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ANCIENT IRANIAN RELIGIONS: ZOROASTRIAN

The Kushti Ritual


  

By Dastur Jamaspji Minochiharji Jamasp-Asa-na

With some editions by CAIS

 

 

 

The Kushti or Kusti, also spelled as Koshti, is the sacred girdle worn by Zoroastrians around their waists. Along with the Sedreh this is part of the ritual dress of the Zoroastrians.

The Kushti or Nirang-i Kushti, or girdle formula, is a religious rite which a Zoroastrian man or woman ought to perform every time the hands have been washed, whether for the sake of cleanliness, or in preparation for prayer; but it is not always strictly performed in all its details.

 

The Kushti, or sacred thread-girdle, is a string about the size of a stay-lace, and long enough to pass three times very loosely round the waist, to be tied twice in a double knot, and to leave the short ends hanging behind. It is composed of seventy-two very fine, white, woollen threads, as described in Dd. XXXIX, I, note, and is tied in the manner there mentioned, but with the actions and ritual detailed below.

 

The ceremonial ablution, or Padyab, consists of washing the exposed parts of the skin while reciting:

 

xshnaothr‚ ahurahe mazdŚ,

(With satisfaction for Ahura Mazda,)

 

ashem vohŻ vahishtem astÓ
usht‚ astÓ usht‚ ahm‚i
hyat ash‚i vahisht‚i ashem.
[1]

(Holiness (Asha) is the best of all good:
it is also happiness.
Happy the man who is holy with perfect holiness.)[2]


kÍm-n‚ mazd‚ mavaitÍ p‚yŻm dadŚ hyat m‚ dregvŚ dÓdareshat‚ aÍnanghÍ anyÍm thwahm‚t ‚thrasc‚ mananghasc‚ żayŚ shyaothan‚ish ashem thraosht‚ ahur‚ t„m mŰi d„stv„m daÍnay‚i fr‚vaoc‚,

(What protector hast thou given unto me, O Mazda! while the hate of the wicked encompasses me? Whom but thy Atar and Vohu-mano, through whose work I keep on the world of righteousness? Reveal therefore to me thy Religion as thy rule.)

 

ashem vohŻ vahishtem astÓ
usht‚ astÓ usht‚ ahm‚i
hyat ash‚i vahisht‚i ashem.

(Holiness (Asha) is the best of all good:
it is also happiness.
Happy the man who is holy with perfect holiness.)

 

 

The ceremonial ablution having been performed, and the Kushti taken off, the person stands facing the sun by day, or a lamp or the moon at night; when there is no light he should face the south, as he should also at midday, even when the sun is northerly. The Kushti is then doubled, and the loop thus formed is held in the right hand[3], with the thumb in the loop; while the left hand holds the two parts of the string together, some twenty inches horizontally from the other hand; and the ends hang loosely from the left hand.

 

Holding the Kushti in this fashion, the person recites the following prayer in Pazand, bowing and raising to his forehead the horizontal portion of the string at the name of Ohrmazd*, dashing the string loosely and sharply downwards towards the left when mentioning Ahriman**, and repeating this downward jerk to the left, less violently, as each of the other evil beings+ is named:

 

hŰrmezd* i hvad‚e, ‚harman** aw‚dish‚h„ dŻr aw‚zh d‚sht‚r zat shkasta b‚t. ‚harman** dÍw„+ drŻzh„+ j‚dv„+ darvaŮd„+ kÓk„+ karaf„+ s‚st‚r„+ gun‚hk‚r„+ ‚shmŰg„+ darvaŮd„+ dushman„+ fary„+ zat shkasta b‚t. dushp‚dish‚h„+ aw‚dish‚h„ b‚t, dushman„+ stuh b‚t, dushman„+ aw‚dish‚h„ b‚t. 

(Ohrmazd is Lord! Ahriman he keeps at bay, he holds him back. May Ahriman be struck and defeated, with devs and drujs, sorcerers and sinners, kayags and karbs, tyrants, wrongdoers and heretics, sinners, enemies and witches! May they (all) be struck and defeated! May evil rulers not exist, (or) be far away! May enemies be defeated! May enemies all not exist, (or) be far away!)

Bending forwards and holding the doubled Kushti up, horizontally, as before, we continue:

 

hŰrmezd i hvad‚e, ezh ham‚ gun‚h patit pashÍm„nŰm, ezh haravistÓn dushmat duzhŻxt duzhvaresht men pa gÍthÓ minÓt vaem guft vaem kard vaem jast vaem bun bŻt estet

(O Ohrmazd, Lord! I am contrite for all sins and I desist from them, from all bad thoughts, bad words and bad acts which I have thought, spoken or done in the world, or which have happened through me, or have originated with me.)

 

Then, holding the Kushti single with both hands near the middle of the string, but as far apart as before, while the loose ends of the string are shortened (to prevent their touching the ground) by being partially gathered, up in a large loop kanging under each hand, like a pair of spectacles, he proceeds:

 

ezh „ gun‚hih‚ manishnÓ gaweshnÓ kunishnÓ tanÓ rv„nÓ gÍthÓ mainyu„nÓ Űxe awaxsh pashÍm„ pa se gaweshnÓ pa patit hŰm!

(For those sins of thinking, speaking and acting, of body and soul, worldly or spiritual, O Ohrmazd! I am contrite, I renounce them. With three words I distance myself from them.)

 

He then continues to recite the following Avesta phrases:

 

xshnaothr‚ ahurahe mazdŚ

(With satisfaction for Ahura Mazda,)

 

bowing and raising the Kushti to the forehead;

 

tarŰidÓti angrahe mainyÍush,

(scorn for Angra Mainyu!)

 

jerking the Kushti to the left, without altering the mode of holding it;

 

haithy‚varsht„m hyat vasn‚ ferashŰtemem. staomi ashem,
ashem vohŻ*....

(The true achievement of what is most wonderful, according to wish! I praise Asha! Ashem Vohu....)

 

Applying the middle of the Kushti to the front of the waist at the first word, 'Ashem* (righteousness),' of the last sentence, it is passed twice round the waist during the remainder of the sentence, by the hands meeting behind, exchanging ends, and bringing them round again to the front.

The following Avesta formula is then recited:

 

żath‚ ahŻ vairyŰ
ath‚ ratush ash‚tcÓt hac‚
vanghÍush dazd‚ mananghŰ
shyaothanan„m* anghÍush mazd‚i
xshathremc‚ ahur‚i ‚
żim drigubyŰ dadat v‚st‚rem!!

(As a patron spirit is to be chosen, so is an earthly master, for the sake of righteousness [Asha], to be a giver of good thought of the actions of life towards Mazda; and the dominion is for the Lord [Ahura] whom he has given as a protector for the poor.)

 

At the first word the long ends of the Kushti, hanging in front, are loosely twisted round each other at the waist, with a right-handed turn (that is, with the sun), and the reciter, holding his hands together, should think that Ahura Mazda is the sole creator of the good creation, until he comes to the word 'shyaothanan„m/actions,*' after which the twist is drawn closer to the waist during the remainder of the recitation.

 

The same Avesta formula is then repeated. At the first word the second half of the knot is formed, by twisting the long ends of the Kushti loosely round each other with a left-handed turn (that is, against the sun), so as to complete a loose reef-knot, and the reciter, holding his hands together, should think that Mazda-worship is the true faith, until he comes to the word 'shyaothanan„m/actions,' after which the complete double knot is drawn close during the remainder of the recitation.

 

Then, passing the long ends of the Kushti round the waist for the third time, from front to back, the previous Avesta formula, 'Righteousness is the best good,' &c., is recited.

 

ashem vohŻ vahishtem astÓ
usht‚ astÓ usht‚ ahm‚i
hyat ash‚i vahisht‚i ashem.

(Holiness (Asha) is the best of all good:
it is also happiness.
Happy the man who is holy with perfect holiness.)

 

At the first word the ends of the Kushti are loosely twisted round each other behind the waist, with a right-handed turn as before, and the reciter should think that Zarathushtra was the true apostle, until he comes to the first occurrence of the word 'blessing,' when the twist is drawn close. During the remainder of the formula the second half of the knot is formed, with a left-handed twist as before, while the reciter thinks that he must practise good thoughts, good words? and good deeds, and avoid all evil thoughts, evil words, and evil deeds; the double knot being completed behind as the last word of the formula is uttered.

 

Afterwards, bending forward and holding the front knot of the Kushti with both hands, the person recites the following Avesta formula:

 

jasa-mÍ avanghe mazda (3).
mazdayasnŰ ahmÓ mazdayasnŰ zarathushtrish fravar‚nÍ ‚stŻtasc‚ fravaretasc‚, ‚stuyÍ humatem manŰ ‚stuyÍ hŻxtem vacŰ ‚stuyÍ hvarshtem shyaothanem. ‚stuyÍ daÍn„m [vanguhÓm] m‚zdayasnÓm frasp‚yaoxedhr„m nidh‚snaithishem hvaÍtvadath„m ashaonÓm ż‚ h‚itin„mc‚ bŻshyeiŮtin„mc‚ mazisht‚c‚ vahisht‚c‚ sraÍsht‚c‚ ż‚ ‚hŻirish zarathushtrish, ahur‚i mazd‚i vÓsp‚ vohŻ cinahmÓ. aÍsh‚ astÓ daÍnayŚ m‚zdayasnŰish ‚stŻitish! 

(Come to my aid, O Mazda (3).

I profess myself a Mazda-worshipper, a Zoroastrian, having vowed it and professed it. I pledge myself to the well-thought thought, I pledge myself to the well-spoken word, I pledge myself to the well-done action. I pledge myself to the Mazdayasnian religion, which causes the attack to be put off and weapons put down; which upholds khvaetvadatha, which possesses Asha; which of all religions that exist or shall be, is the greatest, the best, and the most beautiful: Ahuric, Zoroastrian. I ascribe all good to Ahura Mazda. This is the creed of the Mazdayasnian religion.

And the reciter then repeats the formula, 'Righteousness is the best good,' etc., as before, bowing reverently, which completes the rite.

 

ashem vohŻ vahishtem astÓ
usht‚ astÓ usht‚ ahm‚i
hyat ash‚i vahisht‚i ashem.

(Holiness (Asha) is the best of all good:
it is also happiness.
Happy the man who is holy with perfect holiness.)

 

During the rite the person performing it must remain standing on the same spot, without stepping either backwards or forwards, and must speak to no one. Should anything compel him to speak, he must recommence the rite after the interruption.



[1] Based on edition of Karl F. Geldner, Avesta, the Sacred Books of the Parsis, Stuttgart, 1896.

[2] Translated by James Darmesteter (From Sacred Books of the East, American Edition, 1898., Vol 3, p 216.)

[3] This seems to be backwards: most Zoroastrians hold the loop with the left hand.

 

 

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