As per the Zoroastrian Shahenshahi calendar we are now observing the twelfth and last month of the year namely Aspandarmad / Spendarmad. In fact, tomorrow (Sunday, 16th July 2023) marks the Parab of Aspandarmad (Roj Aspandarmad, Mah Aspandarmad). Since this holy month is dedicated to Spenta Armaity – the Divinity that presides over Mother Earth, tomorrow is considered as the Zoroastrian Earth Day! Interestingly, Monday, 17th July, 2023, will be observed as the Kadmi New Year.
The term Spenta has been variously translated as increasing, growing, good, holy and benevolent, while the term Armaity has been variously translated to mean devotion, piety and peace. In other words, Spenta Armaity is an Amesha Spenta that advances peace and piety in this world. Little wonder she has been constantly referred to in the Gatha. Every Zoroastrian is enjoined to live his or her life in tune with the spirit of Spenta Armaity promoting benevolence, peace and piety.
Saving Earth Requires Leadership
Asho Zarathushtra’s Ahunavaiti Gatha literally begins with the lament of Geush Urva or the Spirit of the Earth before Ahura Mazda: “Wherefore did thou create me? Who gave life to me? Anger, rapine, outrage, blunder, aggression and violence are everywhere. There is no protector for me, except Thee. Therefore, reveal to me a savior who could show me a way out of this difficulty.”
Thereupon, the Creator of Earth asked Asha, “Who shall be Thy savior for the people of the world, so that we may be able to offer her, besides protection, fostering zeal as well. Who do you desire, O Asha, to appoint as their Lord and Guide, so as to repel the army of evil and misguided persons and keep at abeyance – wrath and annoyance?”
And Asha replied to Ahura Mazda, “The leader to be selected for people of the world should be neither unjust nor cruel. This person should be a very kind and non-inimical person.”
These verses from the Gatha indicate that protecting the earth requires leadership, especially from those who are just, kind and do not support any form of harm.
Just like Aspandarmad, Bhumi, also known as Bhudevi and Vasundhara, is a Hindu Divinity and personification of the earth. She is a consort of the lord Varaha, an avatar of lord Vishnu in the form of a boar. According to Hindu texts, Varaha, the third avatar of Vishnu, saved earth from the asura Hiranyaksha and later married her, making her one of his consorts.
Bhudevi is depicted as seated on a platform that rests on the back of four elephants, representing the four cardinal directions. She is usually portrayed with four arms, holding a pomegranate, a water vessel, a bowl containing healing herbs, and another bowl containing vegetables.
In the Atharvaveda, Bhudevi is described as the daata or provider of prosperity and wealth. She provides essential resources for human sustenance. The resources including crops, minerals, forest, vegetation, etc., are all under her providence. It is also a common practice in India to worship Bhudevi before undertaking any construction or agricultural work with Bhu-puja followed by a community feast and acts of charity, very similar to Zoroastrians performing a Jashan ceremony followed by feasting and acts of charity.
Like Aspandarmad, in Greek mythology, Gaia is seen as the personification or the spiritual embodiment of earth. Centuries later, we have with us today the Gaia hypothesis, which posits that Earth and its biological systems behave as a huge single entity. This entity has closely controlled, self-regulatory feedback loops that keep the conditions on the planet within boundaries that are favorable to life.
Introduced in the early 1970s, the Gaia hypothesis was conceived by chemist and inventor James E. Lovelock and biologist Lynn Margulis. This new way of looking at global ecology and evolution differs from the classical picture of ecology as a biological response to a menu of physical conditions. The idea of co-evolution of biology and the physical environment where each influences the other was suggested as early as the mid-seventeen-hundreds, but never as strongly as Gaia, which claims the power of biology to control the nonliving environment.
Revere The Earth…
It is said, what we revere, we generally do not harm and this is one of the reasons why Zoroastrians revere all good creations of Ahura Mazda, including earth. One of our religious traditions requires every Zoroastrian, on waking up in the morning, to recite one Ashem and offer salutation to Spenta Armaity by touching the ground and then the forehead three times. This is to seek both – forgiveness and blessings. Forgiveness is sought right at the start of the day for all acts which may be committed knowingly or unknowingly by the devotee that may burden the earth. By way of blessings, the devotee aspires for Spenta Armaity’s qualities of devotion, peace and piety.
Earth has the patience of the ages. It carries all loads and burdens, calmly and quietly. It has the quality of converting even waste like dung to useful fertilizer. The devotee aspires to imbibe some of these very qualities in his / her life through this simple but ennobling ritual. Just as Spenta Armaity converts what’s negative to positive, the devotee also hopes and prays every morning that he / she may convert all that is negative in his / her life and the world, to something positive, good and useful.
Nirang Of Aspandarmad
Every year, on Aspandarmad Roj of Aspandarmad Mah, Zoroastrian priests write the Nirang of Aspandarmad, which devout Parsis paste on the front entrance of their homes. This Nirang is believed to ward of all forces of evil. The Nirang 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. Ashem Vohu……..”
Free 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, Khrafastars, Druji holders, magicians, evil fairies, 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!”