Being a good Parsi, even in hospital – part 3

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Roj Spendarmad Mah Khordad, 1382 Yz.

In the first part of this series, we analyzed the mental setup of a person who goes through a medical crisis.

In the second  part of the series, we delved into the spiritual reasons which cause disease and the role of the Sudreh and Kusti. We emphasized that the Sudreh Kusti should not be removed from the body at all costs.

Before we analyze the alternatives, it is necessary to say a word or two about the importance of a ‘Saabet’ Kusti.

Many Parsis believe that the fact that they have a Sudreh and Kusti on their body is enough. However, this is a fallacy. It is not enough that the Sudreh Kusti should be on the body at all times. It is also equally, if not more important, that the Sudreh Kusti should also be ‘Saabet’, that is, energized, in force.

To use a crude analogy, we may be carrying the latest smart phone with us. But the phone is of no use unless its battery is charged, and a valid SIM card is inserted. In the same way, the Sudreh and Kusti need to be charged, at regular, specific intervals, in order for them to perform at the optimum level of efficiency. The process of charging the Sudreh Kusti is through the performance of the complete Kusti ritual. This includes:

  • the Padyab – washing the exposed parts of the body with clean water and then drying them
  • the recitation of the Kem na Mazda prayer (with the Kusti still on the body)
  • untying the Kusti after the Kem na Mazda prayer is finished
  • reciting the Hormuzd Khodae prayer and tying the 4 knots of the Kusti, and finally
  • the recital of the Jasa me avangahe Mazda prayer.
  • the recital of the complete Sarosh Baj prayer is an additional booster to the ritual

For many Parsis, perhaps the only Kusti of the day is when they have a bath and are forced to remove the same. This is unfortunate. The validity of the Kusti’s powers lapse at various regular intervals. These include, but are not limited to.

  • Change of the Gah, 5 times in a 24 hour period
  • Visiting the toilet
  • Eating or drinking anything
  • Walking barefoot
  • Cutting of hair, nails, shaving (bath necessary]
  • A seminal discharge, willfully or otherwise [bath necessary]

Thus at each of these occurrences, a conscientious Parsi should perform the Kusti ritual. This is the meaning of having a Saabet Kusti. It is an old oral tradition amongst conservative priests that it causes great spiritual harm if death occurs when the Kusti is not Saabet. This is the reason why many old priests would insist on performing the Kusti late in the night, or even when very weak or on death’s bed. They preferred to leave the earth with the Kusti Saabet.

This principle of keeping the Kusti Saabet, or in force and fully charged, is the fundamental reason why we insist that the Sudreh Kusti should not be removed in hospital. But we admit that there are many practical difficulties in ensuring this. We analyze the various options we can take in this regard in this post.

Most, if not all, hospitals will not refuse a patient’s request to have his Sudreh and Kusti on beneath the official hospital gown or dress. A simple request can be made at the time of admission, either by the patient himself (if he is conscious and able to talk) or by the relatives admitting him. When the ward boy comes to help in changing from the home clothes to the hospital gown or dress, the Sudreh and Kusti should be kept on and the gown worn over it. In case there is some confusion or reluctance, a relative can easily speak to the RMO or house doctor and explain the situation. Fortunately in Mumbai, most non-Parsis also recognize the Sudreh and Kusti in cosmopolitan hospitals and do not make any issue of the same.

However, there are times when this may not be possible. For example, if there is an injury, or burn in the stomach or back region which needs to be dressed or sewn up, or kept open, or the region has to be shaved, the nurse may ask for the Sudreh Kusti to be removed. In such cases, rather than make a scene, the following alternatives methods can be used.

If the wound needs to be dressed and the Sudreh Kusti has to be removed for that short period itself, there should be no problem. In all cases, when the Sudreh Kusti has to be removed for a short period, care must be taken that the Sudreh Kusti are not removed without the correct prayer. This is very important. As we have seen earlier, the Sudreh Kusti are our spiritual protectors. When we are forced to remove them (for example when going for a bath), there is a specific prayer which needs to be recited. This prayer constructs a temporary Pavi or spiritual boundary which serves as a substitute for the period during which the Sudreh Kusti will be removed from the body. This prayer (called the Nahvani Baj and available in all Khordeh Avesta books) is very simple and almost akin to the Sarosh Baj prayer.

In cases when the Sudreh Kusti has to be removed for a short time, for example to dress a wound, or to take an X-Ray or a scan, or while having the daily sponge, or while being taken to the operation theatre, the Nahvani Baj should be recited prior to taking off the spiritual protectors. Once the procedure is over and the Sudreh Kusti can be put on again, the Sudreh should be worn and then the Nahvani Baj finished as given in the prayer book. Then the whole Kusti prayer should be done, thereby making the Kusti ‘Saabet’, that is, in force, or charged.

What should be done for patients who are not conscious or who are too weak to do all this? In such cases, a relative should do the needful. But there is a condition. First the relative should himself perform his own Kusti, so as to make it Saabet, or in force. Then holding the Sudreh of the patient, he should recite the entire Kusti prayer. If the patient cannot be moved to tie the front and rear knots, the Kusti should be left as is and only the complete prayer recited.

In some cases, however, it may not be possible for the Sudreh Kusti to be worn. An emergency may cause the doctor to refuse permission, or the nurses may ask that the Sudreh Kusti be removed. Sometimes, the Sudreh Kusti may not be allowed when the patient is shifted to the ICU (although a request can always be made). What can be done in such cases? There are two alternatives. The first is to take the Sudreh and wrap it around the arm (either left or right) of the patient. Then the Kusti should be loosely wrapped around the Sudreh. There is no need (or you may not be able to) tie the front and rear knots. But the Kusti can be merely wrapped around the arm on which the Sudreh has been wrapped.

Wrapping the Sudreh Kusti on the arm

However, some hospitals may not allow this because the arm is used many times a day to measure the blood pressure and the Sudreh would come in the way of the BP apparatus. Here also, a request may be made to measure the BP on the other arm. The Sudreh Kusti should be wrapped around the arm which does not face the door to the room. Hence when the sister or doctor comes to measure the BP, the arm which is towards the door will be free of any obstruction and can be easily used by them.

However, in some cases, the doctor or nurse may insist that both arms be kept free of any clothing. In such cases, the Sudreh should be neatly folded. The Kusti should be placed inside the folds of the Sudreh such that it is not visible. Then the folded Sudreh with the Kusti tucked inside should be placed beneath the head of the patient.

Sudreh Kusti on the pillow (Kusti is shown only for reference)

If it is uncomfortable to the patient, the Sudreh Kusti should be placed beneath the pillow, although it is preferable to have it beneath the head directly touching the patient.

In both cases – where the Sudreh Kusti is wrapped around the arm, or the Sudreh Kusti is placed beneath the head or pillow, if the patient is himself able to recite the Kusti prayer, he should do so as far as possible at each change in Gah, before meals and after answering Nature’s call. In case the patient is not able to do so himself, then one relative of the patient should himself perform  his own Kusti and then recite the prayer on behalf of the patient, keeping a Paivand, that is a direct physical connection with the patient by either holding his Sudreh or the patients hand. The ritual should preferably be repeated at each change in Gah, before meals, after the sponge and before going to sleep.

[to be continued…]

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram



  1. Sam Billimoria  October 22, 2012

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention however many questions do arise from some practicality stand point.

    1.Wrapping sudrah kusti around the arm: I have not tried it but for that to be done properly , it would require additional help .The nurse who is going to tie it up would be a non-Zoroastrian (exception could only be in Mumbai where you may have relatives to help.) You never know what biological condition she would be in.

    2. what then would be the right way.? How is the kusti to be tied around wrapped Sudreh .
    Where should the Girebaan be . what part of the Sudreh closest to the skin.

    3.I was under the impression that the sudreh or kusti should never be under your head as it creates a disorder ,but in this case it may be the best solution.

    4. alternate to kusti if you go to the toilet in a public place / geh change. -in flight -travelling -I forgot the Yathas/ashem combinations .

    5. clearly there is a need for Nahan after post surgery return.

    6. do you discard the sudreh kusti used in Hospital

    7. I know of a couple of staunch traditionals who do not go to the hospital (I think you know one of them.) I always wanted to know the complete reason.

  2. Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram  October 23, 2012


    1. I have tried it when I was in hospital recently and it is easy to do so. You do not require any additional help. Even if you are abroad, I am sure there will be a Parsi relative with you. If not then avoid.

    2. It does not matter. The Sudreh should be wrapped and the Kusti wrapped around it. There is no particular method.

    3. That is not correct. Even on the last journey, the head rest is made from an old Sudreh.

    4. 5 Yatha 3 Ashem

    5. This will be covered in subsequent posts

    6. No. They need to be washed twice and then can be used.

    7. Read the second part of this post to understand the difference between a Zoroastrian pure environment and the medically pure environment.