Zoroastrians Celebrating “Jashn-e Sadeh” In Yazd

The central province of Yazd is home to a large population of Iranian Zoroastrians. This past Tuesday, they celebrated the annual mid-winter feast “Jashn-e Sadeh” by preparing a large bonfire (also known as Adur-Jashan, or Feast of fire).

The annual festivity honors fire, the defeat of darkness/cold and signifies the coming of Spring.

Click Here for more pics


Kash of Paak Atash Behram Padshah Saheb

On the joyous occasion of the salgireh of Paak Banaji Atash Behram Saheb, am pleased to share the below article.

The sanctified land, divine edifice and sacred Kash of Paak Atash Behram Padshah Saheb

Disclaimers: 1. The article is a feeble attempt to encapsulate the essence of the key messages as explained in the Purso Pasokh series by the late doyen of Ilm-e-Khshnoom Seth Jehangirji Sohrabji Chiniwala. The Gujarati articles of Seth Jehangirji appeared in Parsi Avaz weekly of 27th February and 6th March 1955 (Vol. 8, Issue 35 & 36). Readers are strongly encouraged to read these beautiful Gujarati articles from the Parsi Avaz weekly in order to gain a fuller and richer understanding of the aforesaid subject.

  1. This article provides glimpses about the mystical knowledge pertaining to Atash Behram Padshah Saheb purely from a Khshnoom point of view and it is hoped that no misunderstanding gets created on account of the same. Certain technical terms in Gujarati have been translated into the most approximate equivalent term in English and readers are requested to bear in mind such limitations of the English vocabulary as also those of the translator.
  2. This article is recommended for reading by true seekers of truths of our religion who have an open, objective and unbiased bent of mind. This article is not for those who are allergic to the divine knowledge of Khshnoom and also not for those who do not have implicit faith in the time-tested tenets and traditions of our pristine religion.

Click to continue reading… Kash of Paak Atash Behram Padshah Saheb

Courtesy : K F Keravala


The Zoroastrian Celebration at Autumnal Equinox in Iran and the region since Antiquity

It was during the mid-60s in Iran, that the Afshid (sunbeam) primary school yard overflowed with hundreds of playful, nutty, and noisy K-6 students. They were quieted when the custodian rang the shiny brass bell that hung on the school’s front porch. The boys and girls of each grade lined up, left-to-right, by height. The boys’ haircuts were short and the girls’ hair was tied back as a pony tail. Nails were clipped and all hygiene requirements met. Each student wore their best outfit, on which a white circular patch of cloth was sewn onto their jacket collar. Everyone carried a segmented, compressible red, white, and green (colors of the Iranian flag) plastic cup for drinking water; a handkerchief and snacks were stuffed inside. It is Mehr 1st, the beginning of autumn, Jashn Mehrgān. The National Anthem and sorud amouzgar (the teacher’s appreciation song) were sung by the students, who were accompanied by the chirping of migratory birds winging south. The song was followed by the principal and the PTA chair’s welcoming statements to everyone on the first day of the academic year—the first day of school is on the autumnal solsticeMehrgān, the festival of friendship, compassion and love in honor of Mitra/Mehr.

School days were Saturday through Thursday and began at 8:30 and ended at 4:00, with a two-hour lunch break. Thursdays were most pleasing as we went home at noon to start our one and a half day weekend! It should be noted that Nowruz, observed at the spring vernal equinox, has and will remain the most revered annual celebration in Iran. Mehrgān is, in essence, the mirror image of Nowruz in that night and day are each 12 hours long. The other major celebrations in Iran are Tirgan and Daygan (the summer and winter solstices, respectively) and Sadeh (fifty nights and days before Nowruz).

Historically speaking, Mehrgān along with the three other seasonal celebrations of Nowruz, Tirgan and Daygan, are celebrated when the name of month coincides with the same name of the day. Summer harvest, after which the farmers till and sow their fields for the following spring calls for Mehrgān. It is the time to prepare for the harsh winter ahead by preserving foods, drying fruits and nuts, preserving pickles, and other essentials. It also signals the last opportunity to pick mid-fall fruits and nuts, such as persimmons, pomegranates, medlars, quince, almonds, and walnuts. It was as if the trees were programmed to the exact second to change their leaves’ colors, drop them, and be carried on the fall wind. After months of dry weather, Mehrgān also signaled the start of fall’s periodical rains, the essential component of germinations and cyclical rebirth that would arrive amid Nowruz. Mehrgānwas originally a feast held to honor the Persian Goddess Mithra, until the 4th century BCE, when it became one of the two and, later, four most revered Zoroastrian feasts. Mehrgān was celebrated in an extravagant style at Persepolis. Not only was it the time for concluding the harvests, it was also when the semi-annual taxes were collected. Visitors from different parts of the Persian Empire brought gifts to the King at Persepolis, Takhte Jamshid (the Throne of Jamshid), when all partook in an extravagant festival.

During the 7th century, Mehrgān was celebrated the same as Nowruz. There were even some efforts to elevate Mehrgān over Nowruz as the most revered Persian New Year. It remained customary for people to send presents to the King and to each other at Mehrgān. Rich people usually gave gold and silver coins; heroes and warriors gave horses, swords, and javelins; while commoners gave gifts according to their financial means—apples, persimmons, and pomegranates were acceptable gifts. Those fortunate enough would help the poor with donations and goods as gifts, as they also did at Nowruz and other celestial celebrations.

The Mehrgān spread table (Dusharm, Dream of Persia)

The Mehrgān spread table (Dusharm, Dream of Persia)

Although Mehrgān is not as elaborately celebrated in Iran as Nowruz, people still wear new wintry clothes when visiting each other. Similar to Haft-seen at Nowruz, the sides of the tablecloth at Mehrgān are decorated with dry, wild marjoram. A copy of the Khordeh Avesta(the “abridged” Avesta), a mirror, and a sormeh-dan (a traditional eyeliner or kohl) are placed on the table with rosewater, sweets, flowers, vegetables, dried wheat/barley husks, fall fruits (especially pomegranates and apples), and nuts, such as, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios. A few silver coins and lotus seeds are also placed in a water bowl scented with a marjoram elixir. A small brazier is placed on the table where kondor/loban (frankincense) and espand (Syrian Rue seeds) are burned to ward off evil forces.

At the autumnal equinox or the closest lunch time to when the ceremony begins, everyone in the family gathers in front of the mirror to hymn pray. Sherbet is drunk and then—as an omen—sormeh mascara is applied to lengthen the eyelashes. Handfuls of wild marjoram, lotus, and sugar plum seeds are thrown over one another’s heads while they embrace. In the 1960s, the Iranian Royal Postal Service issued a series of stamps to commemorate Mehrgān Festival.

Commemorative postal stamps for Mehrgān issued during the 1960s.

Commemorative postal stamps for Mehrgān issued during the 1960s.

Returning to school’s first days: as we played in our yard and neighborhood, we witnessed the many birds migrating south—presumably from north of the Caspian Sea and from Russian Siberia—toward the warm waters of the Persian Gulf for the winter. Among them, the good omen storks and cranes were particularly fascinating as they came back to the same nests on high trees, buildings, or the cliff edges. After the harvesting and seeding were completed we, who lived in the suburbs, were excited that our country relatives would visit us soon; especially, our grandparents who often stayed for extended visits. They brought us fresh and dried fruits, mixed nuts (Ajil), and dried, pitted apricots or peaches with crushed walnuts and a bit of sugar inside and threaded as a necklace (Joze-ghand). The preserved lamb meat cooked in its own fat called ghormeh, from which we made abgoosht,the legume lamb stew, was such a delicious winter delicacy! And, as to my grandfather’s grape syrup, shireh angoor, we could not wait for the first snow to make barf shireh ices and eat them under a korsi warmed by a brazier refilled daily with charcoal. Another country gift was the trapezoid-shaped threaded dried rue (espand) and frankincense that we hung over the front door, presumably to ward off evil spirits! I vividly recall my first day at school, it was the afternoon of Mehr 1 and I was six. Under the watchful eye of my grandmother, Maryam, I struggled to crack open an almond with a rock. Missing the almond, I smashed my thumb with the rock. Six months later, on Nowruz, my blackened nail fell off and was replaced with a brand new nail! Was this a fortuitous sign of rebirth and rejuvenation?

Mehrgān also serves as a transitory juncture of retrospections for the preceding and following six months, introspection for the early fall, and prospection—with trepidations and anticipations—for what we can expect during the six months to Nowruz. During that time of reflection we enjoyed crushing colorful autumn leaves as we walked through the long, narrow, a tall mud-walled garden alleys in Evin remains among our most nostalgic memories. I shall revere the intoxicating, mixed aromas of mud, rain, leaves, and smashed fruits for as long as I live; it gives me a soothing sense of somber solitude, which I have never experienced anywhere else.

Mehrgān, Nowruz along with Tigran and Dayan are celebrated worldwide including here in diaspora. The IZA and ZAGNY at Dare e Mehr proudly host such celebrations; annual extravagantly held Mehrgān festival, this year with Sattar as the singer, is held at the Persian Untermeyer Garden in Yonkers NY, where the seats are sold from 15,000 to a modest $500 ! As to those of us fortunate enough to have been born and raised in Iran where the national festivals as Mehrgān and Nowruz have and continue to remain intertwined with our psyche and, as we breathed, inhaled, smelled, ingested, and felt these festivities on our skin, in our flesh and bone and enjoyed them immensely, the same celebration in diaspora can only go so far. Then again, that should not mean we give up these annual rituals, but, instead, we should create little Irans or Gujarats in our communities to ensure our children learn and carry on these spiritual reconnections with Mother Nature.

Cover photo: The Mehrgān table at the Persian school, operated by the Iranian American Society of New York (2011)


To Donate Or Not To Donate!

The concept of Organ Donation in our Community is as controversial as it is noble, and the past few weeks has seen a resurgence of debates and discussions about this topic. Noshir Dadrawala helps clear the air and do away with related confusions.

With respect to everyone’s beliefs, and with the main aim of shedding light on this topic, I share my knowledge and my beliefs on the concept of Organ Donation in order to provide clarity by doing away with any misinformation that may lead our Zarthostis to form opinions based on well-intentioned myths or worse, baseless fears.

So let’s start with the facts – the truth is that Zoroastrian scriptures are silent on the subject of organ donation, because surgery was not as advanced in those days. When scriptures are silent, tradition is often invoked. But, higher than tradition is the truth. And, the Truth is, our religion is based on Ushta or happiness and happiness comes to one who makes others happy. Let us never stray away from this fundamental precept. Our religion is also based on Asha or Truth and Righteousness. So first seek the truth before you fall prey to myths. Ask yourself this question, is it righteous to allow human suffering to persist or perish?

Who’s Body? Who’s Soul? The human body is all that we, in our physical form, really own in this material world – it is the cover we acquire in our mortal existence through this temporary journey called life. Our soul is eternal and theologically the soul returns to the spiritual world when we pass on and leave the mortal physical body behind. If that could be of use to reducing the physical misery of another soul, sent forth by the same Creator that sent us, would that make it right or wrong?

Of Karmic Debts… According to esoteric theories, the physically impaired are challenged due to some ‘karmic’ debt. In like manner, some are poor, hungry and roofless, also due to ‘karmic’ debt. By this logic, Jeejeeboy, Petit, Tata, Godrej and the Wadia families should all have kept their wealth to themselves and let the poor and roofless endure their ‘karmic’ fate! No? Who are we to lessen the burden of those who suffer due to their past or present karma? Is being charitable putting a spoke in the karmic wheel of Divine Retribution? Is this how we will justify our lack of empathy or charity when we meet our Maker?

The real essence of charity is wilfully ‘giving away something even though we may need it’. But just as we give our wealth when alive and our estates after we depart in our will, we could contribute blood or plasma while alive to save lives, and organs when we are no more! Charity can be done as much during life as after death.

Debunking Dokhma Myths: Some believe that amputed or severed body parts should be consigned to the Dokhma, after performing the GehSarna ritual. I’m certain, like me, a number of you may have had your tonsils removed as children, or maybe an appendix or a cyst? I’m sure, like me, you wouldn’t know what your doctors did with that! An uncle had his gall bladder and appendix removed. There is high incidence of breast and ovarian cancer among Parsi women and prostrate and testicular cancers among Parsi men. I really can’t think of priests performing ceremonies over these body parts and consigning them to the Dokhma!

In fact, if one goes strictly by the scriptures, the Dokhma should be situated far away from habitation. But we don’t cater to that – and have in fact, built a Parsi colony where there was once a jungle! According to esoteric Zoroastrianism, the body should be fully disposed by the fourth day and the ‘anasaar’ (spiritual components) handed over to Daham Yazata. But, it is a fact that today, bodies take months to decompose. Would you rather have a crow or a kite peck out your loved one’s eyes or a surgeon skilfully save the cornea to light up someone else’s darkness?

Ponder This: I have a dear Parsi friend (now 83 years young) who lost vision in one eye 40, years ago. From a super active and creative Bank executive, he suddenly became a helpless, dependent individual. 17 years later, he lost vision in the other eye. Thanks to a donor, he got back his vision and his life returned to normalcy, and he’s now immersed himself in social work, thanks to which, over a thousand Parsis have visited Iran over the last two decades! Think about it – should he have accepted blindness as karmic retribution or undergone surgery and made a difference in this world with the gift of sight? Thanks to this experience, several members of his family (including his mother and wife) have already donated their eyes after death!

In Conclusion: Please let’s not make an issue of this noble and ultimate gesture of humanity – If you feel like donating blood to save a life, go ahead and donate. If you wish to donate your cornea, kidney, liver or heart after death, go ahead! You could also donate your skin and bring relief to a person who is badly burnt and in agony. But, if you do not wish to do so, that also would be alright. After all, whose body is it anyway?

This article has been written neither with the intent to fan the flame of this controversy nor to offend any orthodox/traditional sentiments. To each their own … for those who wish to donate their organs after death, no coaxing will be needed, and those who do not wish to, no argument will be convincing. From dust I came, and to dust I shall return… or from life I came and to life I shall give back and live on in someone else’s eyes or heart. That choice is entirely yours!

Noshir Dadrawalla

Parsi Times


First time Sari for a young girl

All sagan early morning chowk, toran, loban, batti, ses with kankoo, extra big haar for the young lady.  Ses should be ready with everything  – put red chital on the sòpara, saree in ses with an good luck envelope and any new/ old jewellery you wish her to wear. A small bowl of sweet curd and khari sakar.

Morning  hair bath with doodh, ful, chokha.  Get her dressed with new underwears. New, a bit long sadra to come over the saree waistline (laced bottom would b nice but optional). Keep hair clips n safety pins handy.

Get her dressed in saree blouse n peticoat and shoes and come n stand on the patla, with chowk under the patla.

Do tili first on right foot, left foot and then forehead.

Take end of the saree in hand (the corner u will tuck in first. In that corner put very few grains of rice and then put little drops of Rose water/plain water and tie a knot. Take care that water does not fall on the saree to spoil it. This is called Chhero thando karvano.

Drape the saree, keeping the saree for sor overhead before you pin on the shoulder.

Do tilli again, put a tiny bit of tilli, just a touch, on the red Bangles and slip them through her hands. Put on jewelry, if any.  Put on the haar. Put little curd and sakar in her mouth. Give her coconut with envelope. Stick chokha on forehead n take overna. Give her gifts  and let everyone in the family meet her. Let her come down the patla with right foot forward. You may dprinkle little water on the patla after she gets off the patla is optional depending on your family tradition.

Pin her saree in such a way that she should b able to do kasti with your little help in agiary.

Take her to Agiary/ Atashbehram to take the blessings of Ahura Mazda n Atash Padshah.

Come home n enjoy the whiskey peg with chicken leg.

Thrity Tantra



If there is one piece of our daily attire that has practically disappeared in the last century, it is headgear. And nowhere is it more noticeable, than the Parsis. Every single picture of Parsis right up to the early 1950’s saw the men with headgear. Mostly the paghdi or pheta adorned the crown of every respectable Parsi gentleman. Sadly that concept today is completely lost. Headgear is now worn only on major ceremonial occasions like navjotes or weddings. And that too mostly by the immediate family.

A few years ago, one of the last Pheta makers passed away. Or so one thought….more on that later.

Burjorji Mistry who lived above Kala Niketan on Queens Road, Marine Lines; Mumbai was a pheta maker of repute. Sadly he did not pass on his craft to someone.

But Burjorji was not the only Mistry when it came to phetas and paghdis. There was the legendary Dinshaw B. Mistry who also made phetas and pagdis that still survive today and have become family heirlooms that get passed on from generation to generation.

As was widely thought of at the time of Burjorji’s passing away, the art of pheta making still continues.




In a two part series Parsi Khabar will feature the two ladies who are keeping the flag flying and making phetas (and pagdis) today.

contact-arminAt a recent summer barbeque party at a friends home in New Jersey, my dear friend Jasmin Kotwal introduces me to some friends of hers who were visiting from India. And she casually mentions that the friend also makes pagdis and phetas. This friend turns out to be Armin Pooniwalla. I was fascinated to meet Armin and more importantly thrilled to know that there was someone who makes phetas in this day and age. Armin most vehemently told me she does, and I had to sheepishly accept my ignorance, and thank her for continuing the amazing craft of pheta making.



On Armin’s website, she writes

imageThe Paghdi is a majestic looking headgear worn by the Zoroastrians at the time of their wedding and other social events. The groom wears white trousers with traditional Iranian overcoat called “Dagli” also white in color and carries a shawl over his arm. On his head he wears traditional Parsi “Paghdi” or “Pheta”. In ancient times the Paghdi was also worn by boys after their Navjote Ceremony.

This ancient heritage of wearing the Paghdi is followed by most of the well known members of Zoroastrian families like Sir Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy, Pirojsha Godrej, Jamsetjee Nassewanji Tata, Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia, Dadabhoy Navrojee and others.

I learned this dying art of making the Paghdi to revive our traditional ancient heritage of wearing it. The Paghdi is made on a mould with different types of materials such as cardboard, cotton, cotton silk etc. They are made in black and maroon color for wedding and in red color for Navjot boys.

For keeping the Paghdi in a good condition it should be always kept wrapped in a mulmul cloth or sadra and put in an inverted position in the box.

Armin’s contact is

Armin F. Pooniwalla
12 Gulnar Bldg, Ground Floor, Hill Road
Bandra (West), Mumbai 400 050

Phone : +91 22 26423026
Mobile : +91 9819968419

Email : pooniarmi@gmail.com

Website: http://parsipaghdi.com

Courtesy :  Arzan Wadia – Parsi Khabar

Zoroastrians gather at Pir-e-Sabz shrine


The Zoroastrian community annually gathers at Pir-e-Sabz, a Zoroastrian temple situated in Yazd, central Iran, to practice specific rituals and traditions.

From June 14-16, Zoroastrian pilgrims make their way to Pir-e-Sabz, or Chak Chak, nestled in the rock face, to pray in the spot where Princess Nikbanoo, the daughter of the last Sassanian king Yazdegird III escaped the Arabs.

The word Sabz is Persian for “green” and refers to the small burst of greenery surrounding the temple in an otherwise desert landscape.




Courtesy : Percy Hansotia




There may be other versions of this story but this is written as per the story told by Minocher Saheb.

Ancient IRAN was ruled over by Five dynasties.





and the last being SASANIAN.

The last Shahenshah YAZDEGARD of the SASANIAN Dynasty got defeated at the hands of Arabs in the battle of ” NEHAVAND”.


Click her to read the entire article… The story of GULSHIRINA BANU

Homaji ni Baaj

Behdin Homa Behdin Jamshed – The Patron Saint of Harassed Souls

                    Bazaar-gate in Fort, Bombay Photo Courtesy: Soharab Jesia

The month of Dae is dedicated to the Supreme Divinity, Ahura Mazda. Throughout this holy month, devout Parsis perform thanks-giving Jasan offering gratitude to Ahura Mazda for His Bounties. It is considered particularly meritorious to perform Jasan on Roj Hormuzd, Daepadar, Daepmeher and Daepdin.

During the month of Dae, the Maidhyarem Gambhar is observed from Roj Meher to Roj Behram. There are six Gambhar which in ancient times were observed as six great holidays, with each Gambhar observed for a length of five days. Roj Khorshed of Mah Dae is observed as Zarthosht no Diso while Roj Govad of Mah Dae is observed as Homaji ni Baj.

In India, sometime around the last quarter of the eighteenth century, a pregnant Parsi lady belonging to the Kadimi / Kadmi sect falsely accused a pious and innocent Shehenshahi gentleman by the name Homa (son of Jamshed Zaahiaa, a weaver and well-known poet of Bharuch) for kicking her and causing her to have a miscarriage. Around that period the rift between the Shehenshahi and Kadmi Parsis was not only wide but extremely violent. In comparison, the current orthodox and reformist divide within the community would appear docile!

As an accused, Homa was first brought to trial before the Nawab of Bharuch and then to Bombay before the British court. Homa pleaded his innocence, however, he was sentenced and hanged to death at the corner of Bazaar-gate in Fort, Bombay, on Mah Dae, Roj Govad 1152 Y.Z., (1783 AD). Before he was hanged, he declared that he was innocent of the charge brought against him and that his sentence was not just. He reportedly added that the person who had leveled the false charge against him would be found dead on the fourth day (Chahrum) after his death. He is also believed to have said that all those who will remember him for his honesty and innocence will receive his blessings.

Reportedly, the lady who had falsely accused him was found dead in her home on the Chahrum day of the pious and blameless Homaji. There is also another version that the death sentence was finally pronounced because a Kadmi belonging to the Wadia family stood as a false witness and that this witness was found dead on the day of Homaji’s Chahrum.

To this day, devout Parsis (and particularly those hassled in life with false litigations and accusations) observe Dae Mah Govad Roj as the day of Homaji ni Baj and perform religious ceremonies in his pious memory. Homaji is the patron Saint of all those who are meek, gentle, falsely accused and / or generally beleaguered. In our Aafringaan prayers, his name is recited as Behdin Homa Behdin Jamshed.

Adar – The Divinity Of Light And Life

Parsi Times brings you our monthly ‘Religion Special: Parab Series’, by our religious scholar and cultural expert, the erudite Noshir Dadrawala. Every month, we share with you a deeper understanding of this auspicious day of the month – the Parab – when the mah (month) and the roj (day) coincide. Here’s celebrating this month’s Parab – the most auspicious ‘Adar Mahino Adar Roj’.

Adar is the Divinity that presides over fire. In the Zoroastrian calendar, Adar is the ninth day of every month of thirty days and also the ninth month of the year of twelve months. Nine is a sacred number across several religious traditions. In the Zoroastrian tradition, Prophet Zarathustra is often depicted holding a nine-knotted stick called Navgar. Among Hindus, nine is the number of Brahma, the Creator. Among Christians, number nine symbolizes divine completeness and conveys the meaning of finality. Christ died on the cross at the ninth hour of the day (03:00 pm) to pave the path of salvation for everyone. Also, Jesus appears nine times to his disciples and apostles after his resurrection. Mathematically, when multiplied nine always reproduces itself.

Interestingly, Adar (Akkadian Adaru) is also the twelfth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar. The Hebrew name Adar (pronounced ‘Ay daar’) is related to the word Adir which denotes strength and power.

Atash Nu Parab:

Parsis celebrate Ruz (day) Adar of Mah (month) Adar as ‘Atash nu parab’. When Ruz and Mah coincide, the day is celebrated as parab. The feast actually begins the day before (Ruz Dae-pa-Adar) when the women of the household celebrate the Chulah nu varas, which literally means birthday of the hearth Fire over which food is prepared throughout the year. The kitchen is cleaned and the area around the cooking stove is decorated and the stove itself is garlanded with marigold flowers and the stove is not used from early evening (Uzirin Gah) till the next morning.
According to the Bundahishn, which is a Zoroastrian text, equivalent to the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament, Adar is associated with the marigold (calendula) flower. Marigold is believed to have derived its name from ‘Mary’s Gold’, taken from the fact that early Christians placed flowers instead of coins on Mother Mary’s altar as an offering. This flower is often used in festivities honoring Mary. Hindus use it during marriages and Zoroastrians associate this flower with fire because of its colour.

According to the Old Testament (the Book of Genesis) God created this world in six days and rested on the seventh. In Zoroastrian cosmogony, Ahura Mazda created this world in six stages (the six Gahambars) creating first the sky, water, earth, vegetation, animal and finally man. However, what animated or gave energy or brought to life all these six good creations was Adar or fire. Both, the Bundahishn and Zatspram, explain that Ahura Mazda’s six good creations were able to commence their work thanks to Adar as the life-giving force or energy.

Ruz Adar of Mah Adar is also the day when several Agyari and Atash Behram were consecrated and enthroned, including the Holiest of Holy, Iranshah.

Discovery Of Fire And It’s Reverence Through History:

According to Ferdowsi’s ‘Shahnameh’, fire was accidentally discovered during the pre-historic Peshdadian period by Shah Hooshang. According to the legend, when Hooshang threw a rock at a serpent like creature it missed the target and instead struck another rock and sparks from that friction ignited some dry grass in the surrounding area. Hooshang recognized this fire as the Divine Glory of Ahura Mazda and instructed his subjects to offer homage.

The Astodan or the final resting place of most of the Great Achaemenian Kings, including that of Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes depict the great Kings offering homage before a fire alter. Coins of the later Sasanian period, beginning with the founder, Ardashir, carried the symbol of fire.

Why Pray Before Or In The Presence Of Fire?

From a Zoroastrian perspective, fire is both a giver of light and giver of life. Neither darkness nor evil has an existence of its own. Just as darkness is merely the absence of light, so is evil the absence of good. Thus, while fire dispels darkness, evil is dispelled each time we choose to think, speak and perform a good deed.

The concept of having a hearth fire or in modern times, at least a diva at home, is a ritual form of dispelling darkness and evil with the presence of light. The Persian Revayet recommend that we should pray five Yatha while lighting a diva. Yatha is the chant (The Ahunavar and equivalent of the Sanskrit Om) with which Ahura Mazda created this universe. Also, while reciting the Sarosh Baj (Sarosh Yazata is the guardian of the souls of the living as also the dead) we pray five Yatha. Hence, praying five Yatha while lighting a Fire, probably has a link with enlightening or enhancing our five senses, or our consciousness and an act of attuning our spirit with the Creator, the chant with which the universe was created and the energy of fire that animated or energized all creation.

Adar (Avestan ātar) is Hamkar (co-helper) of Ardibehesht (Avestan Asha Vahishta literally meaning Best Truth or Righteousness). Indeed, when a Zoroastrian prays before fire, he/she looks up to Ahura Mazda the Creator through fire as a form of Light and Life. Also, since Ardibehesht, along with Adar is the Divinity protecting fire and Ardibehesht is the embodiment of Truth and Righteousness (Asha Vahishta); praying before fire is an affirmation of upholding Truth and Righteousness in our lives.

Grades Of Consecrated Fire:

Consecration is an act or manner of making the ordinary sacred or worthy of reverence through ritual purification. There are three grades of Fire. The highest is Atash Behram or the fire that gives Victory. There are four Atash Behram in Mumbai, two in Surat, one in Navsari and one in Udwada. The oldest is the one in Udwada which has been continuously burning for more than a thousand years. It is called Iranshah as it is the first Holy fire that we consecrated in India after coming from Iran using the Aalaat (sacred ritual requisites, including the Holy Ash) brought from Khorasan.

Meaning Behind Certain Rituals:

Before entering a Fire Temple, we should first wash our hands and face and then untie and retie the kushti which is worn around the waist. By washing we clean ourselves physically and by performing the Kushti ritual, we clean our aura or our unseen personal atmosphere. Thus, we go before the Holy Fire clean in body, spirit and mind. We cover our heads with a cap or a scarf as a mark of respect and so that hair from our head does not fall and pollute the holy temple.
When we pray before fire we see light instead of darkness. We see Adar, the energy that gives life and provides energy to this world. We also feel the energy of Ardibehesht or Truth and Righteousness. In other words, we see and feel all that is good that is given to us by God and through Fire as a Divine Channel we send our prayers and good wishes up to the Creator.

We offer fragrant sandalwood as fuel to the fire and which in turn gives off fragrance. When offering sandalwood to the fire we should visualize our offering as a gift to God and God accepts the gift with fragrance. It also reminds us that throughout life we should continue to offer to this world our good thoughts, words and deeds which in turn will make the world fragrant. We apply the holy ash to our forehead as a way of ritually connecting to the fire and reminding ourselves that ultimately, we will all be reduced to ash.

The Priests perform the Boi ceremony before the Holy fire, five times a day. They strike the bell while reciting the words dushmata, duzukht, dusvarast – rejecting all evil thoughts words and deeds. Thus, during the ceremony, the Priest rings the bell and symbolically drives out evil in thought, word and deed from this world.

Indeed, when a Zarathushti reveres or prays before fire, he/she in essence, offers worship to Ahura Mazda through Fire.

What We Pray?

We begin the Atash Niayesh (litany to the fire) with the following salutation:

Khshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao Nemase-te

Atarsh Mazdao Ahurahe hudhao mazishta Yazata.

Which means:

“May there be the propitiation or pleasure of Ahura Mazda!

Homage (be) unto thee, O Fire of Hormazd,

bestowing good, the Greatest Yazata.

We also affirm:

Us-moi uzareshva Ahura

Armaiti tevishim Dasva

Spenishta Mainyu Mazda

Vanghuya zavo ada

Asha hazo emavat vohu

Manangha feseratum


Which means:

“O Ahura Mazda, the most beneficent spirit and the bestower of good things in return for prayers! Do Thou purify me (i.e. keep me away from wicked deeds), owing to (my) gentleness (or humility) do Thou grant me strength, on account of righteousness, bestow upon (me) mighty power (and) on account of (my) good thoughts, grant me supremacy.”

We further aspire:

Rafedhrai vouruchashane, doishi

moi ya ve abifra,

ta khshathrahya Ahura ya

Vangheush ashish manangho

fro Spenta Armaite Asha

daenao Fradakhshaya


Which means:

“O Hormazd! for (my) delight (and) for sufficiently acquiring religious lore, do Thou grant me assuredly those gifts which (are) blessed by Shehrevar and Vohuman. O Spenta Armaiti! Instruct (me) the commandments of the Religion through Asha.”


And to the Holy Fire itself we express the following sentiments:

Yasnemcha vahmemcha huberetimcha

ushta-beretimcha, vanta-beretimcha, afrinami,

tava Atarsh puthra Ahurahe Mazdao, yesnyo

ahi vahmyo, yesnyo buyao vahmyo

nmanahu mashyakanam ushta buyat

ahmai naire, yase-thwa badha

frayazaite, aesmo-zasto, baresmo-zasto

gao-zasto, havano-zasto.


Which means:

“O Fire, the purifier (of all things) pertaining to Ahura Mazda! I praise Thy worship, invocation, good health-giving and friendly gift. (O Fire), Thou art worthy of worship and invocation, mayest Thou be worthy of worship and invocation in the abodes of men! May there be greatness (or happiness) unto that man who shall always worship Thee with fuel, Baresman, milk and mortar in hand.”