A SACRED CEATION IN ZARATHUSHTRIAN
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.
at yazamaide maekaintishcha hebvaintishcha,
fravazangho, Ahuranish ahuraya havpanghao
huperethwaoscha vao hvoghzathaoscha
hushnathraoscha uboibya ahubya chagema.
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
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
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
a follower who chose Ahura as Guide.