Gathas – The Divine Songs

The Parsi year is coming to an end, it will soon be time for the last five days to complete the Zoroastrian year. These are dedicated to our Gathas, the divine songs of Asho Zarathushtra. Gathas are the storehouse of divine wisdom and universal knowledge. Gathic thoughts are epical in conception but concise in words, these are highly ethical and moral precepts. PT Writer Dara Khodaiji demystifies each Gatha for our readers so we can further respect and love our special 5-day prayers spread over five Gathas each.

‘Ahunavaiti’: This is probably the oldest poetic literature in the world today, with the words of the poet himself intact. From Ahunavaiti Gatha we learn that Asho Zarathushtra was chosen as the Lord and Leader to bring relief to the tumultuous world which had fallen prey to chaos. It was a time of strife, violence and insecurity. Animal sacrifice was rampant. The soul of the cow representing the entire creation seeks divine intervention and protection from Ahura Mazda. Zarathushtra was chosen by the celestial council to bring sanity to the world gone awry. He was chosen for his wisdom, righteousness and strength of character.
Asho Zarathushtra begins with a simple and humble prayer, the Ahunavar prayer to Dadar Ahura Mazda, to inspire him to do his work, to proclaim and spread His message. His Mission in life is to please God and to spend his life in the service of mankind. He prays that he be blessed with long life, with mental and material well being for him and his companions in order to spread the divine message to all mankind. He wants the Savage, the barbarian to make the right choice and follow the divine order of Righteousness. Zarathushtra exhorts all his followers to actively be on the side of Asha, this in turn wards off all the evil.
Ahunavaiti Gatha tells us that we have free will and we must be responsible for the choices we make. Zarathushtra is of firm conviction that his teachings are for the greater good of all the humanity. The evil-doers at that time used to offer animals and even humans as a sacrifice to increase their power and strength. There were rituals for attaining military strength, strength to loot and plunder the cattle and create havoc. Zarathushtra addresses Ahura Mazda asking him for an inspiration. He wants His help and insight into how he should go about propagating the faith. He expresses his total devotion to Ahura Mazda who has established moral order in creation, and has offered his faithful believers perfection in this life and an everlasting bliss in the life to come. In all humbleness, Zarathushtra is committed to teaching so that he may create, reconstitute the existing way of living to its intended perfection.

‘Ustavaiti’: Zarathushtra apostrophises Ahura Mazda but the words are meant for his audience. He emphasises upon the gift of happiness and a long and worthy life to those to those with Good Mind. He who is truthful attains end better than good. Ushvaiti2: Yasna 44.This is the “Questions to the Lord” Ha wherein all but the last Ha begin with a question to Lord, Ahura Mazda. Here we have a request to Ahura Mazda, how he should be venerated, revered. He is also asked what would be the base of the best existence. Most of them are rhetorics and the obvious answer to them all is ‘Ahura Mazda’. The thoughts contained in this Gatha are reflections of an era of social change and cultural upheaval. While assuring mankind of the blessing of perfection and immortality for leading a good life of reverence to Mazda, he shall have lord as his friend or brother.

‘Spenta Mainyu’: Mainyu 1: Yasna 47 is a discussion on SpentaMainyu. Spenta – holy, virtuous, bountiful; and Mainyu is often believed to be Spirit and should not be thought of as an ‘entity with personality’. It represents all that is good, Spenta. This Ha tells us that this Spirit comes from Pak DadarAhura Mazda and it inspires right-thinking and good-thinking. Evil is the furthest point away from it and is totally alienated. There is no salvation for such who practice evil. The Ha 48 which was probably written during the period of social and political instability, thus, were read of Zarathushtra asking for assurance from Ahura Mazda that the good and righteous will be vindicated. Ha 49 deals with righteous and the unrighteous. Zarathushtra exhorts Jamaspa, a courtier, to be right-following, and to distance himself from evil. The final Ha ends with reaffirmation of his commitment to bring about an ideal state based upon the ideals of truth brought about by the good mind. The only specific mention to the return of the soul to Earth, reincarnation, is made in Gatha Spenta Mainyu. These are the souls whose “spiritual light is dim”.

‘Vohu Khshathra’: The name Vohu Khshathra indicates a desired ideal state, an ideal society. This must be the very first time ever in history that such a concept was propounded several millennia before Sir Thomas More thought such a state in his book ‘Utopia’ in 1516. It is the duty and responsibility of rulers to achieve such an ideal state with happiness, harmony and security. Mentioned here are the principal virtues the leadership must possess, such as dedication to the truth and good mind. When such objective is thwarted by those with a bad-mind through selfish motives and greed, they shall receive deserts for their evil intents.

‘VahishtaIshti’: VahishtaIshti is the last Gatha and Asho Zarathushtra speaks of a happy event in His life, the wedding of his youngest daughter. The message of Ahura Mazda about good mind, righteousness and truth, repeated several times in Gathas, is again presented in His address to the young couples and 12 others who are about to marry or who are contemplating marriage. In Yasna 53 there is the following monition: ‘These words do I address you, maidens marrying. Pay heed to my words and impress them to your mind. May you two strive to lead the life of good mind.These counsels do I give you, bridegrooms. Learn from the righteous and the precepts of the good religion. With upright heart love and cherish each other. Then surely a happy home-life shall be yours.’

The precepts of Gathas are immortal in nature. They have faced the ravages of time and the destructive swords of revenge hungry conquerors and power crazed hoards of zealots, but the noble thoughts of the great poet prophet still warms and inspires hearts of His faithful followers and countless others.

Dara M Khodaiji
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