The Wondrous Circle of Life – part 2

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Roj Sarosh Mah Meher, 1380 Yz.

The Bhoi prayers performed during the first four days provide protection and sustenance to the Ruvan, Baodangh and Fravashi (now collectively called Ruvan), as they take their seat near the head of the physical body. The Keherp, Ushtan and Tevishi bodies (collectively called Keherp from now on) coalesce to form a small receptacle, in the shape of the Farohar image which is commonly seen today, in which the Ruvan sits. The lighted Divo, the Sachkar circuits and the constant prayers near the body are of great help and need to the Ruvan as it prepares for its great flight.

The Geh Sarna ceremony cuts the umbilical cord which ties the Ruvan to its physical body. As the physical body is carried away to be consigned to the Dakhma, it is of vital importance that the Bhoi prayers are NOT stopped. Unfortunately, due to absence of priests and the laziness and ignorance of relatives, once the physical body is removed from the Bungli, the constant prayers stop. Soon the atmosphere is the Bungli also changes with relatives indulging in loud and inappropriate talk (and laughter, in some cases), totally oblivious to the fact that the Ruvan is still present and sitting near the place where the body was placed. This is the time of greatest vulnerability, when the need for Avesta prayers is the greatest. And yet, in our ignorance, we stop the prayers at the very time they are needed to most! It is the duty of relatives to form a chain of volunteers who can sit and open the Khordeh Avesta and recite just about any prayer, in a soft but audible voice, for say 15 minutes each. Then the next volunteer can take over and so on. If this simple remedy is adopted, there would be no need of requesting priests to pray, and no arguments. It is to be remembered that the primary responsibility of saying the Bhoi prayers is of relatives and not priests.

Every Parsi is supposed to recite certain prayers, which are called the Farajyat prayers in each Gah of the day. While we may not follow this injunction in life, it is essential that the Ruvan of the deceased gets this benefit. Hence at the change of every Gah, a relative should perform his Kusti and then sit down and recite the Farajyat prayers in the Bungli in a soft but audible voice. The Dungerwadi helpers should be reminded to put a Kasya of milk where the prayers are being recited. After the Farajyat prayers are over, the milk should be offered to the dog who was used to perform the Sagdid ceremony.

The Sarosh nu Patru ceremony (which should start 36 minutes after sunset) arms the Ruvan sitting in the Bungli with the protection of Sarosh Yazad, to fight the evil forces which gather as the sun sets. Meanwhile, Baj prayers should be performed in the Agiary in every Gah to offer the protection to the Ruvan and prepare it for its onward journey. If possible, three Yazashne and three (or one) Vandidad ceremonies should also be performed.

In the Ushahin Gah of the third day after death, the most important ceremonies of consecrating 5 Bajs take place in the Agiary. The Padruz Uthamna ceremony is performed in the last 80 minutes before the next day commences. (the Zoroastrian day begins 36 minutes before sunrise.) In this solemn ceremony, the lead Priest recites a very long list of names of ancient Zoroastrian Emperors, warriors, relatives of the Prophet Zarathushtra and other illustrious personages. Many persons ask me why these names of persons who have passed away thousands of years ago need to be recited? There are two reasons for reciting this Roll of Honour. The first is to pay respect to those who lived ideal Zoroastrian lives and played important roles in the rise of our religion. But the main reason is that the priest is calling attention to the super-evolved Fravashis of all those illustrious personages.

In his mind, as the priest calls out the names, he should pass this thought: ‘O Great, illustrious Fravashis! Here lies the Ruvan of the deceased Behdin. It is preparing to undertake the most dangerous and long journey of its life – from this physical earth to the regions of Chinvat in a different dimension. In this journey, it will be watched closely by many evil spirits, who would love to capture the Ruvan and use it as a slave in their unholy activities. The times in which this Ruvan has lived its life, are far from conducive for following the commandments of our great religion. It is therefore likely that the person has committed many sins and transgressions which will hinder its smooth journey. There is a great danger that the Ruvan may not reach its appointed destination. By the power vested in me through this white turban and my righteous life, I request all you great personages to witness the flight of this Ruvan. I appeal to you to offer it all assistance and protection in its voyage. I implore you to guide it to its final destination!”

The Padruz Uthamna also contains certain lessons for the Ruvan, which it listens to with full attention. The sacred Manthras of this ceremony, specially the last paragraph prepare the Ruvan for its ultimate destiny. As the ceremony ends, a helper takes the plate of flowers in one hand and the sprinkler containing rose water in the other. He first offers the same to the priests, and then to the relatives present. What is the meaning of this practice? Some wise members of our community (one of the problems with our community is that there are too many persons who think they are wise, but are not actually so) commented that since the Uthamna ceremony takes place very early in the morning, the rose water is offered to freshen up those who may have dozed off to sleep, lulled by the melodious voice of the priest! Wah! What sound logic! But then why is the rose water also offered in the afternoon Uthamna?

It was our beloved Master, Ustad Saheb, who first explained the rationale of this practice, which is called the Pai Mozd ceremony. Ustad Saheb revealed that as the Ruvan prepares for its journey, it looks forward to those who have assembled there. It wonders what those who have assembled there will do for it. At this time, the helper arrives with the flowers and the rosewater. Each member of the assembly, who has come there because of his love and respect for the deceased, should take one of the flowers from the tray and wet his hands with the rosewater. Then holding the flower in front of his eyes, the relative should make a solemn promise to offer something of value to the Ruvan of the deceased. Not in monetary terms, because that has no value to the Ruvan, but in terms of Manthra. It can be a simple promise: ‘I will recite a Stum Karda every day for the first month’, or ‘I will have the Baj ceremony performed for you every month’, or ‘I will recite the Sarosh Patet prayer for you’, or just ‘I will remember you every day after my prayers and recite one Ashem Vohu in your memory’.

The flower should be taken and kept carefully in the Khordeh Avesta book used by the relative for his daily prayers. Even after it has dried out, it will serve as a reminder of the promise given to the Ruvan. Similarly, the scent of the rosewater will remind us of our spiritual task.

The Ruvan wishes for these Pai Mozd promises as it prepares for its flight. Alas! Today we have forgotten everything. Only the shell remains!

We shall continue our journey in the next post.

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram

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Comments

  1. Roshni R. Shroff  March 4, 2011

    Thanks for the valuable information. It enlightens and enriches our religious knowledge which, most of us are unaware. Please continue to give us valuable religious information.

    Also, I am interested to know the significance of sacrificing a goat on Mehr Month & Mehr Roj. Please enlighten us.

  2. MEHER  March 4, 2011

    Dear Ervad Hathiram,

    This was a very enlightening post and although i knew much of this through my parents and husband, i am sure many people don’t know the finer implications of our rituals and ceremonies and the philosophy behind them, and need to be educated about the same. Please do put this into the Jam-e-jamshed so that others can be educated about this too.
    Regards
    Meher

  3. RITA  March 4, 2011

    Thank u Ervad saab for this interesting article.

    One query please. Is it ok to start praying the farajyat prayers in the morning before the sun rises, at around 0615hrs, or should we pray only after the sun rises ? Please advise.

  4. Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram  March 5, 2011

    @Roshni Shroff
    There is no custom of sacrificing a goat on Mah Meher Roj Meher that I am aware of. It may be a practice in Iran modeled after the Muslim sacrifice on Id, but I am not sure about this. On some days, goats are sacrificed at the Pir-i-Sabz shrine.

    @Meher
    Will try to do so. Jame wants only short articles, not long ones in series.

    @Rita
    The Zoroastrian day starts 36 minutes before sunrise. You can check the sunrise time from the daily newspapers or download the times for the whole year from the net. Deduct 36 minutes from the sunrise time and that gives you the exact time from when you can begin the Farajyat prayers. However, it cannot be an arbitrary 6:15, since sunrise times differ widely in summer and winter. If you are in Mumbai then I can mail you an Excel file containing the sunrise and sunset times which I use for the Daremeher Boi and our personal Farajyat timings.

    Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram

  5. RITA  March 7, 2011

    Thank u, I would appreciate if u e mail me the excel file with the timings.

  6. Nari Faredoon Bulsara  March 22, 2011

    Thank you,
    Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram
    Thanks for this interesting and valuable artical.
    May God give you more N more strength, interest to continue to wright about Zoroastrian religion.
    Rgds.
    Nari

  7. Yezdi S Sabavala  February 26, 2014

    Respected Ervad Marzban Saheb,
    I would like to know what are the sights which the ravan sees after death on the earth, and later on after uthamana ceremony when the ravan leaves the geti. Does it see everything in the same dimensions as we mortal beings see ? When ravan is leaving geti does it see the earth and the surrounding cosmos in the same vision that astronaut’s have when their space ship leaves the earth orbit and goes into space ?
    Would appreciate your reply on the above.

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