We will enter the auspicious Mahino of Adar in a few days, and 21st April, 2022 will mark the most holy Parab of Adar Mah, Adar Roj, which also marks the day when several Agyaris and Atash Behrams were consecrated and enthroned, including the Holiest of Holy – Shirji Pak Iranshah, at Udvada.
Adar is the Divinity that presides over fire. In our Zoroastrian calendar, Adar is the ninth day of every month of thirty days and also the ninth month of the year of twelve months. Nine is a sacred number across several religious traditions. Mathematically, when multiplied nine always reproduces itself. In the Zoroastrian tradition, Prophet Zarathustra is often depicted holding a nine-knotted stick called Navgar.
Atash Nu Parab: We celebrate Adar Mah, Adar Roj as the ‘Atash-nu-Parab’. The celebrations actually begin a day prior (Roj Daepadar) when we celebrate ‘Chulah nu varas, which literally means birthday of the hearth-fire over which food is cooked. Our kitchens are cleaned and decorated with flowers, the stove is garlanded with marigold flowers and not used from early evening (Uzirin Gah) till the next morning.
In Zoroastrian cosmogony, Ahura Mazda created this world in six stages (the six Gahambars), starting with the Sky, Water, Earth, Vegetation, Animal and finally, Man. However, what actually brought to life all these six good creations was Adar or fire – the life-giving force or energy.
According to Ferdowsi’s ‘Shahnameh’, fire was accidentally discovered during the pre-historic Peshdadian period by Shah Hooshang. According to the legend, when Hooshang threw a rock at a serpent like creature it missed the target and instead struck another rock and sparks from that friction ignited some dry grass in the surrounding area. Hooshang recognized this fire as the Divine Glory of Ahura Mazda and instructed his subjects to offer homage.
In our faith, fire is both – the giver of light and giver of life. Neither darkness nor evil commands an independent existence. Just as darkness is merely the absence of light, so is evil the absence of good. Thus, while fire dispels darkness, evil is dispelled each time we choose to think, speak and perform a good deed.
The concept of having a hearth fire or in modern times, at least a diva at home, is a ritual form of dispelling darkness and evil with the presence of light. The Persian Revayet recommend that we pray five Yathas while lighting a diva. Yatha is the chant (The Ahunavar and equivalent of the Sanskrit Om) with which Ahura Mazda created this universe. Also, while reciting the Sarosh Baj (Sarosh Yazata is the guardian of the souls of the living as also the dead) we pray five Yatha. Hence, praying five Yathas while lighting a Fire, probably has a link with enlightening or enhancing our five senses, or our consciousness and an act of attuning our spirit with the Creator, the chant with which the universe was created and the energy of fire that animated or energized all creation.
Adar is a Hamkar (co-helper) of Ardibehesht – literally meaning Best Truth or Righteousness. Indeed, when a Zoroastrian prays before fire, he/she looks up to Ahura Mazda, the Creator, through fire as a form of Light and Life. Along with Adar, which is the Divinity protecting fire, Ardibehesht is the embodiment of Truth and Righteousness (Asha Vahishta). Hence, praying before fire is an affirmation of upholding Truth and Righteousness in our lives.
Grades Of Consecrated Fire: Consecration is an act of making the ordinary sacred or worthy of reverence, through ritual purification. There are three grades of Fire – the highest is Atash Behram or the fire that gives Victory. There are four Atash Behrams in Mumbai, two in Surat, one in Navsari and one in Udwada. The latter being the oldest has its fires continuously burning for over a thousand years now. It is called Iranshah as it is the first Holy fire that we consecrated in India, after coming from Iran using the Aalaat (sacred ritual requisites, including the Holy Ash) brought from Khorasan.
Meaning Behind Certain Rituals: Before entering a Fire Temple, we wash our hands and face and then perform the kushti prayer. Hence, we clean ourselves physically and with the Kushti ritual, we clean our aura, thus, going before the Holy Fire – clean in body, spirit and mind. We cover our head as a mark of respect and so that hair from our head does not fall and pollute the holy premise.
When we pray before fire, we see light instead of darkness. We see Adar, the life-giving energy and we feel the energy of Ardibehesht or Truth and Righteousness. Through fire, as a divine channel, we send our prayers and good wishes to the Creator. We offer fragrant sandalwood as fuel for the fire and apply the holy ash to our forehead as a way of ritually connecting to the fire and reminding ourselves that ultimately, we will all be reduced to ash.
The Priests perform the Boi ceremony before the Holy fire, five times a day. They strike the bell while reciting the words dushmata, duzukht, dusvarast – rejecting all evil thoughts, words and deeds. Thus, during the ceremony, the Priest rings the bell and symbolically drives out evil in thought, word and deed from this world.
What Do We Pray? We begin the Atash Nyaish (litany to the fire) with the salutation, ‘Khshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao Nemase-te Atarsh Mazdao Ahurahe hudhao mazishta Yazata’, which means. “May there be the propitiation or pleasure of Ahura Mazda! Homage (be) unto thee, O Fire of Hormazd, bestowing good, the Greatest Yazata.”
We also affirm: Us-moi uzareshva Ahura… Armaiti tevishim Dasva… Spenishta Mainyu Mazda… Vanghuya zavo ada… Asha hazo emavat vohu… Manangha feseratum’, which means, “O Ahura Mazda, the most beneficent spirit and the bestower of good things in return for prayers! Do Thou purify me (i.e. keep me away from wicked deeds), owing to (my) gentleness (or humility) do Thou grant me strength, on account of righteousness, bestow upon (me) mighty power (and) on account of (my) good thoughts, grant me supremacy.”
We further aspire: ‘
Rafedhrai vouruchashane, doishi moi ya ve abifra, ta khshathrahya Ahura ya Vangheush ashish manangho
fro Spenta Armaite Asha daenao Fradakhshaya’, which means, “O Hormazd! for (my) delight (and) for sufficiently acquiring religious lore, do Thou grant me assuredly those gifts which (are) blessed by Shehrevar and Vohuman. O Spenta Armaiti! Instruct (me) the commandments of the Religion through Asha.”
And to the Holy Fire itself we express the following sentiments: ‘Yasnemcha vahmemcha huberetimcha
ushta-beretimcha, vanta-beretimcha, afrinami, tava Atarsh puthra Ahurahe Mazdao, yesnyo ahi vahmyo, yesnyo buyao vahmyo nmanahu mashyakanam ushta buyat ahmai naire, yase-thwa badha frayazaite, aesmo-zasto, baresmo-zasto ao-zasto, havano-zasto’, which means, “O Fire, the purifier (of all things) pertaining to Ahura Mazda! I praise Thy worship, invocation, good health-giving and friendly gift. (O Fire), Thou art worthy of worship and invocation, mayest Thou be worthy of worship and invocation in the abodes of men! May there be greatness (or happiness) unto that man who shall always worship Thee with fuel, Baresman, milk and mortar in hand.”