What is Ardibahesht Yasht? (Ervad Dr. Ramiyar Parvez Karanjia)
Ardibahesht Yasht is the shortest among the ‘shorter Yashts’. It is also one of the most favourite among Zoroastrians, perhaps because of its length and efficacy.
Ardibahesht Ameshaspand: He is the divine being who presides over fire. In Zoroastrian understanding fire does not only mean physical fire but also all energies. So Ardibahesht Ameshaspand, on a physical plane presides also over different types of Energies – Physical, and spiritual (Khoreh). Ardibahesht Ameshaspand also presides over health, as the real source of health and healing is divine energy
The word Ardibahesht comes form the Pahlavi words Ard Vahisht (Av. Asha Vahishta “the Best Truth”). The word Asha is understood in several ways: divine law, order, beauty, truth, righteousness, holiness, piety, purity, etc. Each of these meanings are inter-connected.
The words Asha Vahishta also imply the “Divine Plan” of Ahura Mazda which all of us need to understand and follow. Ardibahesht is the 3rd roj of the month and the 2nd mah of the Zoroastrian calendar.
From an ethical viewpoint, Ardibahesht represents the truth and from a metaphysical viewpoint he represents The (Ultimate) Truth which is manifested when one can understand Asha, that is one’s “Life’s Purpose” and subsequently reach Asha Vahishta – the “Divine Plan” of Ahura Mazda. this is the only way to get Ushta “inner happines. This is also the message of the Ashem Vohu prayer.
Ardibahesht Ameshaspand on the Cosmic plane is the Cosmic Plan that God put into motion with all its attendant laws, especially the law of cause and effect.
Ardibahesht Ameshaspand is the chief divinity of the Rapithwin Gah. Winter is considered evil (druj-e-zimistan) in Zoroastrian tradition. Ardibahesht Ameshaspand fights winter. That is why in Iran during winter Rapithwin Gah was not recited as it was believed that Ardibahesht Ameshaspand had gone underground to give warmth to the earth. He would surface after winter, hence Rapithwan Geh could be recited once again from Farvardin mah.
The Hamkars “co-workers” of Ardibahesht Ameshaspand are Adar Yazad who presides over fire and Khvarena “divine energy”, Sarosh Yazad who brings intuitions and divine guidance, and Behram Yazad who presides over victory and success. The two grades of fire – Atash Adaran and Atash Behram are associated with Ardibahesht who as an Ameshaspand looks after fire.
The Associates of Ardibahesht Ameshaspand are the Yazads Airyaman and Saoka. Airyaman is for harmony as also for repelling diseases, physical and mental illnesses, negativities and death. Through Saoka Yazad comes all happiness that is destined for the world. He keeps back the demons inflicting more than necessary punishment on the souls.
“lie, deceit” is the adversary of Ardibahesht. It is responsible for evils resulting from chaos, disharmony and lies. On a physical plane, it brings severe winters.
Asha Vahishta is one of the most basic concepts in Avesta. The three short Avestan chants– Ashem Vohu, Yatha Ahu Vairyo and Yenghe Hatam – revolve around Asha Vahishta. Ahura Mazda, Zarathushtra, Amesha Spentas and all other divine beings are referred to as ashavan, that is “in accord with Asha – The Truth.”
In the beginning of the Yaht, Ahura Mazda tells Zarathushtra that among the Ameshaspands, Ardibahesht is the foremost for adoration and veneration. Zarathushtra agrees to venerate Ardibahesht as the foremost Ameshaspand (1-2). We are told that it is possible to reach Garothman “the Highest Heaven”, the abode of Ahura Mazda, through the help of Ardibahesht Ameshaspand (3-4).
Thereafter the prayer of Airyaman Yazad is mentioned as the most powerful against all evils including Angra Mainyu (5).
Five types of healing are mentioned: 1. Asho baeshazo“Healing with Asha/Truth” (this may also mean healing as per the divine Plan), 2. Dāto baeshazo “Healing with Law / justice”, 3. Kereto baeshazo “healing with surgery”, 4. Urvaro baeshazo “Healing with herbs”, 5.Mānthro baeshazo “Healing with prayers.” Among these, healing by prayers is considered best as it heals from within. (6)
Thereafter powerful autosuggestions are given against evils. A desire is expressed that may evils like sickness, demons, opponents, snakes, inimical persons, evil women and harmful north-winds perish (apa-dvarata) (7-9). The devotee then urges Ardibahesht Ameshaspand to smite (jainti) the above mentioned and similar other evils for him. The devotee has the confidence that Ardibahesht Ameshaspand will smite (janat) thousands of demons, the worst of the demons including the arch demon Angra Mainyu. and drive them away towards the north (10-16).
In the end a desire is expressed that may the evil perish and flee towards the North, so that the rest of the world may not be harmed (17). This thought is expressed even at the end of the Kem nā Mazdā prayer. The Yasht ends with Avesta and Pazand passages similar to other Yashts.
After the Yasht, the Nirang is recited, which is held to be very efficacious. It is recited even as a prayer by itself and is often prayed over people who are not well. In the Nirang, Ahura Mazda is extolled and Ahriman is referred as ignorant and wicked, who should be defeated and destroyed. Zoroastrian religion and Ahura Mazda are praised at the end.
It is advisable to recite the short Airyaman prayer immediately after reciting the Ardibahesht Yasht and its Nirang.
There are two traditions firmly associated with Ardibahesht Yasht in our Community. Both these traditions underlie two of Ardibahesht. Ameshaspand’s basic characteristics, the first is its association with health and the second is with truth.
The first tradition is Ardibahesht ni picchi, in which, a devotee prays for a dear one or for self in case of ill health. Whilst praying the Ardibahesht Yasht, passes are made either by hand or by a handkerchief over the person’s body from head to toe and then the negative energy is shaken off.
The other tradition is Ardibahesht ni chavi which means moving a key with the help of Ardibahesht ameshaspand. It has to be done by a pious, adept person to identify a culprit in case of loss or theft. For this purpose, an iron key is kept in a Khordeh Avesta over which a Kasti is tied. Then fire is lit in a small Afarganyu and a person prays the Farajyat prayers followed by the Ardibahesht Yasht. Then the key is supported on the fingertips and the list of suspects is read out. On the name of the culprit the key is supposed to turn round and the Khordeh Avesta falls down. If this happens on the same name for 4 to 5 times, it is believed that the particular suspect is the culprit. Performing the Ardibahesht ni chhavi presupposes a certain level of spiritual statue, regular practice of the religious tariqats and a certain level of abstinence in the person who performs it. Without these, one may not get the correct results. Hence in present times there is a risk in doing this practice or else an innocent person may be unnecessarily be blamed.