The community ushered the holy month of Bahman on 12th June, 2023 with much enthusiasm. It’s the time of the year to enjoy Khichdi (rice cooked with ghee and lentils) along with Bafenu (ripe mango pickle), Khichdi paired with gor amli nu doru (sweet and tangy sauce made with tamarind and jaggery), makeover from butter chicken to butter paneer (cottage cheese) and substitute mutton with mushrooms. However, more importantly it is essential to exercise temperance in thought, words, and deeds and attune our mind with Bahman, who is referred to in the Avesta, as Vohu Mana or the Good Mind of Ahura Mazda – the Wise Creator of this Universe.
It’s important to understand that Ahura Mazda is Khud-da or ‘self-created’. Ahura Mazda does not exist outside creation but within creation. This is the reason why Zoroastrians revere every good creation of Ahura Mazda, for Ahura Mazda dwells within the created universe. Mystics and now even some scientists believe that the universe is conscious and has a mind of its own. The mind of the universe is very different and far superior than the human mind. That ‘Mind of the Universe’ is Vohu Mana or the Good Mind of the Creator of the Universe.
Consciousness is inherent in even the tiniest pieces of matter — an idea that suggests the fundamental building blocks of reality have conscious experience. Crucially, it implies consciousness could be found throughout the universe. This is why a devout Hindu believes that praying before a consecrated stone idol or a Zoroastrian praying before a consecrated fire is adoration of a conscious creation of the Creator!
Why Abstain From Meat?
In the pantheon of Zoroastrian Divinities, Bahman Amshaspand ranks next to Ahura Mazda. Bahman is an Amshaspand or Amesha Spenta (variously translated as Bountiful Immortal or Arch Angel) who is doctrinally seen as the guardian of one of Ahura Mazda’s good creations, namely Animals – particularly Goshpand like cow, goat, sheep etc. It is for this reason that devout Zoroastrians abstain from eating meat throughout the entire month of Bahman.
There are Zoroastrians who observe this month as strict vegetarians on a diet of ana, fal and shaak i.e., grain, fruits and vegetables, while there are some who argue that chicken and fish are not gospand and can be eaten. The community is particularly fond of eggs and we know several vegetarian Parsis who consider eating unfertilised eggs as quite acceptable.
However, even those who do not observe fasting from meat for the whole month, try to avoid eating meat on Bahman Roj of Bahman Mah and the days dedicated to Bahman’s Hamkara (co-workers) – Mohor, Gosh and Ram. Mohor or Mah Yazata presides over the moon, Gosh or Geush presides over earth and Mino Ram presides over joy, love and friendship.
Mah or the moon greatly influences our mind and moods. Geush or earth is the planet we dwell on and which sustains all life and Ram or Ramano is the spirit of joy, love, and friendship. All three are co-workers of Vohu Mana or the Good Mind of the Creator. What a fascinating combination of Good Mind, Good Matter, Good Mood and Good Friendship!
Akin But Not Same As Shravan…
Bahman Mah is to Zoroastrians, what Shravan Maas is to Hindus. However, while Hindus avoid non-vegetarian food and alcohol during Shravan Maas. Zoroastrians simply abstain from eating meat during Bahman Mah but continue to enjoy their favourite tipple. Hindus also observe fasting during the month of Shravan but Zoroastrians do not. The concept of fasting is alien to Zoroastrians, who believe it is more important to fast every day from inappropriate thoughts, intemperate words, and irregular deeds.
In the Zoroastrian calendar, the second day of every month as well as the eleventh month of every year is dedicated to Bahman Amshaspand. Bahman is the Persian form of the Pahlavi word, ‘Wahman’, and the original Avestan term – Vohu Manah, which most scholars translate as ‘Good Mind’.
While at a moral and ethical level Bahman represents the ‘good mind’ of Ahura Mazda, Zoroastrians abstain from eating meat on every Bahman Roj as also Roj Mohor, Gosh and Ram, as a mark of respect to the four Guardian Divinities of all Goshpands (Bovine animals). Abstaining from eating meat throughout the month of Bahman is considered an act of religious merit to acquire wisdom through internal cleansing and exercising non-violence towards a Good Creation of Ahura Mazda.
No special prayers are offered nor are special ceremonies are performed during this month. One is only expected to switch to a simple diet of fruits, vegetables, and grains as an act of religious discipline.
There is no Yasht (Hymn) or Niyaesh (Litany) dedicated to Bahman. There probably was an Avesta Vohu Manah or Bahman Yasht, but which is now lost to us over the vicissitudes of time. What we have is a Pahlavi commentary called Zand-e-Vohu Manah Yasna. But unlike Avesta and Pazand, Pahlavi is not Manthravani or the traditional language of prayer. Regardless, many recite this text during this holy month. This text is essentially a dialogue between Ahura Mazda and Asho Zarathushtra – more in the nature of a story-telling religious text.
In Navsari (Gujarat), there’s an ancient tradition of observing the community feast of ‘Ghee Khichdi’ on Bahman Roj of Bahman Mah. Young boys of the community go to various Zoroastrian homes with huge gunny bags and request fellow Zoroastrians to contribute rice, dal, oil, ghee, turmeric and other condiments necessary to cook Khichdi. Usually, women of the house make these gifts and at the same time splash jugs full of water on the boys chanting” “Ghee Khichdi no paiso, doriya no rupiyo, varsadji (rain) toh avse….”, symbolically welcoming the monsoons after a hot summer.
True Significance Of Bahman:
Bah-man literally means good mind (Bah or Beh = Good and Man = Mind). If the Zoroastrian religion is about Ushta or happiness, having the right mindset is the key to happiness. Our happiness depends on our mindset and attitude because our mind has a powerful way of attracting things that are in harmony with it, be it good and bad. Hence keeping the mind positive, purposeful, and productive is considered meritorious. It is only through Bahman or the good mind that Mazda or wisdom can be attained. Little wonder that in the divine hierarchy, Bahman is second only to Mazda.
In the Gatha, Asho Zarathushtra asserts that the path leading to Ahura Mazda is through Vohu Manah. In other words, propitiating Bahman Amshaspand takes one closer to Divinity. Interpreted at an ethical level, exercising the right moral and ethical choices with the help of the good mind alone can take one closer to Ahura Mazda – the Lord or Master of all Wisdom.
May this holy month inspire us to befriend wisdom and attain happiness!