As we step into the Zoroastrian new year, it is an apt time to reflect on the scheme of the 30 Rojs and 12 Mah that make up our year. The Zoroastrian calendar is unique in that each day of the month and every month of the year is named after a Divine Being. Many times, when devotees come to finalize dates for a Jashan or a Navjote, the question is often asked: ‘Dasturji, is this a good Roj?’ My reply is always: How can any Roj, named after a Divine Being, who works under the direction and guidance of Ahura Mazda, be bad? It is also important to know that the names of the months and Roj and their order is not haphazard, but follows a specific cosmological foundation.
Those of us who are fortunate to have been married, may recall that during the Ashirwad ceremony, the priests take the names of all the 30 Roj, along with certain other formulae. These benedictions, which are showered upon the marrying couple, exhort them to live their lives according to the principles enshrined in the names of our 30 Roj and 12 Mah. Thus if we are conscious of the Roj and Mah everyday (which many Parsis are sadly not even aware of), we can follow the divinely ordained rules of our religion and become better Parsis, and therefore, better humans. For the coming year 1382, I decided to take the names of the 12 Mah of the calendar and see what lessons we can draw from their names, as can be found in our scriptures.
The Zoroastrian year begins with the month Fravardin. Many Parsis seem to ‘dislike’ Fravardin, equating it with death, but this is wrong. Fravardin has nothing to do with death, but rather refers to the Fravashi or the Guiding Spirit which resides in all of us. Just as food is required to nourish and sustain the body, Manthra prayers are required for the progress of our soul. These Manthra prayers produce specific vibrations which provide the ultra-physical and divine bodies within us with much needed nourishment. Ahura Mazda specifically asks us to pray, saying ‘nemo vohu, nemo vahishtem Zarathushtra gaethabyo!’ Prayer is good, prayer is best for this world, O Zarathushtra! The Pazend Ashirwad ascribes the epithet ‘niru ravashni Fravardin’, i.e. ‘May you progress spiritually, through Fravardin!’ Thus let us devote the first month of the Zoroastrian calendar to rediscovering the beauty and solace that can be obtained through prayer and contemplation.
The second month of the Zoroastrian calendar is Ardibehesht. The entire foundation of our religion is based on Asha – the Order Divine. There is great beauty in nature, and the beauty arises out of perfect order. But man, in the endless pursuit of his desires, puts unbridled pressure on Nature’s working, thereby giving rise to disorder and chaos, which is manifested in so-called ‘natural calamities’, that are actually totally man-made. The greatest disorder in Nature is created when man speaks the untruth. A lie, however small and innocent it may be, needs to be covered up with another lie and the vicious cycle goes on till it burdens the liar with unbearable guilt and pressure. It takes a brave person to stand up and accept his lie and to recant it. But only Truth will free us all. The Pazend Ashirwad describes the power of the month and Roj as: ‘Hu-goftari Ardibehesht’, i.e. ‘May Ardibehesht bestow upon you the moral courage to speak the truth.’ Let us therefore dedicate the second month of our calendar to the path of truth and fair dealing.
Ardibehesht gives way to the third month, Khordad. This Divine Being presides over time, which is our greatest friend, as well as our prime enemy. We are all bound to time, yet we can never have enough of it. The more we waste time, the more our goals and our life slip away from us. But rather than just temporal time, Khordad is also in charge of Divine Festivals – the Gahambars, which bring down celestial blessings from the heavens. These Gahambars in turn give rise to seasons, which are so essential to our survival. When a person becomes in sync with the Divine Time, there arises in him a sweetness and likeability which is displayed in his personality. There are some towards whom we are instinctively drawn, and some who repel us from afar. The Pazend Ashirwad gives us the benediction: ‘Shirin o charv Khordad’, may you be as sweet, good-natured and well-liked as Khordad. Sweetness and likeability does not come from scanty clothes or excessive make-up. It comes from the inner radiance which is obtained through the constant wearing of the Sudreh-Kusti, at all times, and the practice of Tarikats. That should be our objective for the third month.
Tir is the fourth month, the Divine Being who presides over rain and prosperity. Tir works along with Khordad, to bring forth the right amount of rain at the precise time. One of the main characteristics of Parsis is charity. Charity does not mean earning one million and giving a few thousand with large advertisements. Real charity is always unseen, un-announced and wholly commensurate with what God has given to us. Real charity is also always out of money which has been earned through totally honest means, never through thievery. That is why the Pazend Ashirwad says: ‘Tir Radi ravai’, may you give righteous charity like Tir. Let us dedicate the fourth month to earning a righteous living and keeping aside at least 10% of that for those who are less fortunate than us.
Amardad is the fifth month of our calendar, and stands for Immortality. The quest for eternal youth is never ending and unfruitful. The Zoroastrian religion explains that immortality can come only when there is perfection. Perfection can arise only where there is total and absolute Truth. Thus we must all strive to improve our lives in a manner that not only reduces the load on the earth, but also aims at converting all evil to good. This is the only conversion which is allowed in our religion, no other. When leaving, we must depart not only as a better person, but also leave the earth in a better condition than it was when we arrived. Our life-story must be one which can inspire and give hope to future generations. That is the real meaning of the phrase in the Pazend Ashirwad: ‘Baromandi Amardad’ – may you be as fertile as Amardad.
The sixth month of the Zoroastrian calendar is Sherevar, who stand for Righteous Authority. Today our country is besotted with bad governance, corruption and scandals. Not one leader inspires confidence and pride. The same situation (or perhaps even worse) is faced in our own troubled community. In these times, when we are like cattle without a master, we must follow the commandments of our religion and keep faith in Ahura Mazda. Every action of ours must be such that it does not go against any Zoroastrian laws. When our conduct becomes spotless, our good deeds are magnified, others will look up to us for guidance and leadership. This is how true Righteous Authority is developed. The Pazend Ashirwad states: ‘Hu-kerdari Sherevar’ may all your actions be as righteous as Sherevar. The prayer also adds the benediction: ‘veh varzashni sajavar bed!’ May you be compelled to do good!
[to be continued]
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram