Zoroastrian Daily Life – PRACTICES and CUSTOMS

Practices reflect the living religion. They are based on the teachings and principles of the religion.  All Religions have practices. For instance, the Hindus have Snan, Dhyan and Sandhya, the Christians have Mass and Lent, and the Muslims have Namaz and Roza.

Zoroastrian religious practices are generally referred to as TARIKATS “observances.” They aredisciplines and rules of ritual purity for daily life.

Zoroastrian practices are based on the main Principles of the religion, like: Power of thought, Positive and negative Energies (Khoreh), Protection against negativities, Cleansing, Energising, being in tune with nature, being ethical, and facilitating the path to spirituality.

Main daily life practices:

  1. The Kasti ritual performed at specified intervals and after/before specified acts. This practice is meant to regularly cleanse the etheric body, provide protection against negativities and relax the mind at regular intervals.
  2. Daily Farazyāt “obligatory prayers” to be recited. These are Khorshed and Meher Nyaish and related prayers for the day time and Sarosh Yasht Vadi after sun-set. This discipline is to quieten and cleanse the mind and enable the energy body to get its daily requirement of energy.
  3. Physical purity: it is achieved by bathing, washing hands and by taking care of disposing what comes out of the body like saliva and faeces as well as what separates from the body – like hair and nails.
  4. Ritual purity: Ritual purity means observing the special rules and regulations of purity especially meant for sacred places and purposes like prayers, rituals and houses of worship. The rules of ritual purity are meant to ensure the purity of Khoreh (Divine Energy) and facilitate the presence of divine beings. It is ensured in different ways:
    1. By hedging daily actions like eating, bathing, going to toilet, cutting hair and nail with special formula prayers, called Bāj.
    2. By temporary seclusion whenever necessary, for instance when dealing with a Corpse; from women during menstruation and after child-birth, from Non-Zoroastrians at the time of rituals and prayers.
    3. By keeping away from Nasa “physical and spiritual putrefaction” (referred to as Druj-Parhez), avoiding contact with saliva which happens when one is biting nails, taking finger in mouth (Ajithu),
    4. By properly disposing cut nails and hair.
    5. By the use of taro/gaomez (bull’s urine) whenever required.
  1. Taro kasti: This is the practice of doing the first Kasti of the day with a specific prayer after applying drops of taro / gaomez “cow/bull’s urine” on exposed parts of the body.
  2. Bāj’ recited before and after certain acts, like eating, bathing, going to toilet, cutting hair and nail.
  3. To cover head, preferably at all times but at least at times of prayers, while participating in rituals and going the fire temple. Head covering consists of  Māthā-bānā (a white cotton cloth) or scarf for ladies, topi pāgdi or phetā for gents.
  4. Wearing religious vestments of Sadra – Kasti sacred shirt and girdle and perform the Kasti ritual at specific times.
  5. Doing loban in the house: The custom of ‘lobān feravvu’ involves taking a charcoal/sandal wood fire on a small fire-vase (afarganyu) around the house, while putting incense (loban) on it. It is generally done twice a day in the mornings at dawn and evenings after sun set (divabatti). It is generally done by the lady of the house. This practice helps spread fragrance in the house, keeps out insects and purifies the air.
  6. Keeping fire / Divo (natural oil lamp) in the house: When it is not possible to have a fire 24 hours of the day in the house, a divo (oil lamp) is kept burning 24 hours. Having a fire or oil lamp in the house at all times, attracts good spiritual forces, draws positive energies and keep away evil energies and beings.
  7. Parheji (abstinence from non-vegetarian food): Zoroastrian abstain from eating Non-vegetarian food on certain days of the religious calendar month – Bahman. Mohor. Gosh and Ram – (days connected to Bahman  Ameshaspand) and the month of Bahman. These days are known as an-rojā. In Iranian tradition these days are known as na-bor.
  8. Remembering the departed ones: The custom of remembering the departed ones on their month and death anniversary days is an important Zoroastrian religious  injunction. Remembering the deceased in a pleasant manner and seeking blessings and help from them is an integral part of Zoroastrian devotional life. Their blessings are sought even on auspicious occasions by having rituals performed in their memory.  The Baj is a general term to indicate the annual remembrance day of departed ones.
  9. Visiting fire-temple regularly: Fire temples are places which house sacred fires and in which rituals are performed and religious programmes may take place. It is beneficial to go there daily, or as often as possible. Sacred consecrated fires are store-houses of khoreh (divine energy) and hence it is essential to be in it presence in a state of physical and ritual purity. Zoroastrian tradition enjoins to go to a fire temple daily or at leaston days connected to fire in the religious calendar – that is, on roj Ardibahesht, Adar, Sarosh and Behram.
  10. Following the religious calendar, and remembering the Ameshaspands an Yazads on their respective roj (day) and māh (month).
  11. Celebrating religious observances which occur in the religious calendar, like the six Gahambars during the year, the Gathas and the consecration of Rapithwin.

The duty list of a Zoroastrian is given in two texts Faraziyāt Nāmeh by Dastur Darab Pahlan of Navsari and Benedictions for Iranian Marriages.  The requirements of a Zoroastrian are similar in both:

1. Perform the six Gahanbars (seasonal festivals for thanksgiving of six creations) every year.

2. Have the Rapithwin consecrated, or at least attend the performance (both).

3. Perform regular worship of Sarosh Yazad

4. Remember the Fravashi of the departed ones on the Farvardegan (Muktad) days. (both)

5. Recite the Khorshed and Meher Nyāish thrice a day.(both)

6. Recite the Māh Nyāish at least thrice a month. (both)

7. Have monthly / annual rituals in memory of souls of dear departed ones. (Bened)

8. To wear the Sudreh and Kushti and regularly perform the Kushti ritual (Bened)

Customs and traditions:

Customs and traditions form the outer layer of the practice of a religion and are necessary for a sense of identity. Many erroneously believe that most Parsi customs and traditions are of Hindu origin. This is not correct. Only a few have undergone minor changes on the basis of time and place.

The following constitute the main customs and traditions of the Zoroastrian religion:

Clothes: Men: Dagli, pagdi (black), pheta, sapat ( a special leather footwear)

Women: Sari, matha banu (head covering), ijar; sapat

Children: Zablu; Footwear: Sapat.

Priests: Dagli, pagdi (white), jāmā, badan, ijār, sapāt.

Decorating the house: Toran (flower garland on doors and gates) and hār (flower garland around photo frames) on doors and photo frames, chok (patterns of lime powder on the entrance and threshold).

Connected to people (Sagan): Tili (a red vermilion mark on the fore-head), hār (flower garland for people), Ses (See below), ovarna achhu michhu.

Food for auspicious occasions: Breakfast: Sev (Vermicelly), ravo (Semolina),  curd, boiled egg; Lunch: Dhan dar, cooked fish.

Food for sombre occasions: Dhansak

Reciting devotional songs (Monajats) and Shahnameh  (the poetic Persian epic): Zoroastrians families devoted time to singing Monajats (devotional songs in Gujarati or Persian) and reciting Shahnameh. This practice gave the all important knowledge of religion and Iranian history to children, and also helped to impart moral and ethical teachings and develop faith in the religion.

Ses: It is a metallic tray (either silver or German-silver) with a collection of auspicious metallic wares like Paro (a conical container with sweet items like khadi sākar and batāsā-rounds made of sugar powder), Pigāni (a small container with Kanku-vermilion for the tili-red mark/tikā) and gulābāz (a sprinkler for rose water). Also placed in the tray are symbolic auspicious edible items like a few grains of rice, a shorn coconut, khārak (dried dates), almonds with shell, betel leaves (pān) and betel nut (sopāri).Ses: It is a metallic tray (either silver or german silver) with a collection of auspicious metallic wares like Paro (a conical container with sweet items like khadi sakar and kharak-dried date), Pigāni (a small container with Kanku-vermilion for the tili-red mark/tika) and gulabaz (a sprinkler for rose water). Also place in the tray are symbolic auspicious edible items like a few grains of rice, a shorn coconut, kharak (dried dates), almonds with shell, betel leaves (paan) and betel nut (sopari). <