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Baj, Dron, and Ritual Power ('amal)

Joseph H. Peterson, May 29, 1998

Orthodox Zoroastrianism enjoins religious observances to counteract evil (See Zand-i Vohuman Yasht, 2.55-56). Their neglect makes one "fat of body but hungry of soul". Baj and Dron are two such neglected observances.

See also J. J. Modi, The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsis, Bombay, 1922. Chapter 15.


Dron (Av. draonah, lit. 'portion, possession') refers to 'round, sacred unleavened breads made of wheat flour with nine cuts in the middle.'1 They are flexible and about the size of the palm of the hand. (See alat, figures 15-16.) The marks, three rows of three, are made before frying, while repeating 'humat, hukht, huvarsht' (one word per cut).2 The dron ritual (Pahl. yasht-i drôn) is an act of blessing and thanksgiving for our food. It takes about 15 minutes and is as follows:

1. Kotwal and Boyd, A Persian Offering, Paris, 1991, p. 134.

2. E.W. West in Pahlavi Texts I (SBE V), p. 284 n.
First recite the dibache, followed by Y3-8. During the recital of Y8.4, the dron is tasted (this act is called dron-chashni). The closing baj is as follows: a.v. 4, y.a.v. 2, y8.5-8, a.v. 3, y.a.v. 2, ýasnemca vahmemca aojasca zavareca âfrînâmi, the khshnuman of the service, a.v. 1, ahmâi raêshca .. kerba mazhd, kusti bastan, jasa-mê avanghe mazda (3). mazdayasnô ahmî mazdayasnô ... âstûitish!! a.v. 1.

This simple ritual is nowadays used mainly by priests, but was formerly celebrated "by laity as well as priests, by women as well as men; in fact by any Zoroastrian who wore sudre and kusti ... and had entered fully into the religious life of the community."3 It is always performed with barsom, except when recited by a woman in menses (when she should recite it without barsom).

3. Boyce and Kotwal, 'Zoroastrian Baj and Dron II', BSOAS ..., p. 298.

See Pahlavi Rivayat Accompanying the Dadestan I Denig, chapter 56 for the symbolism of the dron and its ritual, and chapter 58 for details of the preparation of the round breads used.

Baj and Ritual Power:

Baj plays so important a role in daily life that Zoroastrians have been referred to as "people of the Baj."4 The word Baj (Pahl. wâj) is generally used to indicate "a 'particular essential formula' which precedes, accompanies, or follows an action."5 Boyce and Kotwal derive the various technical uses of the term from the primary meaning 'word, speech', and regard it as synonymous with Av. Manthra. The opening verse of a framing Baj often consists of the words, "xshnaothrâ ahurahe mazdå, ashem vohû...." This framing baj strengthens the efficacy of the (usually ritual) action, lending it ritual power ('amal). This baj can actually be exchanged, for the purpose of strengthening and purifying it, as follows:6

4. Mary Boyce and Firoze Kotwal, 'Zoroastrian Baj and Dron', BSOAS ..., p. 56, 58.

5. Ibid, p. 57.

6. Ibid pp. 59-60. See also Kotwal and Boyd, op. cit., p. 19-20, 81, and Kanga and Sontakke, Avesta, Poona, 1962, p. xl.

(The zôt, looking steadily at the râspî, says:)

ýathâ ahû vairyô zaotâ frâ-mê mrûtê,

(As he does so he salutes his fellow-priest with a grave gesture of his right hand to the forehead while his left holds the barsom. The râspî, returning his gaze, salutes him in return, usually with both hands to the forehead, and replies:)

ýathâ ahû vairyô ýô zaotâ frâ-mê mrûtê, (zôt,)

(with emphasis on the ; whereat the zôt, still looking full into his eyes, salutes him once more and responds:)

athâ ratush ashâtcît haca frâ ashava vîdhvå mraotû.

In consecration rituals, this ritual power is concentrated immediately on the object to be consecrated through the same ritual gaze. For example, in consecrating the nirang and holy water, the zôt at 'athâ ratush' should gaze at the nirang, and at 'ashâtcît' should gaze at the water. This is also presumably one reason why Zoroastrians face the light while praying (which is why it is essential to memorize the prayers).

Parsis also use the term Baj to indicate the Dron ritual (yasht-î drôn). See the article by Modi reproduced below for additional details.

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