Invoking Ava for Knowledge, Wisdom and Purity

As per the Shehenshahi Zoroastrian calendar the Holy month of Ava will commence this year on 14th March, 2022, and devout Zoroastrians will wend their way to river banks, seashores and wells to offer homage to Ava, the Divinity that presides over the waters.

The term Ava is derived from the word Aap or Aapo – the Divine Cosmic Force that purifies and sustains the entire universe. In the Avesta, this Divinity is called Ardvisura Anahita – the Pure and Immaculate.

Homage to Ava: Praying the Ava Niyaesh and the Ava Yasht regularly bestows the devotee with not just wisdom, but also the strength to face challenges of life with a positive attitude. Various Kings and Paladins of ancient Iran used to invoke Ava before going into battle.

Praying the Ava Niyaesh or, better still, the Ava Yasht during the holy month of Ava, is considered to be highly meritorious. To the righteous who pray with faith and sincerity, Ava grants wisdom, good health, strength, wealth and fertility. According to Zoroastrian Scriptures, Ava is a Divine Force of fertility and blesses childless women not just with children but also ease in delivering them and abundance of milk to nurse them.

During the Holy month of Ava, devotees offer flowers (particularly fresh rose petals) and natural rock sugar (khari sakar) to natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, sea or a well. Just the way we offer candy to children with affection or sweets to elders or loved ones on festive or happy occasions, rock sugar is offered as a sweet symbol of affection and devotion to water, which sustains all life on planet earth.

Significance of Dar-ni-poli: Dar-ni-poli (stuffed red-gram, wheat and rice flatbread) is a favourite Parsi tea-time snack. However, during the month of Ava, it is also gifted to family and friends as a symbolic gesture of spreading sweetness. This is similar to the Hindus consuming and gifting Puran Poli (a chickpea, lentil and jaggery flat bread) to family and friends during the certain festivals like Holi.

The brown colour and round shape of the daar-ni-poli is believed to represents planet earth with a crusty outer layer and a soft inner filling – just the way our earth is. It also reminds us that while it is good to be hard or strong outwardly, inwardly one should be soft and sweet. Fortunately, the average Parsi is just like the daar-ni-poli by nature – crusty outside but soft and sweet on the inside.

After offering the Ava Niyaesh or Ava Yasht to the waters, the Dar-ni-poli is not to be thrown into the sea, river or well. Perhaps just a very tiny piece could be offered to the waters or better still, left at the sea shore, river bank or edge of the well for the birds. The rest may be consumed by the devotee and his family as Chashni (blessed food) after the prayers are offered. Dal-ni-poli (symbolizing earth) is figuratively offered to the Water Divinity to express gratitude. There is life on earth thanks to water. In a sense, planet earth itself is allegorically offered (in the form of a sweet bread) to the waters.

Invoking Ava: One of the best offerings that a true devotee can make to Ava is that of Manthravani (Divine Chants from the Holy Avesta) and a firm resolve to lead an immaculate life by practicing purity of thoughts, words and deeds. After all, Ava is the very embodiment of purity!

While chanting prayers is important, it is equally important to know at least the essence of what one is praying. In the Ava Yasht itself we affirm that Ava grants victory only to those who are righteous and invoke Her Blessings for Righteous battles or causes.

The object of all Zoroastrian hymns and litanies is to attune our finite inner energy with the infinite Divine Energy that sustains our Universe. In our Avesta prayers, we often recite the term ‘Yazmaide’ which when literally translated means we praise (the Divinity we pray to). However, when interpreted more deeply, it also means we attune ourselves (to Divinity) and seek to imbibe the qualities of the Divinity we choose invoke!

Imbibing The Qualities Of Ava: Avan is the equivalent of Saraswati – the Hindu Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom. Thus, when invoking Ava, we attune our inner energies to aspire for Ava’s knowledge and wisdom. We aspire to be like Ardvisura Anahita or as pure and immaculate as we possibly can in thought, words and deeds.

Knowledge is about understanding and awareness. It encompasses information, facts, skills, and wisdom acquired through learning and experiences in life. Knowledge is vast and infinite and Ava is the Guardian of Universal Knowledge and Wisdom of the ages. Knowledge sharpens our skills and powers of reasoning and problem-solving. Knowledge is empowering and aids us in our battle against the allegorical demon of ignorance. Thus, Ava is invoked for knowledge and wisdom to battle life’s challenges.

In the Holy Gatha, Zarathushtra emphasizes that one must think before one believes. But it is knowledge that helps one think objectively and rationally and wisdom that helps one to sift fact from fiction and truth from the lie.

Go With The Flow: It is water that made life possible on earth. It is now important to make life worthy of the water that created and sustained life on earth. It’s time to thirst for knowledge and drink deep at the fountain of Zarathushtra’s wisdom.

The month of Ava should be dedicated to self-development. We need to let life flow and come to us the way it is and we should be like Ava water that moves effortlessly and spontaneously be it through mountains and cervices or rocks and boulders.

Water does not force its existence; it just is! The harmony and symphony between water and earth gives this liquid the inherent ability to flow with all forces of nature. When we go with life’s flow, rather than forcing our stream, we discover and embrace endless opportunities.

The most important lesson to imbibe from water is to be formless or without ego. When water is poured into a glass it becomes a glass of water to quench thirst. When it is poured into the earth, it mingles with earth and makes it fragrant. When water is poured into the sea, it become the sea!

Moral: Be content wherever life takes you. Mingle with all that is on earth to make life fragrant, for finally when your life is poured into the sea, you will become the vast sea of eternity!

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