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PART V. THE LITURGICAL CEREMONIES.
I. THE INNER LITURGICAL CEREMONIES.
The liturgical ceremonies may be divided under two heads :-
The “Inner and Outer Liturgical Services.”
By the inner liturgical services,1 I mean those religious services which can only be performed in a separate place specially allotted for the purpose. Such a place is known as the Dar-i-Mihr2 and is generally connected with a fire-temple. Again, such ceremonies can only be performed by the priests who observe the barashnom.3 These ceremonies are generally spoken of as the pâv mahal () ceremonies, i.e., the ceremonies of the holy or consecrated house. The priests capable of performing these ceremonies are spoken of as Yaozdâthragar Mobads, i.e., priests who are purifiers.
1. In my account of the details of these ceremonies, besides my knowledge of what I have practised and observed, I have drawn information and particulars from other sources and especially from the Tamâm Khordeh Avesta of Mr. Dadabhoy Akhbar-i.Saudagarwala and the Yasna bâ Nirang of the late Ervad Tehmuras Dinshaw Anklesaria.
2. Vide below, p. 261.
3. Vide above, barashnom Chap, V.
By the outer liturgical services, I mean those religious services which may be, but need not necessarily be, performed in a Dar-i-Mihr or a place specially allotted for the purpose. They can also be performed in any ordinary or private house or place. Again, they may be performed by any priest, even by one who does not observe the barashnom or by one who has only gone through the Nawar and not the Martab initiation.4
|4. Vide above Initiation, Chap. VIII, p. 207.|
Under the heading of the inner or pâv mahal liturgical services, fall the following ceremonies:
The Dar-i Mihr, or the place for performing the inner liturgical service.
I will first describe here what a Dar-i-Mihr, where only the inner liturgical ceremonies can be performed, or the, place for is. A fire-temple is, as the word signifies, a temple or a sacred place for the preservation of the sacred fire. These temples have generally a place or a set of apartments attached to them where the above-said inner liturgical ceremonies are performed. These places are known as the Dar-i-Mihr. Though, strictly speaking, these places or portions attached to the temples for the performance of these ceremonies form the Dar-i-Mihr proper, generally the whole religious building, including the chamber of the sacred fire, is called the Dar-i-Mihr. All the fire-temples need not necessarily have these Dar-i-Mihrs or the apartments for the performance of the inner liturgical services attached to them. For example, the Atash Behram, or the Great Fire-temple at Naosari, has not the Dar-i-Mihr attached to it. There, the Dar-i-Mihr is in a separate building. But generally, almost always, the
fire-temple and the Dar-e Mihr are in one and the same building
and so, they are spoken of by both names. The building is
spoken of generally as the Atash Bahram or the Atash Adaran,
according as it contains the fire of the first or the second grade.
If it is a building containing the fire of the second grade, it is
spoken of both as Atash Adaran or Dar-e Mihr. A Dar-e Mihr
always contains the sacred fire of the third grade, viz.,
Atash Dadgah, burning in it. A fire-temple or a Dar-e Mihr
is, at times, also spoken of as an Agiary, i.e., the place of
Âg, Agni or fire.
The name Dar-e Mihr is made up of Dar (Avesta dvara,
Sans. dvara, German Thür or Thor, English door) and Mihr
which is the later form of Avesta Mithra. So it means "the
door5 or the porch of Mithra." Mithra or Mihr (or Meher) occupies a
prominent place in Zoroastrian angelology.6 He is the Yazata [Yazad]
or the angel presiding over light and justice, and as light is the
symbol of truth and justice, and, as such, the symbol of divinity,
the place where all the higher religious liturgical services in
honour of God are performed, has come to be specially called
Dar-e Mihr, i.e., the house of Divine light and justice.
5. The word "dar" or "door" is used here in more than its ordinary
physical sense. It is rather used in the allegorical sense in which it
is used in John 10:9, where we read: "I am the door: by me
if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out,
and find pasture." The word "dar" is used in later Persian, also for
"Chapter." For example, the religious book Sad-dar derives ite
name from its having 100 (sad) chapters. Another equivalent of the
word "dar" is also "bâb" (meaning both door and chapter). Hence, the
word "bâb" has also received an allegorical religious signification.
Hence it is, that Bâb, the founder of the Bâbi religion in Persia, has
derived his name. The word "Chapter" which, as said above, is
another signification of the word "dar" has received a religious signification
among the Christians also.
6. For an account of the attributes of Mithra and for a comparison of some of his attributes with those of St. Michael, Vide my papers on "Mithra of the Parsees and St. Michael of the Christians" in the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay, Vol. VI, pp. 237-1S3. Vide my Anthropological Papers (Part I), pp. 173-190.
Just as a church, an abbey or a cathedral, at times, contains several chapels where different priests conduct their services, so a Dar-e Mihr has several divisions, where different sets of priests conduct their services. In the Yazashna, Vendidad, and Visparad ceremonies, it is always necessary to have two priests to officiate. These different parts or divisions of the Dar-e Mihr, where different pairs of priests perform their ceremonies, are known as (a) Yazashna-gah, or (b) Urviç gah, or (c) Hindholâ.
(a) By Yazashna-gah is meant the place (Pers. gâh) where
the Yazashna ceremony is performed.
(b) Urviçgâh (the place of Urviç) is another synonym of
Yazashna-gâh. The Dadestan-i Denig (XLVIII, 13)7 speaks of the Yazashna-gâ as the Aûvés. The meaning of the word
urviç is not certain. Darmesteter says: "Uryaêsa signifie proprement
'tour'8 (urvaésa vardashna: Dastur Hoshangji and Haug's
Old Zand-Pahlavi Glossary, p. 23, 1. 9)." According to
Darmesteter, the word means a place where they turn (le lieu
où l'on tourne). The word can be derived from "vars" hair,
i.e., the place where the "vars" or the hair of the varasya
or sacred bull is used in the ceremonial. We know that in
Persian, the word urvis means a hair-rope.
West thinks that the word "is probably to be traced to the
Avesta 'urvaesa' goal."9 The word occurs in the
Frawardin Yasht (Yt13.58) in the sense of 'limit.' Darmesteter
translates the word dura-urvaesa there, as "far-evolving circle."
In the Vishtasp Yasht (Yt24.29), the
word is used in connection with the running of a
horse in a circle ("as an excellent horse turns back from the wrong way
(hacha urvaesat) and goes along the right way (fratarem urvaesem)
(smiting the many Drujs." Darmesteter. S. B. E. XXIII
p. 335). So, West seems to be right. Urviç is the circle or
the limits within which the celebrants have to remain. At
times, the stone slab on which the ceremonial utensils are
arranged is also called Aurves (Dadistan-i-Dini, XLVIII, 14).
7. S. B. E., XVIII, p. 163.
8. Le Zend-Avesta I, p. LXII, n. 2.
9. S. B, E., Vol. XVIII, p. 163, n. 4.
(c) The word Hindhorâ or Hindholâ is another name of the
Yazashna-gah. It seems to be a form of the Sanskrit
Hindhola, i.e., a swing. The priests while reciting their
prayers generally assume a swinging posture. So, perhaps it
has received its name from the swinging posture of the celebrants.
The stone platform on which all the ceremonial
utensils and requisites are placed is also known as a hindholâ.
Perhaps the word hindholâ may be a corruption of the Avesta
word arâthru which is used in the Nirangestan10 for the seat
of the zoti. The Pahlavi rendering of that word there is
udgâh. The word aráthru when written in Pahlavi may be
read hanatrâ from which the word may have been corrupted
10. The photo-zinco text, folio 156-b, l. 11. Darmesteter's Zend Avesta, III, p. 130.
The different Yazashna-gahs are separated from each other
by a pavi,11 which serves both as the limit of each and also as
the passage for the water used in the ceremonial. If somebody
enters within the limit marked by the pavi while the service is
going on, he vitiates the ceremony. If there are two Yazashna-gahs
side by side, they are separated by a narrow strip of space
enclosed between two pavis. The Yazashna-gahs are so constructed
as to permit the Zaoti or the principal officiating
priest to face the south.
|11. Vide Chapter on Purification Ceremonies, p. 115.|
Characteristics of a priest qualified to perform the liturgical ceremonies.
A priest, who performs the inner liturgical ceremonies of the Yasna, the Visperad, and the Vendidad, is spoken of, at times, as Yaôz dâthragar, i.e. "one qualified to give or spread purity. According to the later Pahlavi and Persian writings,  he must possess the following 15 characteristics (Vide Darab Hormmazdyar's Revayet. Yasna ba Nirang by Tehmuras D. Anklesaria, Introduction, p. 25):—
I will now proceed to describe the liturgical service of the Yasna.
Yasna or Yazashna
The word Yasna, of which Yazashna is another and a later
form, comes from the Avesta root yaz,
Sanskrit yaj, meaning "to invoke, to worship,
to praise." The word is the same as Sanskrit
yajna or yagna meaning "a sacrifice." Thus, it is a prayer
which includes the praise of God and his spiritual Intelligences
which invokes their aid. It is a long prayer which is
accompanied with certain ritual and in which certain things
are presented as symbols. Its celebration requires the recital
of the 72 chapters, known as the Hâs12 of the Yasna. Two
priests are required for its celebration. They are, for the time
being, spoken of as the Zaoti and the Raspi or Atravakhshi.
They must, at first, have a bath and put on a olean suit of
clothes. They must clean their nails, so that there may be no
impurities in them. They must have a clean mouth, so that
there lurk no particles of any food between their teeth.
|12. The word Hâ is the Avesta word hâiti, meaning chapter or section, and comes from the root hâ, to cut. The 72 fine threads which go to make up the Kusti or the sacred thread are said to symbolise the 72 hâs or chapters of the Yasna.|
The Yasna is celebrated in two parts:—
II.—The Yasna proper.
I. THE PARAGNA.
The word paragnâ comes from para (Avesta para) before or and Sanskrit yagna (Avesta Yasna), and mean, "the recital or the ritual that comes before or precedes the Yasna proper." Some think, that the word is a corruption of paragra, which is  the corrupted form of prakriyâ, i.e., (the kriyâ or ceremony) preceding (pra) the ceremony proper.
This Paragna ceremony consists of the following ceremonies:—
We will describe these different rituals of the Paragna of
the Yasna ceremony under the different heads of the religious
requisites of the Yasna ceremony which bear their names. For
the performance of the Yasna, the Visparad and the Vendidad
ceremonies, certain requisites, both organic and inorganic, are
necessary. We find a part of the list of these in the third
chapter of the Yasna itself. Some of these requisites are
mentioned in the recital of the paragna prayer which contains
portions of the 24th and the 4th chapters of the Yasna.
We give below a complete list of the apparatus required.
We will describe these things, and, while doing so, describe
the ceremonies bearing the names of, and connected with, these
The liturgical apparatus or the requisites in the Yasashna-gah.
The following are required in a Yazashna-gah for the performance of the Yasna, the Visperad, and the Vendidad ceremonies. Some of these are required for the Baj ceremony also:—
(A) Khwân [Khwan] or Stone slabs.
(B) Metallic requisites, known as Astama (Astâmâ) or Alat (Âlâ) i.e., metallic utensils or instruments. They are generally of brass, and, at times, of silver. Among these are:—
(C) Organic requisites. Among these are:—
(D) Zaothra or Zor (Zôr), the consecrated water.
(E) Fire and its requisites. Under this head come:—
Of all these requisites the principal that are often referred
to as appertaining to a Zaotar13 or sacrificer are the Aesma,
Barsom, the Jivam, and the Havanim (Aesmozasto, Baresmozasto, Gaozasto, Havano-zast.
Vendidad, III, I; Yasna Yasht X Meher 91). A priest in the midst of the ritual is
spoken of as one holding these in his hands (Zasta).
|13. For the function of the Zaotar and eight other functionaries of his class, vide the Nirangistan Bk. II, Ch. XXVII. For the Holy Ministers of the Church, their powers, qualifications, instruction, initiation, their triple quinary and octonary orders, &c., vide Nirangistan by Mr. S. J. Bulsara. Introduction, pp. 29, et. seq.|
The ritual of making the requisites pav (pâv) or pure.
|[Consecration of the ritual implements.]|
In all inner liturgical services, it is enjoined, that the utensils before being used, must be made pav, i.e., ceremoniously purified. The following is the process adopted for this purification:—
Pure clean water is fetched from a well in utensils previously
cleaned and washed. Well-water only is used; water drawn
from pipes is not permitted. For this purpose, all temples are
provided with a well. A priest observing the khub goes to a
well with the utensils previously cleaned and washed and draws
the water himself. Water drawn for the first and second time is
rejected. It is the water that is drawn for the third time that is
considered to be sufficiently pure for the ceremony. He
carries this water to the chamber or place where the liturgical
ceremonies are performed, and, with it, makes pav, the utensils
to be used in the liturgical service. The utensils are filled
up to the brim with water and then the priest utters the
following formula and pours additional water so as to let it
overflow the brim. He first says "Khshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao,
i.e. (I do this) for the pleasure of God," and then recites
one Ashem Vohu. He recites this formula three times, and, at
each recital, pours further water so as to let it flow over the
brim. In the interval of each formula, he recites in Baj, or mutters
with a suppressed tone, the following words:&mdash Yaozdâthra
Zareh Frâkand, Yaozdâthra Zareh Varkash, Yaozdâthra Zareh
Pûiti, i.e., with the purity of the seas, Frakand, Vouru Kasha and
Puiti. The first two are the two names, Pahlavi and Avesta,
of the Caspean Sea. The third is supposed to be the sea of
Aral. With these three, the holy waters of the heavenly
prototype of the river Ardvisura, supposed to be the Oxus, is also
remembered (harvasp mînô Ardvisura âw-i pâk Yaozdâthra).
What is meant by this recital and purification seems to be
this: The celebrant names the principal sources of water in
ancient Iran and symbolizes by the ceremony the fact of the
purifying prooess of water in the whole nature. All things
required to be ceremoniously purified for ritualistic purposes
are made pure in this way. A priest makes his hands also clean
or pure in this way. Now, I will proceed to describe all the
(A) Khwan (Khwân) or stone slabs.
The Khwan is a stone slab used in the Yazashna-gah. Over it are spread all the utensils required in the liturgical services of the Yazashna, the Visperad, and the Vendidad. The word is the same as the modern Persian khwân, meaning a table. It is so called because it is a slab standing on four feet in the form of a table. It is cut out of ordinary stone or marble. Altogether six stone slabs are used in the Yazashna-gah. Of these four are large and two small ones. Of the four large ones, three are square and one round. They are—
The positions of the slabs in the Yazashna-gah are shown below:—
|Sandalwood and frankincense.|
(a) Alât-no Khwân or the âlât-gah.
The Alât Khwân is the Khwân proper, because it serves as a table (Khwân) on which the priest spreads all the sacrificial plates, cups and other instruments, the Dron (Darun) or sacred bread, the Jivam (Jivâm) or the fresh milk, the urvarâm or the pomegranate twig, Haoma, etc. It is called Alat-gah, i.e., the place over which all the necessary sacred instruments (alat) are placed. It is also called Âlât no takhtô. The word takhtê in Persian has the same meaning as Khwân, i.e., a board or table. Hence, the word means "the table for the (religious) instruments." It is also known as Urviç.14
|14. Vide, above, p. 263.|
All the liturgical instruments and other requisites are arranged on the slab as
Before all the above plates, cups and other requisites are
placed over it, the Khwân requires to be made pâv, i.e., cleaned
and purified. The officiating priest takes his seat upon his
stone-slab and then, making a water-pot and the Kundi, pâv,
makes his two hands pâv, and then taking some pâv water
from the vessel (Kundi), recites the Khshnaothra formula six times
and pours from a saucer the pâv water over the Khwân
before him six times. During the first three recitals, he pours
the water, so as to let it fall from north to south, and then,
during the second three recitals, from west to east. These
six pourings of water over the Khwân makes it pâv.
Starêta or carpet, the Alat-gah of ancient times.
It seems that the use of stone-slabs as the alât-gâh or the place
for religious utensils, though old, is comparatively
recent, because it does not seem to
have been referred to in the Avesta. In the
Avesta (Visperad XI, 2), we find the word
starêta referred to, as one of the requisites for the performance
of the liturgical ceremonies. This word starêta (from star, Sanskrit
star, Lat., stru-ere, to strew, spread) means a thing spread,
i.e., a kind of matting. So, it seems, that in very old times, all
the sacrificial requisites were spread on a matting or carpet.
Herodotus (Bk. I, 132) seems to support this view, when he
says about the sacrificial offering that the priest "strew under
it a bed of tender grass, generally trefoil."
(b) The Adosht or the Khwan of Fire.
The stone-slab for fire is placed opposite the first Khwân or the Alat-gah at a distance of about five feet. It is the slab upon which the Afrinagan (Aferganiun)15 or the censer containing the ceremonial fire stands. It is about 20 to 24 inches square and about 12 to 16 inches high. It is generally known as Atash no Khwan (Âtash no Khwân), i.e., the slab for the fire. In the Dadestan-i Denig (Chap. XLVIII, 15),16 it is called Âtashto, i.e., the place for  the fire to stand upon [Âtash, fire, and stâ, to stand]. This word Âtashto has latterly become Âdusht. It is also spoken of as Atash-gah (Âtash-gâh), i.e., the place of fire. When the Haoma Yasht (Yasna IX, 1) speaks of purifying the fire all round (âtarem pairi-yaozdathentem), it refers to the washing or purifying of this stone slab as is done in the modern ritual. The Pahlavi of this chapter makes it clear (amatash âtâsh gâs kâmîstâ khalêlunastan. J. R. A. S. July 1900, p. 517. "The first preparers of the Haoma" by Dr. Mills.)
15. The censer is so called, because Afrins or benedictions, etc., are generally recited
before it when fire is burning on it.
16. S. B. E. Vol, XVIII, p, 164.
(c) The Khwan for the Kundi.
The third stone-slab is a small and round one. It is about
18 inches high and 15 inches in diameter.
It stands on the right of the first Khwan
or the Alat-gah. It is called Kundi no Khwan,
i.e., the slab for the Kundi,
because the Kundi, or the vessel containing pure water and
all the utensils when they are not used, stands over it.
(d) Zoti's Khân
This is a stone-slab, sufficiently large for the Zaota or the
officiating priest who recites the whole of
the Yasna, to sit upon. It is spread over
with a carpet. It simply serves as a seat
and has no sanctity attached to it. The Raspi, or the Atarvakhshi,
i.e., the priest who looks after the fire opposite, has a
carpet or a stool to sit upon. It is also spoken of as Zôd-gâh,
i.e., the place or seat of the Zoti (Zaotar).
(e) and (f). The two Khwans for the Aesam boy.
The fire in the Yazashna-gah, besides being fed ordinarily,
is fed with pieces of sandalwood and frankincense
at particular parts of the ritual, with
the recital of particular words in the prayers.
For this purpose, a few pieces of the fuel are set apart on two
small slabs of stone during particular parts of the recital.
(B) The Metallic requisites, the Alât or Astâma.
I will now describe the metallic utensils, which are known as
the Âlât (plural of the Persian word Âlat,
meaning utensil, instrument, or apparatus).
The technical word used by the priests for these utensils or
apparatus is Astama (Astâmâ). The word seems to be the corruption of
staômya, and means the apparatus used in singing the praise
(staômi) of God and His Divine Intelligences. Perhaps it is the
Pahlavi astâmeh (Pahl. Vend. XIV, 7), which is the
Pahl. rendering of Av. garêmô skarana and is taken by some
to represent the fire-vase ( afrinagan. Dastur Jamaspji's Pahl. Vend. Translation, p. 133).
According to Dastur Hoshangji (Pahl. Vend. p. 400, n. 7) a Pers. gloss gives for it
So, perhaps the astameh or fire-censer, being the
principal alat or instrument required in the ceremonial, all
others are mentioned under that name. Just as the first word
of prayers gave their names to the whole prayers (e.g. Yatha ahu vairyo
or Pater Noster), so the most important and essential instrument
or requisite gave its name to tbe whole set.
(a) and (b) The Hâvanîm and the Lâlâ (mortar and pestle).
As the principal ceremony in the Yasna liturgy is the preparation and celebration of the Haoma, Hâvanim, the mortar in which the twigs of the plant are pounded, and the pestle, with which they are pounded, form an important part of the liturgical apparatus. Hâvanîm is a kind of metallic mortar. It is the Hâvana of the 14th chapter of the Vendidad (XIV, 8) which gives a list of the religious instruments of a priest. The word comes from the Avesta root hu (Sanskrit su) to pound. Thus, it means an instrument in which the Haoma plant is pounded. It is spoken of as dâityô-kêrêta (Vend. XIV, 8) i.e. properly prepared. This refers to its proper preparation, so that it may give a proper metallic ringing sound when struck by the lâlâ or dasta, i.e., pestle. It appears from the Avesta, that it was made either of stone (asmana hâvana, Vend. XIV, 10) or of iron (Yasna., XXII, 2: Visparad, X,2). It is the metallic Hâvanîm that is now used in the ritual.
The Lâlô or the pestle is the instrument with which the
Haoma twigs are pounded in the Hâvanîm. It is also the
instrument with which the Hâvanâna, i.e. the priest performing the
Haoma ceremony, strikes the Hâvanîm and produces a ringing
metallic sound. The word seems to be the Persian lâla,
i.e., a tulip. It is so called from its resemblance to the stem of
the tulip flower. It is also called dasta, i.e., a handle, from the
fact of its being held in the hand to pound the Haoma in the
The word tashta is the Avesta (Vend., XIX, 8,) tashta (Fr.
tasse, Germ. tasse, Eng. dish). It is a
chalice, plate, or cup used in the ceremonial.
The fourteenth fargard of the Vendidad and its Pahlavi
commentary refer to some of these tashtas. There are two
kinds of tashta: One is that known as rakâbi which is a Persian
word for a plate. The other is that known as fuliun and is
probably so called from Sanskrit fûl, i.e., flower, because it is
hollower than the rakâbi or plate and looks like a full-blown
The tashta or plates used in the ritual are five in number. One is known as Hom nô tashtô (tashta Haomya: Vendidad, XIV, 8), i.e., the plate for holding the Haoma. The second is known as Jivâm nô tashtô, i.e., the plate for holding the Jivâm, i.e., the fresh milk. It is the gaoidhya of the Vendidad (Chap. XIV, 8). It is spoken of in Pahlavi books as Gosh-dân, i.e., the utensil containing kine-products. The third is known as surâkhdâr tashto, i.e., the plate with holes (Pers. surâkh, a hole). It is the plate through which the Haoma juice is made to pass down into a cup as through a sieve. It is the Raêthwishbajina (i.e., purifier of the drujs) of the Avesta (Vend., XIX, 8). The fourth is the plate that holds the dron (Draôna) or the sacred bread. The fifth is one for covering the cup holding some extra Haoma juice prepared by pounding the Haoma.
The fuliâns or the second kind of cups are also five in number. One of these is for holding the Haoma juice after pounding the Haoma plant with the urvarâm. It is the Haomya of the Avesta (Visparad, XI, 2). The second is that for holding the zaothra or zor water. It is the Zashta zaothrô-barana (i.e., the chalice which carries or holds the zaothra) of the Avesta (Visparad, X, 2). 
The third is for holding the varas ring. The fourth is for
holding some extra quantity of the Haoma juice. The fifth is
an extra one placed near the Mahrui for extra purposes.
The Mah-rui (lit. moon-faced) are two metallic stands about
nine inches in height. They are so
called because they have a moon-faced or
crescent-shaped top. They are always used in pair, one
placed in front of the other. They are also called Barsom-dân,
because the Barsom twigs are placed upon them. They are the
ceremonial instruments referred to as Mâh-ruyô in the Dadistan-i Denig
(Chap. XLVII, 14).17 There, the Aurvis, or the stone
slab of the Yazashna-gah is spoken of as the proper place for
the mah-rui. They must always be metallic (shatvarin).18
17. S. B. E., Vol. XVIII, p. 163.
18. Ibid, p. 165. Dadestan, Chap. XLVIII, 17.
(e) The Barsom.
The Barsom forms an important part of the liturgical apparatus.
In the modern ritual, the old vegetable Barsom has been replaced by metallic
Barsom. As it is referred to by a classical
writer like Strabo, and in the Old Testament, and as its ceremony
has been referred to by Firdousi and others, I will speak of it at
some length. The word Barsom is the Avesta word Baresman.
It comes from the Avesta root barez, Sanskrit barh, to grow.
The twigs of a particular tree used in liturgical ceremonies
are spoken of as the Barsom. Later books say that the twigs
may be of the pomegranate tree or of the tree known as the
chini. But the Avesta itself does not specialize any particular
tree. It speaks generally, that the Barsom must be of a tree
(Yasna 25:3; urvarâm baresmanim). The Shayest Ne-Shayest (14:2),19
though it does not particularize the tree,
says that only twigs of the proper tree must be used. But,
now-a-days, instead of the twigs of any tree, metallic wires
are used. They are generally of brass, but at times of silver.
They are about nine inches long and one-eighth of an inch in
diameter. Each of such wires is called a tâê (Pers. tâî, i.e., a
thin thread). The practice of using metallic wires seems to
have come into force within these last 1,000 years, because the
Dadestan refers to vegetable twigs.20
19. S. B. E., Vol. V, p. 370.
20. Dadistan-e Denig, XLVIII, 17. Vide S. B. E., Vol XVIII, p. 165, n.3.
The number of twigs required differ in different services. The
Shayest Ne-Shayest (14:2)21
enjoins, that neither more nor
less than the requisite number should be used. The celebration
of the Yasna requires 23 twigs of which 21 form a bundle.
One twig is placed on the foot of the Mah-rui, i.e., the moon-faced
or the crescent-like stand which is otherwise known as
the Barsamdân. This twig is called zor-nô tâe, i.e., the twig of
the saucer containing the zor or zaothra water. The other, i.e.,
the twenty-third twig is placed on the saucer containing the
jivâm, i.e., the mixture of water and milk. The celebration of
the Vendidad requires 35 twigs, of which 33 form a bundle
and the other two are used as above. The celebration of the
Visperad requires 35 twigs, that of the Yazeshna of Rapithwin
15, and that of the Baj 5. In the case of the ceremony of
Nawar, i.e., the initiation into priesthood, the recital of the
Mino-Navar baj requires seven twigs. The Sraosh Yasht
(Yasna 57:5) speaks of the use of three, five, seven, and nine
twigs by Sraosha. The greatest length of each of the twigs is
spoken of here as that of the height of a knee, i.e., about two
feet. According to the Nirangistan, the minimum number
be used in the ritual is three, the minimum thickness
of each twig to be equal to that of a hair, the maximum length
to be one aesha and the maximum breadth one yava. The
Vendidad (19:19) also gives the length of one aesha and the
breadth of one yava. Darmesteter22 takes "aêsha" to be the
length of a ploughshare and the "yava" to be the breadth of
a barley-corn. According to English measures, three barley-corns
make one inch.
21. S. B. E., Vol. V, p. 370. For some varying numbers, vide the
Nirangestan Bk. III, Ch. VII. Appendix A. (Mr. Bulsara's Translation,
pp. 434. et seq).
22. Le Zend Avesta II, p. 265.
In the ritual, the Barsom twigs or wires are placed on the
above-mentioned two crescent-shaped metallic stands made
generally of brass or at times of silver, of which the
Shayest Ne-Shayest (3:32; 10:35)23
speaks as Barsamdân, i.e., the
holder of the Barsom. We will see later on, that the Barsom
is the symbol of God's vegetable creation. As said above, the
very etymology of the word suggests growth. The moon and
its crescent (Lat. crescere, to grow, increase) give an idea of
growth. Again, the moon is believed to have some influence
on the growth of vegetation.24 So, Barsom, the symbol of the
vegetable world of God has, for its stand, moon-shaped metallic
23. S. B. E., Vol. V, pp. 284, 333.
24. Vide my paper on "The Ancient Iranian Belief and Folklore about the moon, etc". (Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay, Vol. XI. pp. 14-39. Vide my Anthropological Papers, Part II, p. 302, et seq).
The second chapter of the Yasna shows that the Barsom was
considered to be an essential requisite in the liturgical service
of the Yasna. This chapter is called the Barsom Yasht. The
Vendidad (14:8) speaks of it as one of the requisites of
an Athornan, i.e., a Fire-priest performing liturgical services.
Being such an essential requisite, the very tree whose twigs
serve as Barsom is an object of praise (Yasna 25:3). All
the religious rites of the inner liturgical service of the Zoroastrians
are celebrated with Barsom (Zand-i Vohuman Yasht 2:57-58).25
|25. S. B. E., Vol. V, pp. 212.|
According to the Nirangistan, the Barsom ceremony existed
in the time of Zoroaster, whose contemporary, Jamasp, is
said to have celebrated it in a particular way (Fragments, 6.
Nirangistan, Fargard III, 89).26 In many passages of the
Avesta, Niyayeshes, and Yashts, it is always associated
with the Haoma and Jivam ceremonies (Haomayo gava baresma).
So, as the Haoma ceremony27 is very ancient, it follows
that the barsom ceremony also is as ancient as that. The
Zand-i Vohuman Yasht (3:29, 37)28 speaks of it as celebrated by
Peshotan, a contemporary of Zoroaster.29
26. Darmesteter, Le Zend Avesta, III, p. 136. Vide the Nirangistan
(B. II, Chap. V, Appendix A) by Mr. S. J. Bulsara. His Introduction
may be read with advantage to have a brief view of what is said in the
Nirangistan about the Barsom and about other articles of the alat
(Airpatastân and Nirangistan by Sohrab Jamshedji Bulsara. Introd.
27. Vide below, p. 300.
28. S.B.E., Vol. V, pp. 227, 229.
29. It is this ceremony that Ezekiel refers to when he says: "Then he said unto me, 'Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger and lo they put the branch to their nose." Ezekiel 8:16-17). The Parsee priests even now hold the twigs up to their face. Hence it is that Ezekiel speaks of the branch as being held to the nose.
Strabo also refers to this ceremony. He says: "They (the Persians) then lay the flesh in order upon myrtle or laurel branches; the Magi touch it with slender twigs and make incantations, pouring oil mixed with milk and honey, not into the fire, nor into the water, but upon the earth. They continue their incantations for a long time, holding in the hand a bundle of slender myrtle rods." (Strabo, Bk. XV, chap. III, 14. Hamilton and Falconer's Translation (1857), III, pp. 136-137.)
The Flamines or the Fire-priests of the ancient Romans also carried bunches of such twigs in their hands in their ritual. Dino, a contemporary of Philip, is said to have referred to the Barsom, though not as a sacrificial instrument but as an instrument of Divination (Darmesteter Le Zend Avesta, III, p. LXIX). The Denkard (Bk. 8, chap. 19:83, chap. 20:12) seems to refer to this use of the Barsom when it speaks of its being used as an ordeal (Baresmok-varih) in judicial matters (S. B. E., Vol. XXXVII, pp. 48, 55).
The Barsom used in the recital of grace before meals.
The Parsees have three forms of prayers to be recited as
grace before meals. One of these, which is
the longest and in which certain chapters of
the Yasna are recited, is used by priests
on certain occasions when they officiate in
continued inner liturgical services. In the recital of this form
of grace barsom is a necessary requisite. But, it seems, that in
ancient times, barsom was a requisite in even the simple forms
of grace recited before meals. The reciter held Barsom in his
hand during these recitals. It was so in Sasanian times.
We learn from Firdausi, that Yazdegird, the last Sasanian king,
when he concealed himself during his flight in the house
of a miller, asked for the Barsom to say his grace before the meals.
This led to the discovery of the place of his hiding and he was
treacherously killed by his general Mahui Suri. Again, we find,
that in the reign of Khosro Parviz (Chosroes II), this custom
of using the Barsom in the recital of grace before meals was on
the point of leading to a war between Persia and Rome.30
|30. Rehatzek thus describes the incident: "On another occasion, the Persian monarch gave a banquet and had tables arranged for that purpose, in a rose garden. He had put on the royal diadem, and Nyâtus (the Roman ambassador) with the philosophers sat around the table . . . . . Bandvy, one of his (Khosru's) favourite magnates with the Barsom (or little twigs held by Mobeds when praying) in his hand arrived and stood near his sovereign, who muttered the Baj (i.e., the prayer of grace) . . . . When Nyâtus beheld this scene, he laid aside his bread, and was so annoyed that he left the table, saying that the Baj and the Cross together were an insult to the Messiah." (Journal of the B. B. R. A. Society, Vol. XIII, p. 88, note.) Firdausi refers to this subject at some length (vide Le Livre des Rois par M. Motl, Vol. VII, p. 183).|
Its similarity to a Hindu ceremony.
The Barsom is "identified with the Barhis or sacred grass
(Kusha grass) of the Brahmans, which
they spread at their sacrifices as a seat for
the gods who are expected to come."31 Dr. Haug
differs from this identification, and
says that it resembles "a peculiar rite at the great Soma
sacrifices. . . . . . . At the time of the Soma libation (called
Savana) which is to be performed three times on the same day,
from 8 to 12 a.m. (morning libation), 1 to 5 p.m. (mid-day libation)
and 6 to 11 p.m. (evening libation), the three Sâmaveda priests,
the Udgâtâ, the Prastotâ, and the Pratihartâ, require a certain
number of wooden sticks to be placed in a certain order when
chanting the sacred sâmas (verses of the Sâmaveda.) They
use for this purpose the wood of the Udumbara tree, and call
them Kusha, which name is generally given to the sacred grass.
the Agnishtama, 15 such sticks are required at the morning
libation, 17 at noon, and 21 in the evening; in other sacrifices,
such as the Aptoryâma, even a much larger number of such
sticks is required."32 The very fact, that the barsom is not
spread on the ground but is enjoined to be held up in the
hand — left hand according to the Vendidad. (XIX, 19) — as
referred to in Ezekiel and by Strabo, and as practised at present,
seems to show that its identification with the barhis of the Hindus
is not correct and that Haug's identification seems to be more
probable. Again, as we have seen above, as a symbol of
vegetable creation, it is connected with the moon which helps
growth of vegetatian. So, its identification with a rite of
the Saoma sacrifice seems to be correct, because Saoma has
some connection with the moon.
31. Haug's Essays, 2nd edition, p. 283. Vide Journal B. B. R. A.
Society, Vol. XIV. pp. 5-15.
32. Haug, ibid, p. 283.
The object of the barsom ceremony.
It appears from the Vendidad (19:18, 19), that the object of performing the Barsom ceremony seems to be the payment of homage to the vegetable creation of God. There, in reply to the question of Zoroaster, as to with what kind af praise or ritual (Yasna) he should worship or laud the creation of God, Ahura Mazda replies, that he should go before a florishing growing tree, utter the words, "Praise be to thee, the good pure tree created by Ahura Mazda (nemô urvairê vanghuhi, etc.,)"! and then cut the Barsom out of the tree. This passage not only shows, that the Barsom represents the vegetable creation of God, but also that the Barsom ritual is intended as a means of celebrating the praise of God for the creation of the world, especially the vegetable world. The Vishtasp Yasht (Yasht 24:21-23) also gives a similar interpretation.
In the ritual, the holy water (the zaothra or jôr water) is poured over the Barsom. Now, this zaothra or purified water  represents, or is the symbol of, rain through which the world receives the gift of water from God. Thus, the ritual of pouring this sacred water, which is the symbol of the drops af rain, upon barsom, which is the symbol of vegetable creation, signifies the celebration, or the worshipful commemoration of the process of the whole vegetable world being fertilized by rain. Prof. Darmesteter expresses this point very pithily and briefly in the following words: "Le symbolisme de ces opérations est transparent: Le Baresman représente la nature végétale, le zohr (i.e. the sacred water) représente les eaux: an met le zohr en cantact idéal avec le Baresman pour pénétrer toute la flore des vertus de l'eau et féconder la terre."33
|33. Le Zend Avesta, I, p. 397.|
The celebrant is enjoined to look continuously to the Barsom during the ceremony and to concentrate his mind upon it (Vend. 19:19), because, by looking upon what represents, or is the symbol of, the vegetable creation, he conceives in his mind the whole of the creation. The object aimed at by the ritual is not gained if the celebrant or worshipper is immoral and vicious (Mihr Yasht, Yt. 10:138). In the case of a righteous person (ashavan), even one single sincere performance of the Barsom ceremony is sufficient to exalt him and to put down the evil influences of the wicked (Fragments Tehmuras, XXIV, 40-41).34 According to the Menog-i Khrad (57:28),35 the celebration of this ceremony which symbolized the act of praising God for his creation, broke the power of the demons or of the evil influences. The Denkard (Bk. VIII, Chap. 26:24)36 says, that the celebration of the praise of God with this ceremonial on a day of battle, helps the soldiers a good deal; it is something like throwing a well-aimed arrow. Firdausi refers to its use in the ritual in the Fire-temples in the time of Behramgour (Behram V).37
34. Darmesteter, Le Zend Avesta, III, p. 61.
35. S. B. E., Vol. XXIV, p. 103.
36. S. B. E., Vol. XXXVII, p. 89.
37. M. Mohl, Le Livre des Rois, Vol. VI, p. 65.
Preparation of the Barsom (a) gathering it and (b) tying it.
The Denkard (Bk. VIII, Chap. 29:16),38 referring to the
Husparum Nask, says, that one of the sections of the Nirangistan refers to the
"gathering and tying the sacred twigs (Barsom)." In modern practice, the ceremony
of the preparation of the barsom for liturgical purposes
consists of only one part. But, at one time, it consisted of two
parts:—(a) The first part, viz., the gathering or the collection of
the twigs now-a-days is different from the old method, because,
instead of vegetable twigs, metallic twigs are used now.
(b) The second part, viz., that of tying the twigs or wires is
performed even now. I will describe both the old ritual of
gathering the twigs and the modern ritual of tying them.
|38. S. B. E., Vol. XXXVII, p. 96. Vide also Chapters. XIII-XVI, pp. 469-77 of the Nirangistan translated by Mr. S. J. Bulsara.|
(a) According to the old practice, a priest who had performed
the Khub ceremony — either the small or the large Khub — performed
the ceremony of preparing the barsom. He fetched
pure water from a well and with it made a water-pot pâv, i.e.,
pure. With this pure water, collected in a ceremoniously purified
utensil, he went before the tree whose twigs were to be used
in the ritual as the symbol of the vegetable creation, and washed,
with his right hand, the twig which he wanted to cut. Then,
holding a knife (kaplo) in the right hand and the utensil of pâv
water in the left, he took the Baj with the Khshnuman for
urvara or trees, recited a formula of prayer, wherein the
bountiful vegetable creation of God was praised
(frasastayaecha urvarao vanghuyao mazdadhatayao ashaonyao)
and cut off the twig he required for the ritual. He cut off the twig with the
recital of an Ashem Vohu. With the word "Ashem," he cut
off and rejected the partly dried tip or the end. With the word
Vohu, he touched the stem and with the word Vahishtem, he
cut it off. At the end of the recital, he thus paid his homage to
the good vegetable creation of God, as enjoined in the Vendidad
(Chapter 19:18): "Homage to thee, O good holy tree, created
by God! (Nemo urvaire vanguhi Mazdadhate ashaone). With
the cutting of each twig the above ritual is repeated. He then
retires to the Yazashna-gah. In the modern practice, a priest
with the Khub makes the metallic wire pâv, i.e., pure, together
with all the metallic utensils required for the Yazashne
ceremony. The Shayest Ne-Shayest (14:2)39 enjoins that
they all must be made pâv. He then holds the requisite
number of wires, all but one, in his left hand. Then, holding the
remaining one in his right hand, with the usual recital of
three Ashem Vohus and Fravarane, takes the Baj with the
Khshnuman of Khshathra-vairya or Shahrewar Ameshaspand who
presides over metal. In the old practice, the Khshnuman was
that for trees because the twigs used were those of a tree.
Then, during the recital of the Ashem Vohu of the Baj,
touching both the ends of the bundle of wires in his left hand
with the zaothra or zor wire (so called because it is to be placed
on the zaothra water cup) in his right hand, he finishes the Baj.
While finishing the Baj during the recital of the Yasnemcha
formula, with the mention of the name of Khshathra-vairya
who presides over metals, he touches again both the ends of the
bundle of the barsom wires in his left hand with the zor
wire in his right hand.
|39. S. B. E, Vol. V., p. 370.|
(b) Having prepared the barsom the next process is that of
tying the wires into a bundle. A strip of the leaf of a date-palm
known as aiwyaonghana40 is used for the purpose. The priest
takes the Baj with the Khshnuman of Ahurahe Mazdao. During
the recital of this Baj, while uttering the words Ahurahe Mazdao
(i.e. God), raevato (i.e., the Brilliant) and Kharenanghato
(i.e., the Glorious), the priest, holding the barsom on the aiwyaonghana
which lies over the crescent of the Mah-rui, ties the barsom
with the strip of the leaf of the date-palm. He then dips four
times the bundle of wires and the strip of the leaf in the water
of the Kundi or the vessel on his right hand side. While
doing this, he recites four Ashem Vohus. He then recites two
Ahunwars. During the recital of the first, he puts on two knots
over the bundle of the wire. During the recital of the second,
cuts off and polishes with a knife the ends of the strip of the
leaf of the date-palm. The knife used in the recital for the
purpose (the ashtra of Vendidad 14:8), known at present as
the Kaplo, is spoken of at times as the Barsom-chin. The
tying process being completed, the priest finishes the Baj.
|40. Vide below, the ceremony of preparing the strip of leaf for the Aiwyaonbana, p. 291.|
(f) Varas ni viti i.e., the ring with the hair of the sacred bull.
The hair (vars, varç)41 of a sacred white bull, entwined round a
ring, is a necessary requisite. The number
of hairs used is three, five, or seven. The
vars or the hair of a sacred white bull particularly
kept for the purpose is used only
as long as that bull is living. On the death of that bull, his vars
or hair are rejected and that of a new bull, which in its turn is
consecrated, are used. The ring with the hair is purified before
being used in the ritual. This purification of the hair-ring
takes place every time that it is used, i.e., at each performance
of the Haoma ceremony. The ring with the vars or hair lies
on the stone-slab before the priest in a small metallic cup.
Before preparing the Zaothra water, the officiating priest
makes the ring pav or purifies it. He takes one wire of the
barsom in his right hand and places his left hand with the
wire on two small metallic Zaothra cups which are placed in an
inverted position on the stone-slab. Then holding the varas
ring in his right hand he dips it in the Kundi on his right. He
then utters in Baj or in a suppressed tone, the 101 names of
God. This recital of the 10142 names is repeated ten times.
This dipping of the ring with the recital of God's names
purifies the ring for ritualistic purpose.
41. Vide above p. 256 Varaçyô in the Consecration Ceremonies.
42. For these 101 names of God, vide Darab Hormzdyar's Revayet; by Ervad M. R. Unvala. Yasna bâ Nirang by Ervad Tehmuras D. Anklesaria, pp. 24-26.
When used in the Haoma ritual after the above purification, the ring is used with a Baj prayer, known as Varaç ni Bâj, i.e., the Baj for the use of Varas. The priest, who has to prepare the Haoma juice, holds in his left hand the barsom wire, known as the Zor wire (Zôr nô tâi) and in his right hand the hair-ring. Then holding both the hands together before his face, he takes the Baj with the Khshnuman of the Fravashi or Farohar of Zarathushtra Spitama, and then finally reciting an Ashem Vohu prayer dips it in the cup containing the Zor water. The ring thus consecrated is then used in the subsequent ceremony of straining the Haoma juice.
In the ritual of preparing all the other requisites, the Baj with the Khshnuman referring to the particular requisite is recited. For example, (a) In the case of having the vegetable barsom twigs, the Khshnuman referring to trees (urvarayao vanghuya mazdadhatayao ashaonyao, i.e., the good holy trees created by Mazda) is enjoined to be recited. (b) In the case of tying the metallic twigs of the barsom, the Khshnuman relating to metal (Khshathrahe vairyehe ayokhshustahe, i.e., the Ameshaspend Shahrewar presiding over the metals) is recited. (c) In the case of Jivam or the milk of the bovine creation, the Khshnuman referring to the cow (geush tashne geush urune, i.e., the bovine creation, the soul of the bovine creation) is recited. (d) In the case of the preparation of the Zaothra or Zor water, the Khshnuman relating to water (aiwyo vaughubyo vispanamcha apam mazdadhatanam, i.e., good waters, all the good waters created by Mazda.) is recited. (e) In the case of the ritual of purifying the Haoma twigs, the Khshnuman referring to Haoma (Haomahe ashavazangho, i.e., Haoma giving the strength of piety) is recited. But in the case of the varas, i.e., the hair, the Khshnuman recited refers to the holy spirit of Zoroaster (Zarathushtrahe Spitamahe ashaono Fravashee, i.e., the holy Fravashi of Spitama Zarathushtra). The reason does not seem to be clear, but it is traditionally said, that in the early days of the foundation of the ritual in Zoroaster's times, the hair of the horse of Zoroaster were used as the varas (vide the Rivayats). 
The haired ring, when placed in the perforated chalice (surâkhdâr tashta) and used in the Haoma service, seems to serve, as it were, as a strainer for the Haoma juice. This varas or hair is spoken of in the Avesta (Visperad 10:2) as Varesa Haoma angharezân, i.e., the Varas or hair for straining the Haoma juice.
Ashtra or Kaplo, i.e. a knife.
A knife with a metallic handle is another requisite. It is the 'ashtra' of the Vendidad (14:8). It is now called kaplo [kâplô], because it is used for the purpose of cutting (kapvûn) the aiwyaonghana or the leaf of the date-tree, and the urvaram or the root or twigs of the pomegranate tree. It is also used in cutting and smoothening the ends of the aiwyaonghana which fastens the twigs of the barsom. It is also spoken of as the barsom-chin, i.e., the instrument for picking and collecting the barsom twigs.
(h)The kundi and other water vessels.
As all the utensils and other requisites require purification, a quantity of water is always required in the Yazashna-gah. The first important vessel water for containing this is known as the kundi (Sanskrit kund, a basin or bowl), i.e., the water basin. It is a large metallic basin about 15 inches in diameter and 12 inches in depth. All the sacred utensils are, before being spread on the khwan or stone-slab, collected in this kundi. Instead of making each and every one of the utensils severally pâv or purified, they are all placed at first in the kundi, which is then made pâv. The process of making the kundi pâv makes all the utensils contained in it also pâv.
The other utensils used in the Yazashna-gah are two or three
water-pots known as karasyâ or kâhrnâ. They do not form
part of the alat or the sacred utensils properly so called, but
they form a part of the necessary requisites. The karasyâ is a
small water-pot. The word seems to have come from Persian
karsân, an earthen or wooden vessel. Two of these
are generally used in the Yazashna-gah. They hold the water
used for making the several requisites pâv. The other water-pot
is known as kâhârnoo. It is a large water-pot. It seems
to have been so called from the word kâhrvun, i.e., to draw
(water), because it is generally used for drawing water from the well.
As a quantity of water is used in the Yazashna-gah for purification
purposes, an outlet for the water is provided by the pavis.43
The pavis serve, both, as limits or marks within which certain
ceremonies must be performed and which must not be encroached
upon by others, and as conduits for the waste-water to get out.
43. Vide the word pâvi in the Purificatiory Ceremonies, p. 115.
(C) The Organic Requisites.
We will now speak of the organic requisites. Though Haoma is the most important of these requisites and though the ceremony of pounding and preparing its juice forms an important part of the Yasna liturgy, we will first describe the other organic requisites, because they are required for the Haoma ceremony and their preparation and purification precede that of the Haoma.
(a) The aiwyaonghana, a leaf of the date-palm.
Aiwyaonghana is the strip of a leaf of the date-palm. The
word comes from the Avesta aiwi (Sans. abhi, Gr. epi, round about)
and yaôngha, (Sans. yâç) to put on, and means putting
round about. The word literally means a bond or tie. The
strip of a leaf of the date-palm used in the Yasna liturgy is
called aiwyaonghana because it is put round the barsom to tie it.
The date-tree (the aiwyaonghana), a symbol among the ancient Iranians.
According to Pliny,44 the ancient Iranian kings had a special
date-palm growing in their gardens. It was known as the "royal" date-palm. It was a
native of Babylonia. Syagri was a species of that date-palm. Pliny45 says of this
species, that no sooner did a tree die another
grew out of the old root. The story of the bird phoenix rising
again from the ashes of its former self seems to have been taken
from the story of this tree. The date-tree was for this reason
held to be an emblem of immortality and of royalty among the
ancient Iranians as among some other nations.46
44. Bk. XIII, chap. 9. Bostock and Reiley's Translation, Vol. III, p. 174.
46. Among the ancient Chaldaians, the date-tree signified the tree of life. Its roots go far down below into the earth, and its top with its branches points high above towards the sky. So, it was considered as a proper symbol of the tree of life, signifying, that man has come from long unknown past and is advancing towards some unknown future. Its green branches symbolize the active element in our life and its trunk and root, the passive element. Among the ancient Assyrians, it was a symbol of fertility. Old Assyrian cylinders present pictures wherein a priest is represented as pointing to a date-tree. ("The Sacred Tree," by Mrs. Philpot, p. 88.)
The ancient Egyptians knew the date-palm by the name "Bai," and as it was an emblem of the immortality of the soul, the soul also was known as "Bai" or "Ba." Again, as the leafy part at the top pointed to the heavens, the date-palm symbolized the scienoe of aatronomy among the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptian Thoth, who was "the Deity who superintended the life of man," held in his hands a palm, each branch of which represented a year. ("Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians," by Sir Gardiner Wilkinson, Vol. I, p. 256.) "Mercury, the Hermes of Egypt, was represented with a palm branch in his hand: and his priests at Hermopolis used to have them stuck in their sandals on the outside. The Goddess Isis was thus represented." (Bryant's New System, or Analysis of Ancient Mythology, (1807) Vol. II, pp. 3-4.)
Owing to its straight and majestic appearance, it was held among the ancients as an emblem of honour. So, it was presented to triumphant persons as a symbol of a prize. "The ancients always speak of it as a stately and noble tree. It was esteemed an emblem of honour; and made use of as a reward for victory. Plurimarum palmarum homo (i.e. a man like many palms) was a proverbial expression among the Romans for a soldier of merit. Pliny speaks of the various species of palms; and of the great repute in which they were held by the Babylonians. He says, that the noblest of them were styled the royal palms, and supposes that they were so called from their being set apart for the king's use. But they were very early an emblem of royalty" (Ibid. p. 3).
The ancient Hebrews also held the palm as a symbol of triumph and victory. They carried boughs of the palm in their hands in some of their festivals. At the celebration of the nuptial ceremonies, it was used as a symbol of joy and good luck. "It was thought to have an influence at the birth" (Ibid p. 4.) According to Leviticus (Ch. 23:40), among the ancient Hebrews, in the Feast of the Tabernacle, the Israelites were enjoined "to take the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees . . . . and rejoice before the Lord." According to Ezekiel (41:18-20), the palm played a prominent part in the places of angels and holy men. In the Temple, "a palm-tree was between a cherub and a cherub . . . . . From the ground unto above the door were cherubims and palm-trees made, and on the wall of the temple." In later Hebrew coins it is found as a symbol of Judaea. The Blessed are represented as standing before the throne of God "clothed with white robes and palms in their hands" (Revelation, 7:9). Being an emblem of royalty, when Christ entered Jerusalem, the people welcomed him with branches of palm-trees in their hands. They "took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried Hosanna; Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord" (John 12:13). On account of its straight growth, the Psalmist considered the palm to be a symbol of righteousness. He said: "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree" (Psalm 92:12.) It rises and grows in spite of the great weight of its branches on its top or the head. Instead of being depressed by the weight of the branches, it thrives the more, the greater the number of branches. That fact symbolized the moral, that man must not be depressed under difficulties but try to rise to the occasion. (Bryant's Ancient Mythology, Vol. II, pp. 4-5.)
The palm was a classical symbol of Victory and Triumph. The Christians then assumed it as the universal symbol of martyrdom. In many a picture of the martyrs, an angel is represented as descending with the palm. "Hence it is figured in the tombs of the early martyrs and placed in the hands of those who suffered in the cause of truth, as expressing their final victory over the powers of sin and death." (Sacred and Legendary Art, by Mrs. Jameson, p. 31.) In the Greek Church it is held as the emblem of the Victory of Faith.
The date being their and their cattle's staple food and being a tree of which all the parts are utilized by them in one way or another, it is held by the Arabs in estimation and loved dearly, and they cultivate it and fructify it with religious fervour. Where Nature is not strong enough for the fructification of the palm, they at particular seasons cut off the male spathes and transfer the pollen to the female spathes. Bent thus describes the process: "It was just then the season at which the female spathe has to be fructified by the male pollen and we were interested in watching a man going round with an apron full of male spathes. With these he climbed the stem of the female palm and with a knife cut open the bark which encircles the female spathe. and as he shook the male pollen over it, he chanted in a low voice, "May God make you grow and be fruitful." (Southern Arabia, by Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Bent, London, 1900, p. 117). In the sandy part of Arabia, it is held as dear as a mother. There they say on the authority of their prophet Mahomed: "Honour the date tree, for she is your mother." (" Ibid p. 19). In the holy month of Ramzan, the day's fast is first broken by eating a date. So, the idea of one's duty is bound up with the date in their proverb, "At the same time a date and a duty." (Ibid, p. 20).
The ceremony of preparing the Aiwyaonghana: Its signification.
As the date-palm is essential in the liturgical services, every
Fire-temple or Dar-i-Mihr has one or more
date-trees growing in its compound. The officiating priest
who has observed the Khub goes before the tree with a potful of water,
made ceremoniously pâ or pure. He washes three times with
that water the particular leaf which he wants, reciting the
usual formula of Khshnaothra. Then, with a knife which is
also previously washed clean, he cuts off, at first, the top or the
end of the twig, and rejects it, lest it may be a little dried
and damaged, and then, he cuts off the leaf. He then once
more washes it with the pav water and then placing it in the
water-pot, carries it to the Yazashna-gah. There, he divides
the leaf into six thin strips, which being divided at first into two
groups of three each, are then twisted into one string and knotted
at both the ends. It is then placed in a clean pav metallic cup
and afterwards used for tying the barsom.
We said above, that the barsom represents the creation of
God. The separate twigs or wires of the barsom represent that
the creation consists of various parts. The aiwyaonghana
which binds or ties together the barsom signifies union or
unity among these parts. It seems to signify that the whole
Nature is one. We are one with it. We learn from the Pahlavi
commentary of the Yasna47 (Chap. 9:26) where aiwyaonghana
is referred to, that the idea or the main object seems to be that
of ayokardgih, i.e., of unification. The word aiwyaonghana is
also used in the Avesta for the Kusti or the sacred thread. One
of the interpretations about the Kusti is, that it unites into a
circle of harmony all those who put it on. Similarly the
aiwyaonghana or the strips of the leaf of the date-palm, when
put round the separate twigs or wires of the barsom for the
purpose of uniting them all into one bundle, signify the fact of
the unity of the creation, the unity of Nature. On finishing
the Yasna, while reciting the 72nd Chapter, the Zaota puts on
further knots over the barsom with the strips of the aiwyaonghana
signifying that the liturgical ceremony has led to or
signified further unification.48
47. Spiegel's Pahlavi Yasna, p. 76, sec. 81. Vide Mills' Pahlavi Text
of Yasna 9:49-103 (Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol.
XXIII (1902). p, 11.
48. Prof. Darmesteter, while translating this chapter has committed the mistake to say that the priest here unties the knots (dènoue deux nœuds], On the contrary, he goes on putting on five more knots. (Le Zend Avesta, I, p. 438).
(b) The Urvaram. Its symbolism and the Ceremony of preparing it.
The word comes from Avesta urvara, (Sanskrit urvarâ, Latin
arbor, Fr. Arbre) tree. Originally, it means
a tree. Then it has been applied specially
to a twig of the pomegranate tree used in
the liturgical service. The Dadestan-i Denig
(Ch. 48:16) specializes the pomegranate
as the urvaram or as "the tree." There, it is called hadanapag
(Avesta hadhânaêpata), i.e., evergreen, from hadhâ = Sanskrit
sadâ, i.e., "ever" and from nip or nap, to be green. "On a review
of the whole evidence, botanical, literary and linguistic, Alphonse
de Candolle (Origine des Plantes Cultivées) .......... decides in
favour of its source in Persia and the neighbouring countries."49
. . . The fruit is frequently represented on ancient Assyrian
and Egyptian sculptures, and had a religious significance
in connexion with several oriental cults."50 Dâram, the
Parsee name of the pomegranate fruit, comes from the
Sanskrit name of the fruit dalim.
It is the rimmon of the Bible.51 The plant known as
hadhanaepata (or, as the word signifies, the evergreen) in
the Avesta and, at one time, considered to be a fragrant plant
(Vend. 8:2), is considered to be the pomegranate tree. The
pomegranate being an evergreen plant is considered to be an
emblem of the immortality of the soul.52 It is also held as a
symbol of plenty and prosperity, from the fact that it contains
a number of grains within itself. For this purpose, when
benedictions are recited upon a child during its investiture
with the sacred shirt and thread, grains of pomegranate mixed
with grains of rice and raisins, etc., are besprinkled over it.
In the Afrinagan ceremony, where fruits and flowers are used
as offerings, the pomegranate is often used. If other kinds
of fruits are not available, a few grains of the pomegranate are
supposed to serve the purpose. It is, as it were, taken as the
representative of all kinds of fruit.53 From all these considerations,
we see that the pomegranate served variously as
symbol: (1) It represented the vegetable creation and especially
the fruit-growing trees. (2) It symbolized the immortality of
the soul. (3) It symbolized the fecundity of nature. (4) It
served as an emblem of plenty and prosperity.
49. Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. XIX, p. 442.
51. "Rimmon" is the Hebrewnized form of Rammân, the Babylonian air, weather, and storm god assimilated by popular etymology to the word for pomegranate. (Dr. Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible).
52. It took the same place among the ancient Iranians as the Acacia plant in the mythology of some other nations. Again, the pomegranate symbolized the "Ark" which was known as Damater or Demater (the mother) among the ancients and was looked as the "Mother of Mankind" or "The Womb of Nature." The Ark contained many seeds or rudiment. of men and other living creatures. The pomegranate also abounds with many seeds. So, "it was thought no improper emblem of the Ark, which contained the rudiments of the future world. From hence the Deity of the Ark was named Rhoia, which signified a pomegranate and was the Rhea of the Greeks. The ancient Persians used to have a pomegranate carved upon their walking-aticks and sceptres; undoubtedly on account of its being a sacred emblem." (Bryant, Analysis of Ancient Mythology, III, pp. 237-8). Here, Bryant attributes to the ancient Persiana a desire to have a device on their sticks, just as Herodotus (Bk. I, Chap. 195) attributes a similar desire to the ancient Babylonians.
The pomegranate was held sacred in Syria and Egypt. In an ancient temple at Pelusium, the statue of a goddess carried this "mysterious fruit, in her hand" (Bryant III, p. 239). Pomegranates were "the universally accepted symbol of the female" (Pagan and Christian creeds. Their Origin and Meaning, by Edward Carpenter. p. 183). So, as such, they crowned the two pillars set up by Solomon in the front of his Temple—Jachin and Boaz—which pillars symbolized the male (Ibid.)
53. It is said that Hera was the goddess presiding over fruit among the Greeks. In her pictures at Argos, she is represented as holding the pomegranate in her hand, because that fruit was held to typify all kinds of fruit.
The ceremony of preparing the urvaram twig is similar to
that of preparing the aiwyaonghana. The priest who has
observed the Khub goes with a pot of water made pav and with
a knife before the pomegranate tree, washes and purifies with
the pav water the particulse twig which he wishes to have; and
then, reciting three times the Khshnaothra formula, cuts it off.
He then washes the twig 80 cut and returning to the Yazashna-gah
places it in a metallic cup. It is then used with the Haoma
and Jivam in preparing the Haoma juice.
(c) The jivam. It preparation.
Just as every Dar-e Mihr must have a date-tree and a pomegranate tree,
it must have a she-goat for
the use of its milk in the liturgical service
Jivam [jivâm] is the abbreviated form of gâm jivyâm54
(lit. the living product of the cow), i.e., the fresh milk
of the cow. Though the word gâo or gao (Sanskrit gô, German
kuh, English cow) suggests that the milk must be that of the cow,
the word includes the flock of goats and sheep, and the milk
used in the ceremony is always that of the goat and not that of
the cow. A milk-giving goat is fetched into the Yazashna-gah
and generally made to stand with its face turned towards the
east. A priest with the Khub goes before it with a pot of pav
water and, reciting the Khshnaothra formula thrice, at first
washes his own right hand and then the udder of the goat. He
faces the south. He then takes the Baj with the Khshnuman
of "geush tashne, geush urune," i.e., of the 14th Yazata Gosh or
Dravasp who presides over the bovine creation. Then, while
reciting the Ashem Vohu, he begins to milk the goat. The first
stream of milk is allowed to be dropped on the ground. Then
reciting the word "asha sara manangha," i.e., "with the
mind uppermost in purity," lets a stream of milk pass into a
pot. Then while reciting another Ashem, lets a second stream
drop on the earth. Then reciting the words "asha sara
vachangha," i.e., "with words uppermost in purity," takes
in a second stream in his pot. With the third Ashem, another
stream is allowed to drop on the ground, and then, with the
words "asha sara shkyothna," i.e., "with deeds uppermost in
purity," takes in a third stream into the pot again. He then
finishes the Baj. By the recital of the above words, he means
to say, that the liturgical service he is going to perform is
intended to be performed with a view to secure great purity of
thought, word and deed. Then, patting the goat on its back,
he recites twice the words "hazangrem baeshazanam, baevare
baeshazanam," i.e., "thousand-fold health, ten thousand-fold
health." These words are meant to signify that the milk of the
bovine creation, drawn with all possible sanitary care when
drunk by a person with purity of thought, word, and action
gives a thousand-fold health to him. It is said, that formerly,
at times, the milk of more than one she-goat or cow was
drawn. The second person form of the recital, in which the
she-goat or the cow was addressed varied, as tava, yavâkem and
i.e., according as the cow or goat was one or two or three or
flock, i.e., more than three). Vide Westergaaard's text, fragment VI, p. 333).
|54. Yasna 3:3.|
(d) Dron [Darun]
Dron is the later form of the Avesta word Draonangha (lit. that which makes us strong, from dru to be strong). It is a flat unleavened round bread made of wheat flour and ghee or clarified butter. It is a necessary requisite for the celebration of the Yasna, the Visperad, the Vendidad, and the Baj ceremonies. For the Yasna, Visperad, and the Vendidad ceremonies one bread is required. For the Baj the number varies. For the Baj in honour of all the Yazatas, four breads are required. For the Baj of Sraosha six are required. Out of these four and six, half the number are what is technically named nâm-pâdelâ, i.e., named and the other half are vagar-nâmnâ, i.e., unnamed. 
The naming and the unnaming of the sacred breads is as
follows: The sacred breads are required to be prepared by
members — whether male or female — of the priestly class. While
preparing them, the person mutters the words humata, hukhta,
and hvarshta (i.e., good thoughts, good words, and good deeds)
three times and while muttering them makes three marks at
each recital. So during the three recitals he makes nine marks
in the order as shown here:
The sacred breads thus prepared with the marks are said to
be "named." The others are said to be "without names."
Those named or marked with the symbolic signs of "good
thoughts, good words, and good deeds " are known as the dron
proper. The others that are without name or are unmarked. are
spoken of as the "frasast," from the fact, that during the recital
of one of the chapters of the Yasna in the Baj ceremony (Ha
8:1), while uttering the word "Frasasty," i.e., praise, he lifts
up the unnamed dron. In the third chapter of the Yasna,
where most of the sacred requisites are named the sacred bread
is not named specially as Draôna. but is referred to under the
name of "Kharathem myazdem," i.e., the offered eatable food.55
The Nirangestan gives some detailed directions as to how the
dron should be prepired (Bk. I, Chapter VIII, Appendix A,
B. C. Mr. S. J. Bulsara's Translation, pp. 86-104.) It is forbidden
that the consecrated drons may be eaten by non-Zoroastrians.
|55. The dron corresponds to the sacred bread of the Christians. When consecrated (technically said to be injelo, i.e., sanctified or consecrated), it corresponds to the consecrated bread of the Christians. (a) Like the "Host" of the Christians, it is required to be "round." (b) Like the sacred bread of the Christians it must be prepared by one of the priestly class. (c The "naming" of the drons corresponds to the mystic signs of the Cross over the "sacred bread" of the Christians. (d) Like the sacred bread, it must not be eaten by people of other religions.|
The chashni, i.e., the partaking of the dron and the haoma by the priest.
Of all the requisites placed on the stone slab or table, two are
what we may call edibles. They are the
dron and the haoma. The eating and
the drinking of these two is technically
spoken of as chashni. The word comes
from the root chash. (Persian châshidan) to taste, to eat, and
literally means eating or tasting. The word is confined or
limited to ceremonial eating or drinking. Again, it includes
in itself the meaning not only of physical eating or tasting
but also mental or spiritual eating. For example, we have the
word din-chashidar, i.e., the taster of religion, which is
applied to one versed in religious learning. The Nirangistan
refers to at some length to the subject of this chashni.56
(Bk. I. Chapter VIII, Appendix C. Mr. Balsara's Trans., p. 96.)
|56. Le Zend Avesta, Vol. I, p. 75.|
Of the above two, the dron and the haoma, the chashni or
the ceremonial tasting of the dron or sacred bread takes place
first. As said above, the dron is prepared beforehand by a
person of the priestly class, and is placed on the sacrificial
table of the stone-slab. It is after the recital of the first eight
chapters of the Yasna that the priest eats the sacred bread.
In the first two chapters of the Yasna, the priest invokes God
and the Divine Intelligences. The next six chapters are the
chapters whose recital consecrates the sacred bread. They are
known by the name of "Srosh dron," i.e., the chapters for the
consecration of dron or the sacred bread in honour of Srosh.
The 8th chapter is specially known by that name, because, it is
while reciting this that the priest ceremoniously partakes of it.
In the very commencement of the chapter the priest says: "I
present with piety this appropriate food, water, vegetable, the
product of the cow, haoma, para-haoma and the fruits." The
food referred to here (kharethem myazdem) is the sacred bread.
The other priest, the Raspi, then says to the assembled
congregation: "Ye persons! who have been qualified by your
righteousness and piety, partake of this consecrated food." By
these words he means to say, that only the righteous have a
right to partake in the religious feasts. The Zaota or the
officiating priest then considering himself worthy of the
privilege breaks a portion of the consecrated bread and partakes
of it. Then the other celebrants may also partake of it if
These chapters of the Yasna known as the chapters of the
'Srosh Dron' are also recited in the Baj ceremony. It is at
the end of this ceremony that the assembled congregation
makes the chashni, i.e., partakes of the consecrated bread.
Prof. Darmesteter aptly calls this 8th chapter the
|57. Le Zend Avesta, Vol. I p. 75.|
The word goshudo [gushûdo] is the Avesta geush hudhâo which literally
means a product of the well-created cow.
So, it may mean flesh as well as milk. But
in the liturgical service of the Yasna, while
jivam is the fresh milk, goshudo is the ghee or clarified butter
which is a product of the milk of the cow. In the ritual, it always
accompanies the dron or sacred bread. A small quantity of it
is placed over the dron and is eaten as chashni with the dron.
The Yasna of the Parsis and the Jyotishtoma of the Brahmans.
Before proceeding to consider the other requisites of the
Yasna ceremony, I will quote here what
Dr. Haug says about some similarity between
the Yasna of the Parsis and the
Jyotishtoma of the Brahmans, so that,
what is said above about some of the requisites and what will
be said now about Haoma and the other requisites, may be
properly understood. Dr. Haug says:— "The Yajishn or
Ijashne ceremony, as performed by the Parsi priests now-a-days,
contains all the elements which constitute the different parts
(four or seven) of the Jyotishtoma cycle of secrifices, the
prototype of all the Soma sacrifices. The Agnishtoma, (i.e.,
praise of Agni, the fire), which is the opening sacrifice of
this cycle and indispensable for every Agnihotri to gain the
object wished for, viz., heaven, bears a particular resemblance
to the performance of Ijashne. Of course, the whole ceremony
is much shortened, and the rites changed in accordance
with the more enlightened and humane spirit of the Zoroastrian
religion. In the Agnishtoma four goats must be killed and their
flesh is partly offered to the gods by throwing it into Agni,
the fire, who is the mediator between gods and men, and partly
eaten by the sacrificer and the priests. During the Ijashne
ceremony no animal is killed; only some hair of an ox is placed
in a small vessel and shown, together with other things, to the
fire. This is now-a-days the only remnant of animal sacrifice on
this occasion, but formerly they used a piece of meat besides.
The Purodâsha. of the Brahmans, or the sacrificial cakes, which
must be offered to different deities in a certain order, during the
recital of two mantras for each deity, is changed into a flat kind
of bread (similar to a very small pancake), called dron. The
fresh milk required at the time of performing the Upasad ceremony,
is to be recognised in the gaush jivya. Ghi, butter,
etc., required for less important ceremonies at the time of
the Agnishtoma (when making the so-called Prayajas for the
six seasons) are represented by the gaush hudâo. The Zaothra
or consecrated water is required at the commencement of the
Brahmanical sacrifices also, where it is called udaka shânta."58
|58. Haug's essays on the Parsees, 2nd ed., p. 281.|
The last but not the least organic requisite of the liturgical apparatus of the Yasna ceremony is the haoma. The ceremony of preparing, pounding, and squeezing the haoma juice, which, when so prepared is spoken of as para-haoma, is an important function in the ritual. So we will speak of it at some length. The word haoma (Skr. soma, Pahl. and Pers. hom) comes from an old Aryan root hu — Skr. su, 'to pound' 'to squeeze.' Hâvana, the utensil in which the twigs of the Haoma plant are pounded, hâvan, the gâh, or the part of the day when  this plant is pounded, and hdvandna, the priest who pounds it, — all these words come from the same root.
In the Avesta we meet with four Haomas:- (1) Haoma, whom for convenience sake we may call Haoma the prophet. Chapters 9, 10, and 11 of the Yasna speak of him as well as of the plant haoma discovered by him. Further allusions are found in Yasna 57 (19 and 20) and Yashts 10, (Mihr) 88-90 and 17, (Ashi) 5. (2) Haoma, the plant. Chapters 9, 10, and 11 of the Yasna especially speak of this Haoma, (3) Haoma, who may be called Haoma the hero (Y11:7; Yt. 9:17; Yt. 17:37, 38). (4) Haoma Khvarenangha (Yt. 13:116). In the Frawardin Yasht we have a long list of the departed worthies of ancient Iran who had rendered some service to the community. The group in which Haoma Khvarenangha is mentioned seems to be a list of the names of some of the immediate successors of Zoroaster. It appears, therefore, that this Haoma Khvarenangha, whose fravashi is invoked, was a great man of Iran, who had done some good deeds that commemorated his name.
These four different Haomas have one or more special names In the Avesta. Haoma the prophet is called Haoma Duraosha. The plant haoma is spoken of as haoma zairi (e.g. Ys. 9:17, 30 32). Haoma the hero is known as Haoma Frâshmi in the Yashts. The fourth Haoma, as we have said above, is named Haoma Khvarenangha.
Haoma the prophet is called frâshmi as well as duraosha The Haoma Frâshmi of the Gosh and Ashi Yashts is quite different from the Haoma Frâshmi of the Yasna and of Yashts 10 and 11. The reason, why these two Haomas, who lived at different times — one in the time of the Peshdgdian dynasty, and the other in that of the Kayanian — are called Frâshmi, seems to be that they both belonged to the same family stock.
Just as Haoma the prophet had, besides his special designation
of Duraosha, that of Frashmi, so Haoma, the plant, had, besides
the special appellation of zairi, also that of dûraosha and
frâshmi (Y10:21; Y42:5). It was called zairi, on account of
its yellow or gold-like colour. The other appellations were due
to the fact of its being discovered by Haoma Duraosha, who
was also known as Haoma Frashmi.
Haoma the prophet
It appears from the Avesta, that there lived in ancient Iran
a pious man named Haoma. He belonged
to the early times of the Peshadadian
dynasty, before the time of Vivanghant
(Vivasvat of the Vedas), the father of Yima (Yama of
the Vedas). He was a very learned man (vaêdhyâ-paiti).59
versed in the old religious literature. He had passed a good
deal of his time in divine meditation on the Hukairya peak of
the lonely mountains of the Alburz.60 Before Zoroaster, he
was the first man or prophet to proclaim to the world the
Mazdayasnian religion.61 As Zoroaster had his own religious
compositions, so had Haoma.62 He had his Gathas63
(imâosê tê haoma gâthâo),
and had as an opponent one Keresani.64
It was this Haoma who gave his name to the plant, which he
seems to have discovered, and to the Haoma ceremony, which
he is said to have introduced. According to Yasht 10,64a he was
the first man who produced the juice in the mortar (hâvana) on
the Alburz mountain. It appears, that, while absorbed in deep
divine meditation in his retreat in the mountains, he discovered
this plant growing on the heights, and found it to be nutritious.
health-giving, and invigorating. He introduced it to the world
as such; but, in order to make it doubly efficacious, he instituted
a form of ritual, designed to absorb the mind of the people in
holy and religious thoughts. A plant, in itself health-giving
and vigorous, when partaken of under a partial inspiration
of divine thoughts, was likely to be beneficial to the mind as
well as to the body.
59. Yasna 9:27.
60. Yasna 9:26. Yt. 10:88; Y57:19
62. Yt. 17:5.
64. Ibid., 9:24.
64a. Yt. 10:90.
The haoma plant.
Haoma is a medicinal plant which grows in Persia and
Afghanistan. It is a species of Ephedra
(Nat. Ord. Gnetaceœ65). Mountains and
mountain-valleys are mentioned as places where the plant
grows luxuriantly. In some passages, Mount Alburz (called
in the Avesta. Hara Berezaiti) is specially mentioned as its
habitat. But it must be borne in mind that the name
Alburz not only denoted the present Mount Elburs, a peak
of the Caucasus, but was applied to the whole range of
mountains extending from the Hindu Kush in the East to
the Caucasus in the West. The haoma is described as a plant
with branches and sprigs,66 as possessing medicinal properties,
and as golden-coloured.67
65. Dr. Aitchinson, who accompanied the English Afghan Boundary Commission
of 1885 as a Naturalist, and to whom I had sent for identification
and inquiry in Afghanistan a few twigs of the Haoma plant used by
the Indian Parsis in their ritual, with an account of the plant as given in
the Avesta, said in his reply:— "The specimens you sent me are the
twigs of a species Ephedra (Nat. order Gnetaceœ). A species grows all
over this country — Beluchistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Western Thibet
— which seems to be identical with the species received. This species is
here, in all this country, called hum (pronounced as the English word
whom, also huma). In Beluchistan, it as well as a totally distinct plant,
Periploca aphylla is called hum. It grows equally on exposed hills and
valleys consisting of 'branches and sprigs,' one mass of upright twigs,
each twig, if you notice, being made up of joints like the joints of the
fingers. When covered with male flowers, the bush (from 1 to 2 feet) is
golden coloured, and the twigs are more or less so. . • • This plant has
no leaves. It is all twigs and jointed. Amongst the Pathans of the Khyber
Pass and all over that country the twigs are with water made into a
decoction and employed very largely as a household remedy in sickness,
and are considered as possessing health-giving and healing properties.
Owing to a general likeness between the stiff rod-like growth, upright and
erect of the two plants, in Beluchisten, the natives equally give both the
same name. No one would mistake the jointed and true hum for
the non-jointed falae hûm, Periploca. The latter does not exist here at
all. The Ephedra here is only employed to mix with snuff, being first
of all burnt. The ashes cause the snuff to be more irritating, whether
applied as a sternutatory or to the upper gum under the front part of the
lip as is the habit here . . . . . Before your letter and specimens came, I
had made up my mind that the Ephedra was the nearest to the 'Soma'
plant that I had got to, but as it was stated that the Parsis employed
the twigs of Periploca it rather put me out. Your specimens are all on
66. The Avesta word for this is frasperega, in which fra is a prefix, and sperega is the same as English 'sprig.'
67. The Avesta word is zairi-gaona, which some Orientalists take to mean "green-coloured." But as green is the usual colour of vegetation, there was no apparent necessity to say so. The writer seems to mean 'yellow' or 'gold-coloured,' in which sense the word is also used elsewhere.
The religious or spiritual properties attributed to the haoma
plant are described in a rich poetical style, and in a tone overflowing
with heartfelt admiration and praise. Haoma, prepared
and drunk in a state of pious, spiritual inspiration, is believed
to give wisdom, courage, success, health, increase, and greatness.68
In such a state, the devotee becomes as powerful as
an independent monarch, and is able to withstand many
dangers coming from ill-disposed persons.69 Heaven, health,
long life, power to contend against evils, victory against
enemies, and fore-warnings against coming dangers from
thieves, murderers, and plunderers, are the six gifts
bestowed by haoma when adequately praised and prepared.70
Haoma is specially sought for by young maidens in
search of good husbands, by married women desirous
of being mothers, and by students striving after knowledge.71
It affords special protection against the jealous,
the evil-minded, and the spiteful.72 It is a check upon the
influence of women of loose character, who change their
affections as frequently as the wind changes the direction
of the clouds.73 For all these reasons, haoma is called nmâna-paiti,
vis-paiti, zantu-paiti, danghu-paiti, i.e., 'Lord of the
house, the village, the district, and the country.'74
68. Yasna 10:17.
69. Ibid. 18.
70. Ibid. 19, 21.
71. Ibid. 22, 23.
72. Ibid. 28.
73. Ibid. 32.
74. Ibid. 27.
The qualifications which are required of the man who would
drink haoma with advantage are good thoughts, good words,
good deeds, obedience to God, and righteousness.75 On the
other hand, Haoma curses thus those who are sinful and evil-disposed:
"I, Haoma, who, am holy and keeper away of
death, am not a protector of the sinful."76 "May thou be
childless, and may evil be spoken of thee."77
Antiquity of the Haoma ceremony.
It appears from the Avesta that the Haoma ceremony was
in existence es early as the time of the
Peshdadian dynasty. It is as old as the
time when the ancestors of the Parsis and
the Hindus, and even of the ancient Romans, dwelt together.
It seems to have been always accompanied by the Barsom
ceremony, as it is even at the present day. Now, it appears
that the ancient flamines, who were Roman fire-priests, and
many of whose practices resembled those of the athravans,
or Iranian fire-priests, used twigs of a particular tree, whenever
they went before the sacred fire. This practice resembles
that of the Parsi priests, who also, as said above, used twigs
of a particular tree when performing the Yasna ceremony
before the fire. The twigs are now replaced by metallic wires.
The plant used after purification.
We said above that the twigs of the plant are brought
from Persia. They are not used directly in
the ceremony. On being taken to a temple,
or Dar-i Mihr, they are washed and purified,
and then laid aside for a period of at least thirteen
months. A qualified priest takes a quantity of these twigs,
and washes and purifies them with water, reciting the
formula Khshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao, Ashem Vohu, etc.,
which means "Pleased be Ahura Mazda. Piety is the best
good and happiness. Happiness to him who is pious for the
best piety." After being thus purified with water, the twigs
are kept in a metallic box, similarly washed and purified, for
at least thirteen months and thirteen days before being used
in the ceremony. When so prepared and purified, they can
be used several years afterwards.
The Vendidad (6:42, 43) enjoins the purification of those
haoma twigs which have come into actual contact with filth and
impurities; but the present custom, which is designed to make
assurance doubly sure, demands the purification of all haoma
twigs intended for use in religious ceremonies. Again, the
Vendidad requires the twigs to be laid aside for one year; but
the present custom prescribes a period of thirteen months and
Description of the Haoma ceremony.
This falls under four heads:—(1) the preliminary preparations;
(2) the ceremony of purifying or
consecrating the haoma twigs; (3) the ceremony
of preparing and straining the haoma juice; (4) the
ceremony of drinking the haoma juice.
(1) Preliminary preparations.
Two priests take part at this stage, as in the whole of the Yasna ceremony. One of them with the khub (i.e., ritual for qualification); either small or great, duly observed, first prepares the aiwyaonghana (strips of date palm), the urvaram (twigs of pomegranate tree), and the jivam (fresh goat's milk). All the alat (the necessary sacred utensils) are emptied, washed, and put into the kundi (the large water vessel on the stone slab). The fire is kindled in the censer or vase, and the aêsma (fragrant wood) and boy [bui] (frankincense) are placed on the two adjoining small stones. Two water-pots — one small and the other large — are placed on the khwan or stone slab for the alat. The cup containing the aiwyaonghana and the urvaram is placed on a small stone by the side of the stone slab on which the priest sits. The haoma twigs are also ready by his side in a cup. The officiating priest (zaota) now takes his seat on the stone slab, which is covered with a carpet. He makes pav (ceremonially pure) the smaller of the two waterpots, and with the water of that pot makes the kundi containing all the utensils pav. He then prepares the zaothra water and ties the barsom wires. Having done all this, he next proceeds to make the haoma twigs pav. 
(2) The ritual of purifying the Haoma twigs.
The priest takes a few pieces of twigs of the haoma plant out
of a cup, and, holding them between the
fingers of his right hand, washes them
thrice with the pav water. While doing
so, he recites the Khshnaothra formula three times. He
then commences the baj and the khshnuman of Haoma
ashavazangha, wherein he says, that he does this for
the homage, glory, pleasure, and praise of Haoma, the
giver of the strength of purity. Then, reciting the Ashem
four times, he dips both his hands, together with the
twigs, in the kundi on his right hand. He dips them four
times into the water — thrice in the direction pointing from his
position to the opposite side (i.e., from north to south), and once
in the opposite direction. Having thus made the twigs pav, he
finishes the baj, and dips the purified twigs in the zaothra water.
Then, drawing the havana before him, he inverts it and places
on it three pieces of the consecrated haoma twig; the rest
are placed over the foot of the mah-rui (the two crescent-like
stands). He next places a piece of the urvaram by the side of
the haoma twigs.
(3) The ceremony of (a) preparing and (b straining the haoma juice.
(a) The priest begins by saying: "I invoke all the belongings (i.e., the requisites for the performance of the ceremony) of the haoma, for the sake of Ahura Mazda." Then he enumerates some of the important requisites which lie before him on the stone slab. While reciting their names, he looks at them. The requisites which he enumerates are: haoma, myazda, (i.e., the dron, or sacred bread, which is spoken of as kharethem myazdem, 'appropriate or sacred food'), the consecrated water (zaothra), the twigs (barsom), some product of the cow such as fresh milk (goshudo or geush hudhao), a twig of the pomegranate tree (urvarâm hadhânâêpatâm), pure good water (aiwyô vanguhibyô), mortar for pounding the haoma (havana), fragrant wood (aesma) and frankincense (baoidhi or boy [bui]), and fire (âthra).  The prayer, in which he invokes or enumerates the requisites, and in which, while reciting their names, he looks at each of them as they lie before him on the stone slab, forms a part of the 24th chapter of the Yasna. He recites the chapter from section 1 to section 12, omitting therefrom, in sections 1 and 6, the words, imâmchâ-gâm jivyâm ashaya uzdâtâm ('this jivam, or fresh milk, held up with righteousness'), because, at the time when he recites this prayer, the jivam is not yet placed on the stone slab. Sections 9 to 12 of this 24th chapter are the same as sections 4 to 7 of the fourth chapter.
The Haoma ceremony may be performed either in the hawan
gah or in the ushahin gah, i.e., during the morning or the midnight hours.
So, after reciting the first twelve sections of the 24th
chapter, the priest recites the 13th section, if he prepares the
haoma juice in the hawan gah, or the 17th section, if he prepares
it in the ushahin gah. Having thus recited the khshnuman of
the particular gah, during which the ceremony is performed, he
recites the khshnuman formula of the particular day of the month
and the particular month of the year on which he performs the
ceremony. Then, he proceeds to recite the prayers contained in
the fourth chapter of the Yasna from sections 17 to 25 up to the
word vahishtât, omitting the portions which refer to rathwô
berezato and sraoshahê ashyehê (in sections 22 and 23). Next, he
recites the prayers contained in the 25th chapter of the Yasna,
from sections 1 to 3, omitting the reference to gâm jivyâm (fresh
milk) in section 1. On reciting the words, Ameshâ spentâ
(chapter XXV, section 1 of Spiegel), the priest holds between
the thumb and the forefinger of his left hand the twigs
of the haoma and pomegranate plants which were on the
foot of the inverted havana and, lifting the latter with his
right hand, knocks it thrice in its inverted position on
the stone slab, and places it in its proper position. Then,
reciting the words imem haomem, etc., (ibid., sec. 2, Spiegel),
and taking the haoma twigs into the right hand from his left
hand, he places them in the havana, or mortar. Next, reciting
the words imâmchâ ûrvarâm, etc., (ibid. sec. 4), he similarly
places the urvaram, or pomegranate twigs, in the mortar.
Reciting the words aiwyovanguhibyo, etc., (ibid., sec. 5 to 11,
Spiegel), he pours into the mortar, with his right hand, a few
drops of the zaothra water which lies before him. He now
invokes the Fravashi, or Guardian Spirit, of Zoroaster by reciting
Yasna 26:11 (Spiegel). Then, reciting the words iristanam
urvâno (ibid, 35) and the yenghe hatam prayers, he takes out of
the kundi, the surâkhdâr tashta (i.e., the plate with holes which
serves as a strainer), and places it on the haoma cup at the foot
of the mah-rui. Reciting athâ ratush ashâtchît hachâ, etc., he
removes the lâlâ, or pestle, from the kundi, passing it round in
a circle within the vessel, and touching its rim from within,
The circle begins from the north and passes in the direction of
west, south, and east. Then, reciting the words aêtat dim, etc.
(Y27:1, Spiegel), he lets the lower end of the pestle, and
while reciting the words ratûmcha yim, etc., (ibid., sec. 1),
the upper end of the pestle, touch the stone slab. As he
recites the words snathâi, etc., (ibid., sec. 2, Spiegel), which
signify that the Daevas, or evil influences, may be beaten or
struck, he strikes the metallic mortar with the pestle, which produces
sonorous sounds. At first, he strikes from without, i.e.,
strikes the pestle on the outer rim of the mortar. The
sonorous strokes are given in the order of east, south, west,
and north. When striking on the north side, he gives three
more strokes. Then both the priests say, Shekastê Ganâminô,
etc., in baj, i.e., "May the Evil Spirit be broken! May
100,000 curses be on Ahriman!" The priest then recites
Fradathâi Ahurahê Mazdâo (Y27:3-7, Spiegel). Next
he recites four Yatha ahu vairyos. While reciting the first three,
he pounds the haoma and the urvaram twigs in the mortar; and
while reciting the fourth, he strikes the havana on the outside
with the pestle. In like manner, he recites Mazdâ at môi
(ibid., 8, Spiegel; or Y35:15) four times, to the
accompaniment of a similar pounding during the first three
recitals and a striking of the havanim during the fourth. This
is followed by a recital of Airyema ishyo (Y27:9, Spiegel;
or Y54:1) with like poundings and strokes.
the recitals of three Ashem Vohus, during which the priest
pours a little of the zaothra water into the mortar three
times. Then, while reciting the words haoma pain-hare-shyantê
(Y27:10, Spiegel), he gives a little push to the
pestle which is within the mortar, and causes it to turn a circle
in the direction of north, west, south, east.78 While reciting the
words athâ, zinê, humâyô-tara, which form the last part of the
passage, he takes up the twigs of the haoma and the urvaram
from the mortar between his thumb and fingers, and, holding
the pestle also, he touches, or brings these in contact with the
barsom, the plate of jivam, the haoma cup at the foot of the
mah-rui, and the stone slab. At the last word anghen, he places the
twigs and the pestle in the mortar again. He then recites four
Yatha aha vairyos, during the recital of the first three of which
he pounds the twigs. He strikes the havana during the recital
of the fourth. During each of the first three recitals and poundings,
he pours a little of the zaothra water into the mortar with
his left hand at the recitals of the words athâ, ashât, and hachâ.
At the end of each Yatha ahu vairyo, he pours the haoma juice
so pounded over the pestle, which is held with the left hand
over the strainer. From the strainer the juice passes into the
haoma cup below. The recital of the fourth Yatha ahu vairyo is
accompanied by the striking of the mortar. At the end of this,
the whole of the haoma juice is passed into the cup, as described
above. If any particles of the twigs still remain unpounded,
they are removed from the mortar and placed in the strainer,
where they are rubbed with the hand to make all the extract
pass into the cup below. During this process of rubbing, the
priest recites thrice yê sevishtô, etc. (Y27:11, Spiegel, or
Y38:11). The strainer is then washed and placed over the
mortar. The particles of the twigs still left unpounded or
undissolved are removed and placed in an adjoining clean
corner. The pestle is washed and placed in the kundi.
|78. This part of the ritual is a relic of the old practice, when, after being pounded, the haoma twigs were regularly rubbed in the mortar with the pestle to extract the juice further — a process now known as gûntvû.|
(b) The next ceremonial process is that of straining the haoma juice with the help of the varas ni viti, i.e., the ring entwined with the hair of the sacred bull. The varas is put over the strainer (surâkhdâr tashta, 'perforated plate'). The priest holds the cup containing the zaothra water in his left hand, and places his right hand over the knotty part of the varas in the strainer. He recites us môi uzâreshvâ, Ahurâ, i.e., O God purify me, etc. (Y33:12-14), at the same time pouring the zaothra water over the varas, and rubbing the knots of the varas. He recites two Ashem vohus, the second of which is recited in baj. He then holds the strainer with the varas in his right hand, and the cup containing the haoma juice in his left hand; and repeating humata, hukhta hvarshta thrice, pours the haoma juice into the strainer, which is held in different positions over the khwan, or stone slab, as the different words of the triad are repeated. While reciting the word humata each time, he holds the strainer over the right hand of the stone slab, so that the haoma juice falls over it through the strainer. On each recital of the word hukhta, the haoma juice is similarly dropped into the cup of the zaothra water, which has just been emptied into the mortar through the strainer, and the varas with it. At each recital of the word hvarshta, the haoma water is allowed to drop into the mortar. The haoma juice cup is now put back in its proper place on the stone slab, and the strainer with the varas is placed over it. Then all the juice in the mortar — a mixture of the zaothra water and the haoma juice, or, more properly speaking, the juice of the haoma and the urvardm twigs — is poured into the strainer, through which it passes into the haoma cup below. After its contents have been emptied, the mortar is once more put in its proper place. The milk-plate (jivâm no tashtô) is placed at the foot of the mah-rui. The priest also puts the other cups and saucers in their proper places. He deposits in their proper plate some of the spare twigs of the haoma and the urvaram which are at the foot of the mah-rui. He places some  of these in a spare cup and lets fall over them a few drops of the haoma juice prepared and collected in the cup, as described above, It is at this stage that the other priest who is to join him in the recital of the Yasna, and who is now to act as the Zaota, enters the yazashna gah. Reciting an Ashem vohu and a certain number of Yatha ahu vairyos, the number of which depends on the particular kind of Yasna to be performed, he goes before the khwan of fire and purifies or consecrates the fire (Y9:1). The priest who has performed the ceremony of straining the haoma now takes the zaothra wire of the barsom in his left hand, and the varas ring in his right hand, and finishes the baj of the varas which he had commenced some time before. To do this, he recites two Yatha ahu vairyos and the Yasnemcha with the khshnuman of the Fravashi of Zoroaster. He next dips the varas ring in the zaothra water cup and places it in its own cup. He then rises from his seat, and, taking the haoma cup which contains the juice prepared and strained, as above, places it in a niche of the adjoining wall. He brings the jivam and pours it into its saucer (jivam no tashto). In a plate on the stone slab he now places the dron, or sacred bread, which was up till now in another vessel in the yazashna-gah. He then recites an Ashem vohu and Ahmai raeshcha, etc., finishes the baj, and performs the kusti.
This closes the ceremony of preparing the haoma juice, more
properly spoken of as the ceremony of straining the haoma (Hom
gâlvô). With its completion terminates the paragna, i.e.,
the first of the preliminary preparatory ceremony of the Yasna.
The second priest, who has now entered the yazashna-gah and
who is to recite the whole of the Yasna, mounts the stone slab
or platform which serves as a seat. As he does so, he recites
two Yatha ahu vairyos. While uttering the word shyaothananam
of one Yatha he places the right foot over it, and, while
reciting the same word of the second, his left foot.
Symbolism of the ceremony.
The Dadestan-i Denig (48:30-33) tries to explain
part of the symbolism of the above
ceremony of preparing and straining the
haoma juice. For example, the four poundings of the haoma
twigs during the recital of four Ahunwars symbolize the
coming of Zoroaster and his three future apostles. "The
pure Hom, which is squeezed out by four applications of
holy water (zorih) with religious formulas, is noted even as a
similitude of the understanding and birth of the four apostles
bringing the good religion, who are he who was the blessed
Zaratusht and they who are to be Ushedar, Ushedarmah
and Soshyant."79 The striking of the metallic havana while
pounding and straining the haoma reminds one of the triad of
thought, word, and deed on which the ethics of Zoroastrianism
rests. The Dadestan says on this point: "The metal mortar
(havan) which is struck during the squeezing of the Hom, and
its sound is evoked along with the words of the Avesta, which
becomes a reminder of the thoughts, words, and deeds on the
coming of those true apostles into the world."80 The three
ceremonial processes of pouring the zaothra water into the
haoma mortar for the preparation of the juice are symbolical
of the three processes of the formation of rain in Nature, viz.,
(1) evaporation, (2) formation of clouds, and (3) condensation
79. S. B. E. Vol. XVII, p. 170.
81. Ibid., 170-171.
The juice, prepared as above, by pounding the haoma twigs together with the urvaram in the zaothra water, is called para-haoma.
(4) The Ceremony of drinking the Haoma.
The last ceremony in connexion with haoma is that of
drinking it. We saw above that its preparation
and straining formed a part of the
paragnâ, i.e., the ceremony preparatory to
the performance of the Yasna. The ceremony of drinking
it forms a part of the Yasna itself. It begins with the
recital of the ninth chapter, and finishes with the recital
of the 11th. In these three chapters, the priest sings the
praises of Haoma. The Zaota describes in a highly poetical strain
the good qualities of the haoma juice which lies before him.
On his finishing the description and the praises of haoma,
at the eighth section of the 11th chapter, his colleague, the
raspi or atravakhshi, makes his hand pav, and, coming to the
zaota, lifts the cup containing the haoma juice from the stone
slab, and carries it round the sacred fire burning on the censer
on the slab opposite, at the same time taking the aesma boy
(sandalwood and frankincense) from their stone slabs and
placing them on the fire. He then comes back to the Zaota,
and, holding the cup over the barsom-dân, says to the Zaota:
"May the haoma juice be of twofold, threefold, ninefold
efficacy to you." Next, he hands the juice-cup to the Zaota,
who, holding it in his hand, looks into it, again addresses a few
words of praise, and prays, that the drinking of it may bring
spiritual happiness to him. Finally, he holds up his padân,
or cloth veil, away from his mouth and drinks the haoma.
He does not drink the whole quantity at once, but in three
draughts. In the interval between each of the three draughts
the rathwi recites an Ashem vohu.
During the recital of the Yasna, the haoma juice is prepared
and strained twice. As described above, at first it is prepared
and strained by one priest in the preparatory pargana ceremony.
It is drunk by another priest during the recital of the 11th chapter
of the Yasna. Then the priest who drank it prepares it a
second time during the recital of the three chapters of the Yasna
from the 25th to the 27th. The process of pounding the haoma
twigs and striking the mortar continues during the recital of the
32nd, 33rd, and 34th chapters, with which the second preparation
terminates. Though the ceremony proper commences for
the second time during the recital of the 25th chapter, it may
be said to begin with the 22nd chapter, because all the requisites
of the ceremony are enumerated and invoked at its
commencement. These two preparations and poundings are
spoken of in the Avesta (Yasna 10:2) as fratarem hâvanem and
uparem hâvanem, i.e., the first and the second squeezing of the
|82. For an analysis of the three chapters of the Yasna on Haoma (Chapters 9 to 11), etc., vide my paper on Haoma in the Journal of the Bombay Anthropological Society, Vol. vii., No.3 (1904), p. 203. Vide my Anthropological Papers Part I, pp. 225-43.|
Dr. Haug on the preparation of the haoma juice among the Parsees and the soma juice among the Brahmans.
Dr. Haug thus compares the Iranian haoma and the Brahmanic
soma ceremonies. "The most important
part of the offerings in both the Jyotishtoma
sacrifices and the Ijashne ceremony, is
the juice of the Soma plant. In both, the twig
of the plant itself (the Brahmans use the stalks
of the Pûtika, which is a substitute for the original Soma, and the
Parsis use the branches of a particular shrub which grows in
Persia) in their natural state are brought to the sacred spot, where
the oeremony is to take place, and the juice is there extracted
during the recital of prayers. The contrivances used for obtaining
the juice, as well as the vessels employed, are somewhat different,
but on closer inquiry, an original identity maybe recognised.
The Brahmans beat the stalks of the plant, which are placed on a
large flat stone, with another smaller stone till they form a single
mass; this is then put into a vessel and water is poured over
it. After some time this water, which has extracted the greenish
juice, is poured through a cloth, which serves as a strainer,
into another vessel. The Parsi priests use, instead of stones,
a metal mortar with a pestle, whereby the twigs of the Haoma
plant, together with one of the pomegranate tree, are bruised,
and they then pour water over them to obtain the juice, which
is strained through a metal saucer with nine holes. This juice
(para-haoma) has a yellow colour and only very little of it is
drunk by one of the two priests (the zaota) who must be present.
whereas all the Brahmanical priests (sixteen in number), whose
services are required at the Jyotishtoma, must drink the Soma
juice, and some of the chief priests (such as the Adhvaryu and
Hotâ) must even take a very large quantity. The Parsi priests
never throw any of the juice into the fire, but the Brahmans
must first offer a certain quantity of the intoxicating juice to
different deities, by throwing it from variously shaped wooden
vessels into the fire, before they are allowed to taste 'the sweet
liquor.' The Parsi priests only show it to the fire and then drink
it. Afterwards the juice is prepared a second time by the chief
priest Zaota and then thrown into a well. These two preparations
of the Hama juice correspond to the morning libation
(prâtah savana) and mid-day libation (maidhyandina savana) of
the Brahmans; for the third, or evening libation, there was no
opportunity in the Parsi ritual, because no sacrificial rites are
allowed to be performed in the evening or night time."83
|83. Haug's Essays on the Parsis, 2nd ed., pp. 281-3.|
With reference to what is said above by Dr. Haug, we must
note, that it appears from the Avesta, that at one time, even
the Parsis had stone mortars. Again, as to the last part of
Dr. Haug's statement, we must note, that the Parsis also
have an evening libation, and that in the rare exceptional case
of the performance of the Nirangdin ceremony. In this case
the Haoma juice is prepared late in the afternoon preceding the
night when the Vendidid is recited at midnight.
D) Zaothra Water: its purification or consecration. Object of the ceremony.
Zaothra or zor is the water that is consecrated for the purpose of being used in the liturgical services of the Yasna, the Visperad, and the Vendidad. The word comes from Avesta zu, Sanskrit hu, meaning "to perform religious ceremonies." Literally, it means any sacrificial offering over which a religious ceremony is performed. Then it is restricted to the water which is consecrated for the ritual.
The priest has before him the two cups or chalices that are
to hold the zaothra water. He then recites the Baj with the
Khshnuman of "aiwyô vanghubyô vispanâm apâm
Mazdadhâtanâm," i.e. of all the good waters created by Mazda."
Then, uttering the word "ashem," i.e., righteousness, he
holds the empty zaothra cups over the surface of the water in
the kundi or water-vessel, and then, reciting the formula of
"Frâ-tê-staomaidê," etc., and at the recital of the different
parts of the prayer step by step, he gradually fills the cups
with water from the kundi. The water thus consecrated is
the zaothra water fit to be used in the haoma ceremony and in
the Yasna. The priest then finishes the Baj.
Symbolism of the ritual.
The Bundahishn indicates what the symbolic signification of
this ceremony was. We know from the
Avesta and Pahlavi books and from the
classical writers like Herodotus (I., 138) and Strabo (Bk.
XV, 3), that the ancient Persians were very careful to
preserve the purity of water. This ceremony seems to
have been intended to inculcate that idea. This appears
from the following passage of the
Bundahishn (21:3) which
refers to the zaothra or zor ceremony.84 "This, too, they say,
that of these three rivers, that is the Arag river, the Marv
river and the Veh river, the spirits were dissatisfied, so that
they would not flow into the world owing to the defilement of
stagnant water (armesht) which they beheld, so that they
were in tribulation through it until Zaratusht was exhibited to
them, whom I (Ohrmazd) will create, who will pour sixfold
holy water (zor) into it and make it again wholesome; he will
|84. S. B. E., Vol. V, p. 84. Vide also the Nirangistan on this subject.|
Thus, it seems that this ritual was intended to inculcate the
lesson that man must try to keep the sources of drinking water
pure. There must be no stagnation of water anywhere. The
Bundahishn in connection with this matter refers to the process
of evaporation and says that in the case of perfectly pure
water, the water that evaporates from it returns to its source
in three years. In the case of water which has pollution, or
impurity and purity in equal proportions, it takes six years, and
in the case of that wherein impurities predominate over purity,
it takes nine years. Then, in order to give a moral advice, it
adds: "So, likewise, the blessings (afrin) which the righteous
utter, come back in this proportion to themselves." What it
means is this, that the purer a man is in his thoughts, the
earlier he gets the return of these thoughts. The result of
his thoughts and also the result of his words and actions re-act
upon him. So, the greater the necessity of preserving purity
in life. If a man prays even for some one else, that prayer
re-acts upon him and does him good. The purer his thoughts,
the purer his mind and head, the greater the return, the
greater the re-action.
Zor-melavvi, i.e., the ritual of mixing the zor (zaothra).
At the completion of the Yasna ceremony, both the officiating
priests go to the well whence they had
brought the water for the liturgical consecration
and carry with them in the hâvanim the
consecrated water. There, standing before
the well and saying short formulse of prayers, the Zaota pours
that water back into the well in three parts. He gives back
to the well, a part of the water which he had taken from it, and
that in a much more purified form. This ceremony is called zor-melavvi,
i.e. to unite the zaothra or zor water with the original
source of the water whence it was taken. The zor ceremony,
then, is intended to impress, that it is one's duty to keep the
sources of water pure, and to learn from its ritual the lesson,
that it is his duty to keep his mind, which is the source of all
his actions, also pure.
(E) Fire and its requisites.
Under the heading of Fire and its requisites fall (a) fire (âtar), (b) the metallic censer (afrinagan or afarganiun) on which it burns, with its accompaniments, the ladle (chamach) and the tongs (chipyâ) with which the fuel is arranged over the fire and (c) the fuel (aêsma bûi).
(a) No Zoroastrian ritual or religious ceremony can be complete
without the presence of fire. For the celebration of the
Yasna, Visperad, and the Vendidad, any household fire may
be used, but all temples or Dar-e Mihrs generally keep a
fire for the purpose burning day and night in the Yazashna-gah.
Like all the alats or instruments used in the ritual, the fire used
in the ritual is also purified for the time being.
This ceremony of purification consists in cleaning and washing
with water the square stone slab (âtash no khwân) on which
the afrinagan or the fire-vase stands. It is in the midst of
the Haoma ceremony that it is made pâv or religiously pure.
The ceremony of making this slab pâv is referred to in the Haoma
Yasht (Yasna 9:1, âtarem pairi yaozdathentem) and is performed
as follows: The zaota or the chief officiating priest holding
a water-pot containing the pâv water in his right hand, makes
his left hand pâv, reciting the Khshnaothra formula. Then
putting the hand thus made pâv or purified into the pot so as
to hold and lift it, makes his right hand pâv. Then, he goes
near the khwân on which the fire-vase stands and faces the east
and looks towards the fire. He then recites the nemâz, i.e.,
praise or homage to fire (nemase te Atarsh Mazdao, i.e.,
Homage, to thee, O Fire of God). He then takes the Baj with
the Khshnuman of Fire. Then, reciting at the end three
Ashems, he washes with the pure water of the water-pot in
his hand the khwân or the slab on which the fire-vase
stands. He turns round the slab proceeding at first to the
south, then to the west, then to the north and then back to
the east and washes it from all sides. In the Pahlavi
Dadestan (Chap. 48:15),85 this stone slab for the
fire-vase is called âtashto, (âdashto or âdosht)
i.e., the place
for the fire to stand upon. The Pahlavi Yasna speaks of it
as âtashgâs, i.e., seat of fire.86
85. S. B. E., Vol. XVIII, p. 164.
86. Amatash âtashgâs kamist shustan (Spiegel's Pahl. Yasna IX 2).
(b) The afrinagan is a metallic censer or vase over which the fire is made to burn on ceremonial occasions. It is so called, because its presence is necessary in the recital of Afrins, i.e.,  religious benedictions or prayers. Its size varies. In the case of Izashna-gah, the size varies from about 15 inches to 18 inches in diameter and 18 to 30 inches in height. In the Fire-temples, its size is about three to four feet in diameter and about three to four feet in height.
The fire censer or vase has always as its accompaniment a chamach (Persian chamcheh, a spoon or a ladle) i.e., a ladle and a chipiô (from Persian chapânidan, to squeeze, to compress) i.e., tongs.
(c) The ceremonial fire requires to be fed during the liturgical
services at stated parts of the recital of the Yasna, the Visperad,
and the Vendidad. The fuel required for the purpose is
known as aêsma-bui. The pieces of sandalwood and frankincense
that are arranged on small stone slabs set apart for
the purpose are especially known by that name.
The word aêsma is the Avesta word aêsma (Sanskrit, idhma,
Persian, hizam) meaning fuel. In the Vendidad
(8:2), four kinds of fuel are generally spoken of. They are
Urvâsna, Vohûgaona, Vohû-Kereti, and Hadhânaêpata. The
first, viz., Urvâsna, is generally taken to mean sandalwood;
the second, Vohûgaona, to mean olibanum, the third, Vohû-Kereti,
to mean agar,87 a kind of fragrant shrub; the fourth
Hadhânaêpata, to mean the wood of the pomegranate tree.
|87. Perhaps Arab. aqar white bright, noble, i.e., the brightest or noblest of fuel.|
The word boy [bui] is the Avesta word baodha, Persian bui
In modern practice, sukhad, i.e., sandalwood serves for aêsma
and loban (Arab. lobân, lebonah, olibanum) i.e., frankincense
for boy. Olibanum is a special product of Arabia, and we learn
from Herodotus (Bk. III, 93) that the Arabs used to give to the
Persian king Darius, as tribute, frankincense worth about
1,000 talents, i.e. about Ł2,43,000. It was the trade of incense
that brought the ancient Arabs of Yemen into contact with the
then civilized world. Frankincense was one of the three
things which the three Magi from Persia are said to have
presented to infant Jesus (Matt. 2:11). It was taken
to be the symbol of Divine power.88
|88. As in the Avesta, so in the Old Testament, four kinds of fragrant fuel are spoken of Stacte (nataph), onycha (sheheleth), galbanum (heelbenoh), and pure frankincense (lebonah zaccah). Frankincense Is referred to in Exodus (30:7 and 8) as being burnt in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Leviticus (16:12) refers to it when it speaks of "sweet incense beaten small." The Parsis also use it after pounding it to a state of powder.|
II. THE YASNA PROPER.
We have described, at some length, the requisites necessary in
the performance of the Yasna ceremony, and, while describing
these requisites. described also at some length the preliminary
paragna ceremony. We will now speak of the celebration of
the Yasna proper. Most of the ritual is performed during the
performance of the paragna ceremony. The Yasna proper
mostly consists in the recital of the 72 chapters of the Yasna
with some ritual here and there. We will describe the main
outlines of the ritual while describing the several component
parts that make up the Yasna.
The Paragnâ prepares and the Yasna consummates.
In the paragna ceremony, we find, what we may call the laying
out or preparation of certain principal
or essential requisites, such as the dron, the
haoma, the zaothra. In the Yasna proper,
we find, what we call the consummation. In
the paragnâ, we described the following six ceremonies:— (1) the
Barsom, (2) the Aiwyaonghan, (3) the Urvaram, (4) the Jivam,
(5) the Zaothra, and (6) the Haoma. All these ceremonies,
though separate, may be said to be accessories to the Haoma
ceremony. The Aiwyaonghan, after its preparation and
consecration, was associated with the barsom. The urvaram or
the pomegranate plant twig, after its preparation and consecration,
was pounded with Haoma twigs. The Jivam or the milk,
after its preparation and consecration, was added to the juice
of haoma and urvaram. The zaothra water, after its preparation
and consecration, was used in preparing the haoma
juice. All these four, (1) the haoma, (2) the urvaram, (3)
the jivam, and (4) the zaothra water went to form the para-haoma.
So, the main function of the paragnâ may be said
to be to prepare and consecrate the haoma juice or the para-haoma.88
Then, it is in the Yasna proper that it is consummated.
So, what the Paragnâ prepares, the Yasna proper
|88. "The whole of the grander ritual of the Mazdayasnas centres round that holy idea" of "the Everlasting Life" .... represented in Mazdean Theology by Haoma." (Vide S. J. Bulsara's Nirangistan. Introduction p. XL.)|
The Yasna (a) prepares, (b) consecrates and (c) consummates.
But it is not the consummation of the Haoma alone that we
find in the Yasna proper, but we also find
therein the consummation of the dron.
But the dron (draona) or the sacred bread
ought to be consecrated before being consummated. This
consecration takes place in the Yasna itself, in its early part.
So, taking into consideration these questions of preparation,
consecration, and consummation, the Yasna proper can
be divided into several parts. We will describe these divisions,
and while doing so, refer to the ritual observed therein.
Chapters 1-2 invoke and offer.
On the Zoti taking his stand on his stone-slab, as referred to
in the Paragna ceremony, both the priests
recite in baj the Pazend Dibache (preface, exordium),
reciting the name of
the particular Yazata with whose Khshnuman the Yasna is to
be celebrated, and the name of the person (living or dead
zinda-rawan or anosha-rawan) for whom the ceremony is to be performed.
On finishing the recital of the Dibache, each of the
two priests joins together his two feet. This they do by placing
the thumb of their right foot on that of their left foot. The
idea is, that the first chapter, which is the chapter of invocation
and which begins with the invocation of God, must be recited by
them standing on one foot. The belief is that the prayer said
standing on one foot or straight foot is a good
form of prayer recited in all humility. So the two feet are in the
above process united, as it were, into one. Again, another form
for prayer often referred to in the Avesta is that of raising up
the two hands (ustana-zasto). So, both the priests
join their two hands together and raise them up towards their
face. In this position, they recite the prayer of Ferastuyê
(Yasna 11:17-18), known as the Patet (i.e. penitence) of the
Avesta and the prayer of the particular gah with the proper
Khshnuman. Then they commence the Yasna proper.
In the very first chapter of the Yasna, the celebrant invokes
in the very beginning "Ahura Mazda, the Creator, the radiant
and glorious, the greatest and the best, the most beautiful (to
our conceptions), the most firm, the wisest, and the one of all
whose (spiritual) body is the most perfect, who attains His ends
the most infallibly, because of His Righteous Order, He, who
disposes our minds aright, who sends His joy-creating grace
afar, who made us, and has fashioned us, and who has nourished
and protected us, who is the most bounteous Spirit."89
(Yasna 1:1). Then, he invokes the Amesha-spentas. He
invokes them and submits his offerings to them. He tenders
his homage to the grand divisions of time and space, which all
go to make up the grand Nature, and even to the different
grades of society.
|89. S. B. E., XXXI, pp 195-96.|
Then, in the second chapter, he specially refers to the zaothra and the barsom, and repeats his former invocation and offerings. In the early part of this chapter, he makes several passes with the barsom held in his hands through the crescent curves of the mah-rui, i.e. the crescent-shaped stands of the barsom, The Zoti then takes his seat on his khwan.
Most of the chapters of the Yasna are recited by the Zoti,
the Rathwi or the second priest joining him in the recital
occasionally. The latter's principal business is to feed
the fire by placing on it the aêsma boy (the sandalwood and
frankincense) at the recital of particular portions of the
Yasna. He is therefore also spoken of as the Ataravakhshi,
Atravakhshi, or Athravakhshi, i.e., one who increases the
brilliance of the fire by feeding it (atar and vahsh — to wax).
Thus, the first two chapters are the preliminary chapters
for Invocation and offerings.
Chapters 3-8. The Srosh-Dron chapters.
With the recital of the third chapter begins the portion
which is intended for the consecration of
the dron, i.e., the sacred bread. Chapters
3-8 are known as the chapters of
Srosh-Dron, i.e., (the consecration of) the sacred bread in
honour of Srosh. At particular portions of the recital of
these chapters and of other chapters, the Zoti occasionally
takes a handful of water from the kundi, or the water-vessel
on his right hand, and drops it on the barsom and on the
aiwydonghan which ties the barsom wires. This is a relic of
the old times, when, instead of metallic wires used now, twigs
of trees were used as barsom. It was to keep these vegetable
twigs fresh and green that the water was sprinkled over
them formerly. Latterly, though the custom of using
vegetable twigs ceased, the ritual of keeping them green and
The consecration of the dron finishes at the seventh
chapter. Then, in the eighth chapter,90 each of the two
celebrants says, "I offer these things, this dron, water,
haoma, etc., through righteousness" (ashaya dadhemi
Yasna 8:1). The Atravakhshi places sandalwood and
frankincense over the fire and says; "O ye men! Ye who
have deserved it by your righteousness and piety! eat of this
Myazda, the meat offering." Thereupon, the Zoti, who thinks
himself to have been qualified to eat it, recites the formula of
Baj or the prayer of grace and eats a bit of the sacred
bread (dron) and then finishes the Baj. The dron then
can be passed out of the Yazashna-gah and may be eaten
by other members of the congregation if present. This is
said to be the Dron-chashni or the ceremonial eating of
the sacred bread.
|90. Vide above p. 298.|
The Haoma chapters. 9-11.
The ceremonial eating of the consecrated bread being
finished, the drinking of the haoma juice
begins. The juice has been already prepared
and consecrated in the paragnâ ceremony.
So, it requires no consecration in the Yasna proper
The priest continues his recital of the Yasna. The Haoma juice
is there before him on the Alat-gah. So, looking to it, he
recites the Haoma chapters (chaps. 9-11) which form the
Haoma yasht (the chapters in praise of Haoma) and then
drinks it. We have described this process above, under the
head of Haoma.
Chapters 12-18. The Declaration of Faith, Invocation, and Dedication.
After the ceremony of eating the consecrated bread and
drinking the consecrated haoma juice, the
Zoti recites the 12th chapter which contains
the articles of the Zoroastrian faith. Then
follows the recital of Chapters 13-18
which contain prayers of invocation and dedication of the
sacred things still standing on the Alat-gah.
Chapters 19-21. Praise of the three best prayers.
The next three chapters contain praises of, and form a sort of
commentary on, the three most important
and old prayers of the Avesta, (1) the
Ahunwar or the Yatha Ahu Vairyo, (2) the
Ashem Vohu, and (3) the Yenghe Hatam.
Chapters 22-27. Second preparation of haoma.
From chapter 22 may be said to begin the recital for
the second preparation of haoma juice.
The celebrant refers to the haoma, the
jivam, the urvaram, the zaothra (the Holy
Water), the havanim, the barsom, etc., before
him (imem haomem ... gâm jivyâm, etc., .... Yasna 22:20-22),
and says, that he desires to have them with the
recital of their praise. They are again referred to in the 24th
chapter. Then the recital of Chapters 25-27 is
accompanied by the preparation itself, i.e., the haoma is pounded,
squeezed, and strained. The juice thus prepared for the second
time is not drunk by the priest but set apart for the requirements
of the congregation.91 The 26th chapter of the above
group is that which forms the kardeh (section) of Satum and it
recited with the Dibache in the Satum ceremony.
|91. As said in my papers on the Birth and Funeral Ceremonies, there is a custom, though not generally observed now, to give a few drops of the haoma juice to a newly born child and to a dying man. These drops were given from the juice of the second preparation.|
Chapters 25-34 and 43-51 and 53. The Gatha chapters.
With the 28th chapter begin the Gathas, believed to be the
oldest writings in the Avesta and to be the
compositions of the Prophet himself. The
following chapters make up each of the five
Gatha Ahunawad - Chapters 28-34;
Gatha Ushtawad - Chapters 43-46;
Gatha Spentomad - Chapters 47-50;
Gatha Wohukhshathra - Chapter 51; and
Gatha Wahishtoisht - Chapter 53.
Chapters 35-42. The Yasna Haptanghaiti, and Chapter 52. The Hoshbam.
The intervening eight chapters 35-43 are known as the Yasna Haptanghaiti. These chapters though they do not form the Gathas proper, are written mostly in an older Gathic dialect. Of these, the first seven chapters, 35-41, form, as the name haptan (Greek hepta, Lat. septem, Fr. sept, German seiben) implies, the Yasna Haptanghaiti proper. The remaining eighth chapter, the 42nd, forms a supplement or appendix to the seven chapters. These chapters are also known as Haptan Yasht and are recited by the laity also as one of the Yashts. The 52nd chapter forms the Hoshbam or the prayer of Dawn. 
Chapter 54 and 55. Praises of certain prayers.
The 54th chapter contains the prayer of Airyema-ishyo which
forms a part of the recital in the Ashirwad
or the nuptial ceremony. The 55th chapter
is in praise of the Gathas and the Staota Yasna
prayers. As to what chapters form the 33 Chapters
of the Staota Yasna, which literally means the Yasna of
praise, there is a difference of opinion.92
|92. Vide Dr. West (S. B. E. Vol. XXXVII. Denkard Bk. VIII. Chap. XLVI, n. 1. Darmesteter (Le Zend Avesta, Vol. I Introduction Chap. IV, s. IV, pp. 87-88) Bulsala (Aerpatastân and Nirangastan, p. 47, n. 10.)|
Chapters 56-57, the Srosh Chapters.
The 56th and the 57th chapters are in praise of Sraosha,
Of these the 56th chapter is called
Srosh Hadokht, because it is believed to
have come down from Hadokht Nask, the
20th book of the original 21 books of the Avesta. The 57th
chapter forms the Srosh Yasht proper and is known as
Srosh Yasht vadi i.e., the larger Srosh Yasht. It forms the principal
night-prayer of the Parsees.
Chapters 58-59. Praise and invocation.
The 58th chapter contains the prayer known as
which is often referred to in other
parts of the Yasna. A large part of the
59th chapter (1-27) is a repetition of two
former chapters (22:1-17 and 26:1-10) and consists
of invocation and praise. That part which is new consists of
Chapter 60. Chapter for blessing a house.
The 60th chapter contains the well-known prayer known as
the Kardeh or section of the Tâo ahmi nmâne,
which is recited in the performance of the
Afringan ceremony. It invokes beautiful
blessings upon the house of the celebrant. It is an excellent
prayer to be recited at the moorat or the house-warming
ceremony of a new house. It is a kind of tan-dorosti and
man-dorosti prayer in the Avesta language.
Chapters 61-69. Prayers against the evil-minded and in praise of fire and water.
The 61st chapter is a prayer desiring ability to stand against
evil-minded persons and evil influences with
the help of the tenets preached by the above
referred-to three celebrated prayers, viz, the
Ahunwar, the Ashem, and the Yenghe hatam.
The 62nd chapter forms the
Atash Niyayesh in praise of fire. The Zoti stands upon his
khwan, holds the barsom in his hand, and looking to the fire
opposite, recites this prayer with the Atravakhshi. The seven
chapters from 63 to 69 refer to water and its consecration.
The 63rd praises the waters. The 64th is, to a large extent, a
repetition of the 50th chapter (The Spentomad Gatha) which
praises Ahura Mazda who has created the health-giving waters,
The 65th forms the Avan Ardvisura Niyayesh and refers to
the waters of the river Ardvisura, supposed to be the modern
Oxus.93 The Zoti holds the cup of the Zaothra water in his
right hand, gets down from his seat or his khwan, and looking
to the water in the kundi by his side, recites this chapter.
Chapters 66-69 continue the ceremony of further
consecrating the zaothra water.
|93. Vide my Paper in Gujarati on the Geography of the Avesta.|
Chapters 70-72. The finishing chapters.
The last three chapters finish the Yasna ceremony by invoking
the Amesha Spentas and praising the
good creation of Ahura Mazda. The recital
of the 72nd chapter finishes the Yasna
proper. The Zoti gets down from his seat and exchanges a
Hamazor, a kind of Zoroastrian kiss of peace,94 with the Raspi
or Atravakhshi. Both then finish the Baj. They had begun
the ceremony by taking up or holding the Baj and finish it
by laying down or completing the Baj. They then perform
|94. Vide my Paper on 'The Kiss of Peace among the Bene-Israels of Bombay and the Hamazor among the Parsees.' Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay Vol. VIII, pp. 84-95. Vide my Anthropological Papers Part I, pp. 283-94.|
The concluding ceremony — Zor-melavvi.
Both then go before a well which is indispensably necessary
in a Fire-temple, the Zoti holding the
Havanim containing the zaothra water in his
hand. They face the sun and perform, as
said above, what is called Zor-melavvi, i.e., to mix the zaothra
consecrated water with the water of the well whence the water
was first drawn. This they do by pouring the water from the
Havanim into the well.
The antiquity of the Yasna ceremony.
While speaking of the Barsom and the Haoma ceremonies
which form the component parts of the Yasna
ceremony, I have referred to their antiquity.
The antiquity of these ceremonies
which form the component parts leads us to infer that the whole
of the Yasna ceremony may be very ancient. The materials
of some of the requisites required in the ceremony also suggest
its antiquity. For example, (1) the Havanim or the mortar in
which haoma is pounded in the paragna of the Yasna ceremony
is said to be either that of stone or iron (asmana ayanghaena:
Yasna. 22:2; Visperad 10:2). Now-a-days, the metal
generally used is bell-metal. Iron is never used. So, the words
stone and iron suggest that possibly the ceremony must have
first been introduced when the use of stone and iron was greatly
prevalent and when other metals were rarely used. (2) Again,
the use of the twigs of a tree for barsom, instead of metallic wires
also suggest a remote antiquity. (3) The use of the varas or the
hair of the bull in the plate (tashta), which serves as a sieve for
the haoma juice to be passed through for purification, leads us
to infer that the times of the introduction of the ceremony
were very old when other materials to serve as a sieve were
less known. Now-a-days though a metallic plate with holes
(surâkhdâr tashta) serves as a sieve, the Varas ring is still used
with it as a relic of the old usage.
II.— THE VISPERAD CEREMONY.
The word Visperad is formed from the Avesta words vispa
ratavo which have two signfications, viz.
(1) all seasons and (2) all lords or chiefs. So,
Visperad is a form of prayer intended to
celebrate the season festivals, and, it is also a
form of prayer, wherein all the 'rads' or chiefs or the best of
the creations are invoked. The word ratu or rad is too technical
to be properly translated. Dr. Mills1 says: "The word
Visperad means 'all the chiefs,' referring to the 'lords of the
ritual' ........... Lords, because ruling as chief objects of
attention during their mention in the course of the sacrifice,
also, as in this case, genii guarding over all of their class."
Anquetil2 translates the words in the text as 'Destours' or
chief priests, and in a note, as 'Chefs,' i.e., chiefs. He uses the
word' chef' in the sense of 'premier.' So every species of
creation has its ratu or rad, i.e., its best type or prototype.
Burnouf3 translates the word as 'grand' and 'maitre' or master.
Dr. Haug4 translates it as 'chief or head.' He says: "The
name Visperad (Avesta vîspê ratavô) means "all chiefs or
heads' ......... The primary type of each class is its respective
ratu or chief." Darmesteter follows Burnouf and translates
it as 'maître' or master. He says:5 "Ce mot de ratu ... est un
des termes les plus importants de la langue religieuse. Il
signifie proprement maître, au sens de maître spirituel .........
Il désigne le chef qui est supposé placé à la tête de chaque
classed'êtres." Harlez6 translates the word as 'chef' or chief.
He says: "L'esprit de systématisation des mages avait fait
diviser l'universe entier en catégories d'êtres, et assigner à
chaque catégorie un chef président, à l'action générale des
êtres de cette classe." Spiegel7 translates it as 'All lords.'
Geiger8 and Kanga9 translate it as 'master' and as 'leader' or
1. S. B. E., Vol. XXXI, p. 335, ns. 1 and 3.
2. Zend Avesta, Vol. I, partie II, p. 87.
3. Commentaire sur le Yaçna, pp. 4 and 17.
4. Essays on the Parsees, 2nd edition, pp. 191-192.
5. Le Zend Avesta, I, pp. 6-7.
6. La Zend Avesta, p. 225, n. 5.
7. Bleeck's Translation, II, p. 2, Introduction.
8. Civilization of the Eastern Iranians, translated by Dastur Darab P. Sanjana, Vol. I, Introduction, p. XXXIX, l. 10.
9. Avesta Dictionary, p. 439.
The word 'rad' is a form of the Avesta word 'ratu,' which comes from Avesta areta = Sanskrit rita, which means, 'to be straight, to say the truth.' This word areta is the same as English 'right.' Now, in a species, that which is straight or perfect, that which is true, correct or well-formed, enjoys superiority over others. So the word ratu or rad has come to mean 'a chief'.
From the fact of the division of beings into two classes, the
spiritual and physical, and from the fact of their having their
own ratus or chiefs, and from an insight into the different
writings on the subject, we find, that, like the words
fravashi [farohar] and khwarenah [khwarrah], the word ratu has a broad special
signification. Every member of the animal creation has its own
fravashi. Creatures of both, the physical and spiritual, worlds.
have their fravashis or guiding spirits. Again all bodies have
their khwarenah or glory or splendour. All bodies, both of the
spiritual and the physical world, have their khwarenah. Similarly,
all bodies both of the spiritual and the physical world
have their ratus. Even substances of inanimate creation
have their ratus. But, there is this difference, that while individual
bodies have their fravashis and khwarenahs special to
themselves, it is not the individual bodies that have each a ratu
for itself, but it is each class or species that has a ratu of its own.
The priestly class has its own ratu. The military class has its
own ratu, and so on. So, each member of these classes also has
a ratu but that is not a separate ratu for himself. Every
member has a common ratu, to whom he or it can look as his
or its chief, as his or its best type, as a high ideal worth
imitating. For example, the Athornans or the priestly class
must have a ratu or chief — both physically and mentally pure —
to whom they can look for guidance, whom they may hold
before themselves as a 'High Ideal' for imitation and
The texts which treat of the ratus or rads and the classes of the ratus.
Of the different parts of the Avesta that treat of the ratus, the
principal are the following:—(1). The Gahs;
(2) Yasna, Has 1 to 4, 6, 7, and 12,
13; (3) Visperad, Kardeh 1 to 3;
(4) the Ahunwar or Yatha ahu vairyo.
The 24th chapter of the Bundahishn specially refers to the
subject of rads. We can classify the beings — both spiritual and
physical — of which the ratus or primary types are referred to
in the Parsee books, as follows:—
Connection between asha and ratu.
There is one thing which must be remembered in the consideration
of the meaning of the word ratu.
It is this: Wherever the word ratu is used, it
is used with the word asha, i.e., righteousness,
piety, purity. The ratu is always
spoken of as "ashahê ratûm," i.e., the chief of righteousness. As
the word Fravashi is always connected with the word "ashaunam,"
i.e., of the righteous, so the word "ratu" is always connected
with "ashahê," i.e., of righteousness. Again, the very
roots of the words" ratu" and "asha" are the same. Both the
words come from "aret" (right) to be straight, to be righteous.
Thus, the word ratu carries with it the idea of straightness, perfection,
excellence, righteousness. Among men, one who is
straight-forward, righteous, perfect, becomes the ratu or rad or
chief of his class, to whom others look as a leader, worthy to be
followed. Among things, that thing which is perfect, complete,
pure, unblemished, beautiful, etc., is the ratu or rad or chief
of the whole class, and is looked to as the best type.
The signification of the word and the object of the ceremony.
Thus, the meaning of the word rad or ratu enables us to understand,
what the prayer known as the Visperad
is. In the word Visperad, "vispa"
means "all." So, the Visperad is a prayer or
collection of prayers or religious writings
which treat of, and praise, all the ratus, rads or chiefs of the
different creations of God. It signifies, that every person must
have before him a high ideal (ratu) which he must do his best to
reach. An agriculturist must have before him the ideal of a ratu
of his class, i.e., of the best type of agriculturist. He must
try to imitate and follow him. Not only that, but in the matter
of his business materials, he must use the ideal or the best type
of materials. In the matter of the seeds that he uses, he must
use the ratu or the chief or the best of the seeds. In the matter
of his implements, he must use the best available.
The 24th chapter of the Bundahishn speaks of the different
ratus of the different classes of creation. Therein, at the end, we
read the following sentence, which sums up, as it were, the
object of the celebration of the Visperad; It says: "Hangard
denman, âigh kolâ mûan kâr-i-mas vâdûnêt, adinash
kasich veh,"10 i.e.; "The conclusion is this: that he, who does a
great work, has the best individuality or personality," or, as
Dr. West puts it "The conclusion is this, that every one who
performs a great duty has then much value."11 In other words,
the celebration of the Visperad should suggest to the celebrant
the idea of "Excelsior." How is that state of "excelsior" to
he attained? We find the reply in the 15th chapter (s. 1)
of the Visperad which says:
10. Vide my Bundehesh, p. 112. [Modi, Jivanji Jamshedji. Bundehesh.
Bombay: Education Society's Steam Press, 1901.]
11. S. B. E. V., p. 91, Ch. XXIV 30.
"O Zoroastrian Mazdayasnians! Keep your feet, hands, and understanding, steady for the purpose of doing proper, timely, charitable works and for the purpose of avoiding improper, untimely, uncharitable works. Practice good industry here. Help the needy and relieve them from their needs."
Recital of the Visperad.
The Visperad is divided into 23 Kardas (Av. karêta) or sections.
It is never recited alone but is always
recited with the Yasna. The Visperad
is preceded by the paragnâ which is the
same as that of the Yasna. In fact, the celebration of
the Visperad is the celebration of the Yasna. with the additional
recital of the 23 chapters of the Visperad. Ordinarily,
the Visperad is recited whenever the Vendidad is recited.
But there are special periods of the year when the Visperad is
specially recited. These periods are known as the Gahambars
(season festivals), and the Visperad then recited is known
as Gâhambâr ni Visperad, i.e., the Visperad of the Gahambars.
It is specially celebrated on the occasion of the Gahambars,
because the Gahambars are the "ratus" of time. The furtherance,
progress, development, and improvement of everything in
the world depends upon time, upon the due succession of
seasons at their proper times. It is the due observation of
time (gah), that enables a man to do his best in all his different
walks of life, whether he be an agriculturist, trader or a professional
man. Nature holds forth, before men, the Gahambars
or the seasons as the best type, as the best ideal, for all work
to be done at the proper time. Such being the case, the
Gahambars are specially considered to be the proper times for
the celebration of the Visperad ceremony.
The eight priests referred to in the Visperad. A plan showing their positions and functions.
It appears from the Visperad (3:1), that, at one time, more
than two priests were required for the celebration
of the Yasna ritual. The Uzerin gah
(Gah 3:5) and the Vendidad (5:57)
also refer to them. The priests enumerated
in the Visperad, besides the Zaotar himself,
are the following:—(1) Hâvanân, (2) Âtare-vakhsh, (3) Fraberetâr,
(4) Âberetâr, (5) Âsnatâr, (6) Rathwishkara, (7) Sraosha-varez.
In the modern ritual, the Zaotar or the senior
officiating priest calls for their presence (âstâya). He is, as it
were, calling out a roll-call. Instead of the above different
priests answering to their names, it is only the Âtravakhshi
or Rathwi who replies and says "I am here" (azem vîsâi).
He shifts his position as the names are called out one after
another and he takes hill stand in the different corners and
sides of the Yazashna gah before giving replies to the calls.
The different positions occupied by him now in the ritual show
the positions occupied at one time by the different priests
when they all took a part in the ceremony. The positions are
the following, the Zaotar himself sitting on his khwan in the
A diagram of the positions as observed now.
I give below a diagram to show the positions of the eight priests in the Yazashna-gah as pointed out now, by the different positions occupied by the Atravakhshi in the Visperad ceremony, when responding to the call of the Zaotar for the presence of the different priests.
The positions as determined by the Nirangistan.
The Nirangistan12 seems to be the authority on which the
positions for the different priests are determined.
The modern practice tallies with the
description of the Nirangistan except in the
case of the positions of the Âsnatar and the Rathwishkara.
The Âsnatar's position in the modern ritual is on the right hand
side of the Hâvanân who is represented as facing the
barsom. But the Nirangistan gives it on the left.
The same is the case with the position of the Rathwishkara
whose position now is on the left of the Fraberetâr and not on
the right as said by the Nirangistan. I think the words haoyât
and dashinât (left and right) may have been interchanged by
mistake by the original copyist. The Pahlavi Nirangistan13
also briefly refers to the functions (kairya) of these
eight priests. Their functions are as follows:—
12. The Photo-zinco text, folio 155a to 157b; Darmesteter, Le Zend
Avesta, III, pp. 130-31.
13. Le Zend Avesta par Darmesteter III, pp. 128-30. Mr. Sohrab Bulsara's Aerpatestan and Nirangstan, Chap XXVII.
1. The Zaota. The word zaotar means one who performs the
ceremony from zu, Sanskrit hu, to perform the ceremony. He
corresponds to the Haotar of the Brahmins. He is the
principal officiator. He stands first in the list, and in the Bundahishn (30:30).
Ahura Mazda himself is allegorically spoken
of as officiating as zaotar in the Yasna ceremony with the Yazata
Sraosha as the Raspi. The Dadestan-i-Denig (XLVIII, 13),
which describes some parts of the ritual of the Yasna, refers
to the Urvis-gah as his proper place. According to the Nirangistan,
his principle function is to sing the Gathas (gâthâoscha
frasrâvayâiti).14 This is a reference to the fact that it is the
Zaotar who has to recite all the chapters of the Gathas in the
performance of the Yasna ceremony.
14. Darmesteter, Le Zend Avesta, III, p. 129. Bulsara, p. 392 n. 1a. Ibid.
2. The Hâvanân. It appears that in ancient times, there
was a priest whose special function was to pound the Haoma
(haomemcha a-hunavat) in the Havanim (mortar) in the
Hawan gah (the morning hours), to drink its juice ceremonially,
and to do all the needful for the Haoma ceremony.15
3. The Âtravakhsha. As the word itself shows, his function
was to feed (vakhsh, English wax, to grow, to increase) the fire
(âtra). The Nirangistan further says that one of his functions
was to purify the fire (âthrascha ......... yaozdathat).16 This
refers to the ritual in the Yasna ceremony, wherein, before the
commencement of the Yasna proper, the stone-slab (khwan) on
which the fire-vase stands is washed by the priests. Dr. Haug17
compares his functions with those of the Agnîdhra (who holds
the fire) of the Brahmans.
17. Essays on the Parsees, 2nd edition, p. 281.
4. The Fraberetâr. The function of this priest was to carry
(bar, English bear) forward (fra, English forth) all the
requisites of the ceremony. Out of these requisites, the
Nirangistan specializes the barsom and the Fire (barêsmãncha
|18. Darmesteter, Le Zend Avesta, III, p. 129; Bulsara, op. cit., p. 393, l. 8.|
5. The âberetâr. The function of this priest is to carry
(bar) water (ap). for the ceremony (apem abarat). The
Nirangistan points out this as his only function.
6. The Âsnatâr. His function was to wash or clean (snâ,
Fr. nâger) the ceremonial utensils and requisites. The
Nirangistan specially refers to the process of purifying the
haoma twigs and of straining the haoma juice (haomemcha
â-snayât, haomemcha paiti-harezât).19
|19. Darmesteter, Le Zend Avesta, III, p. 130; Bulsara p, 393.|
7. The Rathwishkara. He was the priest whose proper
function was to do (kar) the work of arranging all the
requisites in their proper (rathwya) order. The Nirangistan
specializes his work as that of properly mixing the jivâm
(gava, the milk) with haoma juice, and then of dividing the
mixture (bakshayâtcha). This seems to refer to the present
practice of the Zaotar dividing the haoma juice and dropping
it in different places.20
(8). Sraosha Vareza. Sraosha Vareza was a priest, who, to a
certain extent, corresponded to a 'confessor.' He made the
people act (varez) in obedience (sraosha) to certain rules of penances,
etc. If a person did a wrongful act, and if he wanted to
do something to atone for that wrongful act, he (the sraosha
vareza) asked him to do certain good deeds, which could, to a
certain extent, go to wipe off the effects of the previous wrongful
deeds. Dr. Haug21 thinks that the Zoroastrian Sraosha vareza
corresponds to the Brahmanical Pratiprasthâtâ. Sraosha, whose
functions, the Sraosha-vareza represents to a certain extent in
the superintendence of the ritual, holds an uplifted weapon
(êrêdhwa snaithisha, Srosh Yasht; Yasna 57:16) in his
hand. The Pratiprasthâtâ holds "a wooden sword" in his
hand. The Nirangistan22 specializes his work at the Yasna
ceremony as that of a general supervisor (aiwyâkhshayât: aiwi,
about, and akhsh, to watch).
21. Essays on the Parsees, 2nd edition, p. 280.
22. Darmesteter, Le Zend Avesta, III, p. 130. Bulsara, op. cit., p. 394.
The Visperad's list of the best typical (rad) prayers.
The Visperad (1:3-9) gives us a list of the prayers which were
held in great veneration at the time when
it was written. It enumerates the following
prayers:— (1) Staota Yasna, (2) Ahunwar, (3)
Ashem Vohu, (4) Yenghe Hatam, (5) Gatha Ahunawad,
(6) Yasna Haptanghaiti, (7) Gatha Ustawad, (8) Gatha Spentomad, (9)
Gatha Wohukhshathra, (10) Gatha Wahishtoyisht, (11) Dahm Afriti,
(12) Airyema-ishyo, (13) Fshusho Mathra, (14) Hadhaokhta,
(15) Ahuiri Frashna. I will here briefly refer to the first
four which are held to be very important among the best (rad)
1. The Staota Yasna.
Among the list of prayers enumerated by the Visperad, the
Staota Yasna stands first; but scholars differ
as to which chapters of the Yasna form the
Staota Yasna referred to by the Visperad. I think by this prayer
the whole of the Yasna is referred to. I give below a
list, showing which chapters are referred to by various scholars
as forming this prayer.
|[Staota Yesnya (Phl. Stud-Yasht, Stot Yasn) is the name of the 21st Nask of the ancient canon of the Avesta, and constituted the earliest fixed liturgy. Malandra (Encyclopaedia Iranica, "yasna" entry) gives it as Yasna chapters 19-58. See also Boyce, History of Zoroastrianism vol. 1., p. 265, Bartholomae, Air. Wb. 1589; Geldner G I P II, 25-6. -JHP]|
Among the prayers enumerated by the Visperad, three require
a special mention. They are the Ahunwar, the Ashem, and the
Yenghe Hatam. I will describe them at some length.
2. The Ahunwar.
The prayer is called Ahunwar (Ahuna vairya, Yasna, 19:3)
from its second and third words, and because
it speaks of the Lord (ahu) whose desire
(vairya) is supreme, and who is independent. From its three
first words; the prayer is more properly known as "Yatha Ahu Vairyo."
This prayer corresponds somewhat to the "Word"
of the Christians. It is spoken of as being uttered by God before
the very creation (Yasna 19:1-3, 8). The Yasna further
says that if this prayer is recited by one perfectly and right
sincerely, its meritoriousness is worth the recital of 100 Gathas.
If one recites it, understands it, and praises it, i.e., right
sincerely acts up to its dictates, he goes to heaven (Ibid., 5 and 6).
Of all the prayers of Ahura Mazda, it is the best (Ibid., 10;
Srosh Hadokht, Yasht 11:3). He who recites it and properly
understands it, acknowledges Ahura Mazda as his Lord and
sets an example to others to so acknowledge Him. Its recital
helps a man in all difficulties and calamities (Yasht 11:4).
Hence, it is a custom, even now, for an orthodox Parsee to
recite one or more Ahunwars or Yatha Ahu Vairyos, when
starting on a journey, or going out for business, or on leaving
his house for ordinary daily business.23 According to the Vendidad
(19:9), when Ahriman, the Evil Spirit, tried to tempt
Zoroaster, it was with the recital of the Ahunwar that the
Prophet, emboldened himself, rejected his (Ahriman's) proposals,
opposed him, and withstood the Temptation. There, Zoroaster
speaks of this prayer as one taught by God himself (Mazda-fraokhta)
and calls it an excellent weapon to defend himself.
|23. Vide Mr. M. R. Unwala's Rivayat with my Introduction, Vol. I, pp. 13-15.|
The Ahunwar is the very first prayer which a Zoroastrian
child is taught to recite. There is hardly a prayer, small or
great, which does not include in itself the recital of the Ahunwar
once or more than once. On account of the importance and
efficacy and sanctity attached to it, the Shayest Ne-Shayest
(Chap. 19:15) says, that religion is as much connected with it
as the hair is connected with, and gives glory or beauty to, one's
face.24 The Ahunwar and the Ashem are, to a certain
extent, to a Zoroastrian, what the Pater Noster is to a Christian.
If a person does not know his other daily prayers, or if
he does not know to read them from the prayer book, he is
required to recite a certain number of Ahunwars in the place
of each of these prayers. He holds a chaplet or string of beads
in his hand and turns a bead at the recital of each Ahunwar.25
24. S. B. E., V, p. 393.
25. Vide my paper on Rosaries (Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay, Vol. of 1913).
List of (a) the recital of the Ahunwars in place of certain prayers and (b) on particular occasions.
The following list gives the number of Ahunwars which one can recite instead of different prayers.26
|26. Vide Darab Hormuzdyar's Rivayat by M. R. Unwala with my Introduction Vol. I, pp. 13-15. Vide [guj.] Avesta... Rustamji Jamasji Dastur (1896). pp. 14-15. Vide K. E. Kanga's Khordeh Avesta. 8th ed. p. 149.|
The Ahunwars for these Gathas are recited with a particular
Baj, i.e., a small introductory prayer, and a prayer
recited at the end.
The Shayest ne-Shayest (Chap. 19)27 gives the following
list of the Ahunwars to be recited by a Zoroastrian on particular
occasions to withstand difficulties, to have courage and
help, and to win success:—
|27. S. B. E., V. pp. 390-92.|
The list according to the Rivayats.
The later Rivayats give a list, slightly different from that of the Pahlavi Shayest Ne-Shayest.28 We give the list below:—
|28. The Gujarati Rivayet of Darab Hormuzdyar by Ervad Rustomji Jamasji Dastur, pp. 11-12. Vide M. R. Unwala's Text with my Introduction, pp. 13-15.|
The 21 words of the Ahunwar and the 21 books (nasks) of the Zoroastrians.
This sacred prayer is made up of three metrical lines each containing
seven words. So, the whole prayer
contains 21 words. The names of the
21 books (nasks) which formed the ancient
Avesta literature are said to have corresponded
to the 21 words of this sacred formula. The following
is the list of the words that make up this passage and of the
names of the books that correspond to them:29—
|29. The names of the books and even the order vary a little according to different authorities. The two great compilations of the Rivayets by Darab Hormazdyar and Barzo Kamdin give the names and contents. The Denkard (Bks. VII and IX) and the Dini Vajarkard give fuller contents (vide S. B. E. Vol. XXXVII). For a brief account of the contents prepared by me, vide Mr. Dosabhoy Framji's History of the Parsees, Vol. II, pp. 157-64. Vide M. R. Unwala's Riv. with my Introduction pp. 3-4.|
The substance of the Ahunwar prayer.
Though it is a small prayer, scholars differ in their translation of it. The substance of it runs thus:-
As Ahu (Ahura Mazda or the spiritual Lord) is an independent ruler (because He rules) according to Order (ashât, i.e., according to fixed laws), so, should a Ratu, (i.e., the temporal Lord) (rule according to fixed laws). The gift of good mind is for the work of the world for (the sake of) Mazda. He who gives (himself up) as the nourisher of the poor (or he who gives nourishment to the poor) gives kingdom to Mazda (i.e., acknowledges him as king).
The prayer of Ashem Vohu is next to Ahunwar in importance and sanctity. It is the prayer in praise of Asha which can be said to be the watchword of the Zoroastrian religion. According to the Hadokht Nask (Yasht Fragment 21), if there is any one prayer which can be said to be the prayer of praise of all the good creation, — of all the good creation that has for its main principle, Asha or Order, — it is the prayer of Ashem Vohu, because it is the prayer which praises Asha, (i.e., Order, Harmony, System, Righteousness, Law). He who praises Asha from the inmost of his heart praises God himself. Not only that, but he praises some of the best things of his creation, e.g., water, earth, vegetation, animal creation, etc., in the evolution and growth of which we see Order and Law. The prayers of Ashem and Ahunwar give courage and victory to those who recite them and follow their teachings (Yasht 21:4). Such being the efficacy of this prayer which praises Order and Righteousness, its recital on certain particular occasions or periods of one's daily work or life, have greater advantages than its recital at ordinary times. One Ashem Vohu recited at such particular occasions is worth several recited at other ordinary times. For example, it is said that one Ashem Vohu recited at meals is worth ten Ashem Vohus recited on other occasions. An Ashem recited while going to bed is worth 1,000 Ashems recited at other  times. An Ashem recited on getting up from bed is worth 10,000 recited at other times. An Ashem recited by a person at the time of his death is worth the price of the whole continent of Xwaniratha (Khanirath). What is intended to be conveyed is this: If a man has led his whole life in a pious and righteous way, following the path of Asha, i.e., Order, Harmony, Righteouness, Law, and if he can conscientiously recite at the end of his life one Ashem Vohu, i.e., if he can conscientiously say "I have led a righteous (ashô) life," then the spiritual wealth of that righteousness is worth the material wealth of Xwaniratha, which, of all the seven karswars or regions spoken of in the Avesta, was the best and the richest. On account of this reference to the Ashem Vohu in connection with the end of the life of a man, it is a custom among the Parsees, that when one hears the news of the death of a friend or relation, he recites or mutters in a low voice the Ashem Voha prayer.
Such being the importance attached to this prayer, it is the second prayer taught to a Zoroastrian child after the Ahunwar. The Ashem Vohu prayer, small though it is, is differently translated by different translators. But the substance seems to be the same. It can be thus translated:
Piety is the best good and happiness. Happiness to him who is pious for the best piety.
The prayer of Yenghe Hatam.
This is the third of the three short but most important prayers or formulae of the Zoroastrians. There is hardly a prayer which does not contain this formula. The Gahs, the Niyayeshes, the Yashts, the Yasna, the Visparad, the Vendidad all include its recital which in some cases is repeated more than once. Like the two prayers of Ahunwar and Ashem, it is variously translated. It can be translated thus:
Ahura Mazda knows (lit., is the knower of), who among the living is the best in prayer through righteousness, (i.e., says his prayer in the best way possible by observing asha, i.e., righteousness). We praise them (those recognized as above by Ahura Mazda) whether male or female.