The current month, Aspandarmad/Spendarmad is the twelfth and last month of the Zoroastrian calendar. This holy month is dedicated to Spenta Armaity – the Divinity that presides over Mother Earth.
The term Spenta has been variously translated as increasing, growing, good, holy and benevolent; while the term Armaity has been variously translated to mean devotion, piety and peace. In other words Spenta Armaity is an Amesha Spenta that advances peace and piety in this world. Little wonder she has been constantly referred to in the Gathas.
One of the religious traditions of the faith requires every Zoroastrian, on waking up in the morning to recite one Ashem and offer salutation to Spenta Armaity, by touching the ground and then the forehead three times. This is in order to seek both forgiveness and blessings. Forgiveness is sought right at the start of the day for all acts which may be committed knowingly or unknowingly by the devotee that may burden the earth. By way of blessings, the devotee aspires for Spenta Armaity’s qualities of devotion, peace and piety.
Earth has the patience of the millennia. It carries all loads and burdens calmly and quietly. It has the quality of converting even waste like dung to useful fertilizer. The devotee aspires to imbibe some of these very qualities in his/her life through this simple but ennobling ritual.
Just as Spenta Armaity converts the negative to positive, the devotee also hopes and prays every morning that he/she may transform all that is negative in his/her life and the world, to something positive, good and useful.
Every year on Aspandarmad Roj of Aspandarmad Mah, Zoroastrian priests write the Nirang of Aspandarmad, which devout Parsis paste on the front entrance of their homes. This Nirang is believed to ward of all forces of evil:
The Nirang is written as follows:
“Pa nam is Dadar Hormazd!
Roj Spendarmad, Mah Spendarmad, bast hom zafr I hama khrafastaran, devan, drujan, jaduan, parivan, sastaran, kikan, karpan, vanahkaran, duzdan, gorgan, stahmakan, pa nam i yazad, pa nam i tag Faridun, pa nam i tishtar stareh, pa nam i Satavas, pa nam i Vanant stareh, pa nam I oshan starekan Haftoring. Ashem Vohu……..”
In the name and with the help of Dadar Ahura Mazda!
On the day Spendarmad of the month Spendarmad, with the help of the Yazads, Faridun, the holder of Tagi, with the help of the stars Teshtar Tir, Satayas, Vanant and Haftoring, I hereby bind the mouths of all Devs, Khrafastars, Druji holders, magicians, evil fairies, evil power users, the willfully deaf and the willfully blind, evil doers, thieves, wolf-like men and tormentors. May the Ashem Vohu help me do this!
The last 10 days of the Zoroastrian calendar (i.e., Roj Astad to Aneran and the independent five days of the Gatha) are considered to be very holy, as doctrinally it is believed that during this period, the fravashis of the righteous dead, come down from their spiritual world into this material world and bless all those who remember and pray for them.
During the Fravardegan or Muktad days, Parsis offer special prayers for the fravashis of their near and dear ones. The fravashi or farohar is the Divine essence, which is wholly pure and good. It is not to be confused with the ruwan or soul.
The Avestan word “fravashi” comes from the word “Fra” (to take forward) and “vaksh” (to grow). In other words, Fravashi is that spiritual essence or power that takes every good creation of Ahura Mazda forward and helps it to grow. Fravashi is also a prototype, which is believed to have existed before the material creation. Even Ahura Mazda and His Divine Energies, the Amesha Spentas and the Yazatas, are said to be having their own fravashis. Plants, animals, mountains and rivers also have their own fravashi. They are guardian spirits of the souls of the dead and protect and guide the souls of the living, as well.
The Muktad or fravardegan days essentially center around the family and until a few decades ago were observed largely at home. Today, with urbanization, small flats and difficulty in observing ritual purity at home, the focus has shifted from the home to the fire temples.