Zoroastrian Religion's Most Frequently Asked Questions

by Rustom C. Chothia

Table of Contents

  1. Why must we pray in a language we do not understand ?
  2. Why do we not allow non-Parsis to enter our Fire Temples ?
  3. Why can the Navjot of a child born of a Parsi father and non-Parsi mother be performed, but not of a child born of a Parsi mother and non-Parsi father ?
  4. Why should we always wear the Sudreh and Kusti ?
  5. Why should we pray ?
  6. Does god listen to our prayers ?
  7. Does not God know our needs? Why do we still have to ask Him?
  8. If God loves us so much, why does He make us suffer?
  9. We claim to be worshippers of one God Ahura Mazda, then why do we worship fire?
  10. Should we worship the sun, moon, stars and waters?
  11. Why do we not accept people from other religions?
  12. Are not Prophet Zarathustra's teachings for all mankind?
  13. Why are we not allowed to intermarry with people of other faiths?
  14. Why is it necessary to cover our heads when we say our prayers?
  15. Why are Parsis not allowed to smoke?
  16. Why are women in menses not allowed to go to Fire Temples or to pray?
  17. Why is the Zoroastrian religion also sometimes called the Mazdayasni religion?
  18. Who is a Mazdayasni Zarathusty?
  19. We see a picture in most of our ancestors' houses which show a Fire Altar in the center, Prophet Sahib Zarathustra at the right and a priestly figure with a bow in his hand at the left. Who is this holy person and why do we venerate him?
  20. Is it true that Prophet Sahib taught us only the Gathas?
  21. Is there reincarnation in the Zoroastrian religion?
  22. What is the significance of the "Farohar"?
  23. Why do we not allow non-Parsis to view the face of a deceased after the Sachkar Ceremony?
  24. What is the role of a dog at a funeral ceremony?
  25. What is the significance of the winged bull with a human head?
  26. Why do we have 3 different calendars? Which is the correct one?
  27. Is evil created by God?
  28. If God is all powerful, why does He not conquer evil instead of allowing His loved ones to become the target of evil?
  29. Should Zoroastrians eat flesh?
  30. Who are the Amesha Spentas and the Yazatas?
  31. What is a Jashan?
  32. What are Ghambars?
  33. Is Charity an essential duty?


Q.1) Why must we pray in a language we do not understand ?

We pray in the AVESTA Language which was the language used at the time of Prophet Sahib Zarathustra. This is the language in which God, Dadar Ahura Mazda revealed, or taught the Religion to Prophet Sahib. Our prayers are called MANTHRAS. They are actually holy spells having what we call "Spiritual Vibrations". These vibrations are beneficial to us and are a powerful weapon against evil. In the "Vendidad" (one of our holy books), it is said (in Ch 19) that the evildoers rushed towards Prophet Sahib with the intention of harming Him but He chanted the "Yatha Ahu Vairyo" prayer and the evildoers ran away terrified. In the Sarosh Yasht Hadokht it is said: "The grand Avestan Prayers keep away the sly evil doer." In the Ardibesht Yasht it says: "The Avesta Prayers are the most victorious". In the Hormuzd Yasht it says: "They give us much courage." The Avesta Prayers are health giving and efficacious in curing the sick. In the Vendidad and the Ardibesht Yasht it states: "There are many doctors. Some cure with the use of plants (meaning medicine); some cure by the knife (meaning surgery) and some cure through recitation of manthras. Among these the best is the one that cures by reciting Avesta Manthras". In Yasna 13 it is said: "We praise the recitation of the Avesta which gives strength to the Zoroastrian Religion." In the Vishtasp Nask (Yasht 24) it states: "He who recites the entire Avesta reaches the highest heaven." In Yasna 41 it says: "O God I worship you with the Manthra"

As said before, Manthras are holy spells and as such cannot be effective if translated or altered. To give an example, Hindus have a holy spell called OM which they recite as a manthra during prayers. It produces a psychic uplifting. People who perform black magic recite certain spells which produce specific effects. Manthras and spells are words having a power from the supernatural which we cannot ordinarily understand with our senses. But they have to be uttered in the original to be effective. During our prayers (In Avesta) we come across certain passages in the "Pazend" language. At that time we are supposed to murmur (pray in baaj) the passages, so that they do not upset the Manthric effect. Also while praying we are not supposed to speak with anyone. It is something like poetry or song. One cannot translate or convert to meaningful prose a poem or a song without its beauty being destroyed.

Knowing what you pray is highly desirable compared to just babbling prayers. Anyone who is interested to know what he prays can get the translation and meaning from available books. However, this requires a slight effort which is well worth. If one wants to be a doctor or engineer or lawyer does he not have to put in years of effort? When God has been so good to us, He has given us good parents, He feeds us, He protects us, do we not owe a few hours of our life to learn about Him, our Religion, the Manthras? In Yasna 44 it is said: "He who inquires into the Religion with good words and thoughts receives all knowledge in this world owing to his piety". Such a man is called a parezhgar, i.e. one who is disciplined, whose conduct is exact, polite, attentive, extremely devout and pious, and who recites manthra every day and devotes much time to remembering God. So it is important that we spend some time "inquiring into the Religion".

Our Religion has survived today because the priests over the centuries have memorized the prayers in the Avestan language. So most of the prayers are still near to original. Had they been translated, they would have changed completely by now with everybody adding or subtracting at their will, just like in the game we play at a picnic where people sit in a large circle and one person speaks a sentence into the ears of his neighbor who then repeats it to the person next to him in his ear and so on it goes till it comes back to the first person. When it comes back, it is almost completely changed.

By the way it is not only we who pray in the original language but even Hindus pray in Sanskrit, the original language of their prayers, though most of them do not know how to speak the language today, and orthodox Catholics pray in Latin though they do not know Latin. Our Manthra Spenta (Holy Avesta Spells) are so important that the Yazad (Angel) Marespand (to who, the 29th day of our monthly calendar is dedicated) is in charge of protecting them.

Finally should we not be proud that even after thousands of years we still pray in the language our Holy Prophet spoke?

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Q2.) Why do we not allow non-Parsis to enter our Fire Temples ?

There are certain formalities and disciplines to be observed in maintaining the dignity of the Holy Fire. The Holy Fire is consecrated and has the status of a King. We always address the Holy Fire as "Padshah" or rather as Atash Padshah Sahib. To present ourselves in front of the Padshah Sahib, we must perform the Padyab Kusti ceremony, which helps us cleanse ourselves before approaching the Holy Fire. Now a non Parsi who does not wear the Sudreh Kusti can therefore not enter the Fire Temple. Even Parsis cannot enter any part of the Temple. They cannot enter the Gumbaj or room where the Holy Padshah is installed. Only a priest who has undergone the Navar Ceremony can do that. And for that matter in an Atash Behram, only a priest who has undergone the Navar and Martab Ceremonies can enter the Gumbaj. Also a layman cannot enter the pavi enclosure while an inner liturgical ceremony such as the jashne, Vendidad, Nirangdin is in process. Not only that but the priest has to take the Bareshnum before he can even perform such ceremonies. Bareshnum is a higher degree purification ceremony (see pg 24 THE PARSIS AND THEIR RELIGION).

One must understand that there is no disrespect meant to a person by not allowing him to enter our Fire Temples. In fact in almost all other religions there are similar rules. Muslims do not even allow non-muslims to enter their holy city of Mecca (a complete city), where their Ka'aba is located. There are certain temples like the Jagganath Temple in Orisa and others in South India where only Hindus can enter. The late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was refused entry in a temple in South India because she had married outside the community. In another case, former President Zail Singh was refused entry into a South Indian Temple because the rules there required that one shave his head before entering. Only Jews can enter orthodox Hessidic Synagogues and non-Christians are not permitted to enter Coptic Churches in Ethiopia, and so on.

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Q.3) Why can the Navjot of a child born of a Parsi father and non-Parsi mother be performed, but not of a child born of a Parsi mother and non-Parsi father ?

Actually this question itself is wrong. Nowhere in our Religion is it acceptable to perform the navjot of a child born of a Zoroastrian father and non-Zoroastrian mother. In the old days it was totally banned, but at the turn of this century the father of JRD Tata who had married a French wife went to court and due to his influence got an obiter dictum and performed the navjot. (an obiter dictum is not a judgment but just a suggestion). According to our Constitution, the courts cannot interfere in the religious matters of a community unless some positive harm is being done to the aggrieved party. However, this has become a precedent and today people feel that the navjot of a child born of a Zoroastrian father and non-Zoroastrian mother is legal. If this precedent is accepted, the next step is performing the navjot of a child born of a Zoroastrian mother and non-Zoroastrian father. Today people are crying about gender discrimination and equal rights for women. But the fact is that all this will pave the way for full conversion because if the children are accepted in the religion, why discriminate against the parents? We are against conversion because we believe that all religions are from God and therefore it is a sin to convert from one of God's religion to another. Is the religion of one's birth no good that he has to change? If a person cannot remain faithful to his religion of birth, will he be faithful to an alien religion? Firstly, it is God's wish that a person be born in a particular religion. Secondly, it is Nature's law that species do not mix. See the plants and animals and fish and even insects. All reproduce their own kind. The only difference is they do it instinctively while man has been given a free will.

Another point that arises s that very seldom does the child (of mixed parents) whose navjot has been performed follow the Zoroastrian Religion. A study conducted some time ago showed that out of three hundred such children, less than 3% followed the Religion. Still less are the chances that the child will marry a Zoroastrian. If all this is allowed we will lose our identity in a couple of generations and disappear into history. Remember, we have survived for thousands of years against all odds only because we have strictly retained our identity. There is no question of anybody thinking we are superior or inferior to other people.

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Q.4) Why should we always wear the Sudreh and Kusti ?

To answer this question let us understand what the Sudreh and Kusti are. Are they just symbols? If so, why are they so complicated? Why does the Sudreh have 9 seams, or the Kusti have 72 strands? Why the color white? Why the particular materials, cotton for Sudreh and sheep's wool for Kusti. Why can they not be machine made? Fact is, the Sudreh Kusti are not just physical symbols. They are not just "bells and whistles" as some people think. They are "ALAATS". Alaats are implements or equipment necessary for a 'Kriya' or ceremony. The holy Fire, the afarganiyu (firewase), the wood, the priest are all alaats of a Boi ceremony performed 5 times in an Agiary. The Boi ceremony cannot be performed without the Alaats mentioned. To give an analogy, the implements needed to cook a dish of rice and dal would be, the raw rice and dal, water, salt, spices, a cooking pot, a stove, fuel for the stove and of course the person doing the cooking. Whereas cooking is purely a function on the physical plane, a religious ceremony involves not only the physical plane but there is a connection with the spiritual plane. Performing a Boi ceremony is not only feeding the Fire physically, but bringing down powerful energies from Ahura Mazda. Similarly, performing the Padyab Kusti is a serious and important ceremony that puts us directly in touch with Ahura Mazda, and spiritual energy from Ahura Mazda flows into us. What does this spiritual energy do for us? This spiritual energy does 2 things. It protects us from invisible evil and it gives us guidance and wisdom to think, speak and do the right things. One must understand that our world is not purely physical, for example love, emotion or passion are not physical. They cannot be seen with our eyes or measured with available physical or chemical means. Does that mean they do not exist? Even all physical things cannot always be seen. There are radio and television waves in this very room at this very moment but we cannot hear or see them. However, if we have the right equipment, like say a radio receiver or a TV receiver, we can hear and see these waves as sounds and pictures. Similarly, there is evil lurking around us all the time which we cannot see, but with the right equipment, our Sudreh and Kusti, we are protected against these invisible evils. Also, we receive spiritual guidance from above, which helps to make our life easier and more fruitful. It is Ahura Mazda's guiding energy from above that enables us to make the right decisions in our life.

The Sudreh and Kusti are the very foundation of our Religion. If one believes in one supreme God Ahura Mazda, and in Zarathustra as His Prophet, one has to wear the Sudreh Kusti. The custom of wearing the Sudreh Kusti originated long before the advent of Prophet Sahib, during the reign of King Jamshed, who (as an obedient servant of God) was instructed by God to make all men and women wear it. Prophet Sahib Zarathustra endorsed the practice, and as Zoroastrians it is our duty to obey the Holy Prophet.

Lastly, on the physical plane, Sudreh Kusti is the uniform of our Religion. Every Institution like school, military, police have their uniforms. Even lawyers and judges in a court have their respective uniforms. Is not everybody proud to wear his or her uniform? We should also be proud to wear our Sudreh Kusti as our uniform. Besides it is hardly even seen from outside. There have been incidents where a person who has died in an accident has been identified as a Parsi only because of the Sudreh Kusti. In the 1992 Hindu Muslim riots, a Parsi gentleman wearing a cap and sporting a beard was mistaken by militant Hindus as a Muslim and was almost killed till he convinced them that he was not a Muslim but a Parsi by showing them his Sudreh and Kusti. So dear folks remember ALWAYS to wear your Sudreh Kusti with reverence and pride.

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Q.5) Why should we pray ?

There are several reasons why we should pray. Prayer is a communication with God. Just as we communicate with each other (even animals and plants communicate with each other), we need to communicate with God. We should pray because Prayer gives us protection from evil. In the Kem Na Mazda Prayer we seek His protection when invisible evil 'rushes at us'. In the Ahura Mazda Khodae Prayer, we ask evil forces to go away from us. We pray: "Ahreman devan, darujan jaduan darvandan kikan karepan..."

We should pray because through Prayer we repent for our sins. In our Kusti Prayer we say "Az hma gunah Patet Pashemanu az..." We repent for the sins of bad thoughts, bad words, and bad deeds we have committed. And, the most important reason why we should pray is because Prophet Sahib has told us to do so. In the Holy Gathas, at 16 places He mentions our need for prayer and praise to Ahura Mazda. As true Zoroastrians we are supposed to follow and obey what he says.

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Q.6) Does God listen to our prayers ?

Yes. God listens to our Prayers. In the Holy Gathas, Prophet Sahib says: "Devout Prayers for righteous ends never remain unanswered". Also, in Hormuzd Yasht, Ahura Mazda tells Prophet Sahib: "Come to me thou righteous man, by day or by night, with offering brought for prayer and I who am Ahura Mazda will come to your for your protection and delight". What a wonderful promise! However, God will answer your prayers His way, not necessarily your way. For example, if you ask God for money He will not give you money the next day, but He will show you the way to earn it. He will give you the opportunity, but still you have to work for it. God feeds every bird on the trees, but He does not put food in its nest. The birds have to work and find the food.

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Q.7) Does not God know our needs ? Why do we still have to ask him ?

God is our Father and treats us as His children. Does not a child ask his parents for toys and chocolates? God wants us to have a close personal relation with Him. He wants us to love Him even as He loves us. He does not want us to be indifferent towards Him. He does not want us to take Him for granted. Do not parents want the love and obedience of their children?

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Q.8) If God loves us so much, why does He make us suffer ?

Let us get this straight. God never, ever, makes us, or wants us to suffer. We suffer because of the evil one - Ahriman. In our book of Creation called the Bundahis, we are told that our souls were happy in the spiritual world with God. The evil one started to attack God's creations on this material world. The evil one vowed that he would destroy all God's creatures. At this point, God asked our Fravashis whether we wanted to remain under His protection in Heaven, or whether we wanted to go to the material world to fight against the evil one and return to God victorious. Our Fravashis chose the latter path and hence we are presently on this earth as soldiers of God fighting the evil one. Now, a soldier on the battlefield can expect to get hurt, or maimed, or even killed by the enemy. Similarly, the suffering we undergo is due to the attack of the evil one. However, God has given us armor and ammunition to combat the evil one in this spiritual battle. The armor is our Sudreh and Kusti and the weapons are our prayers, rituals and the Holy Fire. Those who lead their lives in righteousness and humbly serve Ahura Mazda by prayer, charity and good deeds, earn the protection of Ahura Mazda and suffer much less than those who lead a selfish life, that is living only for themselves, and adopt an indifferent attitude towards the Sudreh Kusti, Fire, Prayers and charity. Mind you, they may be normally good people, not harming anybody, but, not going our of their way to be a helper to God in the spiritual war against evil. However, one must remember that everyone without exception has to suffer. Some more and some less. Another reason is that one suffers for his ancestors bad deeds, or is happy if his ancestors have led a life of selflessness and charity. Suffering can take various forms, the most common being poverty, disease and bad health, absence of offspring, loss of loved ones, children going astray, loneliness, accident, calamity to name a few.

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Q.9) We claim to be worshippers of one God Ahura Mazda, then why do we worship fire ?

All religions use fire in their worship. Hindus have divas in their temples and homes, and their greatest feast in the year is Diwali. Muslims burn incense during prayers and Christians have huge candles in their churches. But Fire holds a very exalted position in Zoroastrianism. Ahura Mazda who is invisible to our human eyes can be understood as a powerful source of light and energy. This energy is represented by Fire. Fire is not an idol but a creation of God. It is the seventh creation of God on this earth. Fire has life and is full of light and energy. Idols are all man made having no life, and Prophet Sahib has forbidden their worship. Every thing is made up of atoms which are continuously in motion. Each atom has a central nucleus consisting of protons or positively charged particles and an equal number of neutrons i.e. negatively charged particles moving in numerous orbits around this nucleus. Atoms of different materials have different numbers of protons and neutrons. To keep the atoms in constant motion requires energy and this energy is provided from God and called Atash. It is also the energy that drives the planets around the sun and also drives the sun and stars in the galaxies. So Atash is God's energy that powers the universe. The fire that we see is only one type of Atash. In our prayers, we refer to fire as "ATASH PUTHRE AHURE MAZDAO" Fire the son of Ahura Mazda. Imagine Ahura Mazda to be a huge source of energy giving out rays of light and heat, just like the sun. Now have you seen a ray of light from the sun enter a dusty room? Is the ray of light different from its source? It is an extension. We say the sun 'is coming into the room'. Similarly, fire is an extension or part of Ahura Mazda. When Prophet Sahib came to the court of King Vishtasp, he brought with him a fire from Heaven which was very special. It needed no fuel to keep it burning, it emitted no smoke, and it did not burn the hand that held it.

Let us see what Scripture tells us about prayers and Fire:

Prophet Sahib Himself has taught us all the above. So, we respect and worship Ahura Mazda through Fire. For that matter Muslims could be called "black stone" worshippers, or Christians could be called "cross" worshippers or Jews could be called "menora" worshippers, yet they all claim to be worshippers of one God. 

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Q.10) Should we worship the sun, moon, stars and waters ?

We do not worship the sun, moon, stars and waters as idols. But we are told by Prophet Sahib to praise all these creations of God. In praising His creations we worship God. From Nature to Nature's God.

We also praise in various prayers other creations of God such as the sky, wind, plants, animals, and even mountains. We praise the Farohars of the righteous. On the physical and practical side this means that God wants us to respect and take care of His creations. We should not pollute the atmosphere, poison or dirty the waters, destroy forests and plants, or torture and harm animals and man.

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Q.11) Why do we not accept people from other religions ?

We believe that all Religions lead us to God. It is God's will that we are born in a particular Religion. God has a plan for each one of us. As such we have to serve God in the way He intends us to do. If a person deserts his God given religion he is working against God's plan. In fact it is an insult to his religion of birth. Some Religions preach that theirs is the only religion through which one can go to heaven. But our religion clearly tells us to respect other religions, and all people of every religion. When King Cyrus the Great conquered Jerusalem he rebuilt for the Jews their holiest shrine, the temple of Solomon which was destroyed by Nebudchednezzar. He gave back to the Jews all their gold and silver vessels which were plundered at the time of the destruction. He is therefore, praised in the Holy Bible as the "anointed of The Lord". (Book of Ezra and Book of Isaiah). The Temple was completed in the reign of King Darayus who is also mentioned in the Holy Bible.

Actually any person who converts to another religion has not studied his own religion. Do you think a person who is not faithful to his religion of birth can be loyal and faithful to any other religion? Some people argue that Prophet Sahib converted people so why can't we do so too. But one has to remember that ours is the oldest of the revealed religions and there were no Muslims, Jews or Christians who could be converted. So WHO did Prophet Sahib convert? At the time of Prophet Sahib the Mazdayasni Religion was already in existence. But it was corrupted by the 'Kips' and 'Karaps', (the people who had eyes but did not see, and the people who had ears but did not hear). In our Kusti prayer of Ahura Mazda Khodae we pray "Ahreman devan, darujan, jaduan, darvandan, kikan karapan ......" These kips and karaps were priests and princes who wielded power against the ordinary people for their own selfish benefit. In the Holy Gathas Prophet Sahib talks about converting such "unrighteous" persons to "righteous" persons. He also tells us that Ahura Mazda is pleased if a man convinces an unrighteous person to change his ways and become righteous.

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Q.12) Are not Prophet Sahib's teachings for all mankind ?

The lofty teachings of Prophet Sahib Zarathushtra are universal. His teachings will remain forever and are a benefit to the whole of humanity. Parsi and Iranian Zoroastrians, however, are the only followers of Prophet Sahib Zarathushtra who have continuously maintained the traditions taught by Prophet Sahib in the form of daily prayers and ritual observances. In so far as Zoroastrian practices are concerned, therefore, it is the Parsi and Irani Zoroastrians who possess the indigenous tradition. Hence, although everyone can advantageously follow the ethical principles, not everyone can become a part and parcel of this ethnic group. The "TRUTHS" taught by Prophet Sahib are universal, but the rituals/ceremonies (Kriyas) are part of our identity as a community. Other Religions have their own rituals/ceremonies. Prophet Sahib's teachings show the way all human beings should lead their lives. Other Religions have borrowed from these teachings. One thing we have to remember is that God has decided to send other prophets at different times in different places but they have not preached any principle contrary to what Prophet Sahib taught. Zoroastrianism is a way of life. Righteousness, Truth, Love, Non-violence, Charity, Humility are important principles taught by every religion though they were first introduced by Prophet Sahib. So, anyone living in accordance with the above principles can be said to be living a Zoroastrian life irrespective of which God given Religion he is born in and follows.

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Q.13) Why are we not allowed to intermarry with people of other faiths ?

From a religious viewpoint, we are told in the Vendidad to protect the 'seed'. That is not to mix the seed. Also in the Chitrem Buyat prayer there is the same instruction. In the Holy Gathas Prophet Sahib tells us to follow the lineage of Haetachaspa and Spitama, that is He wants that his descendants multiply, retaining their identity. As followers of Prophet Zarathustra we have to obey his commandment. In the Denkard (One of our Holy Books) intermarriage is denounced, and an example is cited that if a Arabian race horse mates with a carriage pulling horse the offspring will neither be able to run in a race nor be able to pull a carriage.

From a legal viewpoint, court marriages are not valid. A marriage has to be solemnized by performing the Ahirvad Ceremony preceded by a Nahn purification. This cannot be done if a person's Navjot has not been performed.

From a social viewpoint, when a tiny community starts intermarrying with a larger community, the tiny community will get wiped out in a couple of generations, and get merged into the majority community. The tiny community will lose its ethnic identity. It must be remembered when the Arabs conquered Iran and our forefathers sailed to Sanjan in India, there were other Zoroastrian groups who went to Germany, France, Armenia, China and even to North India. However, today there are no traces of these settlements and we are the only people who exist as Parsis, besides the people who have managed to survive in Iran. Both these groups since the last 1000 years have retained their ethnic identity and kept the Zoroastrian Religion alive, despite numerous difficulties encountered.

Intermarriage is not a solution for increasing our dwindling numbers. In fact it is one of the causes of our numbers decreasing. A study made some time back in North America showed that less than 3% of the 2nd generation of intermarried couples practiced the Zoroastrian Religion. On the other hand, when our forefathers came to Sanjan from Iran 1000 years ago they numbered around 15000 people. These had grown to 120000 people by the beginning of the 20th century.

An argument sometimes trotted out by people in favor of intermarriage is that the mental health of the offspring of people who marry among close relatives progressively decreases. This argument holds no water for two reasons. Firstly, there is no need for people to marry very closely in the family because our population is 70000 people. Secondly, after marrying within the community for a thousand years our stock produced the greatest people India ever had. To name a handful, Dadabhoy Naoroji, Jamshedji Tata, Sir Phirozeshah Mehta, Dr Homi Bhabha, Field Marshal S.H.F.J.Manekshaw. In every field, Parsis were pioneers and leaders, be it atomic energy, aviation, defense, industry, journalism, law, medicine, music, politics, sports, theatre to name some.

So dear friends, there is pride in being a Parsi and no need to marry anyone but a Parsi. Marriage is a must according to our religion, for in the Scriptures, Ahura Mazda tells Prophet Sahib : "I prefer a married man to a single man. I prefer a man who has children to one who has none". (The word 'man' applies to woman also).

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Q.14) Why is it necessary to cover our heads when we say our prayers ?

Covering our heads is part of our uniform. One cannot be part of an organization like the police or the military or the navy and not wear the specified headgear. Several Religions have a distinctive headgear. The Sikhs have their turban, the Jews have a skull cap, the Pope has a cap, the Muslims wear a cap, the Arabs wear their own typical headgear. It is al part of their uniform. So why should we rebel against our uniform? Look at any photograph of Prophet Sahib and you will see his head covered. Actually we should be covering our heads all the time, not only during prayers, but this practice has slowly fallen into disuse. Look at the pictures of any Zoroastrian two generations ago and you will never see him or her bareheaded. Dasturji Karkhanavala who was Director of BARC (Atomic Energy Establishment) always wore his Dastur's dress and never anything else.

There is a scientific reason for covering our heads when we pray and that is this. At any time there are chances of a hair falling off our heads. Since we consider hair 'nasu' i.e. ritually impure, this may fall in a place of prayer or on our prayer book and our prayer is considered void.

In olden days in most countries, all people covered their heads except slaves who had to go about bare headed and bare footed. This was to discriminate them in society. Whenever a kind hearted master set a slave free, he was first given a cap and a pair of sandals as a mark of having gained his freedom.

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Q.15) Why are Parsis not allowed to smoke ?

Parsis or rather Zoroastrians have highest respect for fire as they consider Fire sacred. Smoking would be showing gross disrespect to fire. One may wonder why Prophet Sahib has made no mention of smoking in His teachings. The reason is that in His time there were no cigarettes or cigars.

There is also a scientific reason. It has been proved beyond any doubt that smoking is bad for health and Prophet Sahib has taught us that anything bad for health should not be indulged in. He was most emphatic about our health, and cleanliness of body and hygiene. Today, smoking has been proved to cause cancer which is one of the world's deadliest killers. It is said that every cigarette reduces the lifespan of a person by 5 minutes. Smoking leaves carbon deposits in the lungs and slowly the lungs are unable to absorb enough oxygen from the atmosphere. This leads to heart attacks which is another major killer.

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Q.16) Why are women in menses not allowed to go to Fire Temples or to pray ?

People argue that, since menses are a perfectly normal function of the human body, why are there so many strictures in our Religion against women during that period. True, but let us see what happens when a woman gets her menses. Scientists at the John Hopkins University Laboratory have proved the existence of certain toxins (poisonous substances), called menotoxins in various body fluids of menstruating women. Also, there is loss of blood - what type of blood? Blood that is very impure. The body becomes anemic. In many people, physical signs like aches, pains, fever, general feeling of being unwell manifest. No one will deny that something unnatural is taking place. Mentally the person feels that something is wrong. Her mood is depressed. She doesn't feel her normal active self.

Everyone of us has an "aura". This aura is an egg shaped form surrounding our body. Today, the human aura can be seen and photographed by a method called 'Kirlian photography'. Study of the human aura shows color and density differences in a person who is in health and in sickness. A woman whose aura is bright and light under normal circumstances, has the aura becoming dense and dark and morbid during her menses. Kirlian photography also shows a change in the emanations from her body. These emanations are poisonous and can kill delicate plants if watered by a woman in her menses and can even spoil foodstuff like pickles and wine, if handled by her. The very air around her gets polluted. Even her breath smells foul. Just as there is a physical effect on a menstruating woman, there is a spiritual effect. The spiritual impurities are known as 'druj' in Avesta. Putridity from a dead body is called 'druj-e-nasu', and putridity from a menstruating woman is called 'druj-e-buji'. In the Jamyad and the Khordad Yashts, the devotee asks for protection against this druj-e-buji. Impure blood is a dead part of the human body, therefore it becomes druj. What does this all imply? This implies a ritual impurity. Hence the person should stay away from pure things - Fire, nature's creations, mankind, anything holy, until the impure condition ceases and normalcy returns. It is said that the magnetic emanations from a menstruating woman can damage the aura of a saintly person up to a distance of around 10 feet. It is written in the Holy Bible that as Jesus was on his way to heal a dying child, a woman in her menses touched His robe to which He immediately said: "Who was it that touched me?" Nobody answered, so Jesus said: "Someone touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me". A woman in menses desecrates all things holy, though we cannot feel or see with our senses as Jesus could.

Our own Scriptures (taught and written by Prophet Sahib) instruct that a woman in menses should stay at least 15 paces from fire, from water and from everything holy. This may be difficult to do in these modern times, but one has to try and do one's best, and repent for what one is unable to do. At least one should not ridicule what our Prophet Sahib has taught us thousands of years ago and which is being confirmed by science today. Not only women in menses but even if a priest has a festering or bleeding wound, he is not allowed to perform religious ceremonies. Laymen also should refrain from holy places if they have such wounds.

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Q.17) Why is the Zoroastrian Religion also sometimes called the Mazdayasni Religion ?

Our Religion is called the Mazdayasni Religion because we worship One God AHURA MAZDA. It is said that the first person to whom God revealed the Religion was "King GAYOMARD". This was more than 9000 years ago. Iran was then known as "AIRYANA VAEJA". After that period came the Peshdadian Dynasty, followed by the Kayanian Dynasty. Prophet Sahib Zarathustra lived and preached during the Kayanian Dynasty during the reign of King Kay Vishtasp (or Kay Gushtasp as he is also known). It was in his court that Prophet Sahib performed miracles and spread His message of the Good Religion. Prophet Sahib did not teach a new Religion. He did away with evil practices like blood sacrifices and multi god worship etc. which had crept into the Religion at that time, but He retained the main tenets of the Religion like Sudreh Kusti, Fire worship, (in fact He brought fire from God called ADAR BURZIN which burned without fuel, emitted no smoke and did not burn the hand of the person who held it. Sometimes you see a photograph of Prophet Sahib holding a ball of fire in His hand. (This fire is mentioned in the Atash Niyaish). He himself performed the IJASHNE (or YAZASHNE) ceremony and told us all to continuously keep performing it. He gave us the 21 Nasks (Volumes). Today we have one of them, The Vendidad, in its entirety and fragments of others comprising the Yasna, The Visperad and The Yashts. The others were lost after being destroyed by Alexander the plunderer. Since Prophet Sahib's time the Religion has been known as the MAZDAYASNE ZARATHUSHTI Religion. We are called Mazdayasni Zarathushties. The reference in the Scriptures is the Jasme Avanghe Mazda prayer we pray after we tie the knot at the back during our Kusti Prayer. We pray: "Mazdayasno ahmi, Mazdayasno Zarathushti". Which means 'We are worshipers of one God Mazda, We are followers of Mazda's Prophet Zarathushtra.'

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Q.18) Who is a Mazdayasni Zarthushty ?

A Mazdayasni Zarthushty is a person professing the Mazdayasni Religion. What does this entail? Let us see: The person has to ACCEPT, BELIEVE and PRACTICE what Prophet Sahib Zarathushtra has taught:

  1. He/she has to wear the Sudreh Kusti at all times. Not only when one pleases. This means his/her Navjot has to be performed. This is only possible if he/she is born of both Zoroastrian parents. Navjots performed of children of mixed or alien parents are not valid. This is because Prophet Sahib has instructed us to practice "Boonak Pasbani" which means protection of the seed. This is all written in the Vendidad and our Chitrem Buyat Prayer.

  2. Respecting the holy Fire. Praying the Atash Nyaish at least once a day. Keeping the consecrated Holy Fire burning. (Donating to Kathi Fund).

  3. Leading a life of "Ashoi" i.e. Righteousness for its own sake as referred to in the Ashem Vohu Prayer.

  4. Following the laws of purity both bodily and spiritual as described in our Holy Scriptures. Most important are purity of THOUGHTS - WORDS - & DEEDS. On the physical side, one must perform the Padyab Kusti after attending calls of nature. Women to observe the laws of purity during their menses, and for 40 days after child delivery. Purification bath to be taken after handling a corpse.

  5. Praying the Avesta Manthras. One has to pray the Farazyat prayers daily. They comprise of performing the padyab kusti in every Geh at least once. During daytime it is in the Havan, Rapithwan or Ujiran Geh; one has to pray the Padyab Kusti followed by Sarosh Baaj, the appropriate Geh, and the Khorshed, Meher, Avan Aredvisur Nyaish. The Mah Bakhtar Nyaish can be prayed either during the day or night but must be prayed daily (preferably facing the moon). During the Aiwisurthrem Geh one must perform the padyab Kusti, pray Sarosh Baaj and Aiwisruthrem Geh and then pray the Hormuzd Yasht and Sarosh Yasht Vadi.

  6. Performing the sacred duty of Marriage and having children. However, marriage has to be performed with a Mazdayasni Zarthushty only.

  7. Performance of Krya Kaam. One should get the Yasna ceremony performed repeatedly (See item 9 below); and also get ceremonies like Jashan and ceremonies in honor of the dead like Muktad, Baaj, Afringan and Farokshi performed regularly.

  8. One has to protect nature. That is not destroying, polluting or poisoning the four elements of nature, (air, water, earth and fire). Hence, one has to follow the system of Dokhme Nashini /  Khurshed Nagirishni for disposal of the dead. Also one cannot ill treat or torture animals and fellow human beings.

  9. Charity. Very important. In our Doa Tandarosti prayer we pray: "For many years may the ceremonies of the Yasna Ritual Prayers and acts of charity be performed". In the Yatha Ahu Vairyo we pray: "The kingdom of Ahura is for him who looks after the poor and disabled. (No wonder our forefathers built housing colonies, dharamshalas, hospitals, convalescent homes, schools, colleges, libraries and of course Religious Institutions).

  10. Mazdayasni Zarthusties are soldiers of Ahura Mazda in His fight against evil. One has to fight 2 kinds of evil. Firstly, the 9 demons within oneself namely: selfishness, envy, greed, vanity, lust, wrath, grudge, hatred and deceit. And secondly, external evils like sickness, disease, accident, poverty, calamity which may either befall one of his/her loved ones or may befall others. It is one's duty to help others overcome the external evils that befall them.

  11. Education. It is the duty of a Mazdayasni Zarthushty to gain knowledge about the Mazdayasni Religion and impart it to his/her children and fellow Zarthushties.

  12. Activity. A Mazdayasni Zarthushty is always busy working selflessly for the glory of Ahura Mazda. Laziness is a sin.

  13. A Mazdayasni Zarathushty does not practice Religious Adultery. Worship of, and asking favors from babas, pirs, churches, graves, snakes and cobras, idols and deities of other religions, is strictly prohibited even as one has to show respect to all religions and all human beings. A Zarathushty remembers with reverence the solemn pledge taken for the first time on his/her Navjot day and thereafter repeated everyday: "MAZDAYASNO AHMI MAZDAYASNO ZARATHUSHTRISH" (I am a worshipper of one God Mazda, I am a follower of Mazda's Prophet Zarathushtra).

The above 13 points define in brief what a Mazdayasni Zarthushty is. He'she is truly the person who lives by the maxim given by Prophet Sahib in the Holy Gathas: "USHTA AHMAI YAHMAI USHTA KAHMAICHIT" (Happiness to him who makes other happy).

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Q.19) We see a picture in most of our ancestors' houses which shows a Fire Altar in the center and Prophet Sahib Zarathushtra at the right and a priestly figure with a bow in his hand on the left. Who is this holy person and why do we venerate him ?

Courtesy of http://coulomb.ecn.purdue.edu/~bulsara/ZOROASTRIAN/z_images.html

The priestly man at the left of the picture is King KAY LOHRASP. He was one of the kings of the Kayanian Dynasty, and the father of king Kay Vishtasp who was ruling at the time Prophet Sahib was preaching. The Kayanian kings were advanced souls and not only did they rule their geographical empire but they were also the spiritual heads of their kingdoms. When Kay Lohrasp was ruling, evil forces were very strong. Men were filled with vices and there were powerful spirits and beings working to divert humans from the path of God. One of the divine missions of Prophet Sahib was to convert or destroy these evil beings. Kay Lohrasp being spiritually advanced knew that Prophet Sahib was due to arrive and that his son Vishtasp would be His great disciple and supporter. He therefore relinquished the throne in favor of his son and went into seclusion to lead a life of prayer and devotion to God. When Prophet Sahib arrived, He assigned certain work to Kay Lohrasp for the upliftment of mankind, which he is doing even till this day. Because of his holiness, Kay Lohrasp has got a halo (Khoreh) around his head just like Prophet Sahib. This indicates inherent divine light vibrating and emanating from him. His long hair and long beard are symbolic of his spiritual advancement. His white dress symbolizes purity. The bow in his left hand indicates his upholding the truth. The bow is a mystic symbol for truth and justice. Above his head there is a shape of his own face. This is the result of the prayers and good thoughts accompanying the prayers. Such a formation is called 'KEHERP'. He is remembered reverently in the Farvardin Yasht and other prayers and ceremonies.

Kay Lohrasp is known as the "Saheb-e-Mithra" meaning the 'Lord of Thought'. It is well known that every now and then bad thoughts enter our minds such as thoughts of selfishness, vanity, wrath, envy, greed, lust, grudge, hatred and deceit. During such times picture Kay Lohrasp in your mind's eye and the bad thoughts will go away. This is a miracle which works even today. Prophet Sahib has taught us to think good thoughts but the evil spirit ahriman tempts us towards evil thoughts. Kay Lohrasp helps us overcome this evil. Try it. It may of course appear slow at first, but with a little practice and faith, you will see how it works for you, just as it has worked for thousands of people. That is why we keep this picture not only in our homes but also with us at all times.

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Q.20) Is it true that Prophet Sahib Zarathushtra taught the Gathas only ?

No. It is not true at all. Can you believe that in 30 to 40 years of preaching, the world's greatest Prophet, Scientist, Philosopher, Astronomer, Ecologist taught and wrote only 5 Gathas comprising of 17 chapters totaling about 6000 words? Let us see the facts:

Whoever is preaching that the Gathas are the only teachings of Prophet Sahib is misleading the people. May TRUTH prevail.

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Q.21) Is there reincarnation in the Zoroastrian religion ?

This question is often asked and has divided the Zoroastrian scholars into 2 opposing camps. Renowned priest-scholars of yesteryear like Dasturs J.E.Sanjana, H.E.Eduljee, J.D.M.Jamaspasa, and today's high priests like Dasturs F.M.Kotwal, H.K.Mirza do not subscribe to the theory of reincarnation, but certain modern people who claim to have the secret mystic knowledge of our Religion believe in the theory. Passages in the Holy Gathas, Dhoop Nirang etc have been translated differently by the two schools of scholars and conclusions have been based on those basis. One has to remember in this connection that since all our prayers were destroyed twice over a period of 6 to 8 thousand years and then again reconstructed, it is extremely difficult to obtain the correct picture without allowing for subjectiveness over the centuries as these were handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.

In the Denkard, (a Pahlalvi Text of the 9th century AC) it is written as follows: "The soul of a sinful man, owing to his sin being greater than his righteousness, is imprisoned in the abodes of hell with other evil bodied ones, and for him there is no liberation till the time of Frasho Kereti (Renovation of the world). In the Jamasp Namag, it is stated that "The sinners cannot return to this world once again so that they may do virtuous deeds". Even the advocates of reincarnation say the following "In short, if a Mazdayasni practices Ahura-Tkash and Tarikats, he can become an Ashavan, a status that leads one to salvation for which everyone of us has to work. This implies that for such a Mazdayasnian, there is 'Tanpasin' (final stage to proceed towards Minoi World) and not 'Tanasak' (birth-death life cycles)". (Ervad Hoshang Bhada). According to this theory, reincarnation seems to be partial and only for sinners. The Holy Scriptures clearly talk of the Fravashis of the living, the dead, and of those yet to be born. So if a dead person has to take birth again, how will his Fravashi be addressed?

The stock argument for reincarnation believers is the fact that there is inequality in life right from birth. Some are born poor, or disabled, while others are rich and healthy. Also the fact that good people are known to suffer while sinners are happy. The non-believers in reincarnation attribute the inequalities to be the direct result of the constant open conflict of the forces of good and the forces of evil.

Advocates of reincarnation give examples (claimed to have been scientifically verified) of people remembering their past lives. However, the pattern noticed is that all these people have died violent and untimely deaths. Nor are these people known to be sinners. It is perhaps possible that since these people have not had a chance to complete their intended mission during their earthly life, (due to no fault of their own, and not because they were sinners), God has given them another chance. Today we do not know.

Anyway let us accept the fact that we do not know enough about reincarnation, but let us also remember that Ahura Mazda, our all good loving God, did not create us to suffer life after life after life, so He sent Prophet Sahib to teach us how to live our lives. If we live our lives as true Mazdayasni Zarthushties (see Q.18), we have nothing to fear or worry about.

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Q.22) What is the significance of the Farohar ?

Courtesy of http://coulomb.ecn.purdue.edu/~bulsara/ZOROASTRIAN/z_images.html

Today many youngsters wear a gold or silver chain with a "FAROHAR" pendant. Some wear it as a fashion, others wear it as an identification badge, and many wear it for good luck. Let us see what the Farohar really is and represents. The farohar is also called Fravashi, and it is a spiritual prototype of God's creations. Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas, the Yazads, and human beings have their Fravashis. The Fravashi exists long before a person is born.

What do the Fravashis do?

The Fravashi is the guardian angel of man. Fravashis sustain the sky, the waters, the earth, the cattle and develop physical organs of a child when in the mother's womb. They energize life. The stars, sun and moon are in motion because of the Fravashis. The Fravashis make the waters flow and the plants grow. They resist evil influences that harm God's creations. They grant victory to those who invoke them sincerely with a righteous cause. The Fravashis of the holy departed keep a constant watch over the material world and extend invisible help to those in danger when they are invoked. The Fravashi guides man during his lifetime and warns him when he is doing something wrong.

When do we invoke the Fravashis?

We remember the Fravashis when we perform the Jashan Ceremony, or when prayers for the departed are recited. The Fravashis visit our world on Fravardin Roj every month, and during the Muktad days. They are pleased when we offer them prayers and flowers and perform acts of charity. The Fravardin Yasht is the main prayer dedicated to them.

How many types of Fravashis are there?

Fravashis are divided into 4 classes. Fravashis of the dead, Fravashis of the living, Fravashis of those yet to be born, and Fravashis who are responsible for movement in the entire creation. The Fravashis of the living are stronger than the Fravashis of the dead.

What is the difference between Fravashi and the soul?

The Fravashi is not the soul. The soul or 'ravaan' is responsible for the deeds a person performs in life on this earth, and is judged after death and goes to heaven or hell. The Fravashi remains unaffected, and though it guides the person during his lifetime, it does not have to answer for his deeds. The Fravashi will reunite with the soul at the time of the final resurrection.

What do the various parts of the Farohar symbolize?

The various parts of the Farohar are supposed to be symbolic representations of the following:

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Q.23) Why do we not allow non-Parsis to view the face of a deceased after the Sachkar Ceremony ?

It is a known fact that as soon as a person dies a process called putrefaction takes place. Within a few hours a dirty smell begins to emanate from the body. This is harmful to human beings. It is called "Druj-e-nasu". To minimize the effects of this putrefaction, the corpse is washed with bull's urine called "gaomez". This acts as a disinfectant to some degree. What is not known is that evil spirits also lurk around the body. One must remember that there are various spirits in the atmosphere around us though we cannot see them. Some of the good spirits help us or save us when we encounter sudden trouble. Have you heard of a child sometimes falling down from a few hundred feet only to land safe and sound without any injury? How has it defied all natural laws? Who saved the child from certain death? There are radio and television waves all around us but we cannot see them unless we have a radio or TV receiver tuned appropriately. The cell phone is nothing but such a small powerful radio receiver. Can you see the radio waves which activate it? But though you cannot see these waves you still accept the fact that they exist. Similarly there are spirit entities, good and bad, always everywhere. Prophet Sahib has taught us that the Sudreh and Kusti are a protection against invisible evil. Now in order to contain the bad spirits a spiritual boundary is drawn around the corpse. This is done by prayers and passing a nail 7 times around the corpse. This boundary is called "KASH" and the ceremony performed is called "SACHKAR". After this ceremony, no one (except the pall bearers) is allowed to touch the corpse. Relatives sit or stand at least 3 feet away from the corpse. Relatives coming to pay their last respects have to perform the "Padyab Kusti" to protect them from the evil. Since non-Zoroastrians cannot perform the Padyab Kusti, they are not allowed inside the room. There is no insult or disrespect meant to them.

Not only that but a child whose Navjot ceremony has not been performed is not allowed near the corpse or at the funeral ceremony because it has not yet got the protection of the Sudreh Kusti. Also, pregnant women are not allowed as harm may come to the unborn fetus. There are cases on record where people have become possessed by evil spirits at Christian funerals while kissing the corpse.

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Q.24) What is the role of a dog at a funeral ceremony ?

A dog has 2 functions to perform at the funeral ceremony. Firstly, the dog wards off evil spirits by his very presence. We as humans are unable to see these spirits, but the dog has this power to do so. Sometimes in our houses when all is quiet, and the dog is seemingly asleep, he suddenly will get up and start barking. This is because he has sensed the presence of some invisible evil in the room. The second reason is that the dog can positively determine whether a person is dead or there is life still existing. Though medical science has advanced so much, there are stray cases where a person has been declared dead but has life still in him. There are cases on record where a person has sat up in the morgue or come to life at the funeral. Hence a dog is brought near the corpse first immediately after the Sachkar ceremony, and then during the funeral ceremony, and finally just before the body is taken to the towers of silence.

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Q.25) What is the significance of the winged bull with a human head ?

Courtesy of http://coulomb.ecn.purdue.edu/~bulsara/ZOROASTRIAN/z_images.html

We often see 2 bulls with wings and having human heads, sculptured in stone, guarding the entrance to our Fire temples. In the Fravardin Yasht, mention is made of 'AGRERATA' (Agreras) who was the brother of the notorious king Afrasiab of the Peshdadian Dynasty. Agreras and his son are both known as "Gopat Shah". The Bundahis (our book of Creation) also mentions Agreras and his son as Gopat Shah. We have a Pahalvi Book called 'Menog-i-Kherad' (The wise man and the spirit of wisdom), which describes the son as having the form of a bull with a human head. He is immortal, i.e.. cannot die, but lives forever. Another book 'Dadistan-i-Denik', (The Religious decision) also mentions Gopat Shah as one of the seven immortals.

Now the Menog-I-Kherad says that Gopat Shah consistently performs the Yasna Ceremony and pours the consecrated water in the Zareh (sea), so that the khrafastars (i.e. noxious creatures) are destroyed. It is also said that if Gopat Shah does not perform the Yasna Ceremony, and destroy the noxious creatures, then during the rainy season it will rain khrafastars. In practice it means that constant and consistent performance of the Yasna Ceremony destroys evil in all forms. Evil is not limited to noxious creatures alone. Since a Fire Temple is the place where a Yasna Ceremony is performed, Gopat Shah is seen at the entrance to the Fire Temple.

Another explanation given by late Dasturji K.M.Kutar is that the winged bull symbolizes the three progressive stages of man. First he is ignorant and guided by animal instincts, as he develops, he gets human qualities and as he further progresses, he becomes spiritual, symbolized by wings.

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Q.26) Why do we have 3 different calendars? Which is the correct one ?

Originally we had only one calendar. This calendar had 12 months of 30 days each and five Gatha days. This marks a total of 365 days in a year. The New Year started on 21st March, the vernal equinox. To compensate for the leap year, our ancestors added a full month of 30 days at the end of every 120 years. After coming to India, the Parsis forgot to add this one month after 120 years. This is why we presently celebrate New Year in August. The Iranis added it once and forgot the next time. Hence they are one month behind the Parsis. About 100 years ago a scholar, K.R.Cama suggested we follow the calendar like the English one, (Gregorian calendar) and add one day every 4 years. The New Year should start on 21st March. The calendar would thus become seasonal as it was originally. Hence, as of today we have 3 calendars, though none of them conforms to the original Iranian calendar which had an intercalation of one month every 120 years.

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Q.27) Is evil created by God ?

No. Evil is not created by God. God, Ahura Mazda is totally good. In fact, He is so good that He does not even fight evil by more evil but by goodness, and that is what He wants us to do. Evil means the absence of goodness, just as darkness means the absence of light. But evil is real and will attack us in the form of poverty, sickness, calamity, etc. Righteous living, prayer and charity help us to prevent evil to a great extent. The Sudreh Kusti is an armor against invisible evil. Prayers, the Holy fire and performing acts of charity are strong weapons to fight evil.

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Q.28) If God is all powerful, why does He not conquer evil instead of allowing His loved ones to become the target of evil ?

God is all powerful. And He is conquering the evil. Remember, God has not created the evil so that He can just wish it away with a magic wand. Nor can He use more evil (like violence) to destroy evil, because God is ALL GOOD. If He destroys evil violently using His 'power', then he ceases to be All Good. However, God is all knowing, and He knows that the only way to fight evil permanently is to use wisdom, and fight evil with goodness. Our Book of Creation says that the first time evil manifested itself, God chanted the Yatha Ahu Vairyo Manthra and evil returned to the dark abode for 3000 years. In His wisdom, God knew that if man with a free will does enough good, then evil will be totally anihilated within 9000 years. So, God asked the Farohars of men if they wanted to help Him fight evil, to which we agreed. Hence, it is not God who has sent us here to suffer, but we on our own accord have come as helpers of God. As soldiers on the battlefield we can expect to get hurt. But, God has also given us the ammunition and armor to perform our duty, which, if we utilize properly, makes our job much easier.

To give an analogy. Man cannot with his own strength lift a stone weighing one ton. But, with his wisdom, man has designed a crane which can lift even 100 tons. So, it is not 'bull strength' but 'wisdom' that wins the day. Similarly, God in His wisdom, has created us (with our consent) to be His helpers in the fight against evil.

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Q.29) Should Zoroastrians eat flesh ?

Strictly speaking, it is improper according to the Religion to eat flesh. But, since the olden days when agriculture was unknown, people moved from place to place with their animals, who provided them with food. However, very orthodox people and holy people have always abstained from eating flesh. According to the Vendidad Ch 8.22 "after disposing off a corpse in the Dakhma, Zoroastrians may eat wine and meat". Hence, we abstain from meat eating for the first 3 days after a death in the family. Many people abstain from meat eating on the days of Bahman, Mohor, Gosh and Ram, because these Yazads are protectors of cattle, the seed of the bull and the pastures.

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Q.30) Who are the Amesha Spentas and the Yazatas ?

AMESHA SPENTAS are "Bountiful Immortals". The word 'Amesha' means immortal and 'Spenta' means possessing power or bounteous or holy. They are Ahura Mazda's attributes, and personified they look after the seven creations of Ahura Mazda. They are not separate 'gods'. To understand the concept, imagine the sun's rays shining through a small hole in the wall of a house. The long ray that is visible is not separate from the sun. It is an 'extension' of the sun. Similarly, the Amesha Spentas are 'of one mind' with Ahura Mazda. There are six Amesha Spentas who form a heptad, with Ahura Mazda's Holy Spirit (Spenta Mainyu) as the seventh. Their names are Vohu Mano - (Good Mind), Asha Vahishta - (Best Righteousness), Khshathra Vairya - (Sovereign Kingdom), Spenta Armaiti - (Piety, love, devotion), Hauvrataat - (Perfection) and Ameretaat - (Immortality). Each one looks after a creation of Ahura Mazda. The first seven days of the month in the calendar are names after them. Each one is helped by three or four "Yazatas". (See chart at the end of page). Ahura Mazda wants us to live our lives in tune with the Amesha Spentas.

YAZATAS are "Beings Worthy Of Adoration". There are 30 main Yazatas referred to in Yasna 16, including the Amesha Spentas. In the Siroza Yasht, 33 are named, and in the Khorshed Yasht it is said there are hundreds of Yazatas. There are Yazatas of the spiritual world and Yazatas of the material world. The Yazatas protect Ahura Mazda's creations by acting as helpers to the Amesha Spentas. (See chart at the end of page). In the Mah Bokhtar Niyaish, the Yazatas are described as full of glory, full of healing power, strength and victory giving. The Khordeh Avesta (our prayer book) has prayers of praise in honor of the Yazatas. The Yazatas grant boons to those who invoke them. The days in our calendar are named after 30 Yazatas.

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Q.31) What is a Jashan ?

A Jashan is a Ceremony performed mainly as thanksgiving and for asking of blessings on joyous occasions. Many people get a Jashan performed once a year, either in their house or in an Agiary. People in offices or factories or establishments having several Parsi employees also get Jashans performed on a yearly basis. It is also performed on Parab days and special Jashans are performed on special occasions like Ghambars. The Jashan is performed by two or more priests and takes about an hour. The Amesha Spentas are represented by the various items in the Jashan layout (See chart at the end of page) and are invoked by the exchange of flowers by the priests in the course of the Ceremony. The Ceremony ends with the Tandarosti prayer. (Prayer for good health).

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Q.32) What are Gahambars ?

Gahambars are seasonal festivals. They are 6 periods of holidays, each of 5 days duration. They are as follows:

MAIDHYOZAREMA                -    mid-spring.

MAIDHYOSHEMA                  -    mid-summer.

PAITISHHAYEMA                   -    autumn - harvest time.

AYATHREMA                          -    breeding season of cattle.

MAIDHYAREMA                     -    mid-winter.

HAMASPATHMAEDAEMA    -    time of the vernal equinox.

During the Gahambars, Jashan ceremonies are performed and the poor are fed. The Gahambars are also connected to the Amesha Spentas and the creations of God as follows:

  1. Khshatra Vairya    -    The Heavens.

  2. Haurvataat            -    The Waters.

  3. Spenta Armaiti      -    The Earth.

  4. Ameretaat             -    The Plants.

  5. Vohu Mano           -    The Animals.

  6. Spenta Mainyu      -    Man.

(See chart at the end of page)

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Q.33) Is Charity an essential duty of a Zoroastrian ?

Yes. Charity is most essential. It is one of the highest virtues of mankind. Our Yatha Ahu Vairyo Prayer tells us that "Ahura Mazda's Kingdom is for him that nourishes the poor". In our Doa Tandarosti Prayer, we pray: "For many years may acts of charity be performed". One should give at least 10% of one's earnings to charity and in the service of God. This is a duty. Charity has never made anyone poor. God is nobody's keeper. In fact, He gives back in the measure we give. If we plant one grain of corn, we get 100 grains back. If we do not empty ourselves, God cannot fill us up. There are various forms of charity. Giving money, or giving your time in the form of service or imparting education, especially religious education.

Another important duty we have to perform is keeping our Holy Fires burning. It is not enough to offer a stick of sandalwood once in a while, say on a festive occasion like Navroz or our birthday. One should donate regularly to the Kathi (firewood) fund and maintenance of our holy places. Allowing a holy (consecrated) fire to get extinguished is a major sin.

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SPENTA MAINYU Bounteous Spirit of Ahura Mazda Man 6 Hormuzd, Dae-p-Adar, Dae-p-Meher, Dae-p-Din 1, 8, 15, 23 10 Dae-p-Adar, Dae-p-Meher, Dae-p-Din, HAMASPATH- MAEDAYA Priests Zaotar & Raspi
VOHU MANO BAHMAN Good Mind Cattle 5 Bahman 2 11 Mohor, Gosh, Ram MAIDYAIRYA Milk
ASHA VAHISHTA ARDIBEHEST Truth, Righteousness, Law of the Universe Fire 7 Ardibehest 3 2 Adar, Sarosh, Behram   Fire
KHSHATRA VAIRYA SHEREVAR God's Kingdome of Power Sky, Metals 1 Sherevar 4 8 Khorshed, Meher, Aasman, Aneraan MAIDYOIZAR- EMAYA Metallic Implements
SPENTA ARMAITI SPENDARMAD Piety, Devotion, Love for God Earth 3 Spendarmad 5 12 Ardavisur, Din, Ashi, Mahraspand PAITISH- HAHYA The Ground
HAURVATAT KHORDAD Perfection, Completeness Waters 2 Khordad 6 3 Tir, Farvardin, Govad MAIDYOISH- EMA Water
AMERETAT AMARDAD Immorality, Undyingness Plants 4 Amardad 7 5 Rashne, Ashtaad, Zamyaad AYATHRIMA Flowers, Fruits, Wood
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For any questions about this web-page please direct your questions to  Burzin Daruwala.
Revised: September 04, 2001.