The Navjote Ceremony: An initiation into the Zoroastrian faith
—–By Heritage Architect Sanaeya Vandrewala
The pledge made at Navjote by a Zoroastrian adherent:
“I pledge myself to the faith of Mazda…
I pledge myself to the well-conceived thought
I pledge myself to the well-spoken word
I pledge myself to the well performed deed…
To Ahura Mazda I ascribe all good.”[Jasa Me Avanghe Mazda, Pledge of faith, Yasna 12.8-9]
Every Zoroastrian child, boy or girl is initiated into the religion with the Navjote Ceremony. The word ‘Navjote’ is derived from the words ‘nav’ and ‘zote’ which means “a new person offering prayers” (Rivetna, 2002). At the Navjote Ceremony the child is invested with the ‘Sudreh’ the sacred shirt and the ‘Kusti’ sacred girdle. From that day on the child is to wear both the Sudreh and the Kusti throughout his life with daily ritual prayer offering. He should follow the teachings of Zarathushtra and reaffirm his faith with daily Kusti prayers. Navjote Ceremony is the one of the most important ceremonies performed in a Zoroastrian child’s life. It is tied three times around the waist as a reminder of the pledge of Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds. Now the Zarathushtra is ready to serve as a soldier of God and ready to fight evil (See Figure 1).
Significance of Sudreh :
Sudreh and Kusti are symbolic emblems of the Zoroastrian faith that mark out every Zoroastrian as a true soldier always siding with the
kingdom of light and truth as well as working zealously in this material world which is always a battle between the conflicting forces of good and evil. Sudreh is made of white fabric because the colour represents purity in the Mazdayasni religion. It is made of one fold only, as the Vohuman, or the good mind, is the one creation that was first. The significance of this is explained as the Sudreh, which means the advantageous path; it needs a good mind to tread upon.
The Sudreh is made of two pieces, one in front and one at back (See Figure 2). These two parts signify the spiritual and material world. The most important being the small pouch stitched in the front, signifying the bag of righteous virtues. Zoroastrianism believes that doing good deeds is a part of everyday life. Hence the pouch needs to be filled with virtuous deeds while walking along the right path so that one’s future is secure. It should be worn directly on the skin as it acts as a shield not only from the evil spirit attacking from outside but also impurities from within.
Significance of Kusti weaving:
Kusti meaning the sacred girdle signifies the direction of light and truth that every Zoroastrian should aim for, as compared to darkness and wrong. Kusti is made of lamb’s wool, as it signifies innocence. Like the Sudreh, the Kusti is also an important symbol of Zoroastrian worship. The Kusti serves as a permanent symbol of God. Advocates of the faith mention it as a reminder to the believers of their vows for carrying out duties and responsibility towards God. Kusti shields one from all sorts of outside influences. As a girdle it contributes to the moral strength. While untying and tying it reminds one of the constant struggles against the forces of evil. It is also a symbol of initiation into the religion. Hence both Kusti and Sudreh behave as a protective shield from evil and highlight the importance of preserving the unity among the Zoroastrians all around the world.
The Kusti is cream coloured sacred cord made of lamb wool. It is wound three times around
the waist around over the Sudreh. Kusti varies from three to six yards in length. Earlier only a priest or his wife would weave the Kusti; however, today women around the country practice Kusti weaving. Kusti is woven on a special loom. Before weaving, the woollen yarn has to be spun fine (See Figure 3). For weaving double-ply warp is stretched on the loom. Warping is done using loom accessories. The final product of the Kusti is very narrow; the heads are made with thread. While weaving, the weaver usually covers his/her head and recites prayers softly. Plaiting at both ends finishes the ends of the kusti. It is then bleached using sulphur, washed, flattened and then rolled and tied
These traditional intangibles are a part of the Zoroastrian cultural heritage and needs to be preserved. The significance of these traditions and continuation in practice is necessary to be maintained for these traditions to be passed onto the future generations.