Roj Khorshed Mah Ardibehesht, 1388 Yz.
“One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off Divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.”
These striking words penned by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his famous poem ‘In Memoriam’ greets visitors to the Great Hall of the Library of Congress in Washington DC, where they are inscribed on one of the eight giant pillars supporting the Rotunda. To my mind, these words are also apt for every Zoroastrian place of worship, because they are a beautiful and succinct summary of the Zoroastrian reason for existence. In Zoroastrianism, we call this ‘one far-off Divine event’ Frashogard – salvation.
Salvation can occur only when there is perfection and immortality. Perfection can happen only when there is no disorder, no disharmony, no chaos. Disorder and chaos can disappear only when they are replaced by Asha – Divine Order. Asha can exist only where there is no lies, no deceit. The absence of lies is Truth. Where there is Truth, there is Asha. Hence Truth is the fundamental stepping stone to salvation, the One Law referred by Tennyson above. And once we adhere to the Truth, we realize the Universal Truth of the One Creator, the One Lord of Existence whom we call Ahura Mazda.
For salvation to occur, each unit of existence, what we call the Urvan or Ruvan or soul, passes through many stages of evolution, taking different forms and existences at numerous places in the cosmos. This evolution and progression of the Ruvan is showed in Zoroastrianism as the process of the six Gahambars, which today are unfortunately associated only with free food or a seasonal festival.
The six Gahambars can be depicted as six stages in the growth of a tree – starting with the planting of the seed; its emergence above the ground; its growth into a sapling; its maturity into a fruit bearing tree; the rightful plucking and exchange of the fruit; and its final consumption which ultimately leads to salvation.
The journey of our Ruvan on this earth as a Zoroastrian is one of the last stages towards salvation. The earth is depicted as a giant bazar, a marketplace where Ruvans exchange their obligations with each other from myriad earlier existences. This give and take is to be done as per the Law of Asha, Truth and Righteousness. Hence in our lives we make relationships – with a person, a group of persons, a community, a place, a country and the entire earth.
Each of these relationships leaves us with a cause and effect which can be happy or painful. Through these endless relationships and their exchanges, the Zoroastrian Ruvan slowly, but surely, earns its redemption. When all these exchanges are over, when the soul has only what belongs to itself and has given away everything within which is not its own, the process of salvation can reach its conclusion. At that phase, the Ruvan is said to have achieved the stage of Geti Kharid – literally, purchasing the earth.
To mark this momentous occasion, or to pray for its early occurrence, we have in our religion an intensely powerful ceremony, also called the Geti Kharid. Various scholars and priests have tried to explain the name and meaning of this ceremony without much success. It was only our Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah N. Shroff, who explained the real inner meaning of this ceremony and its relevance to a Zoroastrian Ruvan. The performance of this ceremony gives an immense boost to the progress of a Zoroastrian Ruvan – whether living or deceased, in its journey towards Frashogard.
The Geti Kharid starts with a pair of priests taking the Bareshnum Nahn – a spiritual cleansing process which is spread over nine nights. During these days, the Priests’ whole focus is towards the Ruvan in whose name the ceremony is going to be performed. In every Gah, their prayers and thoughts are occupied towards that Ruvan – in all their prayers, they take the name of the Ruvan and act as an intercessor – a spiritual mediator, who takes up the cause of the Zoroastrian Ruvan and clears its many exchanges and relationships, within the bounds of the Law of Asha.
On the tenth day, the Priests finish the Nahn and then proceed to the Atash Behram and begin the process of building their spiritual strength and prowess through the performance of Gewra – a series of 6 Yasna ceremonies done over 6 days, with each acting as the chief priest every alternate day. After the Yasna in the morning, they maintain this high state by remaining in the Atash Behram premises, not touching anyone, not doing any other prayer or ceremony, and offering special prayers for the Ruvan in every Gah. Before they eat or drink even a drop of water they will consecrate a Baj with 4 Daran – the lead priest invoking the Yazata presiding over the Roj, while the associate priest invokes the Yazata presiding over the Mah.
After six days of these spiritual strength-building ceremonies, the Priests consecrate separate Bajs in Pavis next to each other. Then with one foot in each other’s Pavi, they exchange the small bit of Daran with a little pure ghee (Gaush Hudao or Goshodo) and a pomegranate seed or date (Urvar) and consecrated water (Apa) with each other and eat the Chasni. By this exchange they become ‘Ham Kalam’ – of equal spiritual strength and fully qualified to perform their divine function.
They maintain this exalted state and then the next day start the Geti Kharid proper. On the first day, they perform a Yasna in honour of Sarosh Yazad, asking for His Blessings and Assistance in the task of finishing the righteous obligations of the Ruvan. On the second day, they perform a Yasna in honour of Siroza – the Divine Association of 33 Cosmic Entities – 30 being the Divinities of the days of the month, and three more – Berezo, Hom and Dahm. Through this Yasna, the Priests invoke the help and assistance of the entire Cosmic Government – each and every Divine Being is invoked and requested to help in the spiritual progress of the Ruvan in whose honour the Geti Kharid is being performed.
On the third day, the priests perform a Vispered ceremony, invoking none other than Ahura Mazda, asking for His Help and Blessings for the onward progress of the Ruvan. After the Vispered is completed, both Mobed Sahebs perform one last Baj in honour of Ahura Mazda as a thanksgiving for the successful completion of their immense project.
In this manner, over a period of 18 days, the two Mobed Sahebs give a giant boost to the spiritual progress of the Zoroastrian Ruvan and truly enable it to ‘Geti Kharid’ – purchase this earth, that is, to finish its spiritual obligations with every other aspect of creation.
The performance of the Geti Kharid is an essential requirement for every Zoroastrian soul. Unfortunately, this ceremony is almost forgotten and very rarely done. After my mother passed away a few months ago and I was performing various daily ceremonies for her, a chance thought came to my mind that maybe I could try and get a Geti Kharid done for her Ruvan. I am immensely thankful to my friend, senior Yaozdathregar priest and Boiwalla of the Modi Atash Behram in Surat, Ervad Harvesp Sanjana, who after just one phone call and brief discussion, did all that was needful and made the arrangements for the ceremony.
It is a happy coincidence (although there are no coincidences in nature – only events destined to happen) that the Geti Kharid is culminating during the first Gahambar Maidyozarem which runs from Roj Khorshed to Dae-pa-Meher of Mah Ardibehesht. In this five day period, Roj Mohor is also the 5th month’s Rojgar of my mother. The Vispered being performed as part of the Geti Kharid will also happen in the Gahambar period which is very auspicious.
I am thankful to Yaozdathregar priests Ervad Porus Zaroliwalla and Ervad Nekshad Fatakia, both Boiwalla Sahebs of Modi Atash Behram, Surat, who are actually performing the ceremony – their own first Geti Kharid, under the guidance and supervision of Ervad Harvesp Sanjana who has performed 115 Nirangdins at the young age of just 38!
As long as these two Mobed Sahebs maintain the Bareshnum taken for the Geti Kharid, a small beneficial part of each and every ceremony they perform will go to the Ruvan of my mother, in whose name the original Bareshnum was taken. Thus the benefit of this ceremony will extend much more than these 18 days.
Zoroastrian ceremonies are a vast and deep field with many intricacies and secrets. The Mobed Sahebs who have the capacity and liking to perform these ceremonies, not for the love of money, but because they feel they are performing a righteous role in nature, are very very few now. They don’t come into the limelight and they stay away from all publicity. They do their work and live simple lives. It is only a worthy Ruvan which gets the benefit of such powerful ceremonies in today’s day and age.
May the Geti Kharid happening in the next three days power the spiritual progress of my mother and help her Ruvan free itself from the shackles of this Geti and progress onwards and onwards towards her Frashogard!
Osti Khurshid Osta Jamshed Sarosh Yazad Panaah Baad!
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram