Roj Mahrespand Mah Avan, 1383 Yz.
The advent of Avan Mah is celebrated by many Parsees with great gusto as it means unlimited feasting on the great Parsi delicacy of Dal ni Poli. The number of Parsis who mark Avan Mah with the daily recitation of the Avan Yasht is, of course, much less. But those of us who observe the overall progress of the Zoroastrian calendar will be aware of another important event. All Parsi calendars remind their readers that from Roj Hormuz of Avan Mah, the second Gah of the day – normally Rapithwin, is not prayed and is instead substituted with what is called second Havan.
Thus for the first seven months of the Zoroastrian calendar – from Mah Fravardin to Mah Meher, the Zoroastrian day is divided into five Gahs – Havan, Rapithwin, Uzirin, Aiwisruthrem and Ushahin. But for the remaining five months from Avan to Spendarmad, the second Gah of Rapithwin is dropped and in its place the Havan Gah is recited. Then from New Year’s day – Roj Hormuzd Mah Fravardin, the Rapithwin Gah is re-started, with a special Jashan celebrated on Roj Ardibehesht, called the Rapithwin Ijwanu Jashan. What is the reason for this practice? Why is Rapithwin substituted with a second Havan? Is there any spiritual significance behind this event?
To understand this topic we need to properly appreciate the concept of time in the Zoroastrian religion. Time is called Zravan is Avesta. In earlier essays, we have understood the three different periods of Zravan, called Zravane Akarne or Endless time; Zravane Darego Khadata or the 81,000 year period of cyclical time of the earth; and Zravane Thwashe Khadata – the personal life cycle of a Zoroastrian from birth to death and beyond.
But apart from these time periods, there exists a universal time which flows unabated. This time pervades the entire universe – seen and unseen. It is more like a river, cascading from the very top of the Cosmos right to us at the very end. This time carries with it a very important product called variously as Asere Roshni, Asha Chithra, Vah Chithra, Fasal etc. What are these mysterious sounding products? Asere Roshni etc. refers to the beneficial output produced by the working of Ahura Mazda and His Divine Cabinet. As these Divine Beings work – at different parts of the Cosmos, they create different types of beneficial currents which are known by the above mentioned names.
These beneficial currents are handed over by the Divine Beings to Zravan – the universal time, which then cascades down to every nook and corner of the cosmos, spreading the blessings to all creation who can imbibe them and move one step further to salvation. When the universal time carries these beneficial currents and spreads them around the cosmos, the occasion is called Hingam. Today Hingam in Persian or Gujarati normally means ‘occasion’ or ‘festival’. But the real, inner meaning explained by our revered Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah is this. The function of distributing the beneficial currents is allocated to Khordad Ameshaspand, along with His Associate Yairya. Such beneficial time or Hingam is differentiated from normal time by the use of special Avesta terms, called ‘Hushiti’ – well-formed, complete and ‘Ratufriti’ – Proper time.
Now, how does the process of salvation work? Ustad Saheb revealed that there are two fundamental forces working in nature, once called Mazdadata and the other called Ahuradata. These two terms occur very frequently in many of our prayers. Grammatically, they simply mean ‘created by Mazda’ and ‘created by Ahura’. However, grammar and our scholars are not able to explain why some aspect of creation is called Ahuradata and some called Mazdadata.
Ustad Saheb explained that the working of nature is much like the movement of a screw. When we are driving a screw into the wood, it appears as though the screw is moving outwards, even though it is actually moving into the wood. Similarly, the Master explained that many times, creation seems to be moving away from God (look at the times we are living in, a perfect example of man moving away from God). However, this is an illusion. The different aspects of creation all have varying degrees of imperfection in them. This imperfection has to be rectified and converted into perfection.
In order to do so, that part of creation is allowed to move further away from the centre, from Ahura Mazda, so that it can rectify the imperfection and then return back to God. Much as a dog on an adjustable leash, when the leash is unlatched, the dog can run away, but only as far as the length of the leash. Then when the master pulls the leash in, the dog comes closer to him. Similarly, different facets of creation are allowed by the Divine Government to move away and then are reeled in back towards their Maker.
The Law which governs the process of moving away from the centre, from Ahura Mazda, further down towards materialism, is called Mazdadata.
The Law which governs the process of going back towards the Creator, is called Ahuradata.
Those readers of Frashogard who are familiar with physics may immediately realize the similarity between these two laws and the two fundamental forces called centrifugal and centripetal which govern the position and movement of celestial bodies.
Yes you may ask, but what has all this got to do with Havan and Rapithwin? We are getting there!
On our physical earth, the above mentioned Hingam blessings descend in two distinct phases. Our earth survives due to the sun. The sun and its rays provide the heat and sustenance which enables our planet to survive and prosper. The Zoroastrian religion reveals that the Divine Entity behind the Sun is called Khurshed Yazata and his rays are denoted by Meher Yazata. Thus whatever sustenance is got down to the earth is through the sun and its rays, that is, through Khurshed and Meher Yazatas, (which is why the Khurshed and Meher Nyaeshes are the fundamental prayers which every Zoroastrian should pray at least once a day.)
The earth revolves around the sun in a period of 365¼ days. In astrological terms, we say that the sun passes through the 12 signs of the zodiac in 365 days. The new year (Jamshedi Navroze) starts when the sun enters the first sign of Aries. It moves through the first 30 degrees of the circle and then moves into the sign of Taurus and so on till its completes the cycle by passing through the last sign of Pisces and then re-entering the sign of Aries to mark another new year.
Now for the first 7 months of the year, the Hingam currents are brought down through Khordad Ameshaspand and His Associate Yairya, through the agency of the Sun and its rays. This particular Hingam, which stretches over seven months is called the Hingam of Hamin. During this period, the Hingam currents carry within them, the overwhelming force of Mazdadata – the force of moving away from Creation (also called Infesal, in Khshnoom parlance). During these seven months, the sun’s rays fall on the earth with great intensity. During a 24-hour period, they fall at five different angles, which causes the rise of the five Gahs of the Zoroastrian day.
During this Hingam, various facets of creation finish off their mutual obligations with each other. In physical terms, this Hingam first gives rise to the pleasant heat of Spring, which then rapidly gives way to the searing heat of summer. During this time, the heat is not only in physical terms, but also in spiritual terms – the fate of man and the flashback of his thoughts, words and deeds comes back to him, causing grief, suffering and retribution. At this low point of time in a man’s life, he requires nourishment – not the fake cooling of an aerated drink, but the righteous, truly cooling power of holy, sanctified water. This nourishment, which should not only be righteous, but also timely and sufficient, is provided by a special Divine Being called Mino Rapithwin. The very word Rapithwin is derived from ‘arem’ – righteous, timely and ‘pithwa’ – nourishment!
Thus the first seven months of the year test the strength of man, put him through the trials and tribulations of normal life, but save him through the timely and adequate nourishment of Rapithwin. In physical terms, this is manifest in the timely and adequate appearance of rain, which refreshes the entire earth and enables the sprouting of seeds and the growing of crops. This is the Hingam of Hamin.
Now after the seven months are over, the sun enters the sign of Scorpio. This is when the second Hingam, called the Hingam of Zam starts. During this Hingam, the universal time carries within it the overwhelming force of the Law of Ahuradata – of moving back towards the centre (called Ittesal, in Khshnoom parlance). All facets of creation which had extended themselves and suffered the blows of fate and the nourishment of Rapithwin are now ready to be converted and merge with their creator after properly displaying the feeling of contriteness, acceptance of sin and reformation. They need to be transported back to the centre, after their adequate conversion. That which is not theirs is to be dropped. In physical terms, this is manifest by autumn, when trees shed their leaves and other aspects of creation give up that which they had taken from others, which did not belong to them in the first place.
As man and other aspects of creation enter this phase, the cold wind of Zam blows in from the north and freezes the ground. In physical terms, winter sets in. Man can survive winter by wearing warm clothes, but what of the earth? Who will provide it protection from the freezing cold? At this crucial time, Mino Rapithwin, He who provides adequate and timely nourishment, leaves the surface of the earth and goes underground. Mino Rapithwin spreads His life giving and life-saving heat and nourishment to the frozen ground and enables it to withstands the rigours of winter, both physical and spiritual.
At such time, the focus of Mino Rapithwin is on the earth, not on man. It is for this reason that during the last five months of the year, we are enjoined not to recite the Rapithwin Gah, since Mino Rapithwin has descended below the earth.
Finally, as the sun finishes its perambulation around the Zodiac and passes through the house of Pisces, it re-enters the house of Aries on 21st March. At this time, the Law of Mazdadata is substituted by the Law of Ahuradata. The summer equinox occurs – when day and night are of equal length – meaning that the sum total of good and evil is equally and exactly balanced on that day on earth. Now as the sun enters Aries and marks the new year, Mino Rapithwin emerges from the ground and once again begins providing timely, adequate and needy nourishment to man on his march towards salvation.
To observe this great changing of the Hingam, a very important ceremony was performed in the days of the Zoroastrian monarchy – the Rapithwin Jashan. The great Zoroastrian Magi would invoke the righteous Mino Rapithwin and escort Him back to the earth to fulfil His Divine Duty and help man in his quest for salvation. So much stress was placed on the correct adherence of this Jashan, that its non-observance was listed as a grievous sin in the Patet Pashemani (Karta 9, Rapithwin fradum). Today the Zoroastrian monarchy is gone, the great Zoroastrian Magi are also gone, but the faint glimmer of the Rapithwin Jashan, still performed in many Agiaries and Atash Behrams on Roj Ardibehesht of Mah Fravardin, is a silent reminder of our days of glory.
This is the true, esoteric knowledge of Khshnoom, given by our beloved Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah Shroff, which fully and most beautifully explains the reason of Rapithwin and second Havan. Where would we be without this knowledge! A thousand salutations to his pious Ruvan!
May Mino Rapithwin guide us all to our individual salvation in this life!
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram