The Zoroastrian Calendar
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A religious calendar is important and necessary to sustain the beliefs and practices of any community. In Zoroastrianism, the calendar fulfils many important roles.
1) It helps one to follow the change of seasons and celebrate the religious festivals of the year.
2) It helps one to become ethically and ecologically more conscious of one's life and environment.
3) It helps one to understand and experience the principles of the religion in a more meaningful way.
4) It helps one to live a richer life on a spiritual, emotional and physical level.
In Zoroastrianism, each day forms part of a month and as time is deemed to move on a linear scale, there is a belief in a beginning with a definite end of time. Thus a Zoroastrian, every year, moves closer towards the final goal, the "Making Wonderful" - when it is said that the whole of creation will be restored to a perfect state. Time, as we know it, will cease to exist and the world will be filled with total goodness, joy, peace and light. The first day of the month (hormazd roz) will merge with the 30th day of Endless Light (Aneran roz) into the ONE timeless moment, as a result of the total annihilation of evil from this world. The seven creations comprising of the sky, waters, earth, plants, cattle, man and fire will be restored to a deathless, immortal state - the total triumph of Hormazd.
The Zoroastrian calendar is divided into 12 months with each month comprising of 30 days. The 12th month has 5 additional gatha days making it a 365 day calendar. Traditionally, an extra month was added once every 120 years in order to synchronize it with the solar calendar of 365-1/4 days (1/4 x 120 years = 30 days). The intercalation of one extra month every 120 years in ancient times kept the calendar in tandem with the change of seasons, and so the New Year used to fall rightly in spring (around mid March). The Parsis in India last remembered to add this additional 13th month in 1129 C.E., whereas the Iranian Zoroastrians for some reason forgot to do so. Subsequently, both the Parsis and Iranis for unknown reasons ceased to intercalate this extra month every 120 years and so the New Year slipped back in time from March to February to January and so on, till now it falls in August.
In 1720 C. E. an Irani Dastur named Jamasp Vilayati came from Kerman to India in order to advise his parsi counterparts in religious matters. In discussion, they discovered a one month difference between the Parsi and Irani calendars. The priests could not explain the reasons for this difference and both groups felt that their calendar was the right one. In 1746 C.E. a group of priests from Surat decided to adopt the Iranian calendar and they called themselves the "Kadim", "the ancient ones". In India, the Kadmi calendar is predominantly followed by the Irani Zoroastrians whose New Year always falls one month before the traditional New Year of the Parsis who, in the main, follow the Shenshai ("royalist") calendar.
Both the Kadmi and Shenshai calendars date back to the coronation of the last Zoroastrian Sasanian King, Yazdegird II in 631 C.E. (631 + 1365 Y. = 1996). The 1365 Y. date does not reflect the date of arrival of the first Parsi "pilgrim fathers" to India. The first Parsi migrants arrived in India on Bahman roz, Tir mah in the year 305 Y. (936 - 631) or 936 C.E. as per the Gregorian year. Of course, there were Zoroastrian traders living in Sind and the Punjab from earlier times.
In 1906 C.E. Mr. Khurshedji Cama troubled by the New Year not falling in the spring, founded the "Zarthosti Fasli Sal Mandal". This group decided to add an extra day once every four years, following the Gregorian system, so that the New Year was permanently fixed on the 21st of March. This movement led to the re-birth, in India, of the Fasli (seasonal) calendar which is followed mainly by Zoroastrians residing in Iran and in the diaspora living away from the Indian subcontinent. The Fasli calendar has not taken root in India because it is forbidden in the traditional Denkard, for a sixth day to be so added every four years. Moreover, there is no historical evidence indicating that such a form of intercalation as adopted in Zoroastrian Iran. In fact, according to the available historical sources, it was Sultan Jalaluddin Malikshah Seljuki (1072-1092 C.E.) who in 1079 C.E. introduced the idea of a secular Persian - Muslim New Year (NoRuz) to coincide specifically with the vernal equinox in spring. This calendar was used as a basis to collect the dreaded jizya (poll tax) from Zoroastrian peasant farmers by the Muslim rulers in those days. On the other hand an intercalated thirteenth month (Aspandarmad) once every 120 years has been prescribed in the Denkard thereby enabling the ritual continuity to be maintained. As the New Year, continues to slip back by one month every 120 years, in the year 2587 C.E. - five hundred and ninety-one years hence - the Parsi New Year will move back to the spring,season according to the Shenshai calendar, whose historical and ritual links can be traced back to Sasanian times, giving it its rightful authenticity.
Each month and day of the Zoroastrian calendar is dedicated to an Amesha Spenta (Bounteous Immortal) or a Yazata (Adorable Spiritual Being). The only exception in the calendar is Fravardin (the Guardian Spirit) who has the first month and 19th day of each month, dedicated to it.
The Amesha Spentas fulfil a dual role. They form the core of the ethical infrastructure of the religion, as well as they are the guardians and principal protectors of the seven good creations. Every person requires Wisdom (Hormazd) in order to be aware of the Good Mind (Bahman). The Good Mind is Hormazd's greatest gift to a person, for it is the mind which helps one to perceive and realise the Best Truth (Ardibehesht). The fusing of Wisdom with the Good Mind and Truth gives one the Power or the Sovereignty (Shehrevar) to implement the goodness and rule of Hormazd in the world. This goodness is reflected through Devotion (Aspandarmad) cultivated within a person in order to experience both Perfection (Khordad) and Immortality (Amardad) so that every thought, word and deed may be purposefully channelized into qualitatively improving our world through the rejection of all forms of evil around us. The duty of a person is to understand the inherent nature of these Bounteous Immortals, who are also seen as the guardians or protectors of the seven creations. By looking after and revering the seven creations, a person develops a link with nature, and learns to be responsible to preserve the balance between each of Hormazd's creations. This is what is commonly known as ecology, today. Striving towards harmony within the seven creations is a paramount religious duty for every Zoroastrian. Any form of pollution or defilement is seen to be the temporary triumph of evil, who is deemed to be fundamentally opposed and distinct from the intrinsic nature of Hormazd and His world.
The Yazatas/Yazads are spiritual beings who form the second tier of divinities in the Zoroastrian pantheon. They are the co-workers (hamkars) to the Bounteous Immortals, and they help in preserving the good creations. They also protect and give boons to whomsoever petitions them for their help; it is believed that when invoked, the yazata of the day, gives a special power or energy to a person who in turn becomes better equipped to combat the forces of darkness and evil. The greatest of the Yazatas is Hormazd, followed by His six other Bounteous Immortals.
Each divinity may be invoked and remembered on the appropriate day (roz) with a short dedication, which is taken from Yasna 16.
|1||Hormazd is assisted by||Dae-Pa-Adar,
|2||Bahman is assisted by||Mohor,
|3||Ardibehesht is assisted by||Adar,
|4||Shehrevar is assisted by|| Khorshed,
|5||Aspandarmad is assisted by||Ava,
|6||Khordad is assisted by||Tir,
|7||Amardad is assisted by||Rashna,
|1||HORMAZD||The Omniscient Source of Life (ahu).|
|2||BEHMAN||The Good Mind, the Pure Heart. "The pure in Heart shall see God".|
|3||ARD-I-BEHESHT||The Supreme Law of the Universe, Righteousness, Neki, Neeti, Reality.|
|4||SHEHREVAR||The Kingdom & Sovereignty of Virtue: Benevolent use of Power Forgiveness, The Ordeal of Life, in a world of unrealities.|
|5||SPENDAARMAD||The Discernment between Right and Wrong : Insight into the Realities of Life (Ash a), to distinguish Unrealities (druj).|
|6||KHORDAAD||Perfection cum Universality, of the Ever-abiding Spirituality.|
|7||AMERDAAD||Immortality of the Soul (both six and seven are the joint Condition of the holy Soul). Immortality is Identity with Divinity, --- ALL-LIGHT.|
|8||DAE-PA-AADAR||Daadaar's Day before Aadar. (This week is the second week of LIGHT as the first is the week of Ahoora Mazda and His six Absolute Perfections.|
|9||AADAR||Physical Energy, Intellectual Enlightenment and Spiritual Light. It is the Pillar of Life.|
|10||AABAAN||The Lustre of Life, resulting from Personal Purity. It is the River of Life's Purity.|
|11||KHORSHED||The Refulgent Sun, the Shining symbol of the Eternal Glory of God.|
|12||MOHOR||The Moon, the Satellite of the Earth, (gao-chithra), lit. having its Origin in Earth.|
|13||TIR||The Sirius or Dog star, "the brightest star in the heavens".|
|14||GOSH||The Creator of sentient Life (geush tashan).|
|15||DAE-PA-MEHER||Daadaar's Day before Meher (this roj begins the third week of Moral Qualities).|
|16||MEHER||Law-Light-Love : The Universal Cementing Principle of the Universe. The Scales of Justice, fair-dealing, the Pledge.|
|17||SAROSH||The Moral vigilance, The 'Ear', always attentive to Ahoora's Whispers, in Life's clamour.|
|18||RASHNEY||The Truth permeating the whole Nature, Justice, in my daily dealings of Life.|
|19||FARAVASHI||The Divinity in Humanity. The unfailing Guide of the erring Soul (urvaan). The Soul's Growth-lever, to Perfection.|
|20||BEHRAM||The Triumph of Light over Darkness, of Right over Wrong, of Reality (Asha) over Unrealities (druj) of Life.|
|21||RAAM||The joy Divine of Altruism, i.e the Principle of living for others' ease and Comfort.|
|22||GOVAAD||Physically Healthy Atmosphere and Morally helpful Environment, conductive to Religious Life --- Healthy in Body, Mind and Soul.|
|23||DAE-PA-DIN||Daadaar's Day before Din. (The fourth and the last week of Theological --- Religious Ideas).|
|24||DIN||The Vision on the Path of Life, i.e. Religion. The sum total of Goodness earned by my Inner Being appearing as KERDAAR, the beautiful Form. Appearing before the soul, at the Judgement Hour.|
|25||ASHISH-VANGH||God's Blessing, attendant upon a good, moral Life, obedient to the Meaningful Injunctions of Sraosha, "The Pole-Star of Spiritual Life".|
|26||AASHTAAD||Truth, as realised by the soul's Consciousness (baodhangha), by virtue of a life dedicated to Asha and VOHU Mano.|
|27||AASMAAN||The Sublime and Shining Universe, that is ever expanding.|
|28||ZAMYAAD||The light that sustains Consciousness (ushi-darena) at the Height necessary for Higher Life --- Khvarena the Khureh.|
|29||MAARESPAND||The Holy Gospels, embodying the Master Mind of the Prophet, leading the soul to Perfection - Immortality (Yasna 31.6).|
|30||ANERAAN||the myriad of Lights in the heavens, and the Light in the Soul, paving the way to the soul's higher Realms of Light|
There are six gahambars in the year which are celebrated in honour of the Sky, Waters, Earth, Plants, Cattle and Man. Traditionally each of these gahambars lasted for five days and the festivities included much food, merriment and complex rituals and prayers. For certain intercalation reasons the sixth gahambar was extended to ten days from Ashtad roz. Aspandarmad mah to the eve of the fifth Gatha Vahishtoisht. The Parsis popularly know this gahambar as muktad, during which period the spirits and souls of the dead are ritually invited by the living into this world.
List Of Six Gahambars
|No||Name of Gahambar||Season||Creation Link||Amesha Spenta Link||Festival Days||Month||Gregorian Link 1995-96|
|1||Maidyoizaremaya||Mid-Spring||Sky||Shehrevar||11th - 15th,
Khorshed - Dae-Pa-Meher
|02nd - 06th, October|
|2||Maidyoishema||Mid-Summer||Waters||Khordad||11th - 15th,
Khorshed - Dae-Pa-Meher
|01st - 05th, December|
(bringing in corn)
|Earth||Aspandarmad||26th - 30th,
Ashtad - Aneran
|14th - 18th, February|
(bringing in of the herds)
|Plants||Amardad||26th - 30th,
Ashtad - Aneran
|7th, Meher||15th - 19th, March|
|5||Maidhyairya||Mid-Winter||Cattle||Bahman||6th - 20th,
Meher - Behram
|10th, Dae||03rd - 07th, June|
|Man||Hormazd||26th - 5th,
Gatha Ashtad- Vahishtoisht
|12th, Aspandarmad||12th - 21st, August|
These are endowed by an individual in memory of their near and dear departed ones. A Jashan is performed in memory of the deceased and special food is prepared which in turn is eaten in religious fellowship by both the rich and poor. This mode of celebration serves as a permanent and discreet way of feeding the poorer members of the fold. Charity of any form directed towards the underprivileged is a special duty incumbent upon every Zoroastrian. In Zoroastrianism, poverty is regarded as an affliction of evil, which is to be fought by humankind so as to remove it from the world.
- Khordad Sal: Khordad roz, Fravardin mah (6th day, lst month). On this day, the Prophet's birthday is celebrated, symbolically.
- Fravardigan: Fravardin roz, Fravardin mah (19th day, lst month). On this day, the priests perform a Jashan in the vicinity of the Towers of Silence in memory of all the departed souls of the community. [When the month and the day names coincide, it is known as 'Parab' in Gujarati].
- Tiragan: Tir roz, Tir mah (13th day, 4th month). This summer festival is devoted to Tir, the yazata of the rains and fertility. Tir is also associated with the dog star Sirius. On this day people splash each other with water. This festival coincides with the celebration of the second seasonal gahambar.
- Mehergan: Meher roz, Meher mah (16th day, 7th month). This festival of early autumn is dedicated to the yazata Meher, a divinity associated with the sun and justice; the ripening of the crops and fruits at that time of the year may be seen as a symbolic ripening of the world itself, into fullness, before the moment of the promised resurrection.
- Ave roj nu Parab: Ava roz, Ave mah (10th day, 8th month). This day is celebrated as the birthday of the waters, when Zoroastrians go to the waters and offer thanks to the great nourisher and purifier of the world. Special food and prayers are also offered to the water divinity on this day.
- Adar roj nu Parab: Adar roz, Adar mah(9th day, 9th month). This day is celebrated as the birthday of the fire, when Zoroastrians thank the fire for the warmth and light given by it throughout the year. Traditionally on this day, food is not cooked in the house as the fire is given a rest and special prayers including the litany to the fire "Atash Niyayesh" are recited alongside the house fire.
- Jashn-e-Sadeh: Ashtad roz, Adar mah (26th day, 9th month). This feast is celebrated in mid-winter 100 days before the advent of spring. It is from this point of time that the day becomes longer than the night, in order that greater light and warmth may permeate the world- The Jashan is performed in the Aiwisruthrim gah which is the fourth evening watch of the Zoroastrian day.
- Zardosht no Diso: Khorshed roz, Dae mah (11th day, 10th month). This is the day on which the death anniversary of the prophet symbolically falls. Special prayers are recited and traditionally Zoroastrians go to the Fire Temple as a mark of remembrance of their prophet.
- Festival of All Souls - Muktad: Ashtad roz, Spendarmad mah (26th day, 12th month), to the 5th Gatha day. (The five gatha days are supplementary days and therefore no month is ascribed to them). It is believed that during this 10-day festival the spirits (farohars) of the dead visit their near and dear ones in the physical world. The priests perform special rituals over cooked food, fruits and fresh flowers during which the spirits of the departed are invoked in order to seek their protection and blessings, in this world. In the last watch (Ushahin) gah of the 5th Gatha day (dawn of Hormazd roz), a special dron and afrinagan ceremony in honour of the farohars is performed, by way of a gesture to bid the spirits a final farewell from this world. During the festival, the living must keep their homes extra clean and be in a state of heightened consciousness so as to experience the presence of the spiritual world. It is said, that the Muktad prayers should be offered for at least one generation, that is for say, 16 to 30 years.
- NoRuz (New Day): This is the most important day of the year and is recognised to be the seventh crowning festival which immediately follows the sixth gahambar. NoRuz is associated with the seventh creation Fire, and is linked to the Amesha Spenta Ardibehesht -the Best Truth. The seventh festival, bridges the old year to the New Year with the advent of spring. The resurgence of life takes place during this period with the symbolic victory of the forces of light over darkness. It is customary to exchange gifts, wear new clothes, settle disputes and go to the Fire Temple in order to reaffirm this day to be one of renewal, hope and joy. According to the tradition, the festival is believed to have been founded by the prophet himself, whom it is held, received his first revelation on this day. This day is also associated with the mythical King Jamshed whose golden rule it is said, lasted for over 600 years. Legend has it, that on this day King Jamshed forced the demons to carry him on their shoulders from Mount Demavand to Babylon. It is only in the late 19th century, that the Parsis of India named this day "Jamshedi" NoRuz.
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