Installing the ‘Aatash Behram’ in the Sanctum Sanctorum of a Fire Temple.
Installing the fire in a Fire Temple, a Zoroastrian place of worship is treated like the coronation of a Monarch; in fact the Consecrated Fire itself is addressed as “Padsha” meaning Ruler.
In a Fire Temple the installation of the Aatash Behram is a sacred and long drawn out process which may take anything from one to three years. to begin the process of installing the ‘Aatash Behram’ in the sanctum sanctorum of a Zoroastrian temple, first the various kindling is collected (http://www.mumbaiblogg.com/zoroastrian-cultural-heritage/collection-kindling-for-fire-temple/) , ‘the fire resulting from each kindling is purified by prayers, consecrated and then enthroned in the Sanctum Sanctorum of a Temple with a proper walls and a roof.
Consecration of the fire called ‘Aatash Behram’ (Fire of Knowledge/Victory). (For meaning of Behram see Behram Yasht http://www.mumbaiblogg.com/zoroastrian-zen/avesta-translations/behram-yasht-translation/)
For the consecration, one needs a selected and segregated place in Pavi*,
Fires ignited from kindling collected from **16 different places (see table at the end of this article),
Are each placed in a separate afargan
At the start of the consecration ceremony, each of the 16 fires, are treated as under and each consecrated separately:
On day 1 of the Consecration, A pair of ‘Yaozdathragar***’ undergo the ‘Barashnum’.
The two priests take a small part of the fire from an afargan (a tall, large chalice-shaped vessel covered with a plate on which the fire burns the resultant ashes are stored in the cup of the chalice), containing one of the 16 purified but not yet consecrated fires and place this portion in a separate afargan.
Over this separated portion, the priests perform one Yasna (in the morning) and one Vendidad (at mid-night) along with a ‘Khushnuman’ to a particular Yazad who rules the particular trade from where the fire originates.* (See Table). Thus, on the first three days the Khushnuman the dedication is not to the same Yazad in all 16 cases.
To pray the necessary Yasna it takes the entire hours of the Hawan Geh (morning) and so also to complete the Vendidad takes the entire Hushain Geh (minutes after mid-night to dawn) of each day. Assuming that only one pair of priests was permitted to perform the entire consecration; it would take years (1,128 days approximately) to consecrate an Aatash Behram.
Therefore, pairs of priests pray in tandem so as to complete the process within a plausible time.
The small part of the fire which was segregated from the original afargan and prayed upon is further fed to increase its size.
Simultaneously, the fire in original afargan continues to be fed and kept alive and so also, is the fire which was consecrated on day 1.
On day 2, once again, a small part of the fire from the original afargan is taken and treated separately as done on the previous day.
Now there are three afargan, the original fire, that started on day 1 and the one started on day 2.
Once the Day 2 fire is consecrated, a small portion of the fire consecrated on Day 1 is added to the consecrated fire of day 2. All three afargans continue to be fed and the fires are kept alive.
On Day 3 to Day 30, the process is repeated so that on the 30th day after the 30th bit of fire is consecrated, 29 previously consecrated fires are added to it.
At the end of these thirty days, the process is repeated until the required number of days for the consecration of that particular fire is completed**. (See Table).
For example, the fire from the pyre of a burning corpse is to be consecrated 91 times. So the 30 day process of consecration with the Yasna and Vendidad Ceremonies will be repeated for another thirty days and thereafter for another 28 days, thereby totaling to 3+ 30+30+28= 91.
Each of the 16 fires is so purified and consecrated for the required number of days.** See Table.
All the 16 fires, thus consecrated, are each placed in a separate afargan and each afargan in a separate ‘Pavi’*. All the fires thus consecrated are continued to be fed and kept alive.
DEDICATION OF KHUSHNUMAN TO RELEVANT YAZAD:
As mentioned above, the consecration of fire requires the recitation of Yasna and Vendidad with Khushnuman to the relevant Yazad.
The Khushnuman for the first three days of the consecration are always dedicated to a particular Yazad who rules the particular trade** from where the fire originates.
It is not mandatory to start the process of consecration on the first day of the month; what is necessary that the first three days of consecration of the fire be dedicated to the Yazad who rules the trade-hearth from which the fire was originally lifted.
To understand better, the fire from the pyre is ruled by Hormazd. The first three days of prayers will be dedicated to Hormazd; from the 4th day the Khushnuman will be dedicated to the Yazad whose Roj it is on that day. Assuming the 4th day falls on Zamyaad Roj, the prayer ceremony will be dedicated to the Yazad Zamyaad.
The fire from the Dyer’s hearth is ruled by Boman. So, the prayers on the first three days of purification will be dedicated to Yazad Boman and from the fourth day onward will be dedicated to the Yazad of that particular Roj.
As a further example, the fire from the hearth is ruled by third Yazad, Ardibesht. The prayers for the first three days will be dedicated to Yazad Ardibesht.
Even with the priests praying in Tandem, The consecration of the Aatash Behram easily takes little over a year. The annual feast days like the days of Jashan (feast days) and Ghambhar**** are, therefore, bound to intervene. On such days, the Khushnuman is dedicated to that particular Jashan or the Ghambhar.
All 16 fires thus purified and consecrated are placed one in each afargan, an afargan in each Pavi; so, now we have 16 fires in sixteen afargans in 16 Pavis.
UNITING THE 16 CONSECRATED FIRES TO MAKE THE AATASH BEHRAM:
Uniting these fires must be done on the 1st Ghambhar (five intercalary days added annually to complete the Solar Year).
The unification is made in a huge afargan.
A pair of Yaozdathragar form a paean to seal off any pollution of the consecration,
Then, the Yaozdathgar remove with a ladle, the consecrated pyre fire from its own afargan and place it in the huge afargan.
Similarly, they remove each of the other 15 consecrate fires in order of their consecration (as stated in the Table*) into the huge afargan.
The 16 purified and consecrated fires are thus united in the huge afargan.
The huge afargan is then carried to the Ijashne Gah for the final consecration of the united fire.
CONSECRATION OF THE UNITED FIRE:
For the first three days, The Yasna and Vendidad are prayed over the united fire with Khushnuman to Yazad Sarosh,
From the first day of the immediate next month to the end of the month (Hormazd to Aneran Roj), each day a Yasna and Vendidad are prayed with Khushnuman to the presiding Yazad of that day,
Then, on the next day, which is the last day, another Yasna with Khushnuman to Sarosh is prayed over the united fire and a ritual performed.
The united fire, now consecrated, is then installed in the sanctum sanctorum of the Zoroastrian Temple or ‘enthroned’ (Takht-Nashini).
FIRE TEMPLE AATASH BEHRAM INSTALLATION :
The Daityo Gah (proper place) itself, where the united fire is to be installed, is consecrated for three days prior to the installation by Yasna and Vendidad prayed with Khushnuman to Yazad Sarosh.
The actual installation is a very solemn ceremony conducted with great dignity like any princely coronation.
A Pavi* is drawn alongside the path to the Daityo Gah over which the united consecrated fire will traverse,
The path itself is also broken into several squares by Pavis,
A Pavi is also drawn around the center of the sanctum sanctorum where the united fire will reside.
The head priest leads a procession of all the Yaozdathragar who participated in the consecration,
Two Yaozdathragar carry the united fire,
Each Yaozdathragar in the procession holds either a sword or a mace in his hand,
During its journey to the Daityo Gah, no other Yaozdathragar will step into the same Pavi that is occupied by the united fire and the two priests carrying it,
The united fire is carried to the sanctum sanctorum and installed/enthroned in an afargan standing on a pedestal within the central Pavi,
The fire thus installed is fed with sandalwood and loban and an ‘Aatash ni Nyaesh’ in praise of the fire is prayed.
A Jashan (celebratory prayers) with three Aafringans, is performed in the hall of the temple,
The first Aafringan is prayed with the Khushnuman of Sarosh, the second with Khushnuman of Dahman and the last again, of Sarosh.
The installation/coronation ends with a recitation of the ‘Baaj’*****.
The Aatash Behram is now ready to receive and protect its laity.
* PAVI literally means ‘sacred’ or ‘consecrated’. In Zoroastrian rituals it is a permanently constructed space enclosed and segregated from its surroundings in by a ritual runnels carved in the floor to form a ‘Karsh’ (an intangible curtain of protection against defilement).
**A TABLE TAKEN FROM JIVANJI MODI’S ARTICLE, “THE RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES AND CUSTOMS OF THE PARSEES” (BOMBAY, 1922.)
giving the particulars about the different kinds of Fires that are united to form the Sacred Fire of the Aatash Behram and showing the number of the processes of Collection, Purification, and Consecration.
*** YAOZDATHRAGAR literally meaning ‘purifier’. Yaozdathragar is a Zoroastrian priest who has undergone the rituals of ‘Barashnum’ and ‘Khub’.
****GHAMBHARs are the five intercalary days introduced in the Zoroastrian Calendar, annually, at the close of the year, to complete the 365 days of a Solar Year.
***** BAAJ= Literally means ‘framing’. It also, denotes a ritual silence; also a ritual utterance /prayer which frames an action with the power of the manthra; a high liturgical service . The monthly day (Roj) or the anniversary of death is also called ‘Baaj’.
The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees by Jivanji Modi,B.A., PH.D., C.I.E., Fellow of the University of Bombay (1887), Dipl. Litteris et Artibus (Sweden, 1889), Shums -Ul-Ulama (India,1893), Officier D’Acdemie (France, 1898), Officier Publique (France, 1902), Campbell Medalist, B.B.R. Asiatic Society (1918).