ZARTHOSHTI-PEDIA: The Mini Encyclopedia

ZARTHOSHTI-PEDIA

The ZARTHOSHTI-PEDIA® is an attempt to create a small encyclopedia type collection of terms connected to Zoroastrian religion, Iranian history and languages in an alphabetical order.

(Abbreviations: Ar – Arabic; Av – Avesta; Gr – Greek; lit- literally; Phl – Pahlavi; Paz – Pazand; Per – Persian, PG – Parsi Gujarati; Vd – Vendidad; Y – Yasht; Ys – Yasna.)

The following are the CONTENTS covered:

Ābān, Ādarān, Ahura Mazdā, Airyaman Yazad, Asha, Aspandad, Atash Behram, Atash Dadgah, Avan, Bahman Ameshaspand, Bahman Yasht, Bareshnum, Behesht, Chaeschist,Chinwad Bridge, Daenā, Damaavand, Desatir, Fareshta, Faridun, Frashogard, Frasho-Kereti, Gāh, Gāthās, Gayomard Geh-sārnā, Hadhanaepata, Hoshang, Ijashni, Inner rituals,Jamshed, Jashan, Kae Khushru (King), Kavasji Kanga, Khandhiā, Khordeh Avesta,Khorshed, Khvarenah, Maratab, Meher, Mithra, Mohor, Nahan, Nasesālār, Navar,Nyaishna, Outer rituals, Paiwand, Pāydast, Rām, Rathaeshtār, Sachkār, Sagdid, Shahnameh,Shahrevar, Spandarmad, Sraosha, TehmuraspThraetona Tishtrya, Vahishta Ahu, Yasna,Yashts, Yazad, Zarathushtra

(Entries in Red are latest updates from 1st Dec to 31st Jan 2013)

Entries in Brown are updates from 1st Feb ro 26th Feb 2013)

ĀbānSee 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.

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: 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.

Hā 54 of the Yasna 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 pains 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.

Asha (Av.): 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.

Aspandad: See Spandarmad

Atash 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:

They are:

No.

Source

No. of purifications, consecrations, Yasna and 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 fire

61

9

Brewer /idol maker

61

10

Goldsmith/alchemist

60

11

Mint

55

12

Blacksmith

51

13

Bronze maker/mendicant

50

14

From the house/s of a Zoroastrian priest or layman

40

15

Army chief/ army 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 Atash Behram fire is at Udvada.

Atash Dadgah: (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.

Avan (Paz.; from Av. ap): 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 ap 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 Bbahman, 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 consecratedNirang, 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 calledNavsho 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.”

 

Behesht (Pers; lit. “Best Existence”): It is a term used for the highest stage of heaven, which is bright & having all happiness. The devotee asks forvahishta 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.

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 Chaechsht 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.

Damaavand (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 ustad Saheb 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.

Desatir: 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.

Fareshta (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).

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.

 

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 apocalyptical 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.

Gāh (Phl.; PG geh): The five periods or parts in which a day is divided: Hāvan Gāh, Rapithwin Gāh, Uzirin Gāh, Aiwisruthrem Gāh, and Ushahin Gāh. 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 Gāhs.

In Zoroastrian practice, the day begins with sunrise, from when Havan Gāh 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 Gāh is the time of mid-day. It begins from mid-day and extends up to mid afternoon (3 o’clock local time);

Uzirin Gāh begins from 3 p.m. and extends up to sunset;

Aiwishuthrem Gāh begins from sunset and extends up to mid-night;

Ushahin Gāh starts from midnight and extends up to sunrise.

In the Gathas the day seems to have been divided only in three parts: Usha “dawn”, Arempithwa “midday” and Khaspa “night”.

During the first seven months of the year, five Gāhs are recited as noted above. However, during the last five months, Rapithwin Gāh is not recited and Hāvan Gāh is repeated. this hāvan gāh is referred to as “the second Hāvan gāh.”

Gāthās (Av.; lit. “(celestial) song”): The word is derived from root gā- “to sing”. They are poetic compositions appropriated 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 names of the five Gāthās 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; lit. “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.; lit “singing the Gathas”): It is an after death ritual wherein two priests holding a Paiwand (See Z-pedia) recite the Ahunavad Gatha (Yasna Hā 28 to 34) with the invocation of Sarosh Yazad. It is performedtakes place on the same day of death, or on the following morning if the death has taken place late in the day. It is performed in the Bangli 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 Z-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.; lit. :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.

Hoshang (Per. Av. haoshyangha; Phl. hushing): 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 (See Children’s corner > Stories) by Hoshang. The Jashan-e-Sadeh, and 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 as a Saoshyant “a benefactor of mankind.”

Ijashni (Guj.): See Yasna

Inner rituals: The majority of Zoroastrian rituals can be classified asOuter 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.

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 of Royalty) 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.

 

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: Remembering and invoking the departed ones

3 kardehs: Invoking Ahura Mazda, Dahma Yazad (for blessings) and Sarosh Yazad.

3 Pazand Afrins for exhortations, blessings & unity.

Tandarosti: For health.

While the Jashan is in progress, certain ritual acts are performed which convey certain religious principles. These are:

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 chaashni.

 

Kae Khushru (King): (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 the 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 Afrasiyab. The Iranian paladin Giv went to Turan to rescue him and he 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 devotees.

Kavasji Edalji Kanga: Kavasji Edulji Kanga (4th June 1839- 10th March 1904) 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 a 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 Gujrati) 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.

8. Practical grammar of the Avesta language, compared with Sanskrit, 1891.

9. Yasht bā Māeni, (Translation of the Yashts), 1901.

10. Gāthā bā Māeni, (Translation of the Gathas), 1895.

11. A Complete Dictionary of the Avesta Language, 1900:

12. 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.

Khandhiā / Nasesālār: The word Khandhiā 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 Z-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 Shahenshai 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 (See Z-pedia) 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); Av. hvare-khshaeta “the shining sun”: The Yazata Khorshed 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 (Av); khvarreh (Phl); later Khoreh; lit. 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.

Maratab (Ar. martabaa “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 eleventh day, he, along with another qualified priest, takes the ritual power (khub) by doing a Yasna with the invocation of Mino Navar. On the following morning, he performs a Yasna with the invocation of Sarosh Yazad and at mid-night (Ushahin Gah) he performs the Vendidad. This completes the Maratab ritual. After this ritual the candidate becomes a full fledged priest and can perform all Zoroastrian rituals.

 

Meher: See Mithra

Mithra (Av) Mihr /Meher (Phl): 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 the Roman soldiers came in contact with the Iranians, they were attracted by the importance accorded to Meher Yazad by Achaemenian and Parthian kings and soldiers, who invoked him before embarking on wars. When they returned home they spread the practice of invoking Meher Yazad/Mithra, which later came to be known 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 ACE), Emperor Trajan (c. 100 ACE) and Emperor Comodus (c. 190 ACE) 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 ACE.

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.

Mohor (Paz); Māh / maongh (Av.) “the moon”: This Yazata 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).

Nahan It is a purificatory ritual which includes a bath. The word Nahan 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) nahan which is presently done, and the Shishyu (from Persian si-shoy “three baths”) nahan in which the purification was done thrice with sand, consecrated water and nirang. The nahan was generally administered by a priest having the power of a Bareshnum. In the present times this requirement is not deemed necessary.

NasesālārSee Khandiā.

Navar: 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).

 

Nyaishna (Phl.; lit. “songs of praise”): The Nyaishnas are five prayers in the Khordeh Avesta, composed in honour of luminescent creations as follows:

1) Khorshed Nyaishna in honour of the sun.

2) Meher Nyaishna in honour of cosmic lights, especially sunlight.

3) Mah Bokhtar Nyaishna in honour of the moon.

4) Avan Ardvisur Nyaishna in honour of flowing waters and divine currents.

5) Atash Nyaishna in honour of fire and divine energies.

Nyaishnas are composed from passages taken from larger texts like the Yashts and the Yasna. The beginning and the ending of all Nyaishnas is in the Pazand language. Khorshed Nyaishna is from Khorshed Yasht, Meher Nyaishna is from Meher Yasht, Ava Nyaishna is from Avan Yasht and Yasna 65, Mah Bokhtar Nyaishna is from Mah Yasht and Atash Nyaishna 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.

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 (See Z-Pedia). 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.

Rām (Paz; Av. rāman; lit. “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(lit. “one who stands on a chariot”) The word is used for a soldier. Originally it is the name of the second of the four professional classes of the ancient Iranians representing the military or governing class. It corresponds to Sanskrit Khshatriya.

The term Rathaeshtār is also applied to the sacred fires because they act as warriors to fight against seen and unseen evils. Fire from the house of a Ratheshtār is one of the four fires required to constitute the Atash Adarān fire.

Sachkār (Pers. sāzkār “to dress/ to prepare”) : The Sachkar is 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 withgaomez (bull’s urine). Nowadays water is generally used instead ofgaomez. 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 Sachkar, 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 Sachkar ritual is vitiated and the Nasu (putrefaction) becomes rampant, which causes grief to the soul and hazard to the living.

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 Gāh (See Z-pedia). 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.

 

Shahnameh (Per. lit “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.

There are some who believe that the Peshdadian and Kayanian dynasties are mythological and not historical, since there are no contemporary 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.

It is said that Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs 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; lit. “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; lit. “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. srorsh/sraosha; lit “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)” anddaeno 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; lit. “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, which looks over and communication.

Vahishta Ahu (Av.): See Behesht

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:

Yasht

Purpose

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

For employment

Avan Yasht

Easy Childbirth, regular lactation;

Help in diseases of urinary tract and bladder; overcoming blood disorders

Khorshed Yasht

For daily recharging of Khoreh (divine energy), for agile body and mind.

Tir Yasht

For relieving eye trouble and menstrual problems, for good eyesight.

Sarosh Yasht Hadokht

For developing consciousness of the soul and spiritual development.

Behram Yasht

For success and victory.

Ram Yasht

For a suitable life partner, and for marital peace

Din Yasht

For understanding the real aspects of religion

Ashtad Yasht

To find lost things.

Hom Yasht

For rejuvenating health, for good offspring, for healing wounds, for overcoming the effects of toxins.

Vanant Yasht

To ward off black magic

Siroza Yasht

To seek general help from 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

Siroza Yasht

Invocations to 33 divine beings in the calendar.

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 included in most Khordeh Avestas, as they are fragments of Avestan texts found in some manuscripts, and do not form a part of any existing collection of text. 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 Avestan text of Yasna consists of 72 chapters, known as hāiti “chapter, section” in Avesta and hā in Parsi-Gujrati. These include 17 chapters of the Gathas. The Yasna is the text which goes along with the ritual. The text of Yasna does not pertain to any one particular subject. In it Ahura Mazda, Ameshaspands, Yazads, Fravashis, and other living and non-living creations are remembered 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 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.

Yazad (Av. yazata; Phl. yazat; lit. “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.

Zarathushtra (Av; Phl. Zartusht; Per. Zardusht; Grk. Zoroaster): 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.

Zarathushtra was the first prophet to reveal religion in the world. 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 prophet 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.

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  1. Navaz Shahrukh Katpitia

    I really appreciate this marathon effort of yours and i hope, pray and wish that you continue building this legacy further. Many thanx.

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