Fravardin is the first month of the Zoroastrian calendar and very appropriately so because the month is dedicated to the Fravashi or Farohar, which is the prototype of all creation. In the Zoroastrian tradition while invoking Fravardin, we use the epitaph Farokh which means fortunate and happy. In our prayers we recite, “Mah Farokh Fravardin” meaning the happy and fortunate month of Fravardin. Indeed, what a wonderfully appropriate epitaph for the very first month of the year. A month of good fortune, happiness and dedicated to Holy Fravashis, often described as the guardian spirit.
Fravashi is somewhat similar to the Pitri of the Hindus or the Manes of the Romans and Greeks – the Beneficent Spirit. Zoroastrians view Fravashi or Farohar as a 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 have their own fravashi. 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 Parab of Fravardin
Roj Fravardin of Mah Fravardin marks the day when devout Zoroastrians head for the Dokhma or Aramgah in their city, town or village to offer prayers to the Fravashi of their dear departed. One could say it is observed as the Zoroastrian “All Souls’ Day” or more appropriately the day dedicated to the collective ‘Holy Spirit’ of all creation.
Prayers Offered: Usually a Jashan is performed where members of the community participate, often in very large numbers. This is usually followed by a Hum Bandagi or a mass congregational prayer to propitiate the Holy Fravashis. Individually, devotees usually pray the Stum no Kardo offering fruits and food items to the Fravashi of their dear departed. Many also pray the Fravardin Yasht or hymn to the Holy and Righteous Fravashis.
In the very first week of the month of Fravardin there are several significant days:
- Mah Fravardin Roj Hormuzd (New Year)
- Mah Fravardin Roj Ardibehesht (Day to consecrate Rapithwan)
- Mah Fravardin Roj Khordad (Khordadsaal and traditionally Asho Zarathushtra’s Birthday)
- Mah Fravardin Roj Amardad (Amardadsaal to celebrate eternity of the Fravashis)
In the Zoroastrian religious tradition, the day of twenty-four hours is divided into five watches called Gah. The first watch of the day from sunrise to noon for example is the Havan Gah. The second watch of the day from noon to early evening is Rapithwan Gah and so on. Rapithwan is the second watch of the day. However, it is observed only from the first day of the New Year (Roj Hormuzd of Mah Fravardin) to the last day of the seventh month (i.e. up to Roj Aneran of Mah Meher). From Roj Horuzd of the eighth month of Avan to the day of the last Gatha we observe the second Havan instead of Rapithwan. In other words, we observe the Rapithwan Gah for only seven out of the twelve months of the Zoroastrian calendar.
It is an old tradition from the time when we lived way up north and the days were shorter and hence we prayed the ‘Second Havan’ or Havan extended right through Rapithwan. Currently with our calendars gone haywire and our living in various Zones, North to South, all this would seem out of context. However, traditionally, starting from the month of Fravardin we can pray Rapithvin Gah till the month of Avan which earlier in history was autumn and Rapithwi (The energy of warmth) symbolically went underground to protect roots and life through the cold winter.
Also, although we observe the Rapithwan Gah from New Year’s Day, the consecration (Eejavanu) ceremony of this Gah is generally performed on the third day of the New Year, (or Roj Ardibehest of Mah Fravardin). The ceremony involves the regular Ijashne (or ‘Yasna’ of 72 chapters) with emphasis on the Lord/Divinity of Rapithwan and omission of certain phrases invoking the Lords/Divinities of the other Gahs.
One of the reasons why this ceremony is performed on Roj Ardibehest is because the Khshnuman (dedicatory formula) of Rapithwan is quite similar to the Khshnuman of the day of Ardibehesht. However, the Boiwala Priests of Atash Behram consecrate the Rapithwan on Roj Hormuzd itself to acquire amal (ritual power) for performing Boi during the full seven months in the Rapithwan Gah. Consecrating the ‘Rapithwan’ is considered an important religious duty.
Among Zoroastrian Yashts (hymns) Fravardin is the longest with 158 verses. It mainly propitiates the Righteous Fravashis. Throughout the Yasht we pray: “Ashaaunaam vanguhish suraao spentaao fravashayao yazamaidé” which means: “We remember with reverence the holy, good, brave, prosperity giving Fravashis of the Holy”
In the Fravardin Yasht, Fravashi is described as a purifier and a powerful helper of Ahura Mazda in protecting all good creations. In the Fravardin Yasht we also pray: “We worship the good, strong, beneficent Fravashis of the faithful; whose friendship is good, and who know how to benefit; whose friendship lasts long; who like to stay in the abode where they are not harmed by its dwellers; who are good, beautiful, afar, health-giving, of high renown, conquering in battle, and who never do harm.”
Cosmically, Fravashis are divided into three groups — the living, the dead, and the yet unborn. They are the force upon which Ahura Mazdā depends to maintain the cosmos against demonic forces. They protect all sacred fires and symbolically keep darkness imprisoned in the world.
We would conclude with a verse from the Fravardin Yasht which affirms: “May (they) who (are) the Fravashis of the righteous keep love over us here (i.e. in this world) quickly and verily! (And) may they come to our help! (Also) may those (Fravashis) save us, the living ones with (their) powerful help at the time of calamity! (Besides, may those Fravashis be) (our) helpers through Ahura Mazda, through the brave righteous Sraosha Yazata, and through the learned Mānthra Spenta! Which (Mānthra Spenta) is opposed to the doctrines of daevas and the messenger of Ahura Mazda, whom (the Prophet) Zarathushtra saw with the sincerest vision in the corporeal world.”