Roj Jamyad Mah Khordad, 1387 Yz.
The presence of clean, free-flowing water is an essential requirement in all our religious ceremonies. The foundation of all Zoroastrian ritual is the performance of the Kusti. Before the Kusti can commence, the hands, open arms, face, neck and exposed parts of the feet need to be washed with clean free-flowing water in a special manner, which is known as the Padyab ritual. The word Padyab is derived from Avesta paiti-apa – ‘to throw water on’. It is for this reason that all Zoroastrian religious institutions have one or more wells in their premises.
Not only our religious institutions, but even most Zoroastrian houses had their own individual wells which were lovingly taken care of by our ancestors. The small village of Udvada has over 1000 wells, many in the houses of Parsis and many dug on the side of main roads for use of the general population. It was considered a highly meritorious deed to have a well sunk in the memory of a loved one and nearly all wells have a memorial tablet inscribed with the name of the deceased and the day and date when the well was made.
Now one can say that this was because piped water was not available in those days and in today’s times what is the need of wells when one has water on tap at any time of the day and night? But there is a great difference in the water that is piped to our houses and free flowing river or well water. Our Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah N. Shroff revealed that the physical water we see, contains within it, a deeper, hidden spiritual element, called Ab-e-rava. This spiritual component of water contains within it 6 different forces, called Frado, which are enumerated in the Ava Nyaesh as Adu, Vanthwo, Gaetho, Khshaeto, Zantu and Danghu Frado. These Frado forces work separately, and with each other through a unique process. Our Master revealed that there are 81 types of Khastar – spiritual energies which function in Nature. These Khastar are connected to each other through 6 different states of attraction, called ‘magnatis’. The word magnetism, which describes the force of attraction between two ferro-elements is derived from this ancient Pahlavi term.
It is these Frado forces, acting in concert with one another through the 6 different magnatis laws of attraction, which give rise to the unique ability of water to cleanse, to quench our thirst and to purify. It is for this reason that the spiritual Yazata presiding over water, Ava, is called Aredvi – purifier.
When Mobed Sahebs perform the Yasna ceremony, they take a special ring around which the hair of the Varasyaji’s tail is wrapped around and dipping it in the Kundi of water recite the 101 Names of God, while gently agitating the water with the ring. This action accelerates the Khastar and Frado forces in the water and raises the level of spiritual cleansing present in the water to much higher levels.
Ustad Saheb explained that the Frado forces are present in free-flowing river or well water. However, when such water is housed in an artificial lake or held behind a dam and then pumped through pipes to our houses, the friction which arises as the water flows at great speed from the lake to the pumping station to the massive pipes that feed our cities to finally the very small diameter pipes that bring it to our homes, causes the Frado forces to alter and affects their functioning to a great extent. It is for this reason that water drawn from taps cannot be used in any religious ceremony.
Given these spiritual truths, great care was taken to maintain the religious sanctity and physical purity of wells, both in houses and in our Agiaries and Atash Behrams. When a water spring is located and a new well is dug, there is a special ceremony which has to be performed before the water can be used for the Padyab ritual. A priest arrives, early in the Havan Gah and recites the normal Khorshed and Meher Nyaeshes. He then begins the recitation of the Ava Nyaesh with the A-Hatamcha passage and the same is repeated 3 times. Thereafter he himself draws out between 10 to 15 ‘kaharna’ (the large metal container with a narrow neck used to draw out water) of water from the well, which is used in any normal activity. Only after this process can the well water be used for Kusti and religious purposes.
For drawing normal Kusti water, if the well is used solely by Zoroastrians, then the water drawn from the first draw can be used. If however the well is used by all, then the first three Kaharnas drawn are to be used for normal cooking or washing and then the 4th Kaharna drawn can be used for Kusti purposes. Water can be drawn only in the presence of sunlight and never after sunset. Water should be stored in a metal container for night use. In case of an emergency or for drawing water at early dawn, when priests begin their work, there is a special ritual, called Chak farvanu, where the priest stands facing each direction and bends down into the well and claps his hands three times while reciting a formula.
Wells which are used for religious purposes should always have a small niche in which a castor oil Divo should be placed before sunset in such a way that the rays of the Divo fall on the water below.
Many times, birds or animals fall into the well. Sometimes, humans either slip and fall inside or commit suicide. In such cases there is a specific procedure to be followed. In case a bird flying across the well falls in and dies, the body should be fished out. Then, 40 Kaharna should be drawn out and this water should be used for non-religious purposes. Thereafter the well can be reused for religious activities.
In case an animal or a human falls in and is rescued alive, then 40 Kaharna should be drawn out and utilized for secular use and thereafter the fresh water drawn can be used for religious activities.
In case a human falls in to the well and dies, the body should be taken out. Then, all the water from the well should be emptied out and discarded. Thereafter the well should be exposed to sunlight for 3 days and the fresh water allowed to fill in through the spring. After 3 days, a total of 300 Kaharna should be drawn out and this water used for secular purposes. Thereafter the well can be used for religious activities. In a religious catechism written by Dastur Eruch Sorabji Meherjirana, a period of 13 months is given in which a well where a human has died cannot be used.
When a well is being used for religious purposes and a non-Zoroastrian either uses the well or is called in to clean the well, then the same should be purified, by washing the well and then reciting the Nirang given in Ervad Phiroze S. Masani’s book Pazend Nirangs on page 132. Thereafter 40 Kaharna should be drawn out by the priest and this water used for secular purposes. Only after this procedure can the well be used again for religious activities.
As our community faces great challenges with government projects threating our Agiaries, Atash Behrams and wells, it is hoped that these brief guidelines will be useful to those who use such wells on a regular basis.
Ervad Marzban J. HathiramShare