Denkart: It is a ninth century voluminous encyclopaedic work on religious, philosophical, historical, and other subjects including life-story of prophet Zarathushtra and a list of the contents of 19 Avesta Nasks (Book VIII). The word Denkard ‘Knowledge of the Religion’ Denkart originally was compiled in nine books, but the first two books and the initial portion of the third have now been lost. The work of compiling the Denkard was started by Aturfarnbag son of Farrokhzat and was completed by Aturpat i Emit.
It has extensive quotes from materials thousands of years older, including (otherwise) lost Avestan texts. It is the single most valuable source of information on the Zoroastrian religion other than the Avesta.
Denkard was edited and translated into English and Gujarati in 18 volumes, first by Dastur Peshotan Behramjee Sanjana, in 1876 and then the work was continued by his son Darab.
Desātir: It is a Persian book ascribed to Dastur Azar Kaiwan, who was an evolved Zoroastrian priest whose philosophy leaned towards Sufism. In the 19th century when Avesta-Pahlavi scholarship was in its nascent stages, some Parsi priests in India gave great importance to this book, but later its authenticity was questioned.
Elburz / Elborz: (See Alburz/Alborz)
Fareshtā (Per. “divine beings”): It is an outer ritual similar to the Jashan in terms of composition, prayers and rites, but much longer. In it, all the thirty three Fareshtas, (Ameshaspands and Yazads associated with the Zoroastrian calendar) are individually invoked. The ritual takes about two hours and requires two sets of priests. A corresponding Baj-dharna ritual is mandatory along with it.
Apart from the fruits kept as per requirements, 33 boiled eggs and 33 plantains (banana) are kept. 33 Baj-dharna rituals are separately performed.
Like the Jashan, it is performed for happy occasions like birthday, house-warming and thanksgiving.
Technically there is nothing which prevents it from being performed for the deceased, because it is just an extension of the Jashan. In the present times, even among the priests, there is a difference of opinion regarding whether to perform it just for the living or even for the deceased. For the deceased, it is especially performed on the Chhamsi (six monthly remembrance).
Farazyāt (Obligatory / Daily) prayers: The following are the Farazyāt /obligatory prayers to be recited by a Zoroastrian in the day, on the basis of the time of the day.
Hoshbam : Hoshbam is not a Geh. It is the period of dawn which falls partially in the Ushahin geh and partially in the Havan geh, 72 minutes before and 72 minutes after sunrise. If one wants to pray the Hoshbam before sunrise, one has to do the Kasti, Sarosh Baj, Hoshbam and Ushahin Geh. If one wants to pray after sunrise, one should do the Kasti, Sarosh Baj, Hoshbam and Havan Geh.
Havan Geh, Rapithwin Geh and Uziran Geh: Kasti, Sarosh Baj, Havan/Rpithwin/Uziran Geh, Khorshed and Meher Nyaysh, Vispa Humata, Doa Nam Setayashne and Char disha no Namaskar.
Aiwisruthrem Gah: Kasti, Sarosh Baj, Aiwisruthrem Geh, Sarosh Yasht Vadi (with its Nirang), Doa Nam Setayashne and Diva no Namaskar.
Ushahin Gah (the prayers should preferably be recited two hours after the change of Geh, that is, after about 3:00 am): Kasti, Sarosh Baj, Ushahin Geh, Sarosh Yasht Hadokht (with its Nirang), Doa Nam Setayashne and Diva no Namaskar.
Thereafter the rest of the Nyash and any Yasht (except Sarosh Yasht Vadi) may be prayed according to requirement. If one is to recite any extra prayers one may adopt the following table according to the Roj:
Hormazd roj – Hormazd Yasht, Haptan Yasht
Bahman roj – Mah Bokhtar Nyash, Mah Yasht
Ardibahesht roj – Atash Nyash, Ardibahesht Yasht
Shahrevar roj – Haptan Yasht, Khorshed Yasht (Not in Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin Gah)
Aspandad roj – Avan Ardvisur Nyash (Not in Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin Gah), Ashishwangh Yasht
Khordad roj – Khordad Yasht, Stum no Kardo
Amardad roj – Haptan Yasht, Hom Yasht
Daepadar roj – Hormazd Yasht, Siroza Yasht
Adar roj – Atash Nyash, Ardibahesht Yasht
Avan roj – Avan Ardvisur Nyash (Not in Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin Gah) or Avan Yasht (Not in Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin Gah), Ashishwangh Yasht
Khorshed roj – Khorshed Yasht (Not in Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin Gah), Meher Yasht
Mohor roj – Mah Bokhtar Nyash, Mah Yasht
Tir roj – Tir Yasht, Stum no Kardo
Gosh roj – Mah Bokhtar Nyash, Gosh Yasht
Daepameher roj – Hormazd Yasht, Siroza Yasht
Meher roj – Meher Yasht
Sarosh roj – Atash Nyash, Sarosh Yasht Hadokht (Not in Aiwisruthrem Gah)
Rashne roj – Rashne Yasht, Nani Hom Yasht and Vanant Yasht
Farvardin roj – Farvardin Yasht, Stum no Kardo
Behram roj – Atash Nyash, Behram Yasht
Ram roj – Mah Bokhtar Nyash, Ram Yasht
Govad roj – Khordad Yasht, Stum no Kardo
Daepadin roj – Hormazd Yasht, Siroza Yasht
Din roj – Avan Ardvisur Nyash (Not in Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin Gah), Din Yasht
Ashishwangh roj – Avan Ardvisur Nyash (Not in Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin Gah), Ashishwangh Yasht
Ashtad roj – Ashtad Yasht, Haptan Yasht
Asman roj – Khorshed Yasht (Not in Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin Gah), Haptan Yasht
Zamyad roj – Zamyad Yasht, Nani Hom Yasht and Vanant Yasht
Marespand roj – Avan Ardvisur Nyash (Not in Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin Gah), Din Yasht
Aneran roj – Hom Yasht, Patet Pahemani
Instructions for Farajyat prayers : 1. Pray Doa Nam Setayashne after reciting all Nyash and Yashts.
2. All Yashts have to be recited with their Nirang, wherever nirang is given.
3. Stum no Kardo and Patet Pashemani should be recited at the end of all Nyash and Yashts.
Short Pazand prayers like 101 Names, Diva no Namaskar, Din-no-Kalmo and Doa Tandarosti may be recited at the end of all prayers. 101 Names and Diva no Namaskar can also be recited right at the beginning after the Kasti.
Faridun (Av. Thraetona): He is mentioned at several places in the Avestan and Pahlavi texts. In Avesta he is mentioned in Vendidad (1.17), Yasna (IX.7) and Yashts (Aban.33,61; Gosh.13, Behram.40; Ram.23; Ashishwangh.33; Zamyad 36,92).
The complete life of Faridun can be gleaned from the Shahnameh. He was born to Faranak and Abtin (Av. Aathvya) when the evil king Zohak (Av. Azhi dahaaka) was ruling over Iran. Almost immediately after Faridun’s birth, Abtin was captured and killed by Zohak’s guards to feed the snakes coming out of Zohak’s shoulders. After this Zohak had a dream that a child born on a particular day would bring an end to his reign. He ordered all children to be killed. When Faranak got this news, she took infant Faridun, went to a village and entrusted the child to a farmer, whose cow Purmae nursed the child.
For three years the farmer cared for the child. When Zohak came to know of this he sent his soldiers to find the child. Faranak on a divine intuition, took the child from the farmer’s house and went to the Alburz mountains, and entrusted the child to a saintly man requesting him to care for him as he was destined to end Zohak’s evil reign. When Zohak’s soldiers reached the farmer’s house, they were unable to find Faridun, and so they destroyed the house and killed the farmer and the cow Purmae.
A blacksmith by the name Kaveh, revolted against Zohak. He made a flag by fastening his leather apron on his spear and called it Kāvyāni Zundo “The Flag of Kaveh.” Divinely inspired regarding the whereabouts of Faridun, he went to receive Faridun, who was sixteen then, so that he could lead people against Zohak. Faridun had a special mace prepared, with the head of a cow, in memory of Purmae which had nursed him. It was called the Gurz. Then Faridun set off for war against Zohak. At this point of time Sarosh Yazad taught him Afsuns and Nirangs, which were small prayers, to counter the evils of Zohak’s sorcery.
After an adventurous journey, Faridun reached Zohak’s palace in his capital Baet-ul-Mukaddas (Jerusalem). With the help of Arnavaz and Shernaz, sisters of king Jamshed who were imprisoned in the place, Faridun unravelled the secrets of the palace, conquered it and overpowered Zohak. Just when Faridun was about to smite him with his Gurz, Sarosh Yazad intervened and advised him not to kill Zohak. Instead he asked Faridun to secure him in chains and imprison him in a mountain cave. Faridun accordingly imprisoned Zohak in a dungeon in Mount Demavand.
After Faridun’s ascension to the throne, he shifted his capital to Varena. He ascended the throne on roz Hormazd of mah Meher. A thanksgiving Jashan was performed on roz Meher of mah Meher, known as Jashan-e-Mehrangaan, which is celebrated even today to commemorate the end of Zohak’s rule and Faridun’s ascension to throne, symbolic of the ultimate victory of good over evil.
Faridun once again started a just rule in Iran and his subjects were happy.
Faridun married Arnavaz and Shernaz and had three sons. Two elder ones Selam and Tur by Shernaz and the youngest Irach by Arnavaz.
When the princes grew up, Faridun tested them and then divided his empire amongst them. He made his youngest son Irach the king of Iran, to the elder Selam, he gave the territories of Western Iran and to the second son Tur he gave the eastern Iranian regions of Turkestan and China.
The two elder sons were not satisfied with the distribution of territory and hence they treacherously killed their younger brother Irach after inviting him to their kingdom. Faridun was shattered at first, but then he decided to teach his elder sons a lesson. He groomed up Minocheher, who was Irach’s grandson and his great grandson, to avenge Irach’s death. Later Minocheher was crowned the king of Iran.
Farohar: See Fravashi
Farvardiyān: We are indebted to the Fravashis (See Zarthoshti-pedia) beyond our imagination. It is very necessary for us to praise, offer gifts and express gratitude to the Fravashis. In turn, the Fravashis shower on us blessings of health, happiness, peace and prosperity, which are invaluable.
Apart from the ten days of Farvardegan (Muktad) every year which are specially meant for this purpose, a special day, known as the Farvardiyan, is reserved in the year to thank the Fravashis. This day comes on Farvardin roj of Farvardin mah. It could be compared to the “All Souls Day” of our Christian brethren.
On this day, people go to the Towers of Silence to pray for the departed ones. The Farokhshi ritual has especially to be performed, and a Jashan is done at the premises to remember all the Fravashis. Zoroastrians can individually pay their respect to the Fravashis by reciting the Satum no Kardo or the Farvardin Yasht, either at the Towers of Silence or at home or in the fire temple. Fravashis can also be remembered by reciting the line: Ashaunām vanghuhish surāo spentāo fravashayo yazamaide. Ashem Vohu 1. “We venerate the good, brave and beneficent Fravashis of the righteous ones.”
A Farvardiyan on a smaller scale is also celebrated on Farvardin roj of Ādar mah.
Festivals: Festivals are days of religious, seasonal or historical importance celebrated by a religious community, generally associated with the religious calendar. Since there are three religious calendars among the Parsi-Irani Zoroastrians – Shahenshahi, Kadimi and Fasali, most festivals can be technically celebrated thrice in a year. However, since the Shahenshahis are maximum in number, the festivals according to the Shahenshahi calendar are more widely celebrated.
Moreover, on account of the cultural and calendar differences between the Parsi and Irani Zoroastrians, some festivals are more emphasized in one culture than the other.
Festivals could be solemn or happy occasions. In Zoroastrianism, most festivals – either solemn or happy – are celebrated with the performance of a Jashan ritual which may have a thanksgiving or commemorative purpose. On solemn festivals the devout devote their time to prayers and religious ceremonies. On happy festivals, people decorate their homes, put on new clothes, prepare special food and visit the fire temple.
The following are main Zoroastrian festivals:
Navroze: “the new (year) day.” It is the first day of the year, celebrated on roj Hormazd of mah Farvardin. Since Zoroastrians have three calendars they have three Navroze. The Shaheshahis have their Navroze in mid August, the Kadimi in mid-July and the Navroze for Fasalis is same as the Jamshedi Navroze on 21st March as their Navroze.
On Navroze, Zoroastrians put a Ses on or near the prayer table. The Ses is a round or rectangular, often embellished metallic tray made of silver or german-silver with small utensils called paro, pigani and gulabaz, each with an auspicious symbolism in it. A red vermillion mark is put on the forehead of family members, especially youngsters, as a mark of an auspicious beginning,
People wear new clothes, go to the fire temple to thank God for his bounties and pray for success during the new year. They eat special food cooked for auspicious days. They give charity to the poor and the needy. In the evening they meet and greet family members and friends and spend the day in joy and festivity.
Rapithwan Consecration: This festival is celebrated on roj Ardibahesht mah Farvardin. It is a solemn festival celebrated mainly in fire temples by the performance of a special yazashne or jashan rituals in which community members are expected. This festival is meant to welcome back Rapithwan Yazad, the divine being presiding over the mid part of the day, who is believed to have gone inside the earth during the winter months to give warmth to mother earth.
Jamshedi Navroz: Jamshedi Navroz is celebrated on 21st March as a seasonal and historical festival, to commemorate the coronation of Peshdadian King Jamshed after he saved the world from the great deluge. A Jashan is performed to commemorate the occasion. Zoroastrians who follow the Fasali calendar, celebrate this day as their New Year day.
The Iranians celebrate this festival by setting up in their house a circular table, called the “Hafta-shin table”, a day before the Navroze. On it seven items starting with the letters ‘shin’ or ‘sin’ of the Persian alphabet are arranged.
Jamshedi Navroze is a festival of hope, life and colour. It brings the message of renewal, rejuvenation, hope, gratitude, joy, light, life, equality and victory of good over evil.
Khordad Sal: Khordad Sal is a festive occasion, it is celebrated to mark the day – Roz Khordad of Mah Fravarden – on which prophet Zarathushtra was born early in the morning. It is celebrated in Zoroastrian houses all over the world by garlanding the picture of prophet Zarathushtra and wishing each other “Khordad sal Mubarak.”
Zarthost no Diso: it is a Solemn festival to mark the day on which Prophet Zarathushtra passed away at the age of 77 years and 11 days. The meaning of the word Zarthosht no diso is “the (death) day of Zarthosht.” It is observed on Roz Khorshed of Mah Dae.
Sadeh: Sadeh (See Zarthoshti-pedia) is a festival celebrated by the performance of a Jashan ritual about 100 days before the Navroze (new year) on roj Avan of mah Bahman to celebrate the discovery of the divine element in fire by Peshdadian King Hushang. It is celebrated more by Iranian Zoroastrians than Parsis.
Muktad/ Farvardegan: 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, also known as the Farvardegan days. Muktad is a joyous occasion for remembering and welcoming the Fravashis. During these days, the Fravashis come collectively to this world and go to their respective houses. During these days, the souls of the departed too come down to the earth, accompanied by their guardian Fravashis.
Today generally we celebrate 10 days of Muktad. Since a long time in India, Muktad was celebrated for 18 days, from Roj Ashishwangh of Mah Spandarmad to roj Amardad of mah Fravarden. In the early seventies, the celebration of Muktad was once again gradually reverted back to 10 days.
Muktad are the days of heightened communication between the material and spiritual worlds – our needs for health, happiness, peace and prosperity is fulfilled through the blessings of the souls and the Fravashis. (See Zarthoshti-pedia for further explanation).
Pateti: Pateti is the last day of the Zoroastrian calendar year, that is the Vahishtoisht Gatha day. Literally the word means repentance, and it is the day for repenting and atoning for all the known and unknown mistakes committed during the year by reciting the prayer Patet Pashemani prayer. Erroneously many Parsis refer to the New Year day as Pateti and wish each other. This is not right as wishing “Pateti Mubarak” is like saying “Happy Repentance.”
Parabh: The word parabh means “festival.”Iit is derived from the Sanskrit /Gujarati word parva. The day in the religious calendar when the dedicatory divine being of the day (roj) coincides with the divine being of the month (mah) is said to be the Parabh for that particular Ameshaspand or Yazad. For instance Khordad roj in the month Khordad is a Parabh of Khordad Ameshaspand. In each of the twelve Zoroastrian months there is a Parabh, but in the Dae month there are four Parabhs- on roj Hormazd, as well as on roj Dae-pa-adar, Dae-pa-meher and Dae-pa-din. Five of the most important Parabhs are: Mehrangān, Tirangān, Farvardiyān, Āvāgān and Ādargān.
1. Mehrangān: It is the Jashan performed on roj Meher of mah Meher. It is a historic Jashan to commemorate the victory of Peshdadian king Faridun over the evil Zohak. This festival symbolizes the victory of good over evil. In Iranian calendar, this day also marks the autumnal equinox.
2. Tirangān: It is the festival celebrated on roj Tir of mah Tir with the performance, to honour star Tishtrya and Tir Yazad by the performance of a Jashan. This day also commemorates the peaceful settlement of boundary dispute between Peshdadian king Minocheher and Turanian king Afrasiyab, averting the possibility of a certain war. The dispute was settled by the shooting of an arrow by Eresh, an Iranian archer, in favor of Iran, giving it a larger territory. This festival is celebrated by the performance of a Jashan. It is celebrated more in Iran where delicacies such as spinach soup and sholeh zard (a traditional Iranian dessert made with rice, sugar, oil, saffron, rosewater as well as crushed pistachio, almond and cinnamon) are prepared and children rejoice by swimming in streams and tying rainbow-colored bands on their wrists.
3.Farvardiyān: It is the special day reserved in the year to thank the Fravashis. It comes on Farvardin roj of Farvardin mah. It could be compared to the “All Souls Day” of the Christians. On this day, people go to the Towers of Silence where the Farokhshi ritual is performed and also a group (Anjuman) Jashan may be performed. A Farvardiyan on a smaller scale is also celebrated on Farvardin roj of Ādar mah. (See entry in Zarthoshti-pedia)
4. Āvāgān: It is celebrated on Avan roj of mah Avan as the birthday of the waters, when people flock to natural sources of water like the seaand the well offer prayers to Avan Yazad and also offer a special sweet preparation called the dar ni pori. It is celebrated by a performance of a group Jashan, preferably near a natural water source.
5. Ādargān: It is celebrated on Adar roj or Adar mah. There are no special Jashns done,but this auspicious day is marked with the anniversary celebrations of several fire temples including the iranshah at Udvada.
The day prior to this Parabh is celebrated as the birthday of the hearth (Chulā nu Varas), when the hearth is specially decorated with patterns made of lime powder (Guj. chok) and paste made from vermillion and turmeric. The fire censor (afarganyu) tong and ladle (Guj. Chipyo and chamach) are drawn near the hearth with turmeric paste and on top is written in Gujarati Shri pāk dādār hormazdni madad hojo “May the help of glorious creator Ahura Mazda reach us.” Some people also draw the Swastik design.
Gāhāmbārs: The Gāhāmbārs are 6 periods of 5 days each in the year to thank God for His six Good Creations – Sky, Water, Earth, Vegetation, Animal & Man – in their evolutionary order. The six Gāhāmbārs are: Maedhyozarem, Maedhyoshem, Paetishahem, Ayathrem, Maedhyarem and Hamaspathmaedhem. The word Gāhāmbār literally means “the time for collection”, that is, collecting Nature’s Blessings.
The celebration of Gāhāmbār includes two components: 1. Performance of rituals like Afringan, Baj and Yasna, and 2. Feasting where traditionally rich and poor Zoroastrians eat on a common platform, without barriers of rank and class. Hence Gāhāmbār is a time for community bonding. (See Zarthoshti-pedia for further explanation).
Birth/Death Anniversaries of Saints/Martyrs: The Community generally observes the birth and death anniversaries of saints and martyrs by having a Baj-Afrigan-Farokshi-Stum performed in their honour on the birth/death anniversaries or the day of event of martyrdom, in case of a group of people.) the following are some of them:
1. Dasturji Kukadaru: Dasturji Jamshed Sohrab Kookadaru (See Zarthoshti-pedia) was a pious and learned priest. His birth anniversary is celebrated on Roj Zamyad of mah Avan and his death anniversary is observed on Roj Behram of mah Farvarden. In the prayers, his name is taken as Dastur Jamshed Ervad Sohrab.
2. Homaji: Homaji (See Zarthoshti-pedia) was an honest weaver from Bharuch who was falsely accused and hanged at the time of the Kadimi-Shahenshahi calendar controversy. His death anniversary is celebrated on Roj Govad of mah Dae. In the prayers, his name is taken as Behdin Homa Behdin Jamshed. Even today, Parsees, especially those who are falsely accused, have the Homaji ni Baj performed to seek his help.
3. Martyrs of Variyav: Variyav is a village near Surat which has been immortalized in history by the Battle of Variyav (Jange-Variyav) which was fought around the end of 11th century, when the soldiers of a Rajput king attacked a Parsi settlement when the men had gone feasting. The unsuspecting women of the village bravely fought the soldiers and almost routed them, till the helmet of a lady dropped and her long hair revealed their real identity. The slighted soldiers again attacked the women with a vengeance and they, fearing that their honour will be at stake gave up their lives in the Tapti river. This event took place on Roj Ashishwangh of mah Farvardin. Every year on this day solemn rituals like the Jashan are preformed to honour and remember the martyr ladies of Variyav.
Frashogard (Phl.) : See Frasho-Kereti (Av.)
Frasho-Kereti (Av.): (Lit. “making fresh”). It refers to that event at the end of time when the world would be free from evil and all the creations will have evolved to a perfect state, when there will be no wickedness, hunger or thirst in the world. The whole world will be renewed. This event will be preceded by two other apocalyptic events Rist-ākhez “rising of the dead” and Tan-i-pasen “future body.” All Zoroastrians are expected to be doubtless and have complete faith in the happening of these events.
Fravardegan: See Muktad
Fravashi (Av.; Phlv. Fravahar; Paz. Farohar) : The Fravashi is an essential part of the Zoroastrian philosophy and is integral to the living religion. However, it is interesting to note that the word Fravashi does not occur in the Gathas.
Among Zoroastrians, the Fravashi with its winged disc and human face is an enduring symbol, used at least since the 6th century B.C., from the Achaemenian times.
The Fravashi symbol depicts the spiritual counterpart of all creations, especially humans, and is a constant reminder to man of his divine origin and mission. Just as the circle in the centre is a reminder of Perfection – and hence of Ahura Mazda – the wings remind men of spirituality and the need to soar towards spirituality through a religious way of life. The human face is a reminder of the constant need for connection of humans to the divine world. The two curled tassels at the bottom symbolize the principle of polarity which governs all creations.
The Fravashis are almost equivalent to Yazads in stature. A 19th roj of the Zoroastrian calendar month and the 1st mah of the year are dedicated to Fravashis. The Fravarden Yasht is composed in their honour. They are the presiding divine beings of the Aiwisruthrem Gāh.
The Fravashis are the Guardian spirits of each creation including men. All humans – those born, those yet to be born and the departed ones – have a Fravashi. The Fravashis are incorruptible part of a human spiritual constitution, that is they are not affected by the deeds dones by himans on earth, and hence they do not go to heaven or hell like the soul, but on the contrary guide the soul, the soul during life and even after death, till the soul reaches Garothman – the House of God. During life, a soul, depending on its level of evolution may or may not accept its guidance.
Apart form human beings, all creations including animals, fire, sky, earth and trees have a Fravashi. Even Ahura Mazda, the Ameshaspands and the Yazads have a Fravashi.
The concept of Fravashi figure prominently in Bundahishna – the book of creations. The collective Fravashis are invoked as Ardafravash in most of our after death rituals like the Afringan, Farokhshi, Stum and Baj.
We are indebted to the Fravashis beyond our imagination. It is very necessary for us to praise, offer gifts and express gratitude to the Fravashis. In turn, the Fravashis shower on us blessings of health, happiness, peace and prosperity, which are invaluable.
Apart from the ten days of Farvardegan (Muktad) every year which are specially meant for this purpose, a special day, known as the Farvardiyan (See entry in Zarthoshti-pedia.), is reserved in the year to thank the Fravashis. on Farvardin roj of Farvardin mah
Zoroastrians can individually pay their respect to the Fravashis by reciting the Satum no Kardo or the Farvardin Yasht, either at the Towers of Silence or at home or in the fire temple. Fravashis can also be remembered by reciting the line: Ashaunām vanghuhish surāo spentāo fravashayo yazamaide. Ashem Vohu 1. “We venerate the good, brave and beneficent Fravashis of the righteous ones.”
Geh / Gāh : The five periods or parts in which a day is divided: Hāvan, Rapithwin, Uzirin, Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin. These are also the names of Yazatas (divine beings) who preside over the particular part of the day. There are also other divine beings who preside over each of the Gehs.
In Zoroastrian practice, the day begins with sunrise, from when Havan Geh begins and extends up to mid-day. The word Hāvan literally means time of pounding the pounding the Haoma, which is nowadays done in the Yasna ritual.
Rapithwan Geh is the time of mid-day. It begins from mid-day and extends up to mid afternoon (3 pm local time);
Uzirin Geh begins from 3 p.m. and extends up to sunset;
Aiwishuthrem Geh begins from sunset and extends up to mid-night;
Ushahin geh starts from midnight and extends up to sunrise.
In the Gathic times, the day seems to have been divided in three parts only: Usha “dawn”, Arempithwa “midday” and Khshapa “night”.
During the first seven months of the year, five Gehs are recited as noted above. However, during the last five months, Rapithwin Geh is not recited and Hāvan Geh is repeated. This Hāvan Geh is referred to as “the second Hāvan geh.”
Gāhāmbār : Gāhāmbārs are 6 periods of 5 days each in the year to thank God for His six Good Creations – Sky, Water, Earth, Vegetation, Animal & Man – in their evolutionary order. The six Gāhāmbārs are: Maedhyozarem, Maedhyoshem, Paetishahem, Ayathrem, Maedhyarem and Hamaspathmaedhem. The word Gāhāmbār literally means “the time for collection”, that is, collecting Nature’s Blessings. These are times when nature is most generous in distributing her blessings.
The celebration of Gāhāmbār includes two components: 1. Performance of rituals like Afringan, Baj and Yasna, and 2. Feasting where traditionally rich and poor Zoroastrians eat on a common platform, without barriers of rank and class. Hence Gāhāmbār is a time for community bonding.
Presently, a Gāhāmbār is celebrated as a community event where Zoroastrians congregate for thanks giving lunch or dinner generally preceded by the performance of a Jashan ceremony. The feasting may be sponsored either for a living person or in memory of dear departed or simply as an act of spiritual merit. Generous Zoroastrians sponsor a Gāhāmbār in memory of their dear departed one as an act of spiritual merit.
Each of the six Gāhāmbārs are celebrated during the Zoroastrian calendar year for five days each. Gāhāmbārs, their periods and the creations and seasons to which they are connected are:
Gāhāmbār Duration and month Season Creation
1 Maedhyozarem Roj 11 to 15 in Ardibahesht mah Mid-spring Sky
2 Maedhyoshem Roj 11to 15 in Tir mah Mid-summer Water
3 Paetishahem Roj 26 to 30 in Shahrevar mah Harvesting Earth
4 Ayathrem Roj 26 to 30 in Meher mah Summer end Plants
5 Maedhyarem Roj 16 to 20 in Dae mah Mid-winter Animals
6 Hamaspathmaedhem 5 Gathas days Spring Humans
Religious texts like the ‘Shayast la Shayast’ and the ‘Sad-dar’ consider the celebration of Gāhāmbār as an act of the highest religious merit. However nowadays, since Zoroastrians don’t celebrate Gāhāmbārs when they are alive, rituals are performed and community feasting is done during Gāhāmbār days in their honour after their passing away.
The celebration of Gāhāmbār can foster the spirit of unity and harmony in the Community. It can lead beyond the rich and poor divide, beyond the rank and class barriers. Its celebration is an opportunity for the community to come together forgetting the differences and work towards the common end of progress and prosperity.
Gāthās (Av.; “song”): The word is derived from Avesta root gā- “to sing”. They are poetic compositions attributed directly to Prophet Zarathushtra himself. They are a collection of seventeen chapters divided into five groups on the basis of their metre. They contain the philosophy, teachings, sermons and admonitions of the Prophet.
Since the Gāthās contain the teachings of the prophet himself, they are regarded as the most important part of Zoroastrian scriptures. They are included in 72 chapters of the Yasna and are recited in all the higher rituals like the Yasna, Visparad, and Vendidād.
The last five days of the Zoroastrian calendar year are named after the five Gāthās.
Their names in Avesta and Pahlavi and their place in the Yasna are as follows:
Name in Avesta Name in Pahlavi Place in the Yasna
1 ahunavaiti ahunavad Hā 28 to 34.
2 ushtavaiti ushtavad Hā 43 to 46
3 spenta mainyu spentomad Hā 47 to 50
4 vohu khshathra vohu-khshathra Hā 51
5 vahishtoishti vahishtoisht Hā 53
In Yasna Hā 55, the Gāthās are regarded as the spiritual food for the soul. Just as we require food and clothes for maintaining our life in this world, the Gāthās are the spiritual food for the soul as well as its protection and defense and bringer of rewards for the soul in the spiritual world.
Gayomard: (Phl.; Av. gaya maretan, Per. Kayomars; “one having mortallife”) He is regarded as the first man on Earth according to Bundahisna. According to the Shahnameh he is the first king of the first Iraninan dynasty which later came to be known as Peshdad.
Gayomard consolidated many warring tribes and became their leader. He was thus the first person to be accorded the special status of a King. He put on a crown, administered justice and gave guidance to his subjects. As he sat on a clay throne, he was known as Gilshah.
The Mazdayasni belief system, that is, the practice of believing in one supreme God, was started by Gayomard on the basis of a revelation he received from Ahura Mazda through Sarosh Yazad.
Gayomard’s son Siyamak was was killed by Siyah dev in a battle between the Mazdayasnis and the daevayasnis. Hence his grandson Hoshang succeeded him to the throne. Gayomard passed away peacefully after reigning for thirty years. Due to his contribution towards the progress of mankind, he is referred to as a Saoshyant “a benefactor of mankind.”
Geh-sārnā (Paz.; “singing the Gathas”): It is an after death ritual wherein two priests holding a Paiwand recite the Ahunavad Gatha (Yasna Hā 28 to 34) with the invocation of Sarosh Yazad. It is performed on the same day of death, or on the following day if the death has taken place late in the day. It is performed in the Bangli of the Tower of silence during day time only. While the ritual is in progress two important acts are performed. First the corpse is shifted from the stone to the iron bier by the Khandhiās / Nase-sālārs and secondly the Sagdid (See Zarthoshti-Pedia) is performed wherein a Doongerwadi attendant gets a dog to look at the corpse.
It is the last ritual performed for a deceased person. After this ritual, family and friends pay their last respects by going near and bowing before it. Then the deceased is taken in a ritual procession from the Bangli and consigned to the Towers of Silence.
The recitation of the Gathas at this juncture is very pertinent as the Vendidad enjoins recitation of passages from the Gathas to control the evil of contagion which rushes from the dead to the living.
Hadhanaepata (Av.; “ever fresh, evergreen) : It is the Avestan name of the pomegranate tree, which was considered an emblem of the soul’s immortality. It symbolizes profusion, abundance and fecundity in nature. It is also an emblem of plenty & prosperity. A pomegranate tree is always grown inside the fire temple compound. The pomegranate tree, in one form or another, is used in many rituals, like:
1. In the Jashan and Afringan rituals, the pomegranate fruit is invariably used.
2. In the nahan ritual 3-5 tender pomegranate leaves are placed in the right palm & the celebrant chews these leaves.
3. Twigs of pomegranate are used in Yasna ritual to be pounded along with the dried twigs of the Haoma tree.
According to the Vendidad, the Hadhanaepata is one of the trees having fragrant wood, the burning of which destroys harmful germs.
Hamkars: In Zoroastrian religious tradition, hamkars means divine beings who have similar or common functions and hence work with each other. The word hamkar literally means “co-workers.” In the schema of the 30 roj of the month, the first seven roj are the Ameshaspands who are the chief of the other 23 roj. Each of the seven Ameshaspand has three to four Yazads as their hamkars, who are similar to the Ameshaspands in the work they handle. They assist the Ameshaspands in looking after the seven creations. For instance Adar, Sarosh and Behram Yazads are the three Hamkars of Ardibahesht Ameshaspand. All the Hamkars, like the Ameshapand, are connected to fire and divine energy.
Some of our religious traditions are also connected to the concept of Hamkar. For instance, on Ardibahesht roj and his hamkars, Zoroastrians are expected to go to the fire temple. That is why these days are marked in red in the Parsi calendar. Another example is of Bahman Ameshaspand who looks after cattle. His Hamkars are Mohor, Gosh and Ram Yazads. On all these days we abstain from eating meat and observe it as An-roja as a mark of respect to Bahman Ameshaspand.
Haptoiring: It is the name of a star which is identified with the Ursa Major or Great Bear constellation, which has seven main bright stars. The word Haptoiring means “having seven points”. It appears in the Northern sky. In Avesta it is mentioned in Rashne Yasht, Tishtrya Yasht and Siroza Yasht. It is always worshipped along with Tishtrya, Satavaesa and Vanant, the stars of the other three sides. It is described as health giving and having khoreh. Along with the other stars it helps keep away black magicians and sorcerors. It helps to oppose Kewan (Saturn) and negate its ill effects.
Homaji: Homa Jamshed Zaahiaa, who lived in the latter half of the eighteenth century, was a well known weaver in Bharuch. During this period the Shahenshahi and Kadimi calendar controversy was violently raging on. Homaji was a staunch supporter of the Shahenshahis. A pregnant Parsi lady belonging to the Kadimi sect falsely accused an innocent Homa of kicking her and causing a miscarriage.
Homa was brought to trial before the Nawab of Bharuch, from where the trial shifted to Bombay before the British court. Homa pleaded innocence, but on account of the false witnesses, he was sentenced to be hanged to death. He was hanged on Roj Govad of Mah Dae, 1152 Y.Z., (1783 A.D.)
Before the hanging he declared his innocence. In order to expose the lie of the false witnesses, he announced that the persons who had borne false witness against him would be found dead on his Chahrum (fourth day after death). As he did not have anybody who would perform rituals for him after death, he asked devout Zoroastrians to remember him on his death anniversary by the performance of rituals and he would guide and help them.
The people who bore false witnesse were reportedly found dead in their homes on the Chahrum of the innocent Homaji.
To this day, faithful Parsees, especially those who are falsely accused, have the Homaji ni Baj performed in pious memory of Behdin Homa Behdin Jamshed.
Hoshang (Per. Av. haoshyangha; Phl. hushang): He was the grandson of Kayomars, and succeeded the throne after him the second king of the Peshdadian dynasty. In Avesta, his title is Paradhata “the first law giver” from which the first Iranian royal dynasty was named, which later became Peshdad.
During his reign there was a lot of human progress. The process of mining iron was developed wherein iron was extracted from iron ore and instruments like axes, saws and spades were made. Later agriculture and the practice of domesticating animals like goat, sheep, cows, bulls and donkeys also developed.
The Majesty of Fire was also discovered accidentally by Hoshang. The Jashan-e-Sadeh is celebrated even today on Avan roz of mah Bahman to celebrate this momentous occasion. King Hoshang passed away after a reign of forty years. He is regarded a Saoshyant “a benefactor of mankind.”
Hoshbām ( hosh “bright” + bām “dawn”) : This is the name of an Avestan prayer. It also means dawn, the time of the day when this prayer is to be recited. This prayer can be recited an hour before and after sunrise. This is the best time for any prayer to be done, as positive vibes are highest at this time. It is also the time when our mind is calm and hence very receptive. Indian tradition calls this time amrut belā “the time for nectar.”
The thoughts expressed in the Avesta prayer of Hoshbam are some of the best found in the Khordeh Avesta. The prayer begins with extolling the victorious powers of the Yatha ahu vairyo prayer. Then the devotee salutes the dawn, as it smites the evils and negativities which have accumulated in the world. The second paragraph is an affirmation of taking up arms (snathaai) against Ahriman and fighting against different types of evil. The following two paragraphs are praises (afrinaami) of good powers and good creations.
The last two paragraphs are unique. In the first of these two paragraphs, the devotee proclaims himself to be a follower of Zarathushtra and promises to lead all good people on the righteous path. In the last paragraph, it is stated that doing the above, gives a happy mind, a body radiating with health and a soul worthy of heaven.
The prayer ends with the line asha vahishta, asha sraēshta, daresāma thwā, pairi thwā jamyāma, hamem thwā hakhma (Hoshbām, Yasna LX.12) “O Ahura Mazda! May we see Thee, may we approach Thee, may we come into Thy perpetual friendship through best righteousness, through excellent righteousness.”
Ijashni (Guj.): See Yasna
Inner rituals: The majority of Zoroastrian rituals can be classified as Outer rituals (See Z-pedia) & Inner rituals. Inner rituals can be performed by priests who have undergone both their Navar and Maratab initiations. They have to be performed in specially designated places surrounded by furrows (PG Pāvis) in the ground. The main Inner Rituals are: i) Baj-dharna, ii) Yasna, iii) Visparad and iv) Vendidad.
Iranian languages: Languages develop over a period of time. When the Aryans were staying together in the Northern Eurasian plains thousands of years ago they had a common language. Later they trifurcated into Europeans, Iranians and Indians. Hence most of the languages of these three groups of people bear close similarities.
Avesta: The oldest existing Iranian language is Avesta. It was the language of communication since pre-Zarathushtrian times. Prophet Zarathushtra and his immediate disciples used the Avesta language along with the laws of Sataota Yasnya to compose the Zoroastrian scriptural texts. Today Avesta is regarded as a dead language, that is, a language which is grammatically understood but no longer used for communication. This is on account of its intricate grammar and a very limited and archaic vocabulary.
Old Persian: Centuries later a new Iranian language developed from Avesta, which today we know as the Old Persian language. It was written in the non-Iranian cuneiform script (Guj. khilāroki) and was primarily used by Achaemenian kings like Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes for their inscriptions.
Pahlavi: After several centuries, the Middle Persian group of languages developed, chief among them was Pahlavi, which became the state language of the Sasanian empire. Several religious, historical and moral books were written in this language till the 9th century AC.
Pazand: Pazand is not a language by itself. It is the writing of Pahlavi language with the Avestan script. Most of the Pazand texts that we have are those of prayers. There are a very few general Pahlavi books which are transcribed in Pazand.
Persian: The Persian language developed from Pahlavi language. The Iranian epic Shahnameh was composed in one of the purest forms of the Persian language. Today the Persian language that is predominantly used in Iran has a lot of Arabic influence.
Dari: Persecuted Zoroastrians in Muslim Iran needed a language to communicate among themselves. This gave rise to the Dari language, spoken chiefly only among Iranian Zoroastrians. It is a colloquial language and is not written down.
Jamshed (Av. yima khshaeta “the radiant Yima”):
He was the fourth King of the Peshdadian dynasty. The Shahnameh mentions him as Tehmurasp’s son, but the Avestan texts refer to him as the son of Vivanghan and grandson of Tehmurasp. His reign is recognised as a Golden Age in the history of Iran. He thrice increased the boundaries of his kingdom.
He was a divinely inspired King who received the Kayani Khoreh “Divine energy” for his obedience to God and commitment towards his duties. On account of his just rule, his subjects were very healthy Old age and debility were so unknown that father and son looked alike.
People in his reign were introduced to many arts and trades like brick-making, clay-plastering, swimming, boat-making, pearl-fishing, mining, spinning, weaving, warping and woofing. Wine was discovered during his reign and was widely used for medicinal purposes.
King Jamshed divided his subjects into four professional groups: Athornans “priests,” Ratheshtars “warriors,” Vastriyosh “farmers” and Hutaokhsh “craftsmen and artisans.” King Jamshed developed Jām-i-Jamshed, which enabled him to know the past and the future. This must have been an archaic observatory from where, after seeing the heavenly bodies, the past was known and future predicted. Jamshed also introduced the practice of tying the Kasti (the sacred girdle) on the waist to protect the wearer against evil influences.
King Jamshed saved his subjects from the global catastrophe of a terrible snow-storm which submerged the entire world. He created a Vara “an enclosure” on a mountain to save good creations from this catastrophe.
After saving the people, Jamshed was once again coronated on the new year day, when the sun entered the house of Aries. A Jashan was celebrated to commemorate this event. This day came to be known as Jamshedi Navroz and was announced as a day of rest and festivity.
In Jamshed’s reign, prosperity and plenty increased and this made the king proud. It is mentioned that he claimed to be God, which led to his fall. His disillusioned subjects invited a neighbouring king Zohak to take over. Jamshed had to flee and live in exile for several years. In exile he married princess Samnnaaz and to them was born Tur. Later Jamshed had to live his home and was killed by his own half brother Spityur.
King Jamshed lived a very long life. Different texts report it from between 700 to a 1000 years.
Jamshedi Navroze: Jamshedi Navroz is celebrated on 21st March as a seasonal and historical festival, to commemorate the coronation of Peshdadian King Jamshed after he saved the world from the great deluge and established the settlement ‘Var-e-Jam-Kard’, “the settlement of Jamshed.” A Jashan was performed to commemorate the occasion. Since the Parsis in India, connected the seasonal Navroze to King Jamshed, they referred it as Jamshedi Navroze. Jamshedi Navroze does not synchronize with any day of the Shahenshahi Calendar, observed by the majority of Zoroastrians in India. Zoroastrians who follow the Fasali calendar, celebrate this day as their New Year day.
The day of Jamshedi Navroze, coincides with the day of Vernal equinox, when the day and night are of equal duration. On this day the sun completes it sojourn across the 12 constellations, and re-enters the first house of Aries, which marks the beginning of spring.
The 16th century Seljuk King Sultan Jalaluddin Malekshah (1572-1592), on the advise of his wise minister Omar Khayyam, started the practice of having a Financial year for the purposes of tax collection, starting from 21st March, as he found the shifting Muslim year unsuitable for this purpose.
In India, the celebration of Jamshedi Navroze was first started in Surat towards the end of 18th century. In the twentieth century the oriental savant Khurshedji Rustamji Cama further popularized this festival in Mumbai and gave it religious overtones.
Presently Muslims in Iran and Afghanistan celebrate Jamshedi Navroze as a secular springtime holiday, though it is regarded as un-Islamic by some. No Islamic ruler, however strict, not even the Talibans, were able to stop this festivity.
The Iranians have a special way of celebrating this festival. The 21 days festivities start with the cleaning of the house referred to as Khaneh Tekani “cleaning the home.” Every room in the house is thoroughly cleaned. Rugs, carpets and curtains are washed. Silverware, pots and pans are polished. The cleaning and renewal extends to the self too and buying new clothes are part of the celebrations. A day before the Navroze, a circular table, called the “Hafta-shin table”, is placed prominently in the house and on it seven items starting with the letters ‘shin’ or ‘sin’ of the Persian alphabet are arranged, which may include: Shir “milk”, sharab “wine”, shakar “sugar”, shama “candle”, somagh “sumac” shikeh “coin”, sib “apple”, sonbol “hyacinth”, sabzi “vegetables’, shisheh “glass”, sarkeh “vinegar” etc. These, along with additional items like a bowl of goldfish and a picture of the Damavand mountain, are kept untouched on the table for six to thirteen days.
The thirteenth day after Navroze is referred to as Sizdah Be-dar, which means “removing thirteen (evils)” symbolizing in a way the idea of “ring out the old”. It marks the end of the festivities, the Haft Shin table is cleared, and everybody goes outdoors for a picnic to mark the end of a happy holiday season. An interesting ritual performed at the end of the picnic is to throw the Sabzee from the Haft Seen table, a ritual act intended to bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year.
Generally young single women tie the sabzee leaves before discarding them, symbolizing their desire tie the knot of marriage by the following year.
Jamshedi Navroze is a festival of hope, life and colour. It brings the message of renewal, rejuvenation, hope, gratitude, joy, light, life, equality and victory of good over evil. It reminds us to be in touch with our glorious past and with nature.
Jashan: The word Jashan is a late derivative from the word Yasna which means a “ritual for invocation.” It is a ritual in which Ahura Mazda, Fravashis, Sarosh Yazad and the divine being presiding over the day are invoked by the recitation of certain prayers accompanied by ritual gestures. All the seven creations – man, animals, plants, water, metal, earth, and fire – are represented in it either as a participant, ritual requirement or offering. The duration of the ritual is for about an hour. It is an outer ritual and can be performed at any ritually clean place.
Generally, Jashans are performed as thanksgiving for happy and auspicious occasions like birthday and house-warming. They are also performed to commemorate important historical events, for instance, Jashans of Navroz, Mehrgān, Tirgān and Sadeh.
The following prayers are recited during the Jashan:
Atash Nyaishna – In praise of the fire.
Pazand Dibacheh – For remembering and invoking the departed ones
3 kardehs – For invoking Ahura Mazda, Dahma Yazad (for blessings) and Sarosh Yazad.
3 Pazand Āfrins – For exhortations, blessings & unity.
Tandarosti – For health.
While the Jashan is in progress, the following ritual acts are performed to convey certain religious principles:
Paevand: Touching the fire censor with a ladle and then holding hands by participating priests for drawing divine energy.
Flower ritual: Arrangement of eight flowers in a particular order, conveying the religious injunction about the two worlds, 7 creations, virtues and Ameshaspands and the need to imbibe the same in our lives for our spiritual benefit.
Karsha ritual: Touching the ladle or tong to the metallic vessels on the four sides and four corners to fortify the ritual area.
Hamazor: A special handshake performed by participating priests to share divine energy.
Those participating perform the Kasti and offer sandal-wood to the priest. Participation in a Jashan by Zoroastrians is considered an act of merit, which not only helps receive divine blessings but also imbibe teachings by witnessing the performance of ritual acts. After the ritual is over the congregation partakes of the consecrated offerings, referred to as chashni.
Jashane Sadeh: See Sadeh
Kae Khushru (Av. kavi husrava): He was the third king of the pre-historic Kayanian dynasty of Iran. He was the son of prince Siyavakhsh and princess Firangiz. His maternal grandfather was king Afrasiyab, and paternal grandfather was king Kae Kaus, the former king of Turan and the latter the king of Iran. He is mentioned in Gosh, Aban and Zamyad Yashts.
According to the Shahnameh, he was brought up in Turan by a farmer, and as a child had witty encounters with the Turanian king Afrasiyab. The Iranian paladin Giv went to Turan to rescue him and his mother Faranak, and they had a miraculous escape on his horse Behzad. He was crowned the king after a test at the fort of Sapid. His glorious reign as well his battles with Afrasiyab form the main part of the Shahnameh.
The episode of Bizan & Manizeh and the battle of Eleven Warriors took place during his reign. He killed Afrasiyab near Lake Chaechist, and after that became the king of Turan for a short period.
After a long and successful reign, he chose to leave his throne as he wanted to devote his time in communion with God. He appointed Lohrasp, a distant relative, as his successor, set out into the mountains, and one night mysteriously disappeared into oblivion from amongst his trusted noblemen, who had come to bid him farewell. He is still believed to be alive in some dimension of reality and his name is mentioned in the Tandarosti prayer by some Zoroastrians.
Kae Lohrasp (King): See Lohrasp Shah
Kavasji Edalji Kanga (4th June 1839- 10th March 1904): He was a practicing priest from Navsari and a scholar of Avesta, Pahelvi, Persian, Sanskrit and English. He studied and later served at Elphinstone Institution and left to study Avesta and Pahlavi. In 1885 the Government appointed him a Fellow of the Bombay University.
He received his elementary education in Indo-Iranian languages first under Ervad Erachji Sorabji Meherji Rana and later under Mr. Kharshedji Rustomji Cama and studied Avesta grammar and philology. He was among the first batch of pupils of K. R. Cama, along with S.D.Bharucha, T.D.Anklesaria, E.K.Antia, J. Nadirsha and K. Kateli.
He had deep and extensive knowledge of Avesta and Sanskrit which he utilized for translating into Gujarati the entire Avesta texts, a work unparalleled in the annals of Avestan studies. In 1863 he joined Mulla Firoz Madressa as a teacher of Avesta and Persian. The very next year he was appointed Head Master of the Madressa, where he served for 41 years till the very end of his life.
Though considerable new research has been made in the last century, Kanga’s translations have a special appeal to Zarathushtis.
His main contributions towards Indo-Iranian studies are:
1. Vendidād-no Gujarati Tarjumo, (Translation of Vendidād in Gujarati) Mumbai, 1874.
2. Khordeh Avesta Bā Māeni, 1880. (14th edition in 2001).
3. Yajashne ane Visperad no Gujarati Tarjumo, (Translation of Yasna and Visperad in Gujrati), 1886.
4. Practical grammar of the Avesta language, compared with Sanskrit, 1891.
5. Yasht bā Māeni, (Translation of the Yashts), 1901.
6. Gāthā bā Māeni, (Translation of the Gathas), 1895.
7. A Complete Dictionary of the Avesta Language, 1900:
8. English-Avesta Dictionary, 1909 (posthumous).
Thus he produced invaluable books for the Parsi Zoroastrians. He carried on his studies without any fanfare and produced faithful translations of Avesta. In 1900 his past and present students set up a fund in his memory at the Mulla Firoze Madressa and offered a scholarship.
His books Khordeh Avesta bā Māeni (2002, 2nd edition), Gatha bā Māeni (1997) and Yasht bā Māeni (2001) were transliterated and translated into English with grammatical and copious explanatory notes by Prof. Ervad Maneck Furdoonji Kanga, and published by Bombay Parsee Punchayet.
Kersasp: Kersasp was an Iranian paladin and a king of Zabulistan, Kersasp himself descended from the illustrious Peshdadian king Jamshed. He was the son of Asrat, seventh descendant of king Jamshed from his marriage with Samnnaz, the princess of Zabulistan, after his exile. He was the great grandfather of Rustom’s father Zal. Hence the great Rustom Pahelwan was his descendant.At the time when Kersasp was the king of Zabulistan, Zohak was still ruling over Iran. This was the latter part of Zohak’s long reign, when there was a lot of turmoil and he constantly feared for his throne. He came to know of Kersasp’s might and entrusted him impossible missions in order to eliminate him, but Kersasp returned victorious every time. Later Faridun defeated Zohak and made Kersasp his trusted knight and advisor.
Kersasp is known as a master in the art of wielding the Gorz (mace). He always used to fight and overpower his enemies with it. He is remembered in the Avesta as the hero who defeated deadly Azdah (dragons) Sravar and monster Gandareva.
Kersasp was a commander of the armies of kings Faridun, Minocheher and Navdar. In the war against Selam and Tur, the Turanian warrior Shiroy penetrated the Iranian army and challenged the Iranians to fight him. Kersasp took up the challenge and fought a duel, in which he smashed Shiroy with his Gurz and left the Turanian army dumbstruck.
When Kersasp had advanced in age, he advised his son to make a Dakhma for him. He left for his heavenly abode at the ripe age of seven hundred and thirty years. However, according to tradition, he is not dead, but in a deep sleep, as he has yet to accomplish the task of killing Zohak at the end of time. Kersasp’s form (kehrpa) is protected by 99,9,99 Fravashis. At the end of time, when Zohak would break his chains and wreak havoc in the world, Kersasp will be awakened by the Fravshis and bring an end to Zohak.
Kersasp is remembered as naremanāo keresāspo “the manly Kersasp.” But for his deeds of bravery, Ristākhez “Resurrection” would not have been possible, that is, it would not have been possible to exterminate evil in the limited time frame of this world.
Khāndhiā / Nasesālār: The word Khāndhiā means those who give shoulder to the corpse. The term Nasesālār means “one who has command over Nasā (the fiend of putrefaction). The word Nasa means “putrefaction” and sālār means “commander” and hence it is a highly respectable term. These terms are used for Zoroastrians who professionally attend to the corpse of Zoroastrians till it is confined to the Towers of Silence. In the past, Khandhiās dealt with dead bodies but did not enter the Dakhmas, whereas Nasesalars went into the Dakhma after due ritual precautions. Nowadays, there is a very thin line of demarcation between their duties, and the terms are used quite loosely.
The system of professional Khandiā and Nasesālār is prevalent only in places where there is a higher frequency of death. In places where the frequency of death is low, any Zoroastrian layperson can perform the duties of Khandiā and Nasesālār, after taking due ritual precautions before and after touching the corpse.
The system of Khandhiā and Nasesālār has been in practice since the Avestan times. In the Vendidad they are referred to as nasā-kasha “those who carry the nasā (putrefaction).” It was born out of the necessity to maintain the health as well as ritual purity of the living. The practice also highlights Zoroastrian religion’s deep insight about the phenomenon of death and its concern for the living.
After the Sachkār (See Zarthoshti-pedia) ritual, none except the Khandiā and Nasesālār are allowed to touch the corpse, and that too after the ritual precaution of taking the Baj of Sarosh and holding a ‘paiwand’ (ritual connection).
In Mumbai, the system of professional Nasesālār was introduced since 1830. Before that, the system was either voluntary or on a daily wage basis. When the Nasesālārs, temporarily or permanently, wanted to relinquish service, they were given a Bareshnum (See Z-pedia). Nowadays they are administered multiple Nahāns. Presently, the rules for ritual seclusion of the Khandiās and Nasesālārs are not as rigid as they were in the past.
Zoroastrians should always be grateful to them as they are the upholders and custodians of the Dokhmenashini system.
Khordeh Avesta: It is the daily prayer book of Zoroastrians. The word Khordeh comes from the Persian word khurd “small”. It is a collection of prayers in Avesta and Pazand languages for daily use. It was compiled and edited by the great Sasanian Dastur Adarbad Mahraspand during the Sasanian times in the middle of 4th century A.C.
The Kadimi and Shahenshahi sects have different Khordeh Avestas. In India Khordeh Avestas are available in Gujarati, English and Devnagri scripts. In Iran the Khordeh Avetas are mainly in Persian script. In the past century, Khordeh Avestas had also been published in the Avestan script.
Presently Gujarati Khordeh Avestas are available in shorter and longer versions. They are similar in almost all aspects except that the shorter versions do not have all the Yashts. They just have 8, 10 or 12 Yashts. The complete Khordeh Avesta with all the Yashts are referred to as Tamam Khordeh Avesta.
About a century back late Er. Kavasji Edalji Kanga published Khordeh Avesta bā Maeni which had word by word meaning of prayers.
In order to read from the Khordeh Avesta, one has to follow a proper method of reading. First of all, one has to be familiar with all letters of the Gujarati alphabet and also the improvised joined letters like thra, ghna, mna, hma and sta. then one has to learn to identify syllables, that is a complete sound with consonant/s and vowel/s and break up a word into syllables. Lastly one also needs to practice the prayers before actually praying, especially with someone who knows the prayers.
The Khordeh Avesta is mainly used to pray the Daily Farazyat (obligatory) prayers. The prayers in the Khordeh Avesta may be classified as follows:
Preparatory: Kasti and Sarosh Baj.
Concluding Prayers: 101 Names, Din no Kalmo, Tandarosti
Special Purpose: Hoshbam, Gahs, Patet, Stum, Gathas, Prayers during Muktad, Namaskars, Baj for bath, toilet, meals etc.
Prayers dedicated to creations: Nyaishnas and Namskars
Prayers dedicated to divine beings: Yashts, Setayshnas (30+5)
Miscellaneous: Monajats, basic information, names of Roj, mah, geh, gatha, gahambar, hamkars.
Khorshed (Paz): Khorshed Av. hvare-khshaeta “the shining sun” is a Yazad who presides over the sun. In the Avesta, Khorshed Yazad is described as immortal, illustrious and possessing a swift horse, which indicate the movement of the sun. Khorshed Yazad is accorded a special position in the Avesta, along with the Ameshaspands.
The sun is regarded as the most beautiful emblem of Ahura Mazda and the fairest of Ahura Mazda’s forms. Meher Yazad is a co-worker of Khorshed the sun and the two are often invoked together. The daily morning obligatory prayers of a Zoroastrian – the Khorshed and Meher Nyaishnas – are to Khorshed and Meher yazads. In the Vedas too, numerous hymns are dedicated to Surya dev and Mitra dev.
Khvarenah / khvarreh/ Khoreh (Av; Phl; Paz “shining”): The word refers to the divine energy, the pure essence from which all spiritual and material creations were created. It is derived from root khvar- “to shine” and hence also means “radiance, glory, aura.” It was translated as “glory” by most 19th and 20th century linguists.
Ahura Mazda is the embodiment and source of this energy. All radiant things in nature are reservoirs and conduits of this energy. Adar Yazad presides over Khavarenah and also fire, and hence Khvarenah is intimately connected with fire. Adar Yazad is the protector of Khvarenah. In the invocation to Adar Yazad, the Iranian and Kayanian Khvarenah are remembered. Khorshed Yazad and Adar Yazad bring down and distribute Khvarenah in the world.
The four specific types of Khvarenah mentioned in the Avesta are:
1. Airyana Khvarenah i.e. divine the energy of the Aryan countries, bestowed on the Iranian nation of yore because of their greatness.
2. Kayan Khvarenah i.e. the divine energy of the Kayanian Kings bestowed upon the illustrious sovereigns of Peshdadian & Kayanian dynasties & Iranian heroes who preceded Zarathustra, on account of which they were able to perform heroic deeds. The Zamyad Yasht is about Kayan Khvarenah and it describes the transference of this energy from one king to another.
3. Zarathushtra Khvarenah i.e. the divine energy of prophet Zarathushtra, which was unique to the prophet. This Khvarenah guided & protected Zarathustra and bestowed on him immense spiritual & moral power, by the virtue of which he was able to fulfil his divine mission and defeat evil. This energy first descended into the hearth fire of Zarathustra’s maternal grandfather’s house & thence to Dogdobanu, while she was still in her mother’s womb.
4. Akhvareta Khvarenah (lit. unseizable Khoreh), which is the energy for all good persons.
Kukadaru: (See Dasturji Kukadaru)
Lohrasp Shah: After long wars, Kayanian King Kae Khushru’s reign was very peaceful. As days passed, he immersed himself in thoughts of God. He feared that grandeur and inactivity may breed vices in him, and due to some fault of his, the Khoreh (divine energy) that he had so painstakingly achieved, may leave him. Hence, he decided to leave his life and kingdom at his own will and meet God at the earliest.
He often went into long periods of seclusion. One night, Sarosh Yazad appeared to him and said that his wish of meeting God will be fulfilled, but before that he will have to entrust his kingdom to a worthy man. He suggested the name of a just, gentle and noble warrior Lohrasp, as his successor. The Avesta name of Lohrasp is Aurvat-aspa which means “one possessing a swift horse.”
On the appointed day, King Kae khushru made Lohrasp the king by placing a crown on his head. This decision of the king infuriated the senior warriors, who, under the leadership of Zal, challenged his decision, since Lohrasp did not even have a small kingdom to his name. The king assuaged his warriors saying Sarosh Yazad himself had recommended him to be his y successor. All the warriors accepted Lohrasp as the successor.
Then king Kae Khushru went into the mountains and disappeared. Lohrasp occupied the throne as per Kae Khushru’s wishes, with the permission of the senior warriors. They assured him of their whole-hearted support and loyalty. Lohrasp was coronated on the day Meher of the month Meher.
Lohrasp was a religious person. He spent a lot of time in the fire temple at Balkh, where prophet Zarthost also prayed. Lohrasp’s queen Azadeh was the daughter of the warrior Gastaham, and the grand daughter of Peshdadian king Navzar. Lohrasp had two distinguished sons Gushtasp and Zarir, but he was more fond of his predecessor king Kae Khushru’s grandsons since he owed his crown to them. Due to this attitude, Gustasp always felt a sense of insecurity to his right to the throne.
One day, when Lohrasp was in a pleasant mood, Gushtasp approached him with a request to nominate him as his successor. Lohrasp felt that it was too early and turned down the request. Gushtasp went away disgruntled and decided to leave Iran. He secretly marched off towards Hindustan, whose king had given him an open invitation to come whenever he wanted. When Lohrasp learnt about his son’s absence, he immediately dispatched his other son Zarir to look for him. Gushtasp reluctantly returned with his brother and apologised to his father for his irresponsible behaviour. He further assured him that he will be obedient to him. The whole kingdom rejoiced at the return of their prince.
However, after some time Gushtasp’s insecurity crept back. He once again he decided to leave Iran, all alone and in disguise towards Rome. When Lohrasp learnt of Gushtasp’s absence the next day, he was very much aggrieved. He consulted his advisors who counseled that Gushtasp should be made the king once he returned.
Lohrasp came to know that Gustasp was in Rome. He asked Gushtasp to come back and occupy the throne of Iran. He sent Zarir to bring Gushtasp back to Iran.
Zarir brought Gushtasp back to Iran. Lohrasp was very happy at being reunited with his lost son. Both the father and son forgot the past, and Lohrasp himself instituted Gushtasp on the throne. He then spent his days at the Navbahar Atash Behram along with prophet Zarathushtra.
There were ongoing wars between Iran and Turan. Once when king Gushtasp had gone to Sistan, and the prince being imprisoned, the evil Turanian king Arjasp taking advantage of the turmoil and division in the royal family decided to as there was no one in the capital except the aged Lohrasp.
Arjasp attacked Balkh, the then capital of Iran. The elderly Lohrasp single-handedly and valiantly fought many Turanians, but when the cowardly soldiers attacked him simultaneously, the aged warrior fell to the ground with God’s name on his lips.
In religious tradition Kae Lohrasp is called the “Master of thought force.” He is credited with the ability of astral projection, that is projecting his astral body at another place in such a way that it appears that he is simultaneously present at two places.
Apart from being a king, Kae Lohrasp is revered as a highly evolved, spiritually advanced soul. People who are mentally disturbed, who are harassed by negative thoughts or who have wavering thoughts can think of Lohrasp pray to him for help.
Machi : A Machi is a special offering of long Sandalwood sticks, about ten inches long, arranged in a special way, during the boi ritual for the Dadgah or Adaran or Atash Behrm fire. Whereas for the first two types of fires, the Machi is optional and comprises of 6 large sandalwood sticks, for the Atash Behram fire, the Machi comprising of 6, 7 or 9 pieces, and has to be offered in every geh,.
The word Machi is of Indian origin and comes from the Indian word manch “a platform.” In the context of Machi, the platform is the seat / throne for the sacred fire. In a Machi, the pieces of sandalwood are arranged in the shape of a throne which is offered as a gift to the Fire, since the fire considered the Padshah “king.”
In Iranshah Atash Behram, Machi of 9 pieces is used because it is believed that the fire of lightening used in this Atash Behram was drawn from the ninth level (G. āsmān) of the Heavens. In the Dadyseth Atash Behram the Machi is of 7 pieces. It has been recorded that in the past a machi of 5 pieces was also used here. In all the other Atash Behrams the Machi is of 6 pieces.
The Machi is arranged over the sacred fire in a special way:
1. The priest first faces east and keeps a stick of sandalwood (about 10 inches) with a ladle on the embers in east-west direction. Then he goes around the Afarganyā in an anti-clock-wise direction with another similar piece on the ladle, faces the east, and puts the other piece parallel to the left of the first piece, with a space of about 4 inches between them.
2. Then he faces south and keeps the third piece with a ladle on the previous two pieces in north-south direction. Then he goes around the Afarganyā in an anti-clock-wise direction with the fourth piece of sandalwood on the ladle, faces the south, and keeps it parallel to the left of the third piece.
3. The he again faces east and keeps the fifth piece with a ladle on the previous four pieces in east-west direction. Then he goes around the Afarganyā in an anti-clock-wise direction with the sixth piece on the ladle, faces the east, and puts it parallel and to the left of the fifth piece.
In Udwada Atash Behram, where Machi of 9 pieces is used, 4 pieces are kept in the third step and in an additional fourth step the priest faces south and keeps the ninth piece of sandalwood with a ladle on the previous eight pieces in north-south direction.
After arranging the Machi, in Atash Behrams, and in rare cases in Adarans too, the priest washes the hindholā (stone platform) on which the sacred fire is kept with ritually purified water while chanting certain prayers. This act is symbolic of washing feet of the King (Fire). Thereafter the priest wipes his hands and starts the recitation of Atash Nyash.
Marātab (Ar. martabā “stature”): It is the second initiation into Zoroastrian priesthood. It is generally undergone a year or two after the Navar, after the candidate has properly and completely learned all the requisite texts. Traditionally, only a person who wished to pursue the vocation of full time practicing priest underwent the Maratab. For the Maratab, a priestly candidate needs to fluently read the text of the Vendidad along with the interspersed chapters of the Yasna and Visperad and perform the accompanying rituals.
For the Maratab ritual, the candidate has to go through one bareshnum (See Z-pedia). On the tenth day, he performs the Yasna ritual with the invocation of Mino Navar and at mid-night (Ushahin Gah) he performs the Vendidad ritual. This completes the Maratab ritual. After this ritual the candidate becomes a full-fledged priest and can perform all Zoroastrian rituals.
After Maratab, the priest continues using the priestly title ‘Ervad.’ However, if he becomes a practicing priest regularly performing inner rituals, the title of ‘Mobed’ may be conferred on him.
Meher / Mihr: See Mithra
Mithra (Av): Mithra is the Avestan name for Meher Yazad, who presides over contracts, promises, friendship, justice and love. He is associated with all cosmic lights, including the sun light, and hence, he is closely associated with Khorshed ‘the Sun’ since sun light is transmitted to earth through Meher Yazad. it is for this reason that Meher Nyaishna is invariably recited after Khorshed Nyaishna. Mithra also looks after space through which the sun light passes.
On account of presiding over contracts, Mithra is present wherever two parties are involved. Thus Mithra presides over promise, contract, justice and maintaining the sanctity of promise. Mithra is one of the divine judges of the heavenly tribunal, and as such has unlimited powers of hearing and seeing. Mithra is also one of the judge of the soul on its judgment on the dawn of the 4th day after death.
Iranian Mithra presides over two parties, it also plays has a role in wars. Hence Mithra looks after sovereigns and Kings, and presides over martial qualities like courage, bravery and chivalry.
Mithra has authority over religious duties and obligations, and hence over rituals too. A fire-temple being referred to as a Dar-i-Mihr “House of Mithra” shows the importance of Mithra as the lord over rituals and ritual spaces.
When Roman soldiers came in contact with the Iranians, they were attracted by the importance accorded to Meher Yazad by the soldiers and spread the practice of invoking Mithra, which later came to be known as Mithraism.
In name and function, Mithra is closely related to the Vedic God Mitra. Etymologically, both these names mean “contract.” Most of their functions and attributes can be traced back to this original function. The attributes and functions of the angel Michael of the Catholic Church are also similar to Mithra.
Mithraism: In Achaemenian and Parthian times, when Roman soldiers came in contact with their Iranian counterparts, they were attracted by the importance accorded to Meher Yazad, who was invoked before embarking on wars. When the Roman soldiers returned home they spread the practice of invoking Mithra, which later established as Mithraism.
Mithraism started from the time of Xerxes. It started in Rome since 2nd century BCE and from there it spread into Europe, especially the countries under Roman domination. The worship of Mithra later spread to Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Armenia and Greece.
Mithraism greatly influenced the Roman, Greek, Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations, where Mithraic temples were erected and statues of Mithra were set up. The ruins of these temples have been discovered at many places, especially in England.
Mithraism was at first favoured by the lower classes and it gradually spread upwards in society. It gained a footing in Rome under Emperor Domition (52- 96 CE), Emperor Trajan (c. 100 CE) and Emperor Comodus (c. 190 CE) Various sculptures were engraved to represent Mithra. Regular ceremonies were performed in his honour, which took the form of mystic rites. However, elements of animal sacrifice had crept into this form of worship, and hence the rites were prohibited in 378 CE.
Mohor (Paz; māh / maongh (Av.) “the moon”): Mohor Yazad presides over the moon. He is also referred to as bakhtar “bestower, giver of destiny.” He is the bestower of fortune (raya), luck (bakhta) and divine glory (khavarena).
The moon has an influence on all the fluids on earth, including the fluids in the human body. Hence tides, sap, menstrual flow, blood, fluid in the brain cavity etc. are associated with Māh. The ebb and tide of the waters in the sea are influenced by Māh, and so is the human mind, since the brain is surrounded by fluid.
The Avestan tradition believes that the moon was originally a part of the earth and later separated from it. This is borne out by the adjective for the moon, gao-chithra which means “having origin in the earth”.
In the Zoroastrian tradition the divine being Māh is especially invoked thrice during the month – on No Moon day (Guj. Amās), New Moon day (Guj. Chānd-rāt) and Full moon day (Guj. Punam).
Monajats : Monajats are Zoroastrian devotional songs composed in languages understood by common man. Devotional songs have played a key role in the culture of all religions. Hindus have the tradition of singing Bhajans, Christians have choir singing and also hymns and carols. Sufis too have soulful songs and music.
The word Monajat is a Persian word. The first Monajats were in Persian (Farsi) language. Some of the earliest Farsi Monajats were composed by Dastur Mullan Firoz bin Kaus (1758-1830). The earliest Gujarati Monajats were published in the 1880s and were published in a volume of 1,1000 Gujarati songs by Mr. Kaekhushru N. Kabraji. This shows that Gujarati Monajats have been composed at least since the mid nineteenth century.
Monajats are generally composed either on religious topics like Ahura Mazda, prophet Zarathushtra, Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion, fire or on historical topics like coming from Iran to India. Er. Dr. Sir Jivanji Modi composed a few Monajats, mainly based on meanings of prayers.
Parsi Community had Gujarati poets like Behramji Malbari, Savaksha Shroff (Firozgar), Kavi Ardeshar Khabardar, Firoze Rustomji Batliwala, Pestonji Kapadia, Behram Pirojshah Bharucha, Jehangir Desai, Hormasji Mistry (alias Harmis) Pestonji Kapadia (alias Hairat), Dosabhai Desai, Erach Golwala, Kariman Adajania, Parvez Katrak, Kersi Mistry, Vistasp Balsara, Dara Printer and Irach Kooka who composed Monajats and songs in Gujarati. A notable non-Zoroastrian who composed some very good Parsi Monajats was Shri Kantilal Upadhyay, the erstwhile music teacher of M.F.Cama Athornan Institute, Andheri.
Some well known Parsi Gujarati Monajats are Khudāvind khavind, Ahura Mazda ni Arādhna, Koi puchhe mane, Paap nu Prāyaschit and Nekini Kharidi.
Muktād : 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/ Muktāt, also known as the Farvardegan days. The word Muktad 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.
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.
It is advisable to observe the Muktad in the house. If not the prayers, at least some arrangement can be done to welcome the Fravashis home. The main requirements for observing Muktad in the house are fresh water, flowers, a metallic vase or a Karasyo, a metallic or stone table, fire, divo and chanting of prayers. Flowers can be arranged in a vase filled with water and kept in the prayer room or a secluded corner of the house. Water and flowers in the vase have to be changed daily. Flowers and water are the visible emblems and symbolic reminders of the invisible souls and Fravashis.
Water and flowers are representatives of Khordad and Amardad Ameshaspand. They are the carriers of reward for the soul of the deceased . They also uphold life and so do Fravashis. Moreover, all the three are also carriers of divine blessings. Hence water, plant and Fravashis are remembered together at several places (Yasna 26, Farvardin Yasht 23 etc.)
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. The later five days of the 10 day Muktad are the days of the sixth and the last Gāhāmbār, 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.
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.
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.
Nahān : It is a purificatory ritual which includes a bath. The word Nahān comes from the Sanskrit word Snān “bath.” It is given at particular times like before Navjot, Wedding, to the wife of a deceased person before the Uthamna, after the 40 days seclusion after child birth, or at any other time when ritual purification is required.
In the past there were two types of Nahan, the Sāde (lit. simple) nahān which is presently done, and the Shishyu (from Persian si-shoy “three baths”) nahān in which the purification was done thrice with sand, consecrated water and nirang. The nahān was generally administered by a priest having the power of a Bareshnum. In the present times this requirement is not deemed necessary.
Nasesālār: See Khandiā.
Nāvar: It is the primary initiation into priesthood of a son from a Zoroastrian priestly family. The term Navar is variously interpreted. It signifies a person who is newly initiated in the task of offering prayers and rites to the divine world. Literally the term Navar is explained from the Pahlavi Pazand words nav and bar which mean “a new offerer (of libations).”
A child from the priestly family is required to undergo this initiation before puberty. The ritual is about 25 days long, after undergoing which, the candidate can perform the first level of rituals, referred to as the outer rituals (See Z-pedia). After the initiation, the candidate can perform rituals on behalf of the laity.
In the present Parsi community, sons from priestly families may undergo the Navar initiation in two ways – Kachha (partial) and Sampurna /pucca (complete / perfect). The terms kaccha and Sampurna have been used since the olden times and have not been coined now.
In the training for Sampurna Navar, the child is made to memorise most of the Khordeh Avesta, the 72 chapters of the Yasna and 23 chapters of the Visperad, along with the accompanying ritual performances, Afringans and Baj. This takes about 5 years, if approximately 2 hours are devoted daily memorisation.
For the kachha navar it takes about 2 years of regular memorization, about an hour each five times a week. The child is made to memorise some basic prayers from the Khordeh Avesta and some chapters from the Yasna, like 1 to 8, 11, 15,16,22 to 27, 62,65,66,71 and 72. A Kaccha Navar, properly done, is an acceptable part of the Zoroastrian priestly religious tradition.
Almost all of the Sampurna Navar are products of the two priestly institutions in Mumbai, at Dadar and Andheri.
When a candidate undergoes kachha Navar, it is not advisable to have them undergo Maratab, the second initiation into priesthood, which is mainly required to perform inner rituals (See Z-pedia).
Navjot: The Navjot is a ritual performed for Parsee Zoroastrian boys and girls generally between the ages of 7 to 9. The word Navjot is derived from the words Nav “new” and Zot “offerer of prayers.” In rare and unavoidable cases, Navjot can be performed till the age of 15.
The main purpose of the Navjot is to ceremoniously invest a child with Sadra “the sacred shirt” and Kasti “the sacred girdle” and make him/her responsible for daily offering prayers. After Navjot, a child is enjoined to put on these vestments for life as they are spiritual implements necessary for offering prayers.
Another purpose of the Navjot is to re-confirm the Mazdayasni Zarthosti antecedents of a child and establish his link with his God and prophet. Thus the Navjot is an initiation in the proper sense of the word. Unlike the misconception, Navjote is not an entry point for an individual into the Mazdayasni Zoroastrian fold, as the child is already born into it.
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 performed with utmost sanctity. Traditionally it was always performed in the morning in a Fire temple and that is the right way to do it.
The Navjot ritual begins with the giving of the Nahan, a ceremonial bath to the child, for cleansing 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, who then blesses the child whilst sprinkling a mixture of rice, flower petals, coconut shreds and raisins. Family and friends then give gifts and good wishes 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 to remind the basic tenets of the religion, gives security of being protected by payers and spiritual beings and infuses the person with divine energy.
Navroze (“the new year day”): It is the New Year’s day of the Zoroastrians and is celebrated on the first day Hormazd of the first month Farvarden of the Zoroastrian religious calendar. This day is marked with gaiety, festivity and fervor. Zoroastrians start the day with sweet auspicious breakfast like Sev (vermicelly) and Ravo (semolina). Then they go to the fire temple to pray and thank Ahura Mazda for His bounties and seek His blessings. The day would be spent in meeting family and friends, entertainment in theatre or movie, and the day would end with a sumptuous meals satiating the taste buds. On Navroz, people often wear new clothes and give charity to the needy.
This Navroze is not to be confused with Jamshedi Navroze which is a seasonal and historical festival celebrated on the 21st March.
Navroze: “the new (year) day.” It is the first day of the year, celebrated on roj Hormazd of mah Farvardin. Since Zoroastrians have three calendars they have three Navroze. The Shaheshahis have their Navroze in mid August, the Kadimi in mid-July and the Navroze for Fasalis is same as the Jamshedi Navroze on 21st March as their Navroze.
On Navroze, Zoroastrians put a Ses – a metallic tray with auspicious symbols in it – on the prayer table. A red vermillion mark is put on the forehead of family members, especially youngsters, as a mark of an auspicious beginning,
People wear new clothes, go to the fire temple to thank God for his bounties and to pray for success during the new year. They eat special food cooked for auspicious days. They give charity to the poor and the needy. In the evening they meet and greet family members and friends and spend the day in joy and festivity.
Nirang-din ritual: The loftiest Zoroastrian ritual in the present times is the Nirang-din. The word Nirang-din is generally translated as “power of the religion.” It is an eighteen day ritual performed by two priests of the highest caliber in which the urine of the Varasyaji and other bulls is consecrated. This is referred to as Nirang.
Two priests first undergo the 9 day Bareshnum purification. On the eleventh day the two priests take the bigger khub by doing the Mino Navar Yasna and then do the Gevra for six days and do the ham-kalam on the 17th day. Then they prepare 2 kaharna (metallic pots), 2 kalashya (small metallic urns), 2 metallic plates and 3 fuliyas (small metallic cups) by first ritually cleaning them and then drying them on fire.
On the 17th day, a Varasyaji and about 8 to 10 bulls are brought to the premises where the Nirang-din ritual is being performed. In the Uziran geh, the two priests collect the Varasyaji’s taro and pour it in the kaharna. Then they collect the taro from other bulls and fill up the kaharna. Thereafter they cover it with a small metallic plate.
Then the Rathwi performs the Paragna in the Uziran geh in preparation for the Vendidad to be performed in the night. After midnight the kaharna having the taro is placed in a metallic tray (khumcha) filled with sand. To the right, another kaharna filled with well water is kept. The chief priest dries his hand in the heat of fire, opens the kaharnu of taro and looks into it. Then he repeats this process for the second kaharna.
In the Ushahin Gah, the priests start the Vendidad ritual with the invocation to Sarosh Yazad.
While praying certain words the priests look inside the 2 kaharnas of Nirang and water. In the 19th Fragard of the Vendidad, small pebbles called sangreza, 2 pieces of muslin cloth and two balls of cotton thread are ritually cleaned, dried and kept in a ritually clean metallic tray.
Thereafter in the same Fragard, in the last 9 of the 200 Ahunavars recited therein, 9 sangreza are thrown in the metallic pots. The following day, after the ritual is complete, the metallic pots are closed by the muslin cloth folded in three layers.
Nirang: Cow and bull’s have great significance in the Indo-Iranian cultures since pre-historic times. In the Nirang-din ritual the urine of the Varasyaji and other bulls is consecrated, and this is referred to as Nirang. The nirang is considered an important alat (ritual requirement), and is used in several rituals. One has to sip it while undergoing the ritual purifications of Nahan and Bareshnum. The sipping of Nirang during the purification rituals has physical and spiritual benefits.
Generally bacteria start setting in ordinary bull’s urine within six hours, but the Nirang remains bacteria free for years. In 1975 a sample of six year old Nirang was chemically analysed and tested at St. Nochlas Hospital by Dr. Saunders in London and was certified free of bacteria.
The performance of the Nirang-din ritual is supposed to be of great merit to the soul of a person. Generally it is performed for the soul of deceased person a few years after death. There are a very few Parsi priests who can perform the Nirang-din ritual.
Nyash (Phl.; “songs of praise”): The Nyash are five prayers in the Khordeh Avesta, composed in honour of luminescent creations as follows:
1) Khorshed Nyashis in praise of the sun, over which Khorshed Yazad presides.
2) Meher Nyashis in praise of the cosmic lights, especially sunlight, over which Meher Yazad presides.
3) Mah Bakhtar Nyash is in praise of the moon, over which Mah Yazad/ Mohor Yazad presides.
4) Avan Ardvisur Nyash is in praise of flowing waters and divine currents, over which Avan Ardvisur Anahita Yazad presides.
5) Atash Nyash is in praise of fire and energies, over which Adar Yazad presides.
The beginning and the ending of all Nyash is in the Pazand language. The main text of the Nyash are taken from larger texts like the Yashts and the Yasna. Khorshed Nyash is from Khorshed Yasht, Meher Nyash is from Meher Yasht, Ava Nyash is from Avan Yasht and Yasna 65, Mah Bakhtar Nyash is from Mah Yasht and Atash Nyash is from Gatha Ahunavaiti (33. 12-14 and 34.5), Siroza Yasht 9 and Yasna 62,1-10.
Outer rituals : Zoroastrian rituals can be classified as Outer rituals & Inner rituals. Outer rituals can be performed by priests who have undergone just the initiation of Navar. They can be performed in any ritually clean and pure place. Most outer rituals can be performed by non-priests for their family after taking proper training. The main outer rituals are: i) Jashan, ii) Afringan, iii) Fareshta, iv) Farokshi and v) Stum.
Paiwand : Paiwand is the ritual connection between two persons or a person and a thing. It is generally done for two reasons : 1. To share energy, and 2. To get protection from the attack of druj-nasu. Instances of the first are: Priests touching the fire vase with a chamach (ladle) in the Jashan ritual. Instances of the latter are Nas-sālārs and people walking in pairs in a funeral procession and priests holding a cloth while doing the Geh-sārnā ritual.
Pateti: The last day of the Zoroastrian calendar year is called Pateti. It falls on the Vahishtoisht Gahta day.
The day of Pateti, is technically the day for repentance. The word Pateti literally means “repentance.” (Av. paiti-ita “going back, atoning, repenting; Paz. patet). It is the day to sincerely repent for mistakes committed knowingly or unknowingly during the completed year, mistakes which may have hurt others, which may have caused damage to nature or which may have displeased Ahura Mazda and other divine beings. Since day is on the eve of the Parsi New Year, many people erroneously refer to the Parsi New Year day as Pateti.
On this day, Zoroastrians traditionally to recite the Patet Pashemani prayer from the Khordeh Avesta, preferably in the last Geh (Ushahin) on this last day of the religious year, and renew their commitment of faithfulness to Ahura Mazda and opposition to Angra Mainyu.
Pāydast: The word is used to refer to the final funeral rites and the funeral procession, wherein the mortal remains of a Zoroastrian are taken from the Bangli to the Dakhma.
After the Geh-sārnā, and the paying of the last respects, the corpse is brought out of the Bangli in an iron bier, its face covered. Non-Parsi friends and well—wishers then pay their last respects.
Thereafter the dead body is taken to the Dakhma. It is carried by 6 to 8 Nase-salars (always in even numbers). Each pair is connected with a paiwand. Following them at a safe distance are the pair of priests who recited the Geh-sārnā prayers. Behind them family members and friends walk in pairs. In the past ladies did not join the procession. This practice seems to be the remnant of the times when the Gah-sārnā was done at home or the nasā-khana (a place where a deceased Zoroastrian from the vicinity is taken given the final bath and the Sezda and Geh-sārnā) in the vicinity of the house, the Pāy-dast started from there, and one had to walk long distances. Another reason may be that the house needed to be kept open and hence someone, preferably ladies, needed to stay back in the house. Nowadays ladies too join in the Pāy-dast procession.
When the procession starts, the priests and the people following them take the Baj of Sarosh (a simple modification of the Sarosh Baj) to protect themselves from the onslaught of Nasu. Just near the Dakhma, is the platform where the deceased body is kept, face uncovered and people pay their last respect. Then the body is taken by Nase-sālārs and kept in the Dakhma, and a signal is sent to the people outside by the attendant to ask the people to complete the Baj of Sarosh.
Pomegranate: Pomegranate is an evergreen tree extensively used for religious and ritual purposes in Iran as well as India. In the Avesta it is referred to as hadhanaepat and is mentioned in several texts including the Videvdad. As an evergreen tree, the pomegranate is a symbol of the soul’s immortality.
The various parts of a pomegranate tree are used in rituals as follows:
1. Tender pomegranate leaves are chewed during the Nahan ritual.
2. Twigs of the tree are pounded along with dry twigs of Haoma tree in the Yasna, Visperad and Videvdad rituals.
3. In the Jashan, Afringan and Farokshi rituals a slice or at least a few seeds of the pomegranate fruit is necessary.
Rām (Paz; Av. rāman; “joyful”): It is the name of a Yazata who presides over joy, peace and domestic happiness. His religious title is ‘mino.” The 21st day of the Zoroastrian calendar month is dedicated to him. A Yasht is composed in his honour. He is remembered in Hāvan Gāh, Haptan Yasht, Khorshed & Meher Nyaishnas.
He is the co-worker of Mithra (Meher). The adjective khvāstra “having good pastures” always goes with his name because he presides over open fields, spheres and space.
When a person dies, the soul passes to the higher realms through space and hence a special Baj-dharna for Ram Yazad is performed on the dawn of the fourth day (chahrom) after death, seeking safe passage for the soul to the other world. Vayu Yazad, presiding over wind is a co-worker of Rām Yazad.
Rām Yazad is invoked during marriage ceremonies as he presides over togetherness and domestic joy.
Rathaeshtār : The word literally means “one who stands on a chariot”. It is used to denote the second of the four professional groups in ancient Iran representing the military and administrative class. It corresponds to the Sanskrit class Khshatriya.
The term Rathaeshtār when used as a common noundenotes a warrior. It is applied to the sacred fires because they act as warriors against seen and unseen evils.
Sachkār (Pers. sāzkār “to dress/ to prepare”) : The Sachkār comprises of a set of ritual acts performed almost immediately after a dead body is brought to the Doongerwadi. It begins with the final cleansing of the corpse with gaomez (bull’s urine). Nowadays water is generally used instead of gaomez. Then the corpse is dressed up in a clean Sadra and pyjama and a family member or a doongerwadi attendant ritually ties the Kasti on the corpse reciting the kasti prayers.
The corpse is then kept on marble slabs in the Bangli and draped in a way which causes the least ritual contamination and occupies as little space as possible. After Sachkār, a corpse should not be touched by anybody except the corpse-bearers (and that too with ritual precautions) nor could it be seen by Non-Zoroastrians, otherwise the efficacy of the Sachkār ritual is vitiated and the Nasu (putrefaction) becomes rampant, which causes grief to the soul and hazard to the living.
Sadeh: Sadeh is a festival, especially celebrated by Iranian Zoroastrians since ancient times. The word Sadeh means a hundred. The festival is celebrated on roj Avan of mah Bahman, 50 days and 50 nights amounting to a hundred, 50 days before Jamshedi Navroz, to celebrate the discovery of the divine element in fire.
The discovery of the divine element in fire dates back to the time of Peshdadian King Hushang, who had once gone hunting. One of his soldiers hurled a huge rock to kill a gigantic snake like creature. The rock missed the mark, struck another rock and ignited the dry twigs of the Sadeh tree. Initially the soldiers fled the scene, being afraid of fire, but king Hoshang realised the majesty and glory of fire, and asked the soldiers to honour it. According to the Shahnameh, he said, “Don’t fear this majestic Fire. It is the radiance of Ahura Mazda. He who is wise shall revere it.” Later in the evening king Hoshang celebrated the discovery of the magnificence of fire by the performance of a Jashan.
In Iran, Sadeh is a mid-winter festival. Zoroastrians light a huge fire in their town or city, gather around it and perform rituals to thank God and seek His blessings. The priests recite religious texts and pray for the sovereignty of the country. The annual Jashn-e Sadeh festival celebrated in the Kushk-e-Varjavand gardens in Karaj town of Tehran province is a festivity looked forward by one and all.
Sagdid (lit.“sight of a dog”): It is the ritual practice of making a dog look at the corpse at particular times and intervals, especially at the change of each Geh. It is done to keep spiritual evils away from the corpse.
Sagdid during and after the Geh-Sarna is an integral part of the Pāydast ritual. According to Vendidad, a chathru chasham “four eyed” dog, that is, a dog with two spots above the eye, was preferred for the Sagdid. Nowadays any dog is used.
Saoshyants : Before Prophet Zarathushtra, there were 9 divinely appointed spiritual persons who guided the Mazdayasnis and directed them towards a good life. They are referred to as Saoshyants, meaning “benefactors.” They themselves were Mazdayasnis and their teachings were incorporated in the Mazdayasni belief system.
Later prophet Zarathushtra incorporated most of their teachings in the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion. Of the 9 Saoshyants, the first eight were Peshdadian and Kayanian kings and the last one was a pious and heroic lay person. Here we will briefly see their contribution to the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion:
i. Gayomard : He was the first to receive a divine message from Ahura Mazda through Sarosh Yazad. On the basis of this message, he told his people to worship one God – Mazda. The Mazdayasni (Mazda worshippers) belief system started with him.
ii. Hoshang: He taught men to consider and respect fire as the radiance of Ahura Mazda. He started the celebration of Jashan-e-Sadeh.
iii. Tehmurasp: He recognized the power of evil and evolved possibilities to transmute negative into positive for the benefit of mankind. The concepts of being grateful to God and sharing one’s blessings by giving charity, were introduced by him.
iv. Jamshed: He saved the world from the Great deluge, for which Jamshedi Navroz is celebrated in his honour. He divided his subjects into four professional groups – the Athornans (priests), Ratheshtars (warriors), Vastriyosh (farmers) and Hutaokhsh (artisans). He introduced the practice of tying the Kasti and enthroning sacred fires.
v. Faridun: He taught people to fight evil in all forms. He brought an end to the wicked rule of Zohak and celebrated this and his coronation by the performance of Jashan-e-Mehrangan. He made several small prayers called Afsun. He made a special mace in the shape of the head of the cow, called Gurz to defeat Zohak. Even today, boys initiated into priesthood carry a Gurz in their Navar procession.
vi. Minocheher: He introduced the importance of the virtues of peace and harmony amongst all. He started the celebration of Jashan-e-Tirangān to celebrate the peaceful resolution of a territory dispute.
vii. Kae Kaus: He taught the use of Khvarena, divine energy, to overpower black magic, sorcery and evil men.
viii. Kae Khushru: He taught people the concept and benefits of silent contemplation and spiritual retreat.
ix. Hom: He introduced the idea of developing physical powers through spiritual practices of wearing the Kasti and performing prayers.
These nine Sasoshyants lived before prophet Zarathushtra. Zoroastrian religion talks about the arrival of three Saoshyants even after prophet Zarathushtra. Their names are Hoshedar, Hoshedar-mah and Saoshyos. The other name of Saoshyos is Shah Behram Varzavand.
Ses: Ses is the most prominent auspicious symbol among Zoroastrians. It is a round metallic tray of varied shapes and sizes, sometimes very artistically made, present at all times in a Parsi house, especially on auspicious occasions. The Ses for general occasions is a small one and the Ses for special occasions like Weddings and Navjote is a big one.
The Ses has a wonderful collection of auspicious items in it:
Paro: It is a conical metallic utensil in which patasha and/or rock sugar (khadi sakar) is kept. It is reminiscent of the conical sweets wrapped in Green paper used in Iran till this day. In ancient Iran sweets in the shape of a Paro were given to guests as soon as they entered the house along with sprinkling of rose water from Gulabaz while chanting the words ‘khush āmadid” welcome. The Agharni no larvo is also a similar cone-shape sweet meat with sheets of beaten silver on it. It is a way of welcoming the new child with a paro of sweets.
Pigani: it is a small metallic utensil with a lid in which Kanku (vermilion) is kept to put an auspicious red mark/tika on the forehead. The Parsis generally put a vertical mark on the forehead of a man and a round one on the forehead of the woman. The former signifies rays of the sun and hence energy and giving, the later signifies the moon and hence beauty and receptivity. It also signifies the gravitational force (friendship) between the sun and the moon (through the agency of the earth), an important requirement for keeping life active, alive and in order. Also the sun is seen as a fructifying agent, giving life, whereas the moon is seen as a conceiving agent receiving the rays of the sun. Rice is placed on to the red mark to signify plenty.
Gulabaz: It is a metallic liquid sprinkler cum container which has Rose water (Gulaab-jal) in it. In Iran it was used to sprinkle rose water on guests while welcoming them and saying the words khush āmadid “welcome.” The shape of the Gulabaz is typically Persian and such liquid sprayers are found in Arab countries even today.
Miscellaneous items: Coconut, betel leaves (paan), betel nut (sopari), dried shell almonds (badaam), dried dates (khaarak), rice, curd and Fish (fresh or sweet meat in the shape of a fish)other dry fruits are also kept in the tray. Nowadays metallic replicas of some of the above things are placed in the Ses instead of real ones.
Navjot ni Ses: When the Ses is prepared for the Navjote, it is all the more special. First of all the tray is a much bigger one, as a special set of clothes are kept, which differs for a boy and a girl. If the Navjotee is a boy, then shirt, pant, dagli, socks and shoes are kept. If the Navjote child is a girl then a Saree is kept in the Ses. Thsi Sari will be most probably the first Sari that the girl would wear when she grows up.
The following is a brief overview of symbolism of the items in a Ses:
Paro – Sweetness, good nature
Pigani – Contains the red Kunku, symbolising self-sacrifice
Gulabaz – Fragrance to be spread around (symbolic of good deeds)
Coconut – Resourcefulness, multi-function, helpfulness.
Rice – Prosperity and plenty
Betel-nut (sopaari) & betel leaf (paan) – Fertility
Kharak (dried dates) – Adjustment, since the date tree adjusts to almost any climate.
Sakar (rock sugar) – Sweetness
Fish (fresh or sweet in the shape of a fish) – Symbolises water which stands for life, flexibility and adjustment
Shahnameh (Per. “book of kings”): It is an Iranian epic in Persian language containing the history of prehistoric and historic Iran with all their greatness and pettiness, romance and tragedies, heroes and villains, glory and shame.
It was composed about a thousand years ago by the poet Abul Qasim Hasan, who is better known by his pen-name Firdausi Toosi. The Shahnameh comprises of about 60,000 couplets in pure classical Persian language, of which about 4,000 are lost. The Shahnameh ranks among the greatest epics of the world along with the Iliad and Odyssey of the West and Ramayana and Mahabharata of the East.
Considering the vast period that the Shahnameh embraces and the delicacy of its style, it is hardly equaled and certainly not surpassed by any other epic. For this reason, Firdausi is rightly regarded as the Homer of the East.
The first extensive translation of the Shahnameh in English was done by Alexander Rogers in 1907. Thereafter the Shahnameh has been translated into many other languages including Gujarati. About three to four decades back recitations of versified translations of Shahnameh were very popular among the Parsis, and were recited with lot of emotions and dramatizations. Even today, the recitation of Shahnameh in Gujarati verses is carried out.
The Shahnameh covers three main dynasties of Iran – the Peshdad, the Kayan and the Sasan. Of these, the Kayan dynasty occupies about 55 % of the Shahnameh, the other two dynasties occupying about 10 % and 35% respectively. The great paladin Rustom is undoubtedly the hero of the Shahnameh, and significant space is devoted to his exploits and his associations with other kings, especially of the Kayanian dynasty. It is interesting to note that two of the major historic dynasties – the Achaemenian and the Parthian are almost overlooked in the Shahnameh.
Some believe the Peshdadian and Kayanian dynasties to be mythological and not historical, since there are no records or archaeological evidences available for that period. This observation does not seem to be correct. The first two dynasties covered a period roughly between 9000 to 6000 BCE, when the art of writing had not yet evolved. Thus, we depend on the Avestan for constructing much of the history of this period.
Presently, archaeological findings dating around 4000 BCE are being unearthed near the Central Asian regions, and it may not be long before archaeological evidences are available for the 6th and 7th millennium BCE too.
Much of Zoroastrian religious history is connected with the Peshdad and Kayan dynasties, the biggest event being the advent of Prophet Zarathushtra. If one disregards this period as mere mythology, one looses out on the most important period of Zoroastrian history.
The Shahnameh is based on the Yashts, Pahlavi texts and Persian books like the Bāstān Nāmeh, composed during the reign of Nosherwan Adel and Khudā Nameh by Daneshwar Dehkan, composed during the reign of Yazdezard Sheriyar.
Shahnameh is not just about history, as is generally believed. It is a treasure trove of religious and literary information having special interest for the Zoroastrians in particulars and Iranians in general. One has just to scratch the surface to unearth a vast treasure of wise and philosophical sayings on life and nuggets of information on Zoroastrian religion.
Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Sikh Guru was so inspired by the Shahnameh that he composed in Zafar Nameh in the metre of the Shahnameh, which transformed the Sikhs into a virile and martial race. The Shah of Iran, in order to instill a sense of patriotism and valour in the soldiers had set the ten syllabic couplets of the Shahnameh into special martial tunes over which soldiers marched and performed exercises.
Since childhood Firdausi Toosi had a fascination for nature, poetry, Iranian languages and ancient Iranian History. He was enthralled by the stories of great Iranian kings and heroes. He had his early education under the able guidance of his father Fakhruddin Ahmed who was a renowned preacher of his times.
Firdausi’s life, the circumstances under which the Shahnameh was composed, and the great betrayal by the Sultan which left him shattered are very interesting. Firdausi toiled for thirty-five years to compose the sixty thousand couplets which immortalized Iran’s Peshdadian, Kayanian and Sasanian dynasties.
Though Firdausi had realized the great impact his work would have, he was wise to the fact that the descriptions in the Shahnameh may not be believed and respected by all who read it. People may refer to them as hyperbole and so he forewarned the readers with these prophetic lines:
To inrā darugho fasānah ma dān,
Ba yaksān ravesh dar zamānah ma dān
“Do not consider these lines falsehoods and fabrications,
Remember that times keep on changing.”
During the last few years of his life Firdausi stayed in Baghdad. He passed away in Toos in 1020 CE, a totally heart-broken, shattered and bitter old man, as the Sultan had not honoured the promise of giving him one gold coin for every couplet that he would compose. Firdausi had wanted to use the money for building a dam on the Toos river and repairing the rest-house at Toos.
The Shahnameh serves many purposes. It entertains when it is sung, it admonishes with its teachings on life and impermanence, it educates us in history, religious knowledge, philosophy and morals, and most importantly, it is a repository of Mazdayasni Zoroastrian history, culture and religion.
Shahrevar (Paz.; Av. khshathra vairya; Phl. shatrivar; “desirable power”): He is the fourth Ameshaspand who presides over sky and metals. The 4th day of the month and the 6th month of the year are dedicated to him. His co-worker Yazads are Khorshed, Meher, Āsman and Anerān. He presides over the virtue of good leadership, service and helpfulness. He bestows qualities of strength and power.
In Hormazd Yasht (25), Shahrevar is mentioned as the reward of the holy. Bushyasp, the demon of lethargy and procrastination and Saurva are the opponents of Shahrevar.
Spandarmad (Paz., Av. spenta ārmaiti; Phl. spandarmad; “beneficent mind”): Name of the fifth Ameshaspand, who presides over the earth. She is a female divine being, allegorically referred to as daughter of Ahura Mazda. The 5th day of the month and the 12th month of the year are dedicated to her. Her co-worker Yazads are Avan, Din Ashishwangh and Marespand.
Sraosha (Av., Phl. & Paz. srosh/sarosh; “obedience”): Sraosha is one of the highest Yazatas in the Avesta. He ensures obedience to divine and natural laws.
He presides over inspiration, intuition, and revelation. He guided prophet Zarathushtra and Saoshyants like Gayomard and Faridun with divine intuition. The 17th day of the Zoroastrian calendar is dedicated to him.
Sraosha is referred to as sālār-ī-dāmān “the commander of the creations”, tanu manthra “incarnation of sacred words (Manthra)” and daeno diso “revealer of religion.” Ahura Mazda entrusted him the mastery over the material world and the task of protecting the creations.
Sraosha is the protector of the human body against seen and unseen evils. he is the most powerful divine being against evil at night time, and that is why people remember him before going to bed.
In the funeral ceremony, mourners pray a short prayer to Sraosha to seek his protection from Druj ī Nasu (the evil of putrefaction).
An important function of Sraosha is to guard and protect the souls of the living and upto three days after death. When the soul leaves the body after death, its state is like that of a new born child. Sraosha looks after the soul till the Individual Judgment takes place on the dawn of the fourth day. He accompanies the soul across the Chinwad Bridge (See Z-pedia) and is also one of the judges at the Individual Judgment of the soul.
Sraosha as tanu-manthra is intimately connected with holy words of prayers. Zoroastrians invoke Sraosha before starting any other prayers, by reciting the Srōsh bāj. the connection of Sraosha with Mānthra “the sacred word” gives him the central position in the devotional life of Zoroastrians. The symbol of Sraosha is the rooster, who wakes up man from sleep early in the morning and reminds him of his duties.
Sraosha was the first in the spiritual world to chant the five Gāthās (See Z-pedia) of Prophet Zarathushtra. He is accorded the singular honour of having two Yashts – Sarosh Yasht Hadokht & Sarosh Yasht Vadi – dedicated to him.
Sraosha also presides over the 5 senses, and hence he is associated with number five in the Avesta. His rival is Aeshma, the demon of anger.
His symbolic animal is rooster, which wakes up people early so that they can pray and lead a righteous life.
The divine beings Gibrael and Gabriel of the Islamic and Catholics faiths respectively have functions and attributes similar to Sraosha.
Tehmurasp (Av. takhma-urupa): The third king of the Peshdadian dynasty. He was the son of King Hoshang. He pledged to reform daevayasnis “the worshippers of evil”, and was successful to a large extent. On account of his command over the daevayasnis, Tehmurasp was referred to as devband “one who conquered the evil.”Hhe had a wise minister by the name Shidasp.
Tehmurasp taught the art of weaving cloth from animal hair and making garments. He also taught people to domesticate animals, and utilise them for hunting. Once when there was a great famine during his reign. he advised his people to have only one meal per day and distribute the rest to the needy. This practice averted the ill effects of the famine to a great extent. Tehmurasp passed away after ruling for thirty years.
Thraetona: See Faridun
Tishtrya (Av; Paz. Tir “radiant”): Tishtrya or Tir is the name of a Yazad who presides over stars in general and the star Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major in particular. Tishtrya is considered the leader among all the stars and the main star of the eastern skies. The other three important stars are Vanant in the west, Satavaesa in the south and Haptoiring (Ursa Major) in the north.
Tishtrya presides over rain. The process of rainfall is described in Tir Yasht, where Tishtrya in the form of a white horse battles Apaosha the demon of drought, who appears in the form of a black horse. Finally Tishtrya overcomes Apaosha and brings rains for the people of the earth.
Tishtrya is also connected with the well being of the eyes and good eyesight.
Since Tishtrya is connected with the planet Mercury, it also looks after speech and communication.
Vahishta Ahu (Av.): See Behesht.
Varasyaji: The most important requirement of nirang is the taro (Av. gaomaeza) from a consecrated white (albino) bull referred to as Varasyaji, which has to be uncastrated and without deformity. Traditionally every priestly group had its own consecrated Varasyaji.
A white bull without a trace of black either in the hair, hoof or on the body is selected, generally from villages. Aat the age of about two years, he is consecrated and hair (Av. varesa) from its tail is ritually cut and used in every inner ritual. Hence the bull is referred to as Varasyaji. No inner ritual can be performed if the consecrated Varasyaji has died and another Varasyaji is not yet consecrated.
Hair from the Varasyaji are tied on a metallic ring, resembling a finger ring, and it is used to charge the water in the metallic container (Guj. kundi) by the Rathwi priest who performs the paragna ritual to prepare the implements for all inner rituals.
Vendidād (text and ritual): Vendidad is the name of an Avestan text as well as the name of a ritual in which this text is recited. The word Vendidad comes from Avestan vi-daēvo dāta, Pahlavi jud-dēv-dād which means “laws against daeva.” The Zoroastrian term daeva covers every negative –physical and spiritual – that may cause harm to man.
Vendidad – The Ritual: The Vendidad is a ritual in which the text of the Vendidad is recited with texts of Yasna and Visperad interspersed, and accompanied by performance of rituals. The ritual lasts for about 6 hours and can be performed only in the last watch of the day (Ushahin gah), which starts after midnight. This may be so because at this time, the evil forces are at their highest. The ritual is performed for the following main purposes:
1) In memory of a departed one, preferably on the dawn of the fourth day or if that is not possible, on any other day. 2) As part of the set of rituals for the consecration of atash-ādarān and atash-behrām. 3) For the Maratab initiation. 4) On the last day in the Nirang-din ritual.
Vendidad–Sāde is the recitation of the text of Vendidad without rituals. It can be done in the Ushahin gah by a single priest with the invocation (khshnuman) of Sarosh Yazad at any ritually clean place. It is generally done to clean a place of negative energies.
Vendidad – The Text: As a text, Vendidad is one of the most important and valuable Avestan scriptural texts. It has information about the laws, customs and traditions of ancient Zoroastrians. Among the ancient 21 Nasks (Volumes) of Zoroastrian texts, Vendidad is the only one which has survived in entirety.
The text of Vendidad is divided into 22 Chapters called Fragards or Pargarads. They are of varying lengths and deal with diverse topics, but are especially about intricate rules against seen and unseen putrefaction (nasu). The 22 chapters cover the following topics:
1. Sixteen places in Iran are enumerated. Ahura Mazda created these cities, against each of which Ahriman created an opposition. Most of these places can be identified in Central Asian regions.
2. Life and times of Peshdadian king Jamshed.
3. Happy and Unhappy land, benefits of agriculture, pollution of earth by dead bodies
4. Contracts and promises, their breach and expiations; education, perjury and ordeal.
5. Pollution (Nasu), disposal of corpse including still born child, formation of rain
6. Agriculture, ecology and hygiene
7. Infection by dead matter and how to undo the harm, disadvantages of burial, medicine
8. Infection, putrefaction and their purification, unnatural sex, Sagdid, purification of 16 fires (81-96.); matters regarding; prototype of ‘Bareshnum’ purification.
9. Prototype of Bareshnum purification, laws of purification and disinfection
10. Benefits of chanting Gathic prayers twice, thrice and four times for driving off evils.
11. Chanting prayers, especially Gathic, for specific purposes.
12. Periods of bereavement for departed persons
13. Types of dogs
14. Udra (water-dog/otter)
15. Five types of sin, abortion.
16. Menstruation and related observances.
17. Paring/cutting of hair and nail and their disposal.
18. Qualifications of a priest, rooster Parodarsh, dialogue between Druj and Sraosha.
19. Prophet Zarathushtra and difficulties faced by him in his mission; description of heaven and hell.
20. Healing by incantation, herbs and surgery.
21. Formation and healing powers of rain.
22. Airyaman Yazad as a healer.
The general contents of the Vendidad text can be divided into two broad groups:
I Teachings about religion related to Ahura Mazda, Ameshaspands, Yazads, Prophet Zarathushtra, Mazdayasni religion, life after death, ecology etc.
II Religious observances and practices. Most customs and practices, observed today can be traced to the Vendidad.
The Vendidad is the only complete extant Nask. It is connected to most essential aspects of the religion, like ethics, rituals, prayers and Institutions. Hence it is very important for our religion.
Videvdāt: See Vendidad
Vourukasha Sea: The sea Vourukasha is known as Frākhvakard in Pahlavi. The word Vourukasha means having wide shores. In the beginning of creations, when Tir Yazad made the clouds rain all over the earth, Vourukasha was formed from it. It is considered the principal reservoir of rain. It is so huge that it is supposed to cover one-third of the earth. It is said to be devoid of movements of tide and hence it is sometimes identified with the Caspian Sea.
The battle between Tir, the Yazad of rain, and Apaosha the demon of drought, for bringing rains, takes place in this sea. The hero Kersassp had killed Gandareva, a huge, deadly monster, which had hidden in sea Vourukasha.
It is mentioned in several Avestan texts like the Avan Yasht, Farvardin Yasht and Zamyad Yasht, and in Pahlavi texts like Bundahishna, Denkard, Zādsparam, Menog Khrad and Dādetān I Denig.
The river Aredvi is said to originate from Mount Alborz, then flows through Mount Hukairya to sea Vourukasha. When it flows into the sea, all its shores become energised and active.
When the divine Khvarena (energy) of king Jamshed fled, it hid into this sea. Later the tyrants Azhi Dahaka (Zahak) and Afrasiyab attempted to seize the Khvarena, but were not successful. The Khvarena the went to other noble Iranian kings, and then once again fled king Kae Kaus and hid into the sea.
Gaokerena, the white Hom, and Harvesp-Tokhmi, the “tree of many seeds” grow in the deepest part of this sea. The white Hom is protected by a fish called kara, which fights off the frog created by Ahriman to destroy the white Hom. These trees are also protected by a special animal in the water which is mysteriously referred to as a “three footed ass.” Innumerable Fravashis too look after this sea.
Xerxes (Kings): Three Achaemenian kings were known by the name Xerxes:
Xerxes I (486-465 B. C.): After Darius the Great, his son Xerxes ascended the throne. Although he was the younger son, Darius chose him over Artobazanes to be his successor. Xerxes is the Greek version of the Old Persian name Khshāyarsha.
Xerxes made preparations to send an expedition to Greece to avenge the defeat of Darius at Marathon. The Greek States, with the exception of Athens, Sparta and their allies, surrendered. With great difficulty the army of Xerxes outflanked the dangerous pass of Thermopylae, which was held by the Greeks and the Spartans. After six days the Persian army captured Athens, and burnt it along with its temple. The Greek fleet, retreated to Salamis, from where the Greek commander Themistocles, sent a misguiding message to Xerxes, who fell to the bait and the fleet of Persian ships was shattered. This battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. was a serious disaster for the Persian Empire. Thereafter the army of Xerxes suffered another setback at Hellespont in 479 B.C.
Discord, corruption and intrigue engulfed the Persian royal family. Two courtiers Artabanus and Aspamithres assassinated Emperor Xerxes in 465 B. C. while he was asleep in his royal apartment.
Xerxes II (424 BC): He was the son and successor of Artaxerxes I. After a brief reign of forty-five days, he was assassinated in 424 BC by his half brother Sogdianus, who succeeded him.
Yashts (Phl.; Av. yeshti; lit. “veneration or worship”): Yashts are Avestan prayers in praise of individual divine beings, with just two exceptions. The Siroza Yasht is in the collective praise of the 33 divine beings associated the Zoroastrian calendar and the Haftan Yasht is for the seven Ameshaspands.
The Yashts were a part of the Baghan Yasht, one of the 21 Nasks. The texts of some of the Yashts are taken from chapters of the Yasna, like Hom Yasht from Yasna 9 and 10, Haftan Yasht from Yasna 35 to 42 and Sarosh Yasht Vadi from Yasna 57. Each Yasht contains introductory and concluding prayers in Pazand.
The Yashts are divided into two groups: larger and shorter, on the basis of their compositions Hormazd, Ardibahesht and Haptan Yashts are examples of shorter Yashts. The larger Yashts like Avan, Meher, Rashne and Zamyad are characterized by their division into smaller chapters (Kardehs), each having identical introduction and conclusion. Larger Yashts are devoted to one particular divine being with short episodes of kings and heroes of the Peshdadian and Kayanian dynasties woven in them. The kings venerate the Yazata seeking a boon, which the Yazata may or may not grant, depending on the intentions of the seeker.
Much of the texts of the Yashts contain historical and geographical material pertaining to the Peshdadian and Kayanian periods. Hence the Yashts are considered epics among Avestan texts. There are also a few poetic pieces in the Yashts. Larger Yashts were one of the main source of information on ancient Iranian history for Firdausi when he composed the Shahnameh.
Yashts are an integral part of the daily prayers of a Zoroastrian. In the Zoroastrian calendar, each of the thirty days of the month are dedicated to a divine being. It seems that in Sasanian times, each divine beings had a Yasht dedicated to them. Today, some of the Yashts have been lost and only 23 Yasht survive, four of which do not correspond to any day of the month. The Bahman Yasht is not a part of any regular Khordeh Avesta, since it is composed in Pazand.
Most Yashts are recited for seeking help from the particular divine being for specific purposes. For instance:
Hormazd Yasht Relief in incurable diseases
Haptan Yasht Aches and pains; overcoming planetary afflictions
Ardibahesht Yasht Over all health; To relieve fever and Aches
Khordad Yasht Employment
Avan Yasht Easy Childbirth, regular lactation; Urinary tract and bladder diseases ; overcoming blood disorders.
Khorshed Yasht Recharging Khoreh (divine energy), for agile body and mind.
Tir Yasht Relieving eye trouble and menstrual problems.
Sarosh Yasht Hadokht Developing soul consciousness and spiritual development.
Behram Yasht Success and victory.
Ram Yasht Suitable life partner, and for marital peace
Din Yasht Understanding the real importance of religious teachings
Ashtad Yasht Finding lost things.
Hom Yasht Rejuvenating health; good offspring; healing wounds; overcoming toxins.
Vanant Yasht Warding off black magic
Siroza Yasht Seekinghelp from all divine beings.
Yashts have been given serial numbers on the basis of the occurrence of the divine being pertaining to the Yasht in the calendar. In academic texts, Yashts are generally referred to by their numbers. The following are the serial numbers of the Yashts:
Name of Yashts Serial numbers
Hormazd Yasht I
Haptan Yasht II (Yasna 35-42)
Ardibahesht Yasht III
Khordad Yasht IV
Aban Yasht V
Khorshed Yasht VI
Mah Yasht VII
Tir Yasht VIII
Gosh Yasht IX
Meher Yasht X
Sarosh Yasht Hadokht XI
Rashne Yasht XII
Farvardin Yasht XIII
Behram Yasht XIV
Ram Yasht XV
Din Yasht XVI
Ashishwangh Yasht XVII
Ashtad Yasht XVIII
Zamyad Yasht XIX
Vanant Yasht XX
Srosh Yasht (Vadi) Yasna 57
Hom Yasht (larger) Yasna 9-10
Yasht Fragments (Hadokht Nask Ch. I) XXI
Yasht Fragments (Hadokht Nask Ch. II) XXII
Afrin i Paigamber Zartosht XXIII
Vishtasp Yasht XXIV
The last four Yashts are not Yashts for prayers. they are fragments of lost Avestand texts fro lost Nasks, Hence they are not included in most Khordeh Avestas. These fragments are technically clubbed together with the Yashts, but are not used as prayers. The two Yashts after No. XX have not been given numbers, possibly because they are entirely from the Yasna.
Yasna (Av; yazishn Phl; ijasni Guj.): The word Yasna is derived from root yaz- “to worship, to venerate, to attune.” Presently the word Yasna is used to denote the text as well as the ritual.
The ritual of Yasna consists of recitation of the text of Yasna, along with the performance of rituals. This text consists of 72 chapters known as hāiti “section” in Avesta and hā in Parsi-Gujrati. These include 17 chapters of the Gathas. The text of Yasna does not pertain to one particular subject, but in it Ahura Mazda, Ameshaspands, Yazads, Fravashis, and other living and non-living creations are invoked and praised.
The Yasna is the source of several prayers in other Avestan collections. For instance in the Khordeh Avesta, Avā Nyaishna is sourced from Hā 65, Atash Nyaishna from Hā 62, Haptan Yasht from Hā 35 to 42, Sarosh Yasht Vadi from Hā 57 and Hom Yasht from Hā 9–10. Shorter prayers like Ahunavar, Ashem Vohu, Yenghe Hātām, Kem nā Mazdā, Jasa me avanghe, parts of Hoshbãm and Stum are also from the Yasna.
Many chapters in the Yasna are repetitive or similar. For instance, the first seven Hā have many repetitive passages. Hā 5 and Hā 37, Hā 18 and Hā 47, Hā 4 and Hā 24, Hā 6 and Hā 17, Hā 3 and Hā 22, Hā 23 and Hā 67, Hā 61 and Hā 72 are almost identical.
Though most of the text of Yasna is in the Avestan language, there are a few parts in Pazand language too. One of the Pazand prayers is the dibācheh, uttered in vāz “not aloud” which occurs at the beginning and in Hā 11. The Avestan prayers of the Yasna were composed centuries before the Pazand prayers, but on the basis of the presence of Pazand prayers it could be deduced that the final collation of the text of Yasna may have taken place during or immediately after the times of Dastur Adarbad Mahrespand (4th century CE).
The Yasna ritual is a part of other inner rituals like the Visperad, Vendidad, Nirang-din, Hamā-Yasht and Nāvar, with variations in recitation of the khshnuman (invocation) to the respective ‘Yazad’ (divine being). In fact the Visperad and Vendidad rituals start off with the Yasna. The Yasna ritual can be performed for the soul of living as well as for departed persons. It adds great merit to the soul of the living and greatly comforts the soul after death.
Yasna occupies a very important place among the inner rituals. The 72 chapters are recited with intricate ritual acts. Yasna can be performed only in the Havan Geh. the only exception being the day of Rapithwin ijvanu (consecration of Rapithiwn) when the Yasna is performed with some modifications as Rapithwin ni Ijashne.
Before beginning the Yasna ritual proper, a priest with the power of Bareshnum (See Zarthoshti-pedia) prepares the hindolā (a short stone table) by performing the Hom gālnā ritual. On the hindolā, the ritual ālāt “apparatus” are arranged. Another such hindolā serves as a seat for the Zot “chief priest”. After that, two priests, the zot “chief priest” and the rāspi/ rāthwi “assistant priest” begin the Yasna ritual which lasts for two and a half to three hours.
Ritual implements used in the ritual are referred to as ālāt. They have been used since very ancient times, as they are mentioned in the texts of Vendidad, Visparad and Yasna. The main ritual implements are : 1) Metallic utensils: Cups (fulyu), plates (tashtā), a metallic plate with nine holes in it (surākhdār tashtā) and a bigh metallic water receptacle (kundi). 2) Barsom: Originally twigs of the gachh tree was used. Nowadays 23 metallic wires are used. 3) Aiwyaonghan: Date palm leaf used to tie the Barsom twigs. In Baj ritual a metallic chain is used as the Aiwyaonghan. 4) Hāvana/ Hāvanim: Hāvanim is the ritual utensil in the shape of a big wine cup used for pounding dry twigs the Haoma (ephedra) tree along with, pomegranate twigs, goat’s milk and water. Originally stone and metallic Hāvana were used, but nowadays only metallic Hāvana is used. 5) Lālo: Lālo or lāleh is the pestle used to pound Haoma twigs in the Hāvanim. The word lālo literally means the tulip flower. This name is give to this implement because its non-pounding end is shaped like a tulip. The lālo is made of mixed metals, and when struck against the hāvanim it gives out a sweet ringing sound.
6) Māhrue: The māhrue is a crescent shaped three legged metal stand used to place the bundle of barsom. It is also called the barsom-dān “receptacle for the barsom.” The word māhrue means “that which looks like the moon (māh).” 7) Varesa: A metallic ring on which consecrated hair of varasyaji (consecrated albino bull) is tied. The word comes from. Avesta varesa “hair.” In invocations beginning with vispaesha, and where Fravashis are invoked, the varesa ring is uncovered, otherwise it is covered by a small metallic cup (Guj. Fulyu). 8) Fire: As in all rituals, fire is present as an emblem and a direct representative of Ahura Mazda’s endless light.
An important aspect of the Yasna ritual is the preparation of ‘Hom’ juice. ‘Hom’ is a special type of tree, a twig of which, after being washed with clean water, is pounded along with the chanting of prayers in thr Hāvanim along with goat’s milk (jivām) and a pieces of a pomegranate twig.
After the Hom juice is prepared, the chief priest takes a sip while the ritual is in progress, part of it is poured back into the well (known as jor melavvi “blending the sacred waters), and the rest is partaken by the laity after the completion of the ritual. It may also be given to a new-born child, severely ill patients or those on the death bed. However, the decrease in the performance in the past few decades has resulted in difficulty in getting Haoma juice, which is believed to be health giving and invigorating.
Rituals have deeper inner symbolism and significance. The Yasna ritual symbolises the life cycle. Just as some water is drawn out from the well before the Yasna, the soul of a man comes from man is a small part of the vast storehouse of spirituality of Ahura Mazda. The water from the well is purified while being used in the Yasna, mixed with goat’s milk and Haoma juice. Throughout the ritual, the water is mixed, strained and passed from one vessel to another in order to make it pure and invigorating.
Finally, at the end of the ritual, the water is poured back into the well while reciting particular prayers. The water is taken out from the well, made purer and more valuable, and merged back into its original source, thus making the rest of the well water purer and better too. Similarly, man, at the end of his life, has to go back from where he has come, that is, into the spiritual world after being better and valuable to the world.
Yathā ahu vairyo: The Yathā ahu vairyo is the oldest prayer in the Avesta language. In the Avestan texts it is referred to as the Ahunavar “The Will of the Lord” on the basis of the 2nd and 3rd words of this prayer. It has 21 words distributed over three lines. Each word is co-related to the 21 Nasks of the Avesta. Yasna 19 is a commentary on Ahunavar. The first Gatha, Ahunavad, is named after it, and each of its stanza is composed on the metre of Ahunavar. (7+9, 7+9, 7+9).
According to Zoroastrian scriptures, Ahunavar is the chant of creation. Hence it is even older than the universe and all its creations. Other religions too believe that the world was created by sound vibrations. According to Hindu religion, the primordial sound is Aum and according to Christian Religion it is Logos/Word.
According to Zoroastrian tradition, the Ahunavar is a potent weapon and a safe armour in the battle against Evil. It is rightly said in the Avesta, Ahunem vairim tanum paaiti “Ahuna var protects the body.”
At the beginning of creations, Ahura Mazda recited the Yathaa ahu vairyo and Ahriman was stupefied for 3000 years. Prophet Zarathushtra recited Yathaa ahu vairyo and the demon Buiti was not able to approach him. When prophet Zarathushtra recited the Yathaa ahu vairyo and all demons went underground. Ahriman, the chief of the evil beings, says that when Prophet Zarathushtra recited Yathaa ahu vairyo, it hit him like a stone as huge as a house. The chanting of every word of the Yathaa ahu vairyo, is said to destroy a demon.
The Ahunavar gives faith, strength and victory to the soul of the person who recites it. It
is the prayer to get God’s Protection, Cleaning and driving out evil, and defence of physical, mental, and spiritual bodies against evil. It also brings God’s Will into our lives.
Text of the prayer: Yathā ahu vairyo athā ratush ashāt chit hachā,
Vangheush dazdā manangho shyaothananām angheush mazdāi,
Khshathremchā ahurāi ā yim dregubyo dadat vāstārem.
Meaning: Just as the Lord in the Spiritual World is the ruler at Will, so is the Lord in the Material World on account of righteousness.
The gift of Good Mind comes to him who dedicates his life’s actions to Mazda.
He who gives help to the deserving needy person, accepts the sovereignty of Ahura.”
Free translation: One gets the power to work in accordance with the spiritual and material, for the highest good, if one practices righteousness. The reward of good mind comes to him who dedicates his life’s work and actions to Mazda. The person who helps deserving needy people gets the reward of courage, strength and leadership.
Zoroastrians have a tradition of reciting different numbers of Yathā ahu vairyo as follows:
1 Yatha ahu vairyo – Protection of the self
Also – When leaving the house for any business. – When entering the house on return. – When beginning a work. – While sitting on a vacant seat. – On going for a meeting with your superior. – On crossing a river, sea, or a bridge. – On lending or borrowing money.
2 Yatha ahu vairyo – To confer blessings
4 Yatha ahu vairyo – To remember the Gāhāmbārs and attune with nature and seasons
5 Yatha ahu vairyo – To remember Sarosh Yazad, repent for a mistake and quieten the senses
7 Yatha ahu vairyo – To attune with any divine being
8 Yatha ahu vairyo – To attune with Fravashis, to honour and remember the departed ones
10 Yatha ahu vairyo – To attune with the Supreme divine being
21 Yatha ahu vairyo – To realise one’s life’s purpose
121 Yatha ahu vairyo – For a meditative mode of the mind.
Yazad (Av. yazata; Phl. yazat; “worthy of veneration.”): Yazads are divine spirits created by Ahura Mazda to help Him in the workings of the universe. In the divine spiritual hierarchy, they are below the Ameshaspands and are their ham-kars “co-workers”.
There are innumerable Yazads looking after spiritual and material creations, phenomena as well as virtues. The main ones are remembered in the days of the month, as each day of the Zoroastrian calendar is dedicated to a Yazad or Ameshaspand.
Technically any adorable divine being can be referred to as Yazata. Ahura Mazda’s first name in the 101 names of God is Yazad. Prophet Zarathustra is also referred to as a Yazad.
Yenghe hātām: The Yenghe hātām is the prayer of Divine Love, Unity and Harmony. Though it can be recited independently, generally it is not found separately in prayer books. However, it is part of most larger prayers. In Yasna Ha 61 it is said that this prayer takes one’s veneration forward in a better way. Yasna Ha 21 is a commentary on this prayer.
Text of the prayer:Yenghe hātām āat yesne paiti vangho,
Mazdāo ahuro vaethā ashāt hachā,
Yāonghāmchā tāschā tāoschā yazamaide.
Meaning: Among the living ones, we venerate those men and women whom Ahura Mazda has known to be better in their worship on account of their Righteousness.
Free translation: Practice of righteousness makes humans better. Such men and women who have reached a higher state of awareness of life through their righteous conduct spread peace and harmony in the world. They are beloved of God.
Zarathushtra (Av; Phl. Zartusht; Per. Zardusht; Grk. Zoroaster): Zarathushtra was the first prophet to reveal religion in the world. The commonly accepted meaning of the Avestan name Zarathushtra is “one possessing an old/yellow camel.” Zoroaster, the Greek interpretation of the word, has been translated as “the golden star.” Spitama “whitest, purest” the family name of the Prophet, is the name of his ninth ancestor. Hence, the prophet is known as Zarathushtra Spitama.
The Avesta texts do not give any indication as to the times in which he lived, and hence his era is calculated from indirect sources based on historical, literary, linguistic, geological and archaeological evidences, placing him between 6500 BCE to 1500 BCE.
He belonged to the brotherhood of priests called Magava, who were adepts at understanding the workings and laws of nature. In Avesta, Zarathushtra is accorded the high status of a Yazata “a divine being.”
It is generally agreed that Zarathushtra was born in the North-Western part of modern day Iran. Avestan texts mention Airyana Vaejah near the river Veh Dāiti as his birth place. Some sources place him in Azarbaizan or Ragha. Another possible location for his birth is the area between the rivers Oxus (Amu Darya) and Jaxartes (Sir Darya).
Zarathushtra travelled from the west of ancient Iran to east, till his mission took him to Bactria (Balkh), the then heartland of Iran. Bactria is now situated near the confluence of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikstan.
Zarathushtra’s father was Pourushaspa “lit. one possessing gray horse”, the son of Peteraspa. Zarathushtra’s mother’s was Dughdhova or Dogdo “lit. one who milks.” She was the daughter of Frahimvā Zavish.
According to Yasna 29.1 Geush Urvan (the Soul of the Earth) complained to the Creator about the abuses being heaped upon it. The Creator consulted the Divine Beings and proclaimed that there was just one soul who can help – Zarathushtra Spitama. The Soul of the Earth was not satisfied as it sought support of a strong and powerful prince. Finally, after much deliberations, the appointment of Zarathushtra was confirmed.
Three days before Zarathushtra’s birth, his entire village was covered in white light, signaling the advent of the great prophet. Zarathushtra was born during the early morning hours on the day (roz) Khordad of the month (mah) Fravardin according to the religious calendar. This day is celebrated presently as the Khordad Sal. Zarathushtra is reported to have laughed at birth, since he was aware of his divine mission and the ultimate victory of good over evil.
Several attempts were made by evil people to kill infant Zarathushtra but none of the attempts were successful as he was divinely protected. The attempts continued even when he was in his teens, but by now Zarathushtra was able to fend for himself.
When Zarathushtra was 20, he set off in search for the Truth after seeking permission from his father. He was divinely guided to Mount Ushidarena, “the Mount holding divine intellect” where he stayed for 10 years, and devoted his time and efforts to communion with Divine Beings. There he received revelation of the religion through the divine beings Vohu Manah (Bahman Ameshaspand) and Sraosha.
At 30, Zarathushtra began to preach the message of the religion, which chiefly consisted of the presence of good and evil in the word and how to contend with it. He accepted most of the teachings and practices of the Mazdayasni system.
Angra Mainyu, the Evil Spirit himself, tried to convince Zarathushtra to renounce his mission and even tried to win over the Prophet by offering him wealth and kingship, but Zarathushtra outright rejected the offers. Then he threatened Zarathushtra by sending his demons, but the prophet recited the sacred chant of Ahuna Vairya, and the demons fled.
In the initial stages, Prophet Zarathushtra had very few followers, as people were not ready and willing to accept his message. The first disciple of the Prophet was his paternal cousin Maidyomah. For ten years he travelled eastwards, till he reached Balkh (Gk. Bactria). Then other disciples soon followed.
Then Zarathushtra was invited by Vishtasp (Av., Per. Gushtasp) the king of Balkh, to his palace. After discussions on intellectual and spiritual matters, King Vishtasp recognized Zarathushtra as the true prophet and became his patron.
Zarathushtra gifted 21 Volumes (Nasks) of Avestan scriptures to the king containing knowledge about the entire universe, as proof of his divine mission. Each Nask was based on one of the 21 words of the Ahunavar prayer. The special fire of Burzin-Meher, which the prphet had gifted the king, was later enthroned in a fire-temple erected specially for that purpose.
Evil fled under the earth on account of Zarathushtra’s power. As his fame spread, people started acknowledging his divine status. Wise men from all over came to see him. Philosopher Tutianus, who came from Greece to meet him, was instantly convinced of his greatness. Changranghāch and Vyās came from India to meet the prophet and after spending some time with him, they too were convinced of his greatness, as he predicted their questions even before they could ask them.
In the Avestan texts there is no reference to the prophet’s marriage, to his wife or children. In later texts we are told that prophet Zarathushtra married Havovi, daughter of one of his disciples Frashoshtra, and had six children – three sons Isad-vastra, Haurvatat-nar and Khurshed-cheher; and three daughters Freny, Thrity and Pouruchishti. Due to the absence of any reference in Avestan texts, Zarathushtra’s marriage and children are often considered allegorical.
Zarathushtra spent the later part of his life in prayers. He passed away at 77. Nothing is mentioned in the Avesta about his passing away. In Pahlavi texts, his passing away is referred to as vihez i zartusht “rising up/ ascension of Zartusht.”
Later Persian tradition notes that Zarathushtra was murdered by a Turanian soldier Tur-barā-Tur, and, in retaliation he flung his rosary to kill him. This is not likely, as Zarathushtra, by virtue of his Divine Energy was very strong, and even the chief evil spirit Angra Mainyu was not able to harm him. It seems that Tur-barā-Tur was the collective negativities of the world, the destruction of which was necessary for resurrection and renovation.
After the prophet’s passing away, Jamasp, one of his foremost disciples, was made the religious head. He and all religious heads after him came to be known as Zarathushtro-temo.
Prophet Zarathushtra gave a very powerful philosophy and religion to the people by reinforcing the teachings of the pre-existing Mazdayasni belief system and adding many new teachings and practices to it, thus forming the new religion which has a strong moral order, a distinct world view, rituals and practices.
Zarir (Av. Zairivairi): The Kayanian King Lohrasp had two distinguished sons Gushtasp and Zarir, the former was instinctive by nature and temperamental and the later was mature. Twice when prince Gushtasp had gone away from the kingdom, Zarir brought him back.
After King Lohrasp, Gushtasp became the king and Zarir was one of his trusted commanders. Minister Jamasp had predicted to king Gushtasp that his brother would die fighting on the battle-field.
Zarir fought many wars for his brother Gushtasp. He was a brave warrior and caused havoc in the battlefield. None dared to go near him. In the last battle of his life, when Zarir was decimating the soldiers of the Turanian king Arjasp, the enemy king announced that the killer of Zarir would be given the hand of his daughter in marriage and will also be made the chief commander of his army and receive lots of wealth.
The lures of the riches made Bidarefsh, a Turanian warrior take up the challenge. However, he was not brave enough to come face to face with the valiant Zarir, so he hid behind him, and contrary to the practice, started throwing spears at Zarir from behind, one of which struck him. He fell from his horse and breathed his last. Zarir’s son Nastur later avenged his father’s death by killing Bidarefsh with the help of his nephew Asfandiyar.
Zarir is mentioned in the Avan Yasht as one of the royal devotees whose boon was granted by Avan Ardvisur Anahita Yazad.
Updated 25th September 201