Thanks to Sehangir Sarosh for his contribution.


WATER –

A SACRED CEATION IN ZARATHUSHTRIAN FAITH

Ervad Dr. Jehan Bagli


Next to Fire, Water represents the important manifestation of Divine power in Zarathushtrian faith. The theology concedes water as a creation second only to the heavens and celestial universe.
The water, through ritual ablution brings purification to all providing cleansing both physically and spiritually. The purification thus enhances the health, wholeness and perfection. Consequently the Divine value of Haurvatat - the Amesha Spenta that signifies the attribute of Completeness and Wholeness - that leads to Harmony between the physical excellence and the spiritual perfection in human is assigned as the Guardian of water in later Zarathushtrian texts.
We learn from our later texts (Selections of Zad-sparam Ch 21.4) that Zarathushtra received his revelations from the Divine when he emerged from the waters of the Daitya river. This in time has led water to play an important role in the cleansing and sanctifying various requisites that are used in Zaratushrian rituals.

Apo at yazamaide maekaintishcha hebvaintishcha,
fravazangho, Ahuranish ahuraya havpanghao
huperethwaoscha vao hvoghzathaoscha
hushnathraoscha uboibya ahubya chagema.

Ys 38.3

O ye waters , we worship Thee. You (waters) that are
showered down, gathering in lakes, ponds and
flowing rivers. Waters that are the creation of Ahura Mazda.
Waters that are full flowing, good for washing,
we seek for you in both the worlds.

The above prayer comes to us from Haptan Yasht. The first liturgy of its kind in Old Avesta, where worshippers gather to pay homage to the creations of Wise Lord -Ahura Mazda. The above verse is homage unto the waters. The words invoke, the purifying power of the Natural waters, in both material and spiritual existence.
Waters in Zarathushtrian theology are addressed as Aredvi Sura Anahita meaning Moist, Mighty and Immaculate. As a Divinity for water Anahita is worshipped as bestower of fertility, purifying the seeds of man, and wombs of female to ease the childbirth and make the milk flow to nourish the young ones (Aban Yasht 5.2). Water is exalted as the 12th day Aban of the Zarathushtrian calendar, and the 12th day of the eighth month of Aban of Zarathushtrian year is celebrated by a Jashan of Aban. Often members of Zarathushtrian community flock to the sea shore or river front for prayer recitals on that day.
History records, that both Dariush II (424-405 B.C.E.) and his queen Parysatis vigorously promoted iconic cult worship of Anahita, through erection of temple edifice of highest opulence and splendor. It is therefore not surprising, that their second son Artaxerxes II, was the first monarch in Achaemenian geneology, to deviate from the exclusive veneration Ahura Mazda, and pay tribute to the trinity of Ahura Mazda, Anahita and Mithra. Centuries later in the Sasanian era, (c. 275 C.E.) it was chief prelate Kirder, a powerful iconoclast who literally smashed the idol worship, to became the master and overlord of Fire of Anahid, the Lady of Istakhr (The Lady of the Waters).
In the central Zarathushtrian liturgy of Yasna, all the requisites used have to be purified and consecrated. The most indispensable element for this purpose is water. For this reason traditionally places of worship where these ceremonies can be performed, must be equipped with a well that is fed by a natural spring. Use of tap water for this order of consecration is prohibited as spiritually it is considered unfit for the ceremonial performance. Water is so important for this inner liturgical ceremony that some researchers call Yasna as the “offering to the waters”. Chapters 63-69 of Yasna prayers are called the Ab-Zhor ritual meaning ‘Strength through Offerings to water’. These chapters are the culminating rite of the greater Yasna service.
The water is drawn three times from the well with recitation of holy mantra and is used for swishing the storage vessel. It is the fourth drawing of the water that is considered as ‘consecrated water’. The utensils (Alat) used for the Yasna service are all cleaned first with ordinary water, then made Pak (pure) with the consecrated water and finally made Paav (consecrated) with the recital Avestan mantra. In order to preserve the sanctity of the Alat they are consistently libated with consecrated water during the ceremony. Chapter 65 of Ab-Zhor section of prayer is the climactic point that specifically sings the glory unto creation of this sacred element. The text constitutes the recital Aban Ardavi Sur Niyaesh. The following verse reflects the crucial importance of this element in spiritual terms.

Ahuro Mazdao Spitamai Zarathushtrai
Yazaesha mé him Spitam zarathushtra
Yam Aredvim Surem Anahitam perethru-frakam
baeshazayam vidaevam Ahuro-tkaesham yesnyam
anghauhe astavaite vahmyam anghauhe astavaite

Ardavi Sur Niyaesh

Ahura Mazda spoke unto Spitama zarathushtra
Revere for me O Spitama Zarathushtra
her who is Aredvi Sura pure and spotless
flowing far and wide, health giving, opposed to evil,
a follower who chose Ahura as Guide.