Category Archives: Rituals and practices

Significance of the sacred bull

The warasyaji commands a unique position in the ritual matrix of the faith
Dastur (Dr) Firoze M. Kotwal

This extract is from the article “Consecration and Importance of  the Sacred Bull warasyaji — A Religious Injunction,” published in a festschrift titled The Reward of the Righteous, Wiesbaden, 2022, to honor Almut Hintze, Professor of Zoroastrianism at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

The term warasyaji, used by Parsis for the sacred bull attached to a fire temple, is derived from Avestan varǝsa, Pahlavi wars, waras, Persian gurs, meaning “hair, curled hair, ringlet.” The consecrated white bull is known as warasyaji as it provides waras or hair. In Gujarati, the suffix ji is derived from Sanskrit jiv “may you live long” — a term of honor. In high liturgies, three strands from the tail hair of a warasyaji are entwined and tied with a reef knot on a silver or gold finger-ring and placed on the nine-hole saucer through which the hom juice is strained and filtered. The use of its hair in the Yasna ritual gives the warasyaji a unique position in the ritual matrix of the faith. Members of the Zoroastrian community view it as sacred and feeding the bull is seen as an act of merit.

  A warasyaji

Bombay’s first warasyaji
The Bhagaria mobeds were the first priests to arrive on the islands of Bombay in the 17th century. Mobed Dada Chichana was the first recorded panthaky and served the Banaji Limji Agiary in the Fort area.
Bombay was then under the ecclesiastical authority of the Bhagarsath Anjuman of Navsari. The alat, i.e.waras from the warasyaji, required for the nirangdin (purificatory rites for consecrated bull’s urine) and the sacred ash (bhasam) from the Atash Behram of Sanjan were brought from Navsari. With the Sanjan fire having moved out of Navsari and residing in Udvada, the Navsari priests found it challenging to obtain the bhasam or fire ash for several years. After the Atash Behram was founded in Navsari in 1765 CE, the bhasam came from there and the alat was taken to Bombay from Navsari accompanied by two priests who were familiar with the roads and physically carried it. Travelling with them was a Parsi cook and two behdins (lay Parsis) who drove the bullock cart. They arrived in Bombay via Thana, where there was a sizeable Parsi settlement.
In Bombay, the alat was handed over to the panthaky of the Manekji Naoroji Seth Dar-i Mihr, headquarters of the Bhagaria priests, and later distributed among the fire temples of Bombay for their use. This allowed the priests to continue performing high rituals in their fire temples under the ecclesiastical authority of the Bhagarsath Anjuman.
As the Zoroastrian population in Bombay grew, the demand for high rituals increased and there was a surge in demand for alat from the Bhagarsath Anjuman. The akabars of Bombay requested the Navsari priests to permit them to consecrate a warasyaji and perform a nirangdin ceremony in the city. In 1776 CE the scarcity of waras for ritual use became an issue when a severe plague epidemic broke out in Bombay; during the same period the Pindara tribesmen raided Navsari. The situation was so tense that the Navsari Atash Behram’s fire was taken by the Bhagaria priests in the dark of night and moved to Surat for safety through underground tunnels built for use during such emergencies. The high priest, Dastur Sohrabji Rustomji Meherji-Rana, also took sanctuary in Surat. During the ensuing chaos and confusion, the warasyaji was either lost, captured or driven away, resulting in a significant delay in sending the alat to Bombay.
The akabars of Bombay requested the Bhagaria priests in Bombay to consecrate a warasyaji, but they declined saying, “This task cannot be undertaken without the permission of the Navsari Bhagarsath Anjuman.” This decision was taken by the leader of the Bhagarsath Anjuman, Khurshedji Tehmulji Desai (known popularly as Khurshedji Bapa), in concurrence with Dastur Meherjirana and members of the Navsari Bhagarsath Anjuman. After Desai’s death in 1779, the Parsi Punchayet once again requested the Navsari Bhagarsath Anjuman to permit the Bhagaria priests in Bombay to consecrate a warasyaji. As the warasyaji in Navsari had died there was once again a scarcity of nirang. Eventually, the Navsari Bhagarsath Anjuman authorized the akabars of Bombay to consecrate a warasyaji.
The trustees of the Punchayet convened a Samast Anjuman meeting in Bombay and decided to consecrate the first warasyaji. The first warasyaji was consecrated in Bombay in memory of Seth Dadibhai Nusserwanji Mody at the Manekji Seth Agiary. Mobeds Manekji Sohrabji Pavri and Jamshedji Rustamji Dabu performed the ceremony. The first nirangdin was in memory of Seth Bomanji Naoroji (Lovji) Wadia, father of  Hormusji Seth, founder of the H. B. Wadia Atash Behram, and was performed by Mobeds Jamshedji Khurshedji Vatcha and Framji Rustamji Ranji.
As long as a warasyaji is alive, its waras is used while performing all high rituals. However, once the bull dies, all the high rituals come to a standstill until a new warasyaji is consecrated. All priests, including candidates being initiated who may have taken the barasnum using waras from the expired warasyaji, have to abandon that barasnum and re-take it after a new warasyaji is consecrated.

  A warasyaji during the ijieshneh ritual Photo: Hormuz Dadachanji

 

The Qadimi  warasyaji
Some Parsis of Surat belonging to the Shahanshahi sect adopted the Qadimi calendar and began reciting Qadimi ruz and mah in their prayers on June 17, 1743 under the guidance and leadership of Mobed Darab Sohrabji Kumana. They  established the D. N. Dadyseth Atash Behram in Bombay (1783) using the indigenous Shahanshahi alat. But after this Atash Behram was consecrated, the Qadimi alat came into existence and the two other Qadimi Atash Behrams in India, viz, the P. K. Vakil Atash Behram (1823) in Surat and the F. C. Banaji Atash Behram (1845) in Bombay were established using the Qadimi alat from the Dadyseth Atash Behram.
According to the Persian Rivayats of Nariman Hoshang (1478 CE), the Iranian Zoroastrian priests continued to use the old waras consecrated in the first quarter of the 14th century since the priests who knew how to consecrate a new waras had died. However, in the Persian Rivayat of Kamdin Shapur (1559) it is noted that a new waras was prepared in Navsari by the Bhagaria priests during the lifetime of the first Dastur Meherji Rana (c.1510-1591 CE). This suggests that the  ritual of making a new waras had continued in Navsari 100 years later and endures to this day.
Initially, the Qadimi priests in India used the old waras imported from Iran at an exorbitant price of 1,000 shahis (19th or 20th century Persian silver coin). This practice continued until the Banaji Atash Behram was consecrated in 1845 under the guidance and supervision of the learned Shahanshahi Dastur Jamshedji Edalji Jamaspasa, head priest of the Banaji Limji Agiary (1709 CE), the oldest fire temple in Bombay. Dastur Jamshedji asked the Qadimi priests to first consecrate a warasyaji and then complete the consecration of the Banaji Atash Behram. After two decades, another warasyaji was consecrated by Qadimi mobeds in the port of Mazgaon, Bombay, at the Faramji Nusserwanji Patel Qadimi Dar-i Mihr under the supervision of the learned Shahanshahi Dastur Jamaspji Minocheherji Jamaspasa. A third warasyaji was consecrated at the Dadyseth Atash Behram under the leadership of the Qadimi high priest Dastur Sohrabji Rustamji Mulla-Firoz.
Hair from the bull’s tail
According to the Vendidad, a young ungelded (not castrated) bull is chosen for this purpose. To determine whether the white bull is fit for consecration, experienced and able priests assist in selecting a healthy bull which has a glossy coat of white hair, a pink tongue with no spots, and is without blemishes. In the Nerangestan (Book of Ritual Code) it is stated that the waras can be taken either from the mane of a horse or a bull.
In the register listing the warasyajis consecrated in the precinct of the Vadi Dar-i Mihr in Navsari there is a 300-year-old note giving details about how to consecrate a warasyaji for ritual purposes. It describes how the bull is prepared for the consecration process and ends with the pots containing the consecrated nirang tied and secured with white muslin at the end of the ritual.
The selected white bull is taken into the holy precinct of the Dar-i Mihr where the consecration ceremony will be performed. While being bathed, the bull’s tail is washed with soap, and the hair inspected and combed. The warasyaji is then tied in a separate ritual precinct (pawi) where he is fed and looked after in preparation for the elaborate consecration ritual during which hair from his tail is cut and preserved for ritual use.
The consecration ritual lasts for six days, and on each day the bull’s hair is ceremonially cut; unwanted strands that cannot be used for rituals are disposed of. Once the ritual is over, even the waras or hair tied on the ring and used for the consecration of the warasyaji becomes nist-o-nabud, i.e. unusable. But after the new warasyaji is consecrated, three strands of his hair are taken for ritual use from the box containing the spare hair cut at the consecration. These three strands are ritually tied around a ring, and the newly consecrated ring is used for the yasna, visperad, vendidad and nirangdin ceremonies.
  Inner courtyard of the Vadi dar-i-Mihr, Navsari

 13th century CE Photo courtesy: Ervad Hormuz Dadachanji

Last rites of the warasyaji
In Zoroastrianism, the warasyaji is a sacred animal and befitting its status it is accorded special last rites when it dies. According to Zoroastrian cosmology, just as the human race descended from the first man Gayomard, the primeval man, domestic animals descended from the bull Gawyodad, the primeval ox. In the Pahlavi Bundahishn, which outlines the Zoroastrian myth of creation, when Ahriman, the evil spirit, killed the bull Gawyodad, Ahura Mazda entrusted a part of the bull’s seed to the moon, where it was purified. From this one seed, different species of cattle were born on earth. For this reason, the moon in Avestan is described as gao-chithra (one who holds the seed of the bull). According to legend, the remaining part of the seed of Gawyodad fell on the earth, and from it different species of grain and useful plants sprang to life.
In Zoroastrian theology, the carcasses of cattle and their hair are not deemed putrefied matter or evil, so burying a sacred bull with due precautions is proper. In the Persian Rivayats of Hormazyar Framarz, cattle are not regarded as nasa or dead matter when dead. Hence, the hair separated ritually from a living bull is not seen as “dead matter (Pahlavi hikhr, Pazend heher),” and can be used in rituals. This practice continues to be followed by the Zoroastrian community to this day.
The erroneous practice of performing the geh sarna ceremony for the deceased Bhagarsath warasyaji was introduced in Bombay a few decades ago, although this was not followed in Navsari. The appropriate manner of disposing of a warasyaji, followed by the Bhagaria priests, is to dig a big pit in an isolated place and tie a used, old but clean sudreh and kusti around the bull’s horns as a symbol of the religion. To quicken the process of disintegration, three or four bags of black salt are sprinkled around the carcass before covering it with earth. When the Bhagarsath warasyaji died in Bombay in 1937 some ignorant Bhagaria priests tried to perform the geh sarna; fortunately the late Dastur Minocher Kaikhushroo Jamaspasa intervened and prevented this. However, the practice was suddenly resurrected by some Bhagarsath priests when a warasyaji died some time after 1937. There was no high priest in the jurisdiction in Bombay at that time, as Dastur Minocher JamaspAsa had resigned, nor was any Bhagaria high priest in office to offer guidance. In 1977 this writer became high priest of the H. B. Wadia Atash Behram and Dastur Kaikhusroo Minocher JamaspAsa was High Priest of the Anjuman Atash Bahram. The Bombay warasyaji died while Dastur Kaikhusroo was a visiting lecturer in Germany. The issue of dealing with the corpse of the warasyaji was put before this writer who opined that as it came under Dastur Kaikhusroo JamaspAsa’s jurisdiction, and as he was not present in India, the matter should be dealt with as in the past. So the priests took the liberty of performing the geh sarna. Some time later, when another warasyaji died, this author spoke to Dastur Kaikhusroo JamaspAsa and informed him that it was bad practice to perform the geh sarna on the corpse of the warasyaji. Even though preparations had been made, the geh sarna was not done. Following the age-old tradition of the religion, the warasyaji was buried after a sudreh and kusti were tied around its horns and the pit was lined with black salt. Reciting a geh sarna for a warasyaji is backed neither by our traditions nor supported by the scriptures.
Some people, without adequate knowledge, may be tempted to perform the geh sarna for all creatures used in rituals. For example, Zoroastrian rituals require the use of the dog and the goat. The dog is used for the barasnum and sagdid ceremonies and goat’s milk is required in high rituals. Devout Zoroastrians also consider a crowing rooster as the holy messenger of Srosh Yazad who drives away the evil forces of Ahriman. The dead rooster is given an honorable burial after wrapping it in an old and clean sudreh (Avestan vastra, Pahlavi wastarag, Parsi Gujarati sadro or “sacred garment”). The same reverence is accorded to pet dogs, especially in devout Parsi families living in the Zoroastrian strongholds in Gujarat.
The custom of performing the geh sarna of the warasyaji does not befit the spirit of the Zoroastrian religion as it is not supported in the scriptural texts nor the long-cherished traditions preserved by the old Parsi centers of Navsari and Udvada.  Had it been a tradition, the records of the Disa-Pothi (death registers maintained by fire temples) would have made mention of it just as the consecration and death dates of the warasyajis have been noted in the Vadi Dar-i Mihr at Navsari since 1680 and continue to be recorded to the present day.
Reflections on the ritual
Using the waras of a consecrated warasyaji and performing the nirangdin ritual are based on authoritative Avestan texts.
The immutable law of Asha which governs the universe’s workings gains renewed strength through the consecration of the warasyaji and is effective against the forces of evil.
The reinforcement of Asha (Sanskrit ṛta), right order, in the universe is brought about through:
* The rite of boiling the waras (nirang i waras pukhtan) with the holy ash of the Atash Behram fire which spiritually brings into the waras of the warasyaji a divinely charged force as long as he is alive.
* The ritual process of cutting and making the waras is begun by invoking the blessings of Ahura Mazda; while performing the Paragṇa ritual before the higher rituals, Zarathushtra’s blessings are sought. Thus the ritual recognizes and affirms Ahura Mazda as the creator of the animal kingdom and it is performed under the guidance and protection of the divine fravashi of the Prophet, Ahura Mazda’s chosen messenger. The ritual thereby establishes a link with Ahura Mazda and creates positive reinforcement for those participating in it.
* The water in the kundi (large metal container) is activated by the priest who intones the 101 names of Ahura Mazda 10 times. This indicates that in ancient times 1,001 names of Ahura Mazda must have been in existence, and an attempt has been made to preserve this memory in high rituals such as the nirangdin and the consecration of the warasyaji. This also gives us an idea of the power that lies within the sacred names of Ahura Mazda.
* During the the paw-mahal rituals, the leaves of the date palm (and not a metal chain, as used in other rituals) are wound around the barsom rods three times with the recitation of the khshnuman of Dadar Hormazd. In the same manner, the ritual power generated by the kusti which is wound around the waist three times with the recitation of the nirang of Hormazd Xwaday is very essential for the spiritual protection of a Zoroastrian. A pious Zoroastrian with the armor of the sudreh and kusti on his person is a living embodiment of the good religion.
Courtesy: Parsiana – 7-20 August, 2022

Creatures Big & Small in Zoroastrian Heritage

FEZANA JOURNAL – SUMMER – JUNE 22 ISSUE

In this issue, Farishta Dinshaw, our guest editor has done a marvellous job of putting the cover story together on Creatures Big and Small in Zarathushti Heritage. Have you ever wondered about the role of Warasyaji in our religion? We have seen a pure white bull grazing in many of the agiaries in a special area. Well, Dasturji Dr Firoze Kotwal, in an erudite article explains the significance. Have you wondered why the dog is brought near the body of the dead person before the last funeral rites.? In this issue you will find answers to these and many other perplexing questions you may have had.

Truly, a Collector’s Item, shared with kind permission of Dolly Dastoor

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Celebrating Birthdays… And Life

Birthdays are special. In our childhood or senior years, most, if not everyone, looks forward to celebrating this day. Each birthday reminds us we’re getting older. However, it also commemorates important milestones in our journey. Birthdays provide us the excuse for extra celebration. Everyone, young or old, gets a day to feel extra special – especially by family and friends. It’s not necessarily a day to celebrate one’s length of life. It’s the day to celebrate the depth and intensity of one’s life lived with purpose, productivity and progress.

How Ancient Persians Celebrated Birthdays: Herodotus, ‘The Father of History’, writes: “Of all the days in the year, the one which they (the Persians) celebrate most is their birthday. It is customary to have the table furnished on that day with an ampler supply than common with all types of meats. They eat little solid food but abundance of dessert, which is set on the table, a few dishes at a time; this it is which makes them say that ‘the Greeks, when they eat, leave off hungry, having nothing worth mention served up to them after the meats; whereas, if they had more put before them, they would not stop eating.’ They are very fond of wine, and drink it in large quantities.”

Our fondness of meats, desserts and wine seems to have remained consistent for more than two and half millennia. The Shahnameh (the Iranian Book of Kings) also narrates the extensive festivities on the joyous occasion of the birth of Rustom.

Ritual Celebrations: In the Zoroastrian tradition there are no specific or mandatory religious rituals that are prescribed for celebrating one’s birthday. One could simply pray at home before the hearth fire or pray and offer some sandalwood at an Agyari or Atash Bahram. Some offer Machi (a throne of long sandalwood sticks) to the Holy Fire after which the priest prays the Tandorosti – for good health and prosperity of the person celebrating his or her birthday. Some even perform a Khushali nu Jashan at home or at the fire temple.

Some Parsis also perform the Faresta ceremony. Fareshta means a Divine Messenger or Angel. In the Avesta, Faresta are referred to as Yazata. The Faresta ceremony is usually performed on joyous occasions, like marriage, birthday, Navjote, on moving into a new home or office or on fulfilment of a cherished wish. In this ceremony thirty-three Yazata are propitiated.

It is also considered meritorious to perform acts of charity on this day and earn blessings of those in need. There is also an old and forgotten tradition to plant a tree on this auspicious day and nurture it throughout the year. In ancient times (before urbanisation) this was quite common in the villages where Parsis lived in large mansions with sprawling compounds or at their farm houses and orchards.

Cutting a cake is a modern trend which we seem to have borrowed from the West. However, blowing out candles is considered strictly un-Zoroastrian. We are encouraged instead to light a divo (oil lamp) at home, at the Agyari or a well.

Blast From The Past: I remember as a child waking up rather early in the morning, with a lot of excitement and anticipation. In those days, there were no text messages to read on smart phones. We did not even have a landline at home. Birthday greeting cards or simple picture post cards would arrive a day or two in advance with blessings and good wishes penned in red-ink by relatives and friends. Red is considered auspicious as it represents the colour of blood or life and good health. These would be placed on a table that would have the traditional ses with a diva (oil lamp). Postcards ensured zero privacy and postmen would deliver the cards with a big smile and wish happy birthday and expect a generous tip.

The bath would be special with some warm milk and fresh rose petals in it. The milk would be poured from the head down to the toe and after which the head and body would be washed with a fresh new bar of soap and the body dried with a brand-new Turkish towel. Rose water would be added to the aluminium (there was hardly any plastic that we used) bucket of bathwater – we did not know of overhead or hand showers back then.

By the time I would be out from the bathroom, the floor would be swept clean by the domestic help (who would get a new sari and cash as gift), the door would be garlanded, the threshold decorated with chalk and the home would be fragrant with mixed aromas of rose, jasmine, loban and sev (vermicelli) being fried in the kitchen. After a quick prayer, I would be made to stand on a patlo (a small wooden foot-stool) which would be decorated with chalk. Of course, everything that I would be wearing would be new – from socks and shoes to the cap on my head.

My mother would first ensure that no evil-eye would affect me and so she would circle a raw egg seven times around my head and break it near my feet. Then a copper tumbler with water would be circled around my head seven times and the water would be thrown away. Finally, a coconut would be circled seven times around my head and cracked near my feet. We would be convinced after this ritual that my personal aura was purged of all impurities and negativity.

A big red tilo would adorn my forehead with rice (symbolising prosperity and abundance). I would be garlanded, given a fresh coconut in one hand and made to eat some rock sugar and fresh sweet curd. Presents would then be given to me – usually a cash envelope with eleven or twenty-one rupees (very generous pocket money for that time), a good book or a board game.

Dad would then take me to the Agyari at Mazagaon where I have lived for most part of my life. Back in those days, the Patel Agyari at Mazagaon had a huge compound with a beautiful pomegranate tree. It had quaint village atmosphere which I loved. With my birthday falling in the month of August, it would usually be a rainy day and I would love the scent of wet earth in the Agyari compound.

Back at home, breakfast would be sev, boiled eggs and sweet curd, after which I would be made to distribute boxes of jalebi or suterferni (purchased the evening before from Grant Road) to the neighbours. Lunch would be sagan nu dhan daar and patio – the fish would usually be pomfret. We would then catch a movie at 3:00 pm, either at Novelty cinema or Apsara talkies at Grant Road. We would travel by bus, but on our return, it would be the luxury of a Fiat taxi, but not before picking up some fresh and hot wafers and sali (potato straws) from ‘A1 Wafers’ at Balaram Street!

Dinner would be at home – usually chicken with sali picked up earlier from A1 wafers. It was not fashionable back then to eat out and my mother was amazing with her culinary skills. Dessert would either be jelly or a bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate. No photographs would be shot because we did not even have a simple camera. We did not cut any cake either. We would simply eat mithai. Only the Parsi Roj Birthday was celebrated. The date birthday was given no importance.

Trust me, those were my most memorable birthdays – through the sixties and the seventies. Simple, yet satisfying and when less was more!

Noshir Dadrawalla

Celebrating Birthdays… And Life

Ancient festival of Tirgan held in central Iran

 

Every year in this region, the Tirgan festival, one of the most important festivals of the ancient Iranians, is held on the first day of summer as a symbol of miracles, blessings of agriculture, and water protection, the provincial tourism chief Mostafa Marzban said.

A selection of top farmers from the region was honored during the ceremony, the official added.

Tirgan is a time-honored Iranian festival usually observed as a rain festival. Tiragan, along with Noruz, Yalda Night and Mehregan are amongst feasts widely celebrated in the ancient land.

Currently, the summer festival is mainly celebrated by Iranian Zoroastrians. The celebration is widely attested by historians such as Abu Saeid Gardezi, Biruni, and Al-Masudi, as well as European travelers to Iran during the Safavid era.

The Tirgan festivity refers to the archangel, ‘Tir’ (meaning arrow) or ‘Tishtar’ (lightening), referring to thunderstorms that bring much-needed rain that boost harvest and avert drought.

The ancient legend of the Tir (arrow) refers to “Arash of the swift arrow” or ‘Arash the archer’ (Arash-e Kamangir).

According to the Zoroastrian calendar, every thirty days of the month carries a name. The thirteenth day of the month of Tir on the Persian calendar (June 22 – July 22) is named after the respective month, Tir.

Legend has it that Arash was the best archer in the Persian army. He was selected to settle a land dispute between Persia and Turan (present-day Central Asia).

When the kings of the two lands – Manouchehr and Afrasiyab – decided to settle their dispute and set a permanent boundary between Persia and Turan, they arrived at a mutual understanding that Arash should climb to the tall Mount Damavand’s peak, and from there shoot an arrow toward the east. Wherever his arrow landed, they agreed, would determine the boundary between the two kingdoms.

Arash shot his arrow (Tir) on the 13th day of the Persian month of Tir, which fell on the banks of the Jeyhun (the Oxus) River. Thus, the borders of the two countries were marked.

Legend has it that as soon as the border dispute was settled, rain began pouring down on both lands, which had been suffering from an eight-year drought.
Thus this day, the 13th of Tir (July 4th) is celebrated as the Festival of Rain.

It is customary for Zoroastrians to tie rainbow-colored ribbons around their wrists for ten consecutive days and toss the ribbons into a stream on the day of the festival.

The Festival of Rain is celebrated by people dancing, singing, reciting poetry, and serving delicacies such as spinach soup and ‘sholeh zard’ (saffron-flavored rice pudding).

 

https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/473989/Ancient-festival-of-Tirgan-held-in-central-Iran

Meherangan Celebrated by the Zoroastrian Association of California.

Meherangan Celebrated by the Zoroastrian Association of California.

A Jashan was performed on Sunday, February 27th, Meher roj at the ZAC Atashkadeh by Zerkxis and Zarrir Bhandara, which was well attended by a strong crowd of 84 Zarthostis. This Jashan was arranged by Dolly Malva to celebrate her birthday along with other members born around this time.

After the Jashan Zarrir explained the importance of this very ancient Jashan which was among the most important and popular Jashans in ancient Iran. He explained the qualities of Meher Yazad,  one of the coworkers of Sherevar Amshashpand, whose quality is moral strength, courage, and physical strength.“The other coworkers of Sherevar Amshashpand are Khurshed Yazad, Mino Asmaan, and Mino Aneraan. All of them collectively are responsible for giving us the illumination to brighten our lives, Meher Yazad is also in charge of all the billions of stars. Hence, Meher Yazad’s light is the most luminous, and light is synonymous with wisdom and knowledge, by removing/transforming the darkness and imperfections that are within us and around us. How do we attain wisdom and be part of that infinite light? The other qualities of Meher Yazad are ‘Rast’ being just & giver of justice. In ancient times, there always was an enthroned fire in the courts of law and that is how we got the name ‘Darb-e- Meher’. In North America, some of our fire temples are known as Darb-e-Meher, which literally means abode of Meher Yazad who is also present with Rashne rast Yazad on the dawn of charum to render justice to the deceased. The other qualities are friendship ‘Mitra’ AV, ‘Maitri’ Sanskrit, & ‘Fragyod’ who is the lord of wide pastures and giver of abundance in life. So when you tread the path of righteousness, when you move towards the light, the light gives you the abundance of health, an abundance of happiness, and abundance of wealth, so I wish all of you a long life full of the abundance of all good things to enjoy with your loved ones & with the courage and moral strength from Sherevar Amshashpand to do the righteous things in life.

I can talk a lot more about Meher Yazad, but taking the current world situation into consideration, I request you to join me in a prayer to grant wisdom to the involved leaders, so that an amicable settlement/solution is reached with the least destruction of human lives. Normally, we sign a petition right? Instead of a petition, we would send a spiritual message by praying together and through the vibrations of our collective prayers to bring about a 180-degree change in the psyche of the leaders involved, so that wisdom prevails upon them to make righteous peaceful decisions. This prayer in particular is geared towards bestowing blessings of wisdom and righteousness to the leaders of our community, society, country, and world at large. It is part of all Afringan and Jashan ceremonies. The whole congregation prayed the following prayer together: ‘

‘Ahurahe Mazdao raevato khvarenanguhato afrinami xshathrayane dainghu-paiti uparai amai, uprai verethrai, uprai xshathremcha, aiti astimcha daregho xshthremxshtrahe daregho jitim ushtanahe drvatatem tanubyo, amem hutashtem hurodhem verethrakhnem ahuradhatem vanaintimcha uparatatem pouru-spaxhtim tbishyantam paiti-jaintim dushmainyunam hathranivaitim hamerethanam aurvathanãm tbishyañtãm.âfrînâmi vavanvå vanat-peshene buye vîspem aurvathem tbishyañtem vîspem akhem tbishyañtem arathwyô-mananghem arathwyô-vacanghem arathwyô-shyaothnem. vavane buye rathwya manangha rathwya vacangha rathwya shyaothna nijane buye vîspe dushmainyû vîspe daêvayasnê zaze buye vanghâuca mizhde vanghâuca sravahe urunaêca darekhe havanghe.  âfrînâmi, darekhem jva ushta jva avanghe narãm ashaonãm ãzanghe duzhvarshtâ-varezãm vahishtem ahûm ashaonãm raocanghem vîspô-hvâthrem, atha jamyât ýatha âfrînâmi”.

The translation: Ahura Mazda, rich, possessing good things. Blessings on the rulers of the land, for greater strength, greater victory, greater rule, greater sovereignty, compassion, long rule, enduring physical vitality, and health (Blessings) to Ama, well-built, fair of form, to Verethraghna, made by Ahura, and to the triumphing Uparatat, completely repelling malice, completely conquering the hostile malicious adversary with a blow. Blessings so that he may be winner of the battle, victorious over every malicious adversary, over every evil(Blessings) that he may be victorious through timely thoughts, words, and deeds; to suppress all the evil-minded, and all Daeva-worshippers, so as to attain good reward, and good renown, and long happiness of my soul. Adversary, faulty in thoughts, words, and deeds. Blessings for long life, for the desired life, for the service of Asha- sanctified people, and for the disservice of ill-done deeds – the best existence of the Asha-sanctified, the luminous, offering all blissful. Thus may it come as I wish.’

Let’s make a wish together, that within a week everything settles down, and may wisdom and peace prevail in the world.”

At this moment one of the participants, Armin said “Thank You Ervad Saheb for conducting the prayers for the religious as well as the leaders of the nations to protect our beautiful Earth made by Dadar Ahura Mazda. I know it will yield very positive results just like the prayers that you conducted brought the pandemic under control. Thank You once again” Thereafter, the congregation recited a Tandarosti prayer for all birthday girls and boys, which was followed by a Rapithwan geh & Machi bui. Finally,  everyone relished lunch of Dhandar & veg Patio prepared by Reshma Adil Rustomi, cake ordered by Dolly Malwa, and delicious Ravo & chocolates prepared by Ketty Alamshaw.

The Significance Of Religious Headgears: The Zoroastrian Mathabana

The Karnataka High Court has recently ordered that girl students should not wear hijab, saffron shawls or use religious flags while attending classes in Karnataka colleges which have a prescribed uniform, till the Court decides the case relating to ban on hijab in certain government colleges. An interim order was passed by the Bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justices Krishna S Dixit and J M Khazi, in response to various petitions filed by Muslim girl students in the State, claiming that they were not being allowed to enter colleges on account of the government order which effectively bans the wearing of hijab or headscarves.

The term hijab describes the act of covering up a woman’s body, either partially or fully. However, it is often used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in many styles and colours. The type most commonly worn covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear. Some women wear a headscarf to cover their head and neck, while others wear a burka or naqab, which also covers up their face. Even today in Iran, women wear a scarf but keep the face unveiled.

Not restricted to Islam: Headscarves are seen as a sign of modesty, a symbol of religious faith. While headscarves may be rooted in religious tradition, hijab is a personal and cultural concept. Wearing headscarves is not restricted to Islam alone. Covering the head predated Islam. Jewish, Christian and Hindu women have also covered their head at various times in history, across the globe. Covering the head has also been a longstanding custom among Zoroastrians – in ancient Iran and after their advent in India.

Mathabana – The Zoroastrian Headscarf: Wearing the Mathabana or white muslin headscarf is an essential part of Zoroastrian religious tradition. Until urbanization and western education took over, the Mathabana was a part of every Parsi lady’s daily attire. It did not matter whether the lady was rich or poor, urban or rural. The muslin headscarf was worn with pride.

Look at portraits of the philanthropic Jerbai or Motlibai Wadia. They can be seen wearing the mathabana. In all her portraits, Lady Meherbai Dorabji Tata is seen with her head covered by her saree. Covering the head was not just a mark of giving respect, but of respectability. Even today, wives of Parsi Zoroastrian priests wear head scarves daily, at home and when stepping out. Also, it is mandatory for every Zoroastrian (male or female) to cover his or head while praying (even if at home) or visiting a fire-temple or attending a funeral. Men usually wear a skull cap while women wear a head scarf.

Across Religious Traditions: There are certain rules to be followed when one visits a holy place. Various etiquettes must be observed, one of which is to cover our heads while worshiping. Hindu women cover their head in the temple as a mark of respect, gratitude, and humility towards the deity they worship. In the early years of Christianity, men and women were required to cover their heads while entering their place of worship. Later, it was only mandated for women. While this tradition of covering the head inside a Church has faded away with time, some still observe it, especially on ceremonial occasions. Sikhism also requires that both men and women should cover their heads when they enter the Gurudwara.

Our Zoroastrian Tradition: In the Zoroastrian tradition, hair is seen as naso or dead matter. Hence, all Zoroastrians are required to cover their heads, especially while praying or attending a religious ceremony. It is believed that hair that falls off renders the surrounding ritually impure.

As we know, even in good restaurants, chefs and kitchen staff keep their heads covered to prevent any hair from slipping into the food. Surgeons and nurses in hospitals and particularly the operation theatre, also cover their heads for the same reason – medical hygiene! Also, covering the head is a mark of respect – be it in the presence of an elder or the Holy Fire – displaying reverence.

In ancient rock reliefs of the Achaemenian, Parthian or Sasanian era, no king, queen, priest, soldier or commoner is seen bareheaded. This tradition was carried by the Parsis all the way from Iran to India. Rarely would you see an old portrait of a bareheaded Parsi lady or gentleman.

Thinking Cap: In mystic circles, it is believed that covering the head has several benefits. It aids focus and thinking and keeps the highest center of psychic energy (the crown chakra) protected. The common saying, “put on your thinking cap,” denotes an imaginary cap worn to facilitate thinking.

Wearing a headscarf is seen as a display of one’s religious identity. But, so what? If Muslim women wear hijab, Zoroastrian women wear the mathabana! At the end of the day, what a man or woman chooses to wear is a personal choice. One should wear what one feels proud and comfortable to wear.

Colour, style and manner of wearing the headgear may differ. But the principle and essence of wearing the scarf remains the same. It extends respect and earns respectability!

  • Noshir Dadrawalla

The Significance Of Religious Headgears: The Zoroastrian Mathabana

Autumnal Equinox- Mehregan Khojasteh Baad

Wishing you and your family a Happy Mehregan.

23 Sept. 

ALL ZARATHUSHTI  FESTIVALS are a landmark in Nature and should be celebrated on the exact day it occurs in Nature irrespective of which calendar is followed.

Ancient Zarathushtis respected Nature and celebrated the landmarks in Nature with accuracy. This is evident from the names of the Gahanbars which indicate the exact day of celebration. Two of the Gahanbars are named after the two seasons of Aryana Vaejah in the Arctic region where they originally lived. In the Arctic, there are two seasons Summer and Winter.  They celebrated the middle of the Summer and called it Maidhyo-Shahem (Mid-Summer). Summer in the Arctic is for 216 days so Mid Summer falls on the 108th day. Which is 15 of Tir corresponding to 5 July. Winter being too cold for celebration they celebrated the Coming of Winter Ayeh-Threm (Sarem) on the day before the winter started on 30 Mehr/ 21 October.

When they migrated to the Tropics, they celebrated the four seasons of the new home with four Gahanbars each of their name indicating the exact day of celebration.

Maidhyo-Zarem (Mid Spring) 15 Ardibesht 4 May

Paiti-Shahem (End of Summer) 31 Shahrivar / 21 Sept.

Maidh-Yarem (Sarem) (Mid- winter) 15 Bahman/4Feb.

Hamas-Path-Maedem (Equality of day and night) 28/ 29 Espand/March 19/20.

So also, they celebrated the four natural phenomenon’s that indicated the change in seasons.

Vernal Equinox – Now Rooz 

Summer Solstice – Tirgan 

Autumnal Equinox – Mehregan 

Winter Solstice – Yalda 

In the Avesta, we are repeatedly told of the importance of the Solar Year.

The coming of the season at the proper time of the solar year. ‘Haptan Yasht’ Ha-3

I learn about and I work with the solar year, the righteous period. Yasna Ha 1.9, Ha 3.11, Ha 4.14 Visparad Karda 1.4

All these festivals are landmarks in Nature and should be celebrated on the exact day that it occurs in Nature irrespective of what calendar is followed.    

 

With Regards

Fariborz Rahnamoon

http://gathas.ca/

http://zarathushticalendar.com/

http://ancientiran.com/

Importance of a Dog in Zoroastrian religion

In Zoroastrianism, the dog is regarded as an especially beneficent, clean and righteous creature, which must be fed and taken care of. The dog is praised for the useful work it performs in the household, but it is also seen as having special spiritual virtues.
A dog’s gaze is considered to be purifying and to drive off daevas (demons). It is also believed to have a special connection with the afterlife: the Chinwad Bridge to Heaven is said to be guarded by dogs in Zoroastrian scripture, and dogs are traditionally fed in commemoration of the dead. Ihtiram-i sag, “respect for the dog”, is a common injunction among Iranian Zoroastrian villagers.
Detailed prescriptions for the appropriate treatment of dogs are found in the Vendidad (a subdivision of the Zoroastrian holy scripture Avesta), especially in chapters 13, 14 and 15, where harsh punishments are imposed for harm inflicted upon a dog and the faithful are required to assist dogs, both domestic and stray, in various ways; often, help or harm to a dog is equated with help and harm to a human.
The killing of a dog (“a shepherd’s dog, or a house-dog, or a Vohunazga [i.e. stray] dog, or a trained dog”) is considered to lead to damnation in the afterlife. A homeowner is required to take care of a pregnant dog that lies near his home at least until the puppies are born (and in some cases until the puppies are old enough to take care of themselves, namely six months). If the homeowner does not help the dog and the puppies come to harm as a result, “he shall pay for it the penalty for wilful murder”, because “Atar (Fire), the son of Ahura Mazda, watches as well (over a pregnant dog) as he does over a woman”.
It is also a major sin if a man harms a dog by giving it bones that are too hard and become stuck in its throat, or food that is too hot, so that it burns its throat.Giving bad food to a dog is as bad as serving bad food to a human. The believers are required to take care of a dog with a damaged sense of smell, to try to heal it “in the same manner as they would do for one of the faithful” and, if they fail, to tie it lest it should fall into a hole or a body of water and be harmed.
Both according to the Vendidad and in traditional Zoroastrian practice, dogs are allotted some funerary ceremonies analogous to those of humans. In the Vendidad, it is stated that the spirits of a thousand deceased dogs are reincarnated in a single otter (“water dog”), hence the killing of an otter is a terrible crime that brings drought and famine upon the land and must be atoned either by the death of the killer or by the killer performing a very long list of deeds considered pious, including the healing of dogs, raising of puppies, paying of fines to priests, as well as killing of animals considered noxious and unholy (cats, rats, mice and various species of reptiles, amphibians, and insects).
Sagdid is a funeral ceremony in which a dog is brought into the room where the body is lying so that it can look on it. “Sagdid” means “dog sight” in the Middle Persian language of Zoroastrian theological works. There are various spiritual benefits thought to be obtained by the ceremony. It is believed that the original purpose was to make certain that the person was really dead, since the dog’s more acute senses would be able to detect signs of life that a human might miss.
A “four-eyed” dog, that is one with two spots on its forehead, is preferred for sagdid.
The traditional rites involving dogs have been under attack by reformist Zoroastrians since the mid-19th century, and they had abandoned them completely by the late 20th century. Even traditionalist Zoroastrians tend to restrict such rites to a significant extent nowadays (late 20th – early 21st century).
SHARIA: Hating Dogs by invading Muslim Arabs was to Hate the Holy Persian Zoroastrian Dogs used in Funeral Rites. ie. Dog Statue to the right of the Persian Immortal Guard.
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