Kusti - The Sacred Cord

Parzor Foundation

The Kusti is the sacred cord that is worn round the waist by every Zoroastrian. Received through the initiation rite known as Navjote, this cord is wound thrice, always over a Sudreh - the sacred shirt, and tied with four knots.

Made of white lamb's wool or camel's white hair, the etymology of the Kusti has been subject to several interpretations by Zoroastrian priests. It may have been derived from Pahlavi 'kust' meaning 'direction', 'kosht' meaning waist, 'kosht' also meaning boundary or 'kishti' - a ship as a carrier of the Zoroastrian.

The 6 Sections of 12 strands each represent the Amesha Spentas - the bounteous immortals in Zoroastrian cosmology.

The 72 strands from which the kusti is woven represents the 72 chapters of the Yasna - the Avestan name of Zoroastrianism's principal act of worship, and also the name of the primary liturgical collection of Avesta texts, recited during that Yasna ceremony.

The 12 strands represent 12 months of a year, and 12 words of the Ashem Vohu prayer - Ashem Vohu Vashistem asti Ushtã asti, Ushtã ahmãi, Hyat ashãi Vahishtãi ashem.

'Righteousness is the highest good. Happiness comes to him who works to bring righteousness to all creation.'

The 6 tassels (three at each end) represent the Gahambars - the seasonal festivals linked to the 6 creations of God. The 24 strands in each tassel represent the 24 chapters of the Visperad, All the Lords .

The girdle of faith or the kusti is bestowed through the ceremony of Navjote or the Sedra-Pushun. It marks this the initiation of a Zoroastrian child, roughly between 7 and 11, into the religious faith, and marks his or her acceptance by the community.

The purity ritual of Nahn is crucial to the Navjote ceremony. The ses , containing a pair of new clothes, the sudreh and the kusti, soparo filled with sweet batasa or sakar, the gulabdan filled with rose water, kankudan with vermilion and flowers, is carried by relatives. The child, then chews pomegranate leaves and sips the nirang or consecrated bull's urine.

At the onset of the ceremony, the Sudreh or the sacred shirt is placed in the child's hands and all the priests recite the Yatha Ahu Vairyo prayer.

The officiating priest and the child both stand up on the stage and face each other for the investiture. The hands of the child are held by the priest, thus forming the paiwand or ritual unification. The priest leads the child into prayer where they chant Din no Kalmo - Confession of the Faith.

Upon the words Manashni, Gavashni, Gunashni , the priest holding the kusti together with the child, makes two interconnected loops. The symbolism of this gesture is to remind the initiate of the two worlds - the physical and the spiritual as interdependent on each other. Upon the words Khshnaothra Ahurahe Mazda, the priest encircles the kusti twice around the child's waist and makes two reef knots.

Next, both the priest and the child together recite one Ahunavar and upon the word Shyaothenanam, the priest ceremoniously makes the celebrant wear the sudreh - symbolic of the 'garment of the good mind'. The officiating priest positions himself behind the child so they face the same direction as the sun in order to recite the Ahuramazda Khodae or the Kusti Bastan prayer.

The priest after the paiwand or ritual bonding, then recites the Doa Tandorosti while blessing the new Zoroastrian.

The initiate is now believed to be girded by the sacred armour to act always for truth and righteousness. From the day of the Navjote, a Zoroastrian becomes a 'hamkar' - Ahura Mazda's agent on the path of truth.

Credits: Story

The craftswomen of Navsari who have shared their homes and skill with us, especially the cooperative spirit of Navaz and Erna Bamji over the years and the Late Katy Sorabji.

Parzor's first researcher, Ashdeen Lilaowala, then a student of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad did the first ever textile study of this Bronze Age Craft of Kusti Weaving in Navsari.

This research culminated into Threads of Continuity , co-authored by Ashdeen Lilaowala and Dr. Shernaz Cama available for purchase at http://unescoparzor.com/publication/.

The Late Vada Dastur Meherjirana of Navsari for explaining details of the symbolism and Late General Adi Sethna, Founder President, Parzor

Jonas Spinoy, Dushyant Mehta and Hemant Mehta, Rustom Havewala - Photography

Dr. Shernaz Cama, Director UNESCO Parzor

Vanshika Singh, Researcher, Parzor Foundation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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