As we observe the final month of the Zoroastrian calendar and look forward to welcoming the fravashi of our dear departed later this month, let’s reflect on the importance of Aspandarmad or Spendarmad – the twelfth month of the Zoroastrian calendar, dedicated to the Guardian Angel of planet Earth.
So, how best can we propitiate or pay homage to Aspandarmad? It could begin with better awareness and understanding and living our life more mindfully and responsibly.
Living In Harmony With Our Ecosystem…
Planet Earth and its ecosystem is our home. In order to attain the fine balance between the economic, social and environmental needs of the present and future generations, it’s crucial we promote harmony with Nature. Our earth’s natural resources (air, water, soil, mineral, fuel, plants, and animals) are enough for our needs, but not enough for our greed, and therefore unless we practice conservation or care for these resources, we will leave behind a planet not worthy to inherit, by future generations.
Unfortunately, mankind’s greed has led to waste of natural resources. Animals are overhunted. Forests are cleared, exposing land to wind and water damage. Fertile soil is exhausted and lost to erosion because of poor farming practices. Fuel supplies are depleted. Water and air are polluted. The need of the hour is to live with a sense of awareness and responsibility.
The Guardian Spirit of Earth…
Since 1970, the world celebrates ‘Earth Day’ on 22nd April, as an annual celebration honoring the achievements of the Environmental Movement aimed at raising awareness about the need to protect Earth’s natural resources for future generations.
For centuries, Zoroastrians have celebrated ‘Aspandarmad Roj of Aspandarmad Mah’ as ‘Earth Day’. It’s the original and perhaps the world’s first observation of ‘Earth Day’! The holy month of Aspandarmad or Spendarmad is dedicated to Spenta Armaity – the divinity presiding over Mother Earth. Spenta Armaity is an Amesha Spenta (Divine Energy) advancing peace and piety in this world – little wonder that she is constantly referred to by Asho Zarathushtra in the Holy Gatha.
Invoking Spenta Armaity’s Blessings…
Our religious tradition encourages Zoroastrians, on awakening in the morning, to recite one Ashem which is a positive affirmation to walk the path of Asha (truth and righteousness) and offer salutation to Spenta Armaity, by touching the ground and then the forehead three times. This ritual gesture is to seek both – forgiveness and blessings. Forgiveness is sought at the start of the day for all acts which may be committed knowingly or unknowingly that may burden the earth. By way of blessings, the devotee aspires for Spenta Armaity’s qualities of devotion, peace and piety.
As we all know, mother earth patiently carries all burdens calmly and quietly, even converting waste matter like dung into useful fertilizer. In a manner of speaking, Spenta Armaity converts waste to useful and negative to positive. Devotees seeking Spenta Armaity’s blessings also hope and pray to be able to transform negativity in their lives to all things positive.
Nirang of Aspandarmad…
Every year, on the Aspandarmad Parab (Roj Aspandarmad, Mah Aspandarmad), Zoroastrian priests write the Nirang (talisman) of Aspandarmad, which devout Parsis paste on the front entrance of their homes. This Nirang, is said to ward of all forces of evil, 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!
Translation: “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 (demonic or negative forces), Khrafastars (vicious creatures), Druji (pollution) holders, magicians, evil entities, 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!”
Holy Fravardegan Days…
The last ten days of the Zoroastrian calendar (i.e., Roj Astad to Roj Aneran and the independent five days of the Gatha), are considered very holy, as doctrinally it is believed that during this period, the fravashis of the righteous dead, arrive 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 dearly departed. 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 term ‘fravashi’, comes from the word Fra (to take forward) and vaksh (to grow). In other words, fravashi is that spiritual essence or energy that takes every good creation of Ahura Mazda forward and helps it to grow.
May the Holy Fravashi bless and guide us all to move forward mindfully and grow with responsibility!