Ponderings: Muktad, Gatha And Khordadsaal!

Recently, we remembered our dear departed loved ones during the ten holy days of Muktad. We also ushered in the New Yazdazardi Saal on 16th August, 2023. And on 21st August, we will observe Khordadsaal.

Mixed Feelings… On one hand it was good to see so many devout Parsis at the Agyari – morning and evening. In fact, at some Agyaries many could not find a place to sit peacefully and witness the Jashan ceremony of loved ones. By evening, most priests looked exhausted and some even seemed irritated. I sadly witnessed ceremonies being performed mechanically and simultaneously for several dear departed ones at the same times. To my ears it was cacophony and not a soothing symphony and the experience over several days left me with mixed feelings. Also, it was great to see so much devotion and dedication but all concentrated over ten days only.

Focus On The Living… The most important conclusion I came to was pay your respects to the living while they are still alive, but lonely and feeling neglected or uncared for. What is the point neglecting our loved ones while they are alive and then performing so many ceremonies to pay homage after they are no more amid us? What is the point respecting them after they are dead and gone? If you really respect your loved ones give them your time, your love, and your care while they are still alive.

Bring them flowers while they can still smell them. They will not be able to smell the roses you will place in the Muktad vases after they are no more. Give them good food which they like while they still crave it. What you will offer during the Stum prayers other living beings will eat and not your dear departed. Yes, performing all these ceremonies will bring you considerable solace but it will be no substitute for the joy you can derive seeing your loved ones smile while they are still alive. So, if you truly believe in respecting the dead, first respect them while they are still alive.

Khordadsaal… Zoroastrians observe Khordad Roj of Fravardin Mah as Khordad Saal. This is the sixth day of the first month of the Zoroastrian calendar. Khordad is that Divine Energy of Ahura Mazda which presides over ‘time’, ‘wholesomeness’ and ‘perfection’. It is for this reason that the first Khordad Roj of the new calendar is celebrated as Khordad-Sal-Khoday, i.e., ‘Khordad, Lord of the year’. Homage is paid to this Divine Energy of Time, Wholesomeness and Perfection in order that the year is filled with happiness, wholesomeness, time that is well spent and our lives come closer to perfection. Until a few decades ago, Khordad Saal used to be a general public holiday declared by the State Government in India.

In Zoroastrian tradition, a number of significant events have taken place on this blessed day. Gayomard (the first human being), Hooshang (the first King of ancient Iran), Kai Khosraw (a great and glorious King of Iran) and most important of all, Asho Zarathushtra, are believed to have been born on this auspicious day. This day also signifies the triumph of good over evil, for on this day, Shah Jamsheed is believed to have virtually arrested death and disease; the great King Kai Khosraw vanquished the evil Afrasiab and King Vishtasp accepted Zarathushtra as a Prophet. In ancient times, Parsis used to spend this auspicious day in prayers at home and, of course, at Agiary or Atash Bahram. It is also considered meritorious to perform jashan ceremony on this day to invoke the blessings of Ahura Mazda and His Divine Energy of Wholesomeness and Perfection.

Khordad is the Divinity of Perfection and traditionally, this day commemorates the birth of Prophet Zarathustra whose teachings are timeless and perfect and will remain relevant and perfect in every era. In the sacred Gatha, the Prophet tells us about the choice we all must exercise each day using our mind, which we must strive to illumine every single day of our lives, with practice of right thoughts, good words, and noble deeds. His was clearly a reflective religion of moral choice and consequences of our personal choices.

He taught us to be righteous not for the sake of any heavenly reward, but, simply for the sake of righteousness. He neither preached denial nor blood sacrifices. His religion was of Asha (Truth), Raadi (Charity) and Ushta (Happiness).

The Beauty Of The Gatha… The Gatha, consist of seventeen hymns composed by the poet-prophet Zarathushtra. They are arranged into five groups based on their meter:

  1. Ahunavaiti Gatha (Yasna 28 to Yasna 34)
  2. Ushtavaiti Gatha (Yasna 43 to Yasna 46)
  3. Spentamainyush Gatha (Yasna 47 to Yasna 50)
  4. Vohukhshathra Gatha (Yasna 51)
  5. Vahishtoishti Gatha (Yasna 53).

The Gathas speak of the twin mentalities and choices we all must make using our sucha managha or ‘illuminated mind’. In the Gatha Zarathushtra says: “I will speak of the Spirits Twain at the first beginning of Life, of whom the Holier Spake thus to the wicked one: Never shall our minds harmonize, nor our doctrines; neither our aspirations, nor yet our beliefs; neither our words nor yet our actions.” This elaborates the ethical duality we observe in this world and in our lives.

The Gatha advises: “Hear with your ears the highest Truths, consider them with clear thought, before deciding between the two paths, man by man, each one for himself”.

Zarathushtra speaks here about the moral and ethical choices each one of us must exercise with clear thought or an illuminated mind. And, once we decide, we must be responsible for its consequences. No saviour can come to our rescue except our own good thoughts, words, and deeds and therefore, the Prophet in reference to these two paths states: “And of these two the wise do choose what’s right; the unwise choose not thus.

Friendship With God… The Ushtavaiti Gatha, which embodies happiness, celebrates the Zoroastrian precept of friendship with God. In Ushtavaiti Gatha, Yasna 46.2 Zarathustra says: “Rafedhrem chagvaao hyat fryo fryaai daidit, Aakhso vangheush ashaa ishtim manangho.” Meaning (as translated by Prof. Stanley Insler): “Take notice of it, Lord, offering the support which a friend should grant to a friend. Let me see the power of good thinking allied with truth!”

Here Zarathushtra does not see God as the Master or the Lord or as Father or someone to fear, but sees the Supreme Divinity as a beloved friend to talk to in times of distress and to love Him and seek His support to perfect an imperfect world with friendship based on good thinking allied with Truth.

Attune With Asha… The Spentamainyush Gatha corresponding to Yasna 47 to 50 embodies the qualities of Purity, Piety, Simplicity, Tolerance and Humility.

In this Gatha the Prophet questions: “On whom can I count for help? On whom can I depend to protect my possessions?” And, answers in the same verse: “On whom but on Thy Truth, and on Thyself, O Mazda Ahura, when invoked with the Enlightened Mind!” Note here the emphasis on invoking God with an enlightened or illumined mind instead of mechanical babble without focus or understanding.

The Prophet further asks: “Tell me, O Mazda, how should they act and work? Who care for this joy-giving world with its pastures?”

And, he answers thus: “Living upright lives under the recurring splendor of the sun, apart from the repudiators, living ordered lives in harmony with the law of Truth, these shall reap the Blessed Reward!

In other words, the Prophet tells us that excellence and fulfilment can be achieved by leading an upright life in sync with the law of Asha and away from the perpetrators of evil and in doing so Spenta, the very spirit of the earth, rejoices.

Righteous Actions… The Vohukhashatra Gatha (Vohu = Good and Khashatra = Power or Strength) elucidates the power of doing good deeds. It says: “That man, who performs all his actions as an act of worship through Asha’s Law, is deemed as the best by Mazda Ahura. Those who have been in the past and who are such at present, I shall, with reverence, recall them by name, and shall try to reach their high position by righteous deeds.”

This Gatha relates to Yasna 51 wherein Zarathustra elucidates that excellence comes through righteous actions performed as acts of worship. Thus, righteous actions are the best form of worship and such actions reap strength and empowerment.

Happiness Through Righteousness… In the fifth and last Gatha, Vahishto-Ishti corresponding to Yasna 53, the Prophet gives his daughter Pouruchista’s hand away in marriage and counsels: “These words do I address to you maidens who are being married, these counsels do I give to you, bridegrooms, heed them in your minds and lay them to heart. Let each cherish the other with Righteousness. Then surely the reward of a happy life shall be yours.”

Here Zarathustra does not see marriage as a contract to cohabit; instead, he sees it as a path to happiness, a bond of friendship to cherish and togetherness to celebrate with joy. While concluding he also emphasized the benefits of praying. Beginning the day with a prayer puts us in a positive and peaceful frame of mind, he said. It fortifies our self-confidence and generates new energy and, in the process, equips us mentally and emotionally to face the daily ordeals of life. Prayer is a great source of psychic energy. When we pray, we link ourselves with the inexhaustible motive power that spins the entire universe.

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