The Boi ceremony, bladder control and consequences

Posted by:

Roj Mohor Mah Meher, 1383 Yz.

A reader of Frashogard has sent the following query:

“Respected Ervad Saheb,

I want to ask you a query: What is the option to a priest performing the Boi ceremony, if half way during the ceremony he gets nature’s call and is not able to control. What happens to the incomplete ceremony if he quits half way. I am asking this because of such an incident happening in my Agiary yesterday. You may post the reply on PIPZ page so that other members may get the opportunity to get the clarification. Thanks.”

The Boi ceremony, performed 5 times a day, in the over 100 Agiaries and Atash Behrams throughout India, is a Zoroastrian miracle manifesting itself over and over, day after day. What is the meaning of the Boi ceremony, what is its rationale?

Our Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff explained the true nature and working of the Atash Padshahs. To understand this explanation, some background knowledge is necessary. One may ask: what do Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas and Yazatas do the whole day? They work, at different points of the Cosmos, in a Divine Symphony of complete unison and harmony. This work of the Divine Beings is the part of the Cosmos called Hasti (the Immortal Universe) is called their Humata. Their tasks in the part of the cosmos called Nisti (the Mortal or Mundane Universe) is called their Hukhta and the work of the Divine Ones in the region of Geti (our visible as well as unseen parts of the Earth) is called their Hvarshta.

The collective Humata, Hukhta and Hvarshta of the Divine Ones results in an output, an end product, which is called Asere Roshni (Endless Light). This supremely beneficial Asere Roshni is rained down on all parts of the Cosmos for the use and ultimate salvation of all living beings. The question for us is therefore: how do we catch this Asere Roshni which falls all over the earth, unseen and unutilized? It is here that the Padshah Sahebs of our religion step in. Ustad Saheb revealed that the Atash Padshah is a living, throbbing entity working constantly for the ultimate aim of Frashogard – total salvation. By His power, the Padshah Sahebs attracts the Divine Asere Roshni blessings and accumulates them in His Spiritual Body, whose physical Form we see as the burning Atash in the Kebla.

Whenever a devotee goes towards the Padshah Saheb and lowers his head in front of Him, the Padshah Saheb bestows upon the devotee, some part of the Asere Roshni blessings collected in His Spiritual Aura. This is the reason why it is the bounded duty of a Parsi to pay homage to the sacred Padshah Saheb on a daily basis.

Our Master further explained that 5 times in a span of 24 hours, our earth goes through a subtle jolt, a slight movement away from its axis. When this happens, the job of the Padshah Saheb of collecting the Asere Roshni vibrations is hit with a snag. At this point, the Boiwalla Saheb or the Mobed in charge of administering the sacred Boi ceremony, ritually purifies himself first. He then completes certain specific prayers (called Farajyat) and then dressing up in his Jama and Padan, enters the sacred Kebla of the Padshah Saheb and performs the Boi ceremony. As the bell of the Padshah Saheb is tolled, the slight disturbance caused in the Padshah Saheb’s function of attracting, collecting and distributing the Asere Roshni vibrations is fully rectified. The ringing of the bell not only signifies the re-powering of the Padshah Saheb, it also acts as a clarion call to all on the Good Side of Nature to wage the constant war against evil.

This is the real, deep and mystic meaning of the Boi ceremony. It is therefore obvious that the Priest who is the Boiwalla of any consecrated Padshah Saheb bears a great spiritual responsibility on his shoulders. Such a person is expected to fulfil his spiritual responsibility without any failure. Knowing how long his preparatory prayers take, as well as the time taken for the completion of the Boi ceremony, the Priest must take adequate precautions with regard to his bodily functions to ensure that no untoward incident happens. If a Mobed Saheb suffers from a weak bladder or incontinence or high sugar which gives rise to frequent trips to the toilet, it is his duty to ensure that his bladder is completely emptied before he begins the preparations for the Boi ceremony. In case the Mobed Saheb is suffering from diarrhoea then he should allocate his Boi duties to another priest till his stomach returns to normal.

There really can be no excuse for the incident mentioned above. In case of a Dadgah or an Adaran, it takes no more than 15 to 30 minutes for the entire Boi ceremony. It is therefore entirely possible for the Mobed Saheb to take adequate precautions before the Boi so that such an event does not happen. Since I am not aware of the specifics it seems incredible to me that the Priest could not contain his call for the few minutes it takes to complete the Boi. If he has a serious urinary tract problem then he should excuse himself from the Boi ceremony totally. But such behaviour is not acceptable or desirable.

What is the solution? There is no solution laid down in the scriptures or our Revayets for the simple reason that this kind of situation is not expected to arise, not even in Atash Behrams, whose Boi schedule is much longer. Priests who are trained as Boiwallas have to compulsorily undergo this rigour.

Since the inevitable has happened, what should have been done? If the Priest has tolled the  bell and begun the Atash Nyaesh and finished the Nyaesh and then moved on to the Nam Setayashne or the Tandorasti, when the urge to visit the toilet went out of control, he should finish his call, recite the Baj of going to the toilet and the Kusti that forms part of it. He should then perform the Padiyav and Kusti once again, put on the Jama and re-enter the Kebla and recite the Nam Setayashne and Tandorasti once again.

In the unfortunate case that the Priest could not even finish the Atash Nyaesh, then he should follow the procedure mentioned in the above paragraph, re-enter the Kebla and recite the Atash Nyaesh right from the beginning. However, the bell should not be rung again under any circumstances. Once the Atash Nyaesh and Nam Setayashne and Tandorasti/Patet prayers are over, the Priest should stand in the outer hall (where Devotees stand) and recite a Patet Pashemani for the sin he has committed. He should understand the seriousness of what has happened and not treat it as a casual thing. He should make amends and take care that such an incident does not recur in the future.

It is the duty of the Trustees of the Agiary to ensure that the Mobed Saheb is made aware of his spiritual responsibilities as described above and bring to bear upon him the seriousness of his vocation. In case of a medical issue, such Priests should be given other normal duties and moved away from the Boi side.

I want to go a bit deeper on this point here. As I have said many times before, being a Priest is not a job. It’s a way of life. There has to be a discipline, a rigour, an intensity which makes the Priest rise above other normal humans. To be able to do this, the Priest has to make many sacrifices, in the way he dresses, his interaction with Parsis and non-Parsis, rules of purity in his house and outside, his social life and many other aspects. It is a tough life, it is a lonely life and one which can cause some friction within the family. There are no holidays for Priests, no New Year parties, no late nights.

But there is another side to all this. Those of us who have taken up this way of life can safely say that we would not give it up for anything else in the world. The sensation of spiritual power that enters your body when the Boi is performed, the amazing feeling of being able to stand right in front of the Padshah Saheb and to look after Him, the various small miracles which keep happening in our interaction with the Padshah Saheb, all these and more give rise to a spiritual ecstasy which is difficult to describe to a layman. As such, the Boiwalla is often in a different world altogether, when he enters the Sanctum and performs his duties towards the Padshah Saheb. That ecstasy and happiness (called rafedra in Avesta and urwahmanih in Pahlavi) is incomparable and a true, dedicated and devoted Priest would not exchange his duties for anything else in this world.

In addition to this, the physical frailties of our bodies can be easily contained by the power of the constant Manthra being recited by the Boiwalla priests. To be able to do the Farajyat prayers in every Gah and then serve the Padshah Saheb gives rise to a deep strength which easily takes care of the physical weaknesses present in our bodies. I myself have diabetes and visits to the toilet are an in-escapable part of life. But when one enters the Boi state and starts the prayers, it is all forgotten. When the mind is focussed on serving the Padshah, the physical bodily needs are not even in our mind. A true Priest who serves his Padshah faithfully and without grave compromises can easily rise above his bodily weaknesses by asking for help from the Padshah Saheb himself.

The Boi ceremony is a very small and short ceremony. Priests who perform the Pav Mahel rituals like Yazashne and Vandidad have to control their bodily urges for 7 to 8 hours. Still it is easily done. There have been so many days when the pressure of work means that one cannot have a gulp of water or a visit to the toilet from 6 am to after the Rapithwin Boi is over at around 1:30 in the afternoon. The urge has to be controlled, it has to be dispelled from the mind.

When Priests begin the Pav Mahel ceremonies like Yazashne and Vandidad, they recite two paragraphs while keeping their right thumb over the left and the right big toe over the left. These paragraphs (Ferastuye humatoibyascha…) also form part of the Khorshed and Meher Nyaeshes which a priest recites three times every day. Dr. Saheb Framroze Chiniwalla, writing in his Yazashne ni Buland Kriya, remarks that the act of putting one thumb over the other and the big toe over the other signifies the priests’ willingness to conquer his physical frailties and weaknesses for the larger good of the community. These specific Manthras help the Priest in his unending fight with his own physical senses and the frailties of his physical body. The right practice of Tarikats, the constant use of Bajs relating to eating, visiting the toilet, taking a bath etc. all give rise to a strict discipline of the mind to overcome these urges. A Priest has to be constantly on guard. He is never off duty.

I regret the overly long answer to a very short question.

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram



  1. Mohnaz  February 25, 2014

    Very well said, that ” One who serve the Padshah Saheb gives rise to a deep (added mystical) strength which easily takes care of the physical weaknesses present in our bodies.” hence it is the best way of life which once has been bestowed on, which normal Behdins like us can never even dream off….and ” The right practice of Tarikats, REALLY give rise to a strict discipline of the mind to overcome ANY TYPE OF urges (whether Physical, Mental, Emotional or Social).

    May you always be blessed with a good health, so that you can perform innumerable Boi ceremonies in your life & also other lofty kriya’s of our mighty religion by serving the ATASH Padshah in the most apt manner till the end…..along with imparting great knowledge to us.

  2. Kersi.kapadia  February 25, 2014

    Amazing .power of our prayers .

  3. Gustad Panthaki  February 25, 2014

    Dear Marzban,
    Excellent! Well said about toils and sacrifices a mobed goes, performing his duties, unkown to most behedins. Yet let aside the monetary reward, even respect is in short supply. That perhaps is the reason for the present day scarcity of qualified mobeds.

  4. Mahrukh Dadabhoy  February 25, 2014

    Dear Respected Ervad Saheb
    May God bless you and your family for being so devout in your duty towards our Aatash Padshah. I’m sure, with His divine help, your diabetes will be in control. May our lovely Zoroastrian religion have many more such devout priests so we can be at peace that our Aatash Padshahs will be looked after well with earnest faith and devotion for ever & ever & our children & many generations practise & follow our wonderful religion.
    Respectful regards
    Mahrukh Dadabhoy

  5. Burzin Engineer  February 27, 2014

    Respected Mobed Saheb,

    Truly enlightening response

    However I have one question – I have come across cases where in certain agiyaries there is a unique way of performing the boi ceremony. E.g. In the Lalbaug agiyary the boiwala saheb rings the 9 bells – 3 times (I think) consecutively in each geh – at intervals of 10- 15 mins. Can this be done?

    I bow my head to all our respected Yaozdathregar priests (past and present) who perform our higher liturgical ceremonies, while giving untold sacrifices and while controlling their bodily needs / functions for such long periods of time.

    May our mobeds continue to experience the blessings / miracles of the padshah sabeb + that spiritual ecstasy and bliss (rafedra) which we behdins will never be able to experience. Its a previledge you all deserve.

  6. Behram Wadia  May 20, 2014

    Is it ok for Zoroastrian priest to wear earrings and other adornments like men of the Achemenian and Sassanian dynasties used to wear?

  7. k  June 3, 2014

    In our 1300 year history in India our Traditional Parsi Priests have never worn earrings, wedding rings, bracelets….. Even today very Traditional Parsi Priests do not wear a wedding band(ring) as they consider the finger ring to be an impediment in making their hands pure (paav). Without paav (pure) hands no yasna, ceremony (including the kushti) can be performed.