Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Parsi Rituals and Ceremonies

Zoroastrianism | Parsis in India | Parsi Scripture | Parsi Rituals and Ceremonies


A child born of  Zoroastrian parents is not considered a Zoroastrian till he is initiated into the fold by the Navjote ceremony. The word 'Navjote' means a new initiate who offers  Zoroastrian prayers. The ceremony of initiation consists of the investiture of the child with the sacred shirt called 'Sudreh' and a sacred thread called 'Kusti'. The Navjote ceremony among the Parsi is performed at the age of seven or nine or eleven, up to fifteen. Therefore, the child  continues to wear the Sudreh and kusti and perform the kusti ritual with the prescribed prayers, throughout life. The Sudreh is made of pure, white muslin or cotton while the kusti is woven of seventy-two threads of fine lambs wool. In the pahlavi Texts, the Sudreh or Sudra is described as "Vohu Manik Vastra", the Garment of Good Mind. The word 'kusti 'means a waist band. Being tied thrice round the waist ,it points to the trinity of good thoughts good words ,good deeds. These form a barrier insulating the individual from all that is evil.


Marriage is the another important ceremony in the life of a  Zoroastrian. In former times, the ceremony began with the young couple sitting facing each other. The officiating priest would then place a cloth between and tie the ends round their chairs. He would then take the brides right hand and place it in the grooms right hand and tie their hands seven times with a piece of twine. An assistant priest, holding the Afarghan, would stand beside the senior priest. Prayers would be recited and the assistant fed the fire with sandalwood and incense. At this point, the cloth curtain between the young couple was removed. The bride and groom threw a fistful of uncooked rice on each other  which they had been holding in their left hands. This action symbolised prosperity.

Today the bride and groom sit side by side during the marriage ceremony. The parents and relatives of the couple sit behind their respective children. Beside them stand the witness to the marriage. Two priests stand in front of the couple and the ceremony begins. During the recital of the legal formula, the priest asks some questions to the bride, groom and to the witnesses. If either party refuses to answer, the marriage ceremony is interrupted and no priest dare marry the couple against their wish.

Next, follow some beautiful admonitions and benedictions in Pazand and Avesta. While reciting these benedictions, the priest throw grains of uncooked rice on the couple to symbolize prosperity and plenty. The ceremony concludes with a final blessings. After embracing their parents, the couple leave and go to the Fire Temple to pay their homage to the sacred fire. While going to the grooms house, the bride holds a small wick lamp in a protective silver vase. The light should not go out on the way to her new home. At the threshold, her husband awaits her. The little wick lamp is kept burning in the bridal chambers all night.


Funeral ceremonies of  Zoroastrians continues for four consecutive days. On the tenth day after death, certain prayers are recited both in the home and in the Fire Temple. After a month, prayers are again recited and then annually on the death anniversary. The dead body is disposed of in 'Towers of silence' on the top of a hill. The flesh is devoured by birds of prey and after a few days, the bones are lowered into deep wells at the bottom of which are layers of charcoal, lime and other minerals which slowly dissolve the bones. Thus the mortal remains of the individual are disposed of in a most hygienic manner.

There are Various other religious ceremonies, such as the consecration of the Fire Temple, purifying ceremonies like the Riman, ceremonies in commemoration of the righteous dead such as the Muktad and elaborate ceremonies like The Izashne.

Fire Temples:

Zoroastrians build Fire Temples as places of worship. There are three grades of Fire Temples: Atash Behram, Atash Adaram, Agyary or Dar-e-Mehar and Atash dadgah or the house hold fire in every  Zoroastrian home. The holiest Fire Temple in India  is the Atash Behram at Udvada, about one hundred miles from Bombay, where the Sacred Fire brought by Iranian refuges from Iran has been continuously burning since 1741. The earliest Fire temple in India is the Atlash Behram at Sanjan believed to have been consecrated around 790AD.