Yazads & Ameshaspands – the divine beings
ZOROASTRIAN DIVINE BEINGS
Zoroastrian religion lays equal emphasis on the spiritual and the material worlds. It expects human beings to live in harmony with the creations in the material world and in consonance with spiritual beings and the spiritual world.
The divine beings are divided into different groups referred to as Ameshaspands, Yazatas, Mino, Ratu and Fravashis. A few of them are referred to individually by names Most of the divine beings referred to by a name are remembered in the calendar. The days and months of the Zoroastrian calendar are presided over by these divine beings, and Zoroastrians are expected to remember the divine being presiding over the day.
Amesha Spentas “the holy immortals” are the spiritual beings of the highest order. With Ahura Mazda as their head, father and preceptor they are seven in number. They work with one accord, presiding over spiritual powers, virtues and material creations. Each Amesha Spenta has an arch-rival (Av. daeva) who opposes them and hinders their work. In later languages the words Amesha and Spenta are condensed into one as amahrspand or ameshaspand.
The word Yazatas (later Yazads) literally means venerable divine beings and refers to all divine beings including Ahura Mazda. howeverver, technically, the term Yazata refers to the second tier of divine beings in Zoroastrianism. They are the co-workers (hamkars) to the Amesha Spentas, and help in preserving the good creations. They also protect and give boons to whomsoever asks them for help. When invoked, the Yazata of the day, gives a special power and energy to a person who in turn becomes better equipped to face the day and overcome difficulties and challenges that come up during the day. The main Yazatas, are those mentioned by name (Av. aokhto namano yazatahe).
All the Ameshaspands and most of the Yazatas are included in the names of the 30 days (Roj) of the Zoroastrian calendar month. According to Avesta there are innumerable Yazatas but only a few among them are mentioned by name. There are a few Yazatas on whom the days of the month are not named, but are still important, like Haoma, Airyaman, Saoka, Parendi, Dravaspa, Vanant and Ama.
Divine beings as they appear in the calendar:
1. Hormazd: Originally ahura mazda “Lord Wisdom.” The first Principle represents the Supreme being and embodies the Zoroastrian virtue of Wisdom. Ahura Mazda, as an Ameshaspand looks after human beings, who are supreme among all other creations.
2. Bahman: Originally vohu manah “Good Mind.” The Good Mind refers to the higher, transcendent consciousness, which leads to perfect harmony (ākhshti) and peace (ham-vainti) with all creations. Among creations, Bahman presides over cattle who are peaceful and harmonious. His rival is Aka-Manah, the evil mind.
3. Ardibahesht: Originally asha vahishta “Best Righteousness.” It embodies the virtues of rectitude, right conduct and truth. Ardibahesht at a physical level presides over fire and fiery energies. At a cosmic level it is the order underlying the creations.
4. Shehrevar: Originally khshathra vairya “Desirable Kingdom.” It embodies the will power and authority over self and others. Attributes of leadership and authority stem from this principle, as also the virtues of industry, labour and hard work. Among creations, Shehrevar presides over metals. His rival is Bushyasp, the demon of sloth and laziness.
5. Aspandad: Originally spenta armaiti “Beneficent Nobility.” It presides over love, devotion, non-violence, understanding and tolerance – virtues born out of right-mindedness. At an ecological level she presides over the earth, which, like a mother tolerates man’s excesses and irresponsible behaviours. She also embodies Selflessness, one of the greatest moral virtues. Her opponents are Naangaithya the Demon of discontent and Asta-vidhāt the demon of death.
6. Khordad: Originally haurvatat “Perfection.” He embodies the striving to reach perfection Among creations, Khordad presides over waters, especially of the rain and the seas. His rival is Taurich, the demon of hunger.
7. Amardad: Originally ameretatat “Immortality.” He embodies the inevitable awareness of the immortality of the soul. At the level of creations, he represents vegetation. His opponent is Zarich, the Demon of aging,
8) Dae pa Adar: The prefix dae indicates ‘the creator.’ It is the day before Adar dedicated to the Creator.
9) Adar : Originally atar “the fire”. This Yazata presides over heat and fire. In the Avesta he is addressed as “the Yazata full of glory and full of healing remedies”.
10) Avan : Originally ap. This Yazata presides over water (especially connected to the river Aredvi) and is also known as ardvisura, ‘the valiant Ardvi’ and anāhita ‘pure.’
The term ‘waters’ stands for all fluids in the body, including blood and reproductive fluids. Hence health is as related to Avan and so is conception and child-birth. Avan is a bestower of fertility, purifies the seeds of males, the womb of females and makes lactation (the milk flow) in mothers’ effortless.
Other liquids in the world and saps of plants are also looked after by Avan. Since divine energy too flows, avan also represents some of the invisible currents of Nature.
Anahita temples in Iran were built at sources of spring or running water, since only running waters are used for rituals. Places for rituals were built around such sources. Ruins of one such massive Anahita temple can be seen in Iran at Kangawar near Hamadan. Other temples of Anahita are located at Estakhra, Susa and Persepolis.
In Avan Yasht, several Kings of the Peshddian and Kayanian dynasties are depicted offering worship to her. The episode of Vifra Navaza in this Yasht depicts how Avan helps her devotees by interceding on their behalf.
11) Khorshed : Originally hvare-khshaeta “the shining sun.” This Yazata presides over the sun. In the Avesta, Khorshed Yazad is called immortal, illustrious and possessing a swift horse. Since the sun is the centre of our solar system, Khorshed Yazad is accorded a special position in the Avesta and is mentioned along with Amesha Spentas. The sun is regarded as the most beautiful emblem and the fairest of the forms of Ahura Mazda and a symbol for adoration of Ahura Mazda.
12) Mohor: Originally maongh “the moon.” This Yazata presides over the moon and designated as bakhtar “bestower, giver of destiny” in later languages. It also presides over the mind which is closely interlinked with the Moon.
13) Tir : Originally tishtrya “shooting, radiant”. It is the name of a Yazata who presides over a star, generally identified with Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major. It is considered the leader among all the stars. Tir also presides over rain. Apaosha is the demon opposing Tishtar in the process of rainfall. Tir also presides over eyes and is invoked in connection with eye problems.
14) Gosh : Originally geush urvan “the soul of the earth/ animals.” He presides over animals.
15) Dae pa Meher: The prefix dae indicates ‘the creator.’ It is the day before Meher dedicated to the Creator.
16) Meher: Originally mithra “light, friendship, love.” He is associated with all cosmic lights, including the sun light. In this role, he is closely associated with Khorshed ‘the Sun.’ He also looks after the spheres in space.
In name and function, Meher / Mithra is closely related to the Vedic divinity Mithra. Etymologically, both these names can be derived from the word for contract. Hence most of their functions and attributes can be traced back to this original function. On account of presiding over contracts, Mithra is present wherever two parties are involved. Thus Meher also presides over promise, contract and justice. Mithra is one of the divine judges of the heavenly tribunal, and as such has unlimited powers of hearing and seeing.
Unlike Vedic Mitra, Iranian Mithra also has a martial nature. Hence Mithra also looks after sovereigns and Kings, and presides over martial qualities like courage, bravery and chivalry Mithra also 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.
The divine being Michael of the Catholic Church has attributes and functions are similar to Meher.
When the Roman soldiers came in contact with the Iranians during the Parthian times, they were attracted to the martial qualities of Mithra, whom they started worshipping. When they returned home they spread this practice in Rome. Later it spread to Europe, especially the countries under Roman domination. It greatly influenced the Greek, Roman, Assyrian and Babylonian civilisations. Mithraic temples were erected and statues were set up.
17) Srosh : Originally sraosha “hearing, inspiration, intuition.” He presides over religious inspiration, intuition, and revelation. He is one of the highest Yazatas in Zoroastrianism. As the Yazata who presides over inspiration, intuition, and revelation, he gave guidance through divine intuition to prophet Zarathushtra and Saoshyants like Gayomard and Faridun.
Srosh is referred to as sālār-ī-dāmān “the commander of the creations.” Ahura Mazda entrusted him the mastery over the material world and the task of protecting the creations.
An important function of Srosh is to protect the souls of the living as well as the dead. Immediately after death, when the soul leaves the body its state is like that of an infant. Srosh looks after the soul for the first three days and nights, till the Individual Judgment takes place on the dawn of the fourth day after death. He accompanies the soul across the Chinwad Bridge (Av. cinuuatō peretu) and is also one of the judges at the Individual Judgment of the soul.
Srosh is referred to as tanu-manthra “incarnation of Manthra.” He is closely connected with holy words of prayers. Zoroastrians invoke Srosh before starting any prayers, by reciting the Srōsh bāj. the connection of Srosh with Mānthra “the sacred word” gives him the central position in the devotional life of Zoroastrians.
Srosh was the first in the spiritual world to chant the five celestial songs – Gathas of Prophet Zarathushtra. He is accorded the singular honour of having two Yashts (invocatory prayers) dedicated to him. Sarosh also presides over the 5 senses. His rival is Aeshma, the demon of wrath.
The divine beings Gibrael and Gabriel of the Islamic and Catholics faiths respectively have functions and attributes similar to Sraosha.
18) Rashna : Originally rashnu “bright, brilliant.” He presides over “rectitude, order and truth.” His special designation is “most upright.” As an associate of Amardad Ameshaspand, he is linked with man’s hope for ultimate salvation.
19) Fravardin / Fravashi: Originally fravarti, fravashi “belief, inspiration” (Phl. fravahr). Fravashis are divine creative prototype principles. They have cosmic functions as well as personal functions. At a cosmic level, they help Ahura Mazda in the process of creation and nurturing of the universe. At a personal level they are the guardian spirits of men, accompanying them in life, as well as after death. As a personal function, Fravashi acts as one of the three spiritual elements of human constitution.
20) Behram : Originally verethra-ghna “victorious.” He presides over success, victory and triumph. He bestows courage and confidence to people working for a righteous cause. One of his titles is perozkar “victorious”. Verethraghna, is cognate with Sanskrit Shatrughna “smiter of opponents.”
Behram is also referred to as baro-khvareno “carrier of khvarenah” since he is associated with divine fires. Atash Behram, the fire of the highest category is named after him. The two co-workers of Behram are Ama who presides over courage and Vanainti who presides over excellence.
In Behram Yasht, Behram Yazad assumes ten different forms of wind, bull, horse, camel, boar, youth, falcon, ram buck and man to reach to the aid of his devotees. Behram is also referred to as Panth Yazad, as he presides over traveling, and hence is invoked before departing on a voyage or a journey.
21) Ram: Originally rāman “joy.” He presides over joy, peace and domestic happiness. He is invoked on the occasion of marriage. Ram also looks after the space between the earth and the sky and in this respect is a co-worker of Mithra. It is for this reason that he is invoked on the fourth day after a person’s death for seeking safe passage for the soul to the other world. He also presides over time – Endless Time as well as Time Created for a Finite Period.
22) Govad : Originaly vāta “wind, atmosphere.” He presides over atmosphere and good wind which pleases the soul of the holy persons, especially after death.
23) Dae pa Den: The prefix dae indicates ‘the creator.’ It is the day before Din dedicated to the Creator.
24) Din : Originally daena “divine knowledge, revelation”. This Yazata presides over religion, religious conscience. She leads the soul of man after death to its destination on the basis of its actions. The comparable divine being in Sanskrit is goddess Saraswati. In the past, Zoroastrians used to send their children to learn for the first time on this day.
25) Ashishvangh: Originally ashi vanguhi “good Ashi /Blessing.” She presides over divine blessings, acquired by man on account of his piety and good deeds, as also on wealth – both material as well as spiritual. The comparable divine being in Sanskrit is goddess Lakhshmi. Originally, in the Vedas Lakhsmi stood for spiritual wealth only. Later on she assumed the role of bestower of material wealth too.
26) Ashtad : Originally arshtat “rectitude.” He presides over truthfulness, and virtues promoting spiritual welfare of the world. As an associate of Amardad Ameshaspand, he is linked with man’s hope for the salvation of soul.
27) Asman : Originally asmana “the sky.” He Yazata presides over the lofty, shining sky. He is considered the pathway to Heaven.
28) Zamyad: Originally zam yazata. This Yazata presides over the physical aspects of earth, especially the mountains. Since mountains are also associated with divine energy, Zamyad Yazad too is associated mountains Khvarnah “divine energy.”
29) Mashraspand : Originally manthra spenta. He presides over the Holy Words of God. Since the sacred words of God are giber of divine energy to the recite, Mahrespand is himself a giver of abundant Khvarnah “divine energy.”
30) Aneran : Originally anaghra raochah. He is the Yazata presiding over “endless lights.” It is associated with the various stations in the divine world, like a. raokhshna garonmana, “radiant House of Song”, the highest heaven, which is the house of Ahura Mazda. b. misvana gatu “the hamestagan or the purgatory”, which is the mid way stop for souls whose sins and virtues are balanced. and c, chinvato peretu “the bridge of Separator”, the allegorical bridge which is now popularly referred to as Chinwad / Chivat Pul. All souls have to pass this ‘bridge’ on the dawn of the fourth day agter death, which allegorically marks the passing over of the soul to the spiritual dimension.
There are other Yazatas mentioned by name who are not directly part of the calendar. They are:
Haoma : He is the giver of several boons, especially of health, long life and a promising progeny. He presides over herbs which are instrumental in healing and ensuring good health.
The principle herb used for healing is also referred to as Hom, the haoma zāiri, “the golden hom” plant, which keeps away death. In the Indian tradition, priests used to prepare a ritual drink with the plant named Soma. In both traditions, this plant grows on mountains and is believed to have descended from heaven for healing men.
Airyaman: Airyaman is a principle Yazata, a co-worker of Adibahesht Ameshaspand. He presides over friendship, marriage, brotherhood and harmony. He is especially invoked during the marriage ritual. He is also the Yazata who looks after health and healing.
Other secondary divine beings like Saoka, Parendi (Snsk. Purandhi), Ama, Vananiti, Vanant, Apam-Napat and Dahma are also mentioned in Zoroastrian texts.
Other groups of divine beings, which are a part of the Yazatas are: a. Mino: They predominantly work in the spiritual world and over accomplishments which lead to spiritual rewards. In the Zoroastrian calendar, they appear at the end. They are Ram, Ashishwangh, Asman and Mahrespand and Aneran. b. Ratu: They predominantly preside over time, divisions of time and seasons.
Fravashi, the divine beings which are creative prototype principles, are remembered in the calendar on the 19th day. They have cosmic as well as personal functions. At a cosmic level, they help Ahura Mazda in the process of creation and nurturing of the universe. They also protect and nurture all creations like animals, fire, sky, earth, trees and man. Even divine beings including Ahura Mazda have their Fravashi. Fravashis of human beings guide them on the right path. There are Nature Fravashis, helper Fravashis, and Protector Fravashis who come flying to men’s help, in the form of a bird, whenever they are invoked. The image of a Fravashi –a bird with a human face and hands, has become an enduring symbol of the Zoroastrians. It is seen on stone reliefs and Achaemenian palaces dating back to 600 B.C.