According to the Shahenshai calendar it is presently the month of Avan. On the day (roj) of Avan in the month (mah) of Avan, Parsis gather in large numbers at sea shores, wells, riverbanks and lakes to offer prayers and homage to the waters. Could you please explain the relevance and significance of this ancient religious practice?
Parsis celebrate the Avan roj nu Parab on Avan Roj, Avan Mah (i.e., the tenth day of the eight month of the Zoroastrian calendar). This day is celebrated as the birthday of the waters. This is the day for seeking the blessings and offering special thanks to the great nourisher and purifier of the world.
Some of the earliest civilizations of the world have flourished on the banks of rivers. The role of the river or the sea as the architect of people's lives - both in terms of material sustainer and spiritual nourisher, is celebrated in the legends and folklore of most religious practices. The renowned scholar, Ananda Coomaraswamy, was of the view that the magical quality of water, which generates life and brings about abundance, is akin to the feminine power of fertility.
In the Zoroastrian tradition, the waters (Apam or Avan or Aban) are referred to as Ardvi Sura (the valiant waters). Here, waters stand for all liquids and saps, as also the many invisible currents of Nature. Since Avan is the divinity who presides over the waters, Avan Roj of Avan Mah becomes a day of special reverence and for offering worship.
Generally, on the day of the Avan Roj nu Parab, a community jashan is performed - preferably near a river or the sea. The term "jashan" comes from the word "ijashna" = homage/praise (from the root "yaz" = praise/worship). Individually, the devout offer prayers (Avan Niyaesh and/or the Avan Yasht), as also offerings of sugar, flowers and coconut.
In the Zoroastrian tradition, it is considered to be of special merit to offer worship to Avan on the days Spendarmad, Avan, Deen, Ashishvang and Mahrespand. Interestingly, all five Divinities are feminine.
According to Zoroastrian texts, Avan increases the flow of milk in mothers who may have just delivered a child and gives strength and vitality to righteous men. Childless women are particularly recommended regular prayers to Avan. Pregnant women also seek Avan's blessings for easy delivery.
Avan is also seen as the divinity who presides over knowledge and wisdom - just the way Saraswati is seen as the divinity presiding over knowledge and wisdom in the Vedic tradition. In fact, the mythical river, Saraswati, is considered by many Hindus to be a divine force or energy and not as a physical river which is now extinct.
In the Zoroastrian tradition, Avan is believed to gather all the knowledge and wisdom of this world for safekeeping during the hours of darkness and protect it from the onslaught of evil. It is for this reason that worship is never offered to Avan during the night - since doctrinally, the waters are said to go to sleep during the night and Avan takes within her being, the corpus of knowledge and wisdom of this world for safekeeping.
India and for that matter the whole world is presently in a state of turmoil. In India we are witnessing bloody and vicious communal riots. There is disharmony and chaos all over. How can one bring about healing? Does the Zoroastrian religion offer guidance or solutions for conflict resolution?
The Zoroastrian scriptures indicate various ways in which a Zoroastrian may live in harmony with his fellow human beings. According to Yasna 12:9, the very first principle of righteous conduct is to put an end to all discord. The 'Shayest ne-shayest' (20:6) recommends good Zatathushtis to fulfill three important duties;
1) to make an enemy a friend
2) to make a wicked person righteous
3) to make an ignorant person wise.
A devout Zarathushti is not only expected to end all disagreement and discord but also to live in harmony with others.
In the Afrin e Gahambar Zarathushtis are exhorted to be in "Hamazor" (unity) with righteous persons of all the seven regions.
By helping one another and living in harmony, virtue is accumulated in the treasury of Ahura Mazda and blessings showered and redistributed among all righteous human beings.
Rightly has it been stated in Yasna 43:1, "Happiness comes to him who seeks happiness for others".
Prayers and rituals are also powerful spiritual remedies for soothing and healing disturbed and violent human minds.
I NEED THESE CLARIFICATIONS;
I have found that some Parsees shy away from having the 4-day Kriyakam in the bungli, not because they cant afford it but more because they feel its a waste of their time to stay at the bungli, whereas we were taught that where the body is put to rest and the final funeral prayers have been said, that place 'ne saachavvaanu' till the patli rat nu uthamnu is over If you could explain why this is so,coming from you it will carry more weight. We were also taught that as a mark of respect for the corpse, the close family members should sit on the ground (of course the old and infirm were not included). This practice is done away with these days, and i feel awkward if I am the only one to sit on the ground. PL.advise what is correct?
Secondly, the question as to why is Reike bad is left unanswered.While I am no fan of reike, there are people in our social circle who attended some classes and somehow it gets me repulsed. Could you throw some light on it?
The soul of the departed is believed to sit near the head of the corpse where the "sachkar" is performed, till the dawn of the fourth day (Chaharum ni bamdad).
The soul, it is believed, leaves the physical body on death and enter the "Kherp" or astral body. Even after the body is taken to the dokhma, the soul continues to hover around the place where the sachkar takes place. It is therefore necessary to have all the 4 days ceremonies performed in the bungli where sachkar takes place, keep a divo burning constantly and relatives and priests should periodically offer prayers for the peace and spiritual progress of the soul.
The soul takes off for "chinvat" on the 4th. day. And thereafter ceremonies may be performed in an agyari.
I do believe Reike has brought about healing and transformation among many human beings around the world. Good energies are harnessed to bring about healing of body, mind and spirit.
However for a Zoroastrian "Manthravani" (Sacred chants) given to us by Asho Paigambar Zarathushtra and Rainidar Adarbad Mahrespand is the best defence against all forces of evil and when prayed with faith, understanding and "tarikat" (spiritual discipline) it can heal body, mind and spirit just as effectively, perhaps much more effectively.
When offering our Niyayesh or Yasht we attune our self to a Divine Energy source (e.g. Avan, Khurshed, Meher, Mah..........) and in the process of chanting the Avesta we ask that these Divine Energies purify and energize us in thought, word and deed and bring about healing and spiritual transformation in us.
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