Commemorating The Lives Of Our Dearly Departed

Fravardin, the first month of the Zoroastrian calendar is aptly dedicated to the Fravashi or Farohar, which is the prototype of all creation. 3rd September, 2023 marks the Parab (when the Roj and Mah coincide) of Fravardin.

Parab of Fravardin: Roj Fravardin of Mah Fravardin marks the day when devout Zoroastrians head for the Dokhma or Aramgah, to offer prayers to the Fravashi of their dearly departed. One could say it is observed as the Zoroastrian ‘All Souls’ Day’, or more appropriately, the day dedicated to the collective ‘Holy Spirit’ of all creation.  Usually, a Jashan is performed where members of the community participate in large numbers, followed by a Hum Bandagi or a mass congregational prayer to propitiate the Holy Fravashis. 

Contrary to popular belief, it is not a day to be observed with sadness, but one where we cherish the life lived by our dearly departed ones. It is said that to live in the hearts of those we love is never to die. Indeed, those who are no more amidst us, live on through the good thoughts, good words and good deeds that they leave behind, for us to treasure. This is the essence of immortality, where successive generations hold on to and emulate the values lived by their predecessors.

In Zoroastrian tradition, while invoking Fravardin, we use the epitaph, ‘Farokh’ which means fortunate and happy. In our prayers we recite, ‘Mah Farokh Fravardin’, meaning, the happy and fortunate month of Fravardin. Thus, the Parab of Fravardin is a fortunate, happy day to celebrate the life that our dear departed ones lived. It is the day to not just remember our loved ones with gratitude but to reflect on the positive impact and imprints they left behind for us to take forward.

A life well lived is one filled with joy and love. Life is a gift, as is love, and when both are bestowed, it becomes a life well lived. In the poetic verse of Philip James Bailey:

We live in deeds, not years;

In thoughts, not breaths;

In feelings, not in figures on a dial!


We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives

Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.

And he whose heart beats quickest lives the longest:

Lives in one hour more than in years do some


What Should One Pray?

Individually, devotees usually pray the Stum no Kardo, offering fruits and food items to the Fravashi of their dearly departed. Many also pray the Fravardin Yasht or hymn to the Holy and Righteous Fravashis. Praying the Fravardin Yasht on this day is considered particularly meritorious. Among Zoroastrian Yashts (hymns) Fravardin is the longest with one hundred and fifty eight verses. It mainly propitiates the Righteous Fravashis.

Throughout the Yasht we pray: “Ashaaunaam vanguhish suraao spentaao fravashayao yazamaidé,” meaning, ‘We remember with reverence the holy, good, brave, prosperity giving Fravashis of the Holy’.

It is also considered meritorious to carry out acts of charity, especially in honour of the deceased. The best tribute we can offer is not grief, but our gratitude, which is best expressed through acts of giving.

What is Fravashi?

In the Fravardin YashtFravashi is described as a purifier and a powerful helper of Ahura Mazda in protecting all good creations. In the Fravardin Yasht, we also pray: “We worship the good, strong, beneficent Fravashis of the faithful; whose friendship is good, and who know how to benefit; whose friendship lasts long; who like to stay in the abode where they are not harmed by its dwellers; who are good, beautiful, afar, health-giving, of high renown, conquering in battle, and who never do harm.”

Fravashi is somewhat similar to the Pitri of the Hindus or the Manes of the Romans and Greeks – the Beneficent Spirit. Zoroastrians view Fravashi or Farohar as a Divine Essence, which is wholly pure and good. It is not to be confused with the Ruwan or soul. The Avestan word ‘Fravashi’ comes from the word ‘Fra’ (to take forward) and ‘vaksh’ (to grow). In other words, Fravashi is that spiritual essence or power that takes every good creation of Ahura Mazda forward and helps it grow.

Fravashi is also a prototype, which is believed to have existed before the material creation. Even Ahura Mazda and His Divine Energies, the Amesha Spentas and the Yazatas, are said to have their own fravashi. Plants, animals, mountains and rivers also have their own fravashi. They are guardian spirits of the souls of the dead and also protect and guide the souls of the living.

It would be apt to conclude with a verse from the Fravardin Yasht, which affirms: “May (they) who (are) the Fravashis of the righteous keep love over us here (i.e. in this world) quickly and verily! (And) may they come to our help! (Also) may those (Fravashis) save us, the living ones with (their) powerful help at the time of calamity! (Besides, may those Fravashis be) (our) helpers through Ahura Mazda, through the brave righteous Sraosha Yazata, and through the learned Mānthra Spenta! Which (Mānthra Spenta) is opposed to the doctrines of daevas and the messenger of Ahura Mazda, whom (the Prophet) Zarathushtra saw with the sincerest vision in the corporeal world.”

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