Roh Sarosh Mah Ardibehsht, 1385 Yz.
Today the Navsari Bhagarsath Anjuman Atash Behram completes 250 years of glorious existence. Any birthday is a cause for celebration and 250 years of the existence of a spiritual institution in these days of rampant materialism is cause for even more celebration. Since early morning, emails and Whatsapp messages have been flying with photographs of the Jashan in the main hall of the Atash Behram, the brightly (some may say gaudily) lit Atash Behram complex yesterday night, and a general feel-good factor, which is so necessary in the midst of overall gloom in the community. Parsis are happy and contended that there is something good to cheer about. Even here in serene Udvada, as Parsis gathered outside the Iranshah to buy fresh stocks of the irreplaceable peppermint, butter batasas, saria papads and hand churned ice-cream, all talk was about Navsari – ‘tame javanach ke kaale…’
Such enthusiasm for our Padshah Sahebs is most welcome and praiseworthy. But…
There is always a but.
Our Padshah Sahebs are consecrated, spiritually active and resplendent entities. They are not merely symbols of our religion. They are gigantic receiving, processing and distribution centres for the Divine Blessings of Ahura Mazda which descend from the higher realms. The construction of each Atash Behram or Adaran or Dadgah follows a very specific procedure. Their consecration ceremonies are spread over many years. The Fire Energies (Athra) present in these Padshahs have to ability to take various forms, or manifest themselves at different places at the same time. The Atash Nyaesh is replete with references to the spiritual power of the Padshah Saheb and what abilities He has to bestow the most precious of gifts to His Devotees.
The Padshah Saheb is Nature’s supreme warrior against evil. He is called Atash-e-Varaharan, a Pahlavi word denoting the Most Exalted Thermal Vibrations. The Spiritual Aura (Khoreh) of the Padshah is such that it continuously attracts Nature’s Beneficent Vibrations (Asere Roshni). Today we use the common term Atash Behram – the Victorious Fire, because the Padshah is in continuous synchronicity with the White, Good side of Nature (Spenamino) as it engages Ganamino (the malevolent, negative, dark force) in the constant battle between Good and Evil.
Many scholars get puzzled when we use the term Atash Padshah. They feel it is out of respect for the Holy Fire. But there is a much deeper meaning to it. Our Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah explained that the consecrated Atash Padshahs are living, throbbing entities with a spiritual form. Some of their spiritual bodies include:
Ahu: The manifestation of Divine Nature, the embodiment of the Yazatas
Daena: The Heart, the dwelling place of Asho Sarosh Yazad
Baod: The Divine Wisdom, which makes the Padshah aware of every thought and desire of the devotee, even before he articulates it.
The Padshah Saheb also has a Physical Form. Many people today mistake the physical Fire burning on the Afarganyu as the Padshah. But they are wrong. The physical Fire which we see burning on the level of the Afarganyu is merely the ‘head’ of the Padshah. As a monarch, the Chattar, or metallic plate which hangs from the ceiling of the Gumbaj above the Padshah is His Imperial Crown.
The building of each Atash Behram or Adaran has six or nine Kash, or spiritual boundaries, marked by the physical furrows we see on the ground called Pavis. These Pavis, going from outside to in cover the compound, the entire building, the ground floor, the outer hall, the inner prayer room, the Kebla, the Pavi around the Khuan or stone pedestal on which the Afarganyu is placed, and the final Pavi on the sacred Ash of the Padshah Saheb on which the Fire sits. These Kash are the physical Hands and Feet of the Divine Padshah. Any disrespect shown to any of these Pavis is akin to wounding or even cutting off the Padshah’s hands or feet.
The Sacred Heart of the Atash Padshah is not housed in His Physical Self but instead rests in the sacred Atash Dadgah placed next to the Atash Behram or Adaran, where the Pav Mahel ceremonies take place, the area being called the Urvisgah. Yet how many Parsis follow proper procedure and calmly walk in to the Pavi area and fiddle with the Dadgah Saheb!
The sacred atmosphere around the Padshah Saheb, where the smoke emanates and fills out the adjoining rooms and rises upwards towards the Higher Realms are the breathing organs of the Padshah.
Now, dear Parsis, in our eagerness and enthusiasm to celebrate the birthday of the Padshah Saheb, are we bearing in mind the Actual Divine Form of the Padshah? Are we according Him the respect He deserves? Let us analyse our behaviour inside Atash Behrams and Adarans, and then, with our hand on our hearts, let us be truthful and answer the question – are we pleasing the Padshah by this conduct, or are we causing Him distress!
Electricity today is the moving force behind our civilization. How helpless we become when there is no light! Can our entire modern civilization exist without electricity? No. But what is the Zoroastrian religion’s view on electricity? Of course my modern friends will say that how can Zoroastrianism have an opinion on electricity when it didn’t exist in the times of the Prophet Zarathushtra? But the Zoroastrian religion explains that there are 81 types of energy in the Universe. Electricity is counted amongst the basest and most crude forms of such energy. Staota, or the vibrations produced by the recitation of Avesta Manthras is amongst the highest forms of Divine Energy. It is obvious that when the most sublime Staota is mixed or created in the presence of the most base electricity, its sublime nature is immediately compromised. This is the main reason why electricity can never be present in any Agiary or Atash Behram. No ceremony can ever be performed under the gaze of electric lights. Its effect is nullified. In the words of Ustad Saheb, praying under electricity is akin to pouring the purest milk into a cess pool. (see PVTS Khordeh Avesta, page 17-K).
So firm was Ustad Saheb’s view on this that in his final Will, when he laid out large sums of money for many charitable works, Ustad Saheb left instructions for donating money to the Kathi and Maintenance Funds of Agiaries and Atash Behrams, but with the stipulation that the money could be given only to those institutions which did not have electricity or any form of gas or kerosene lights!
But today, bar one or two exceptions, all our sacred Houses of God are corrupted with the pollution laded wires of electricity which render our Pavis and Karshas useless. On days of Salgreh, we deck our Atash Behrams with even more lights and then share the images on Whatsapp! Forgive us Lord, for we truly do not know what we are doing!
Readers of Frashogard, what is the true Zoroastrian way of celebrating the Padshah’s birthday? The correct method is to use all those items which have a connection with the Burjis Jhirum – pure Sandalwood, incense and Aloe wood, flowers like desi Roses, tuberoses, Jasmine, fruits like pomegranate, oranges, lemons, papaya, green grapes, bananas, dry fruits like almonds, dried dates, and raisins, animal products like cow or goat’s milk and products made from such milk, the supreme Zoroastrian grain – wheat, all placed in dishes made from Zoroastrian metals like copper, silver and gold. When these items are used, individually or together, their spiritual energies are activated, by washing them with pure well water, by putting small cuts in the fruit to extract their energies, and then the powerful Manthras are recited which engulf these Zoroastrian items with Cosmic energy. Such items should be then shared amongst all those present. That is a true Zoroastrian celebration. It is distressing to see photographs of the actual Jashan ceremony in progress. This is totally wrong. Such activities vitiate the Divine Atmosphere sought to be created by the Priests and renders their efforts futile.
Needless to say, those who present themselves on such occasions should have a ritual bath or Nahn, not have a bath at home, drive in their cars, with a stopover for breakfast at Ahura or Atithi, buy stuff from vendors standing outside the gates of the Atash Behram and then walk in, totally polluted, to wish the Padshah a happy birthday. Also it is more important to visit the Padshah on normal, regular days too and develop a personal relationship with Him. Those quiet days offer devotees a great chance to sit and meditate in front of the Padshah, rather than on Salgrehs where the hustle and bustle is not conducive for such practices.
Many will find my words overly critical, or impractical. The sad, but true fact is that it is on the holiest days of our calendar that we make our Padshah Sahebs bear the most spiritual burden by our unthinking activities. Trustees of our religious institutions bear a great spiritual burden in this respect. In these days of show, glamour and maximum noise, we are severely restricting the ability of our spiritual institutions to function effectively. We are actually choking them with the spiritual pollution caused by our unpardonable behaviour .
As the day went by, I sent the images to a few of my friends to guage the reactions. I was a bit disappointed when I received several messages, even from very traditional friends congratulating the over decorated Navsari Atash Behram, with words like glorious, superb, etc. I felt uneasy and despite misgivings, have written these words of caution. As a Bhagaria Priest who traces his linage back 27 generations to the Founding Fathers, my heart too swells with pride on the birthday of our Atash Behram. But the misplaced over-enthusiasm of well-wishers and the simple mistakes of my brothers and sisters leaves my heart filled with anguish at the thought of the state of the Padshah Saheb. As a community we need to change our ways and become more aware of the spiritual wrongs we are committing.
Jehangirji Chiniwalla has written several times in the Parsi Avaz that the spiritual pollution caused by our unwitting ways is reduced by the activities of the Saiyar Abeds, the highly advanced Zoroastrian Sages who visit our religious institutions late in the night, unseen and unnoticed to repair the damage we cause. But how much more load should we put on these evolved souls? How much more should nature work to rectify our wrongs? There is a limit, and we have breached it quite some time ago.
May the Padshah Saheb of the Navsari Bhagarsath Anjuman Atash Behram remain resplendent for another 250 years, and may He give us the ability to truly understand what our religion really is. Let us all pray one Ashem Vohu as a mark of penitence for our errors.
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram