How Zoroastrians wear their beliefs
Garments are designed to promote ‘good thoughts, good words and good deeds’
Members of many different religions wear clothing that is specific to their faith and their patterns of worship. Members of the Zoroastrian faith, one of the world’s oldest religions founded in ancient Persia in the sixth century B.C., wear two special pieces of clothing: a sudreh and a kusti.
The sudreh is a white undergarment vest. There is a “v” pocket in front called the “giriban.” One has to collect as many good deeds as possible in this giriban. A person wearing it is considered to be the keeper of the pledge to do good (kissaai-karfa). The fabric has to be clean, and a Zarathusti (another name for a Zoroastrian) wears the sudreh after taking a daily bath.
The second item of clothing, the kusti, represents the 72 chapters of one of the holy Zoroastrian books. It is woven of lamb’s wool and has tassels on both ends. It is wound around the waist three times to represent the good thoughts, good words and good deeds to be performed by the wearer. It is placed around the waist after the sudreh is put on. It is knotted twice, once in the front and once at the back. This sets a binding commitment to the Zoroastrian creed.
The sudreh is put on after a cleansing bath without any prayers, but donning the kusti requires the help of prayers. These prayers are found in the Khordeh Avesta, the daily prayer book of the Zoroastrian faith. “Khordeh” means “god” and “Avesta” is an ancient language of the Persians in which the book is written. Hence it is the “language of god.”
A child begins wearing the sudreh and the kusti during the initiation ceremony of the navjote (newly born). Traditionally this ceremony is performed at the age of 15, which is considered to be the age of reason or coming of age. One must have the capacity, maturity and training to make responsible choices, and to take responsibility for decision-making and judgments. Before the navjote ceremony, these things are the responsibility of parents. During the navjote ceremony, the child makes a pledge to abide by the tenants of the faith, a covenant (a pledge) that Zoroastrians will renew every time they recite the kusti prayers as they wrap the kusti around the waist.The Zarathusti initiate must have the capacity to enter the faith with this pledge and be responsible and accountable for every thought, word and deed.
According to the Zoroastrian faith, one is endowed with a good mind (vohu manah) at birth, to be used for good thoughts, good words and good deeds. The good is referred to as “spenta menuy,” and the evil as “angrey men,” according to the Avesta texts.
Cowsie Malva lives in Redlands. A retired school teacher, Malva is a member of the Redlands Area Interfaith Council and a Zoroastrian priest.