Ava - Water in Zoroastrian Life

Parzor Foundation

Zoroastrian religious philosophy & practice foregrounds environmental consciousness.

Yasna - the daily prayer ritual honouring all Creation begins by drawing water from the Agiary or the Fire Temple well.

The Gathas recording the wisdom of Zarathushtra mention the rights of plants, animal, mineral & waters, of reverence and nurturing of all Spenta (Bounteous) Creation as Asha - the Divine Law.

The Zoroastrians treat water as a living element guarded by the guardian angel 'Ava', also known as 'Anahita'.

The Alat or the metal implements are purified in water before the Yasna ceremony.

Alat includes mortar & pestle, plates & cups, crescent shaped moon stands, twigs or metal wires, Varas ni Viti - the ring entwined with the hair of the sacred bull, and the knife kept in the water vessel.

The Haoma Ceremony is the core of the Yasna when using mortar and pestle, Haoma or ephedera with its strengthening power is prepared.

Water is the sacred enabling element in this preparation.

This reverence to water can be seen in the Sasanian myth of Pir-e-Chak Chak with Chak Chak being the sound of water falling into a little fountain made of stones.

According to legend, the last and youngest Sasanian Princess, Nikbanoo, escaping her captors in the heat of the desert, using a staff of maple to support her, reached this mountain site in complete exhaustion and thirst.

In despair and anger, she threw the maple stick at the mountain and water is believed to have miraculously started to drip out, quenching her thirst giving the name Chak Chak to this site. Pir-e-Sabz is its other name as the sacred water is believed to have made the area green with the maple tree still standing.

Zoroastrians regularly offer prayers to Ava Yazata - the guardian of waters.

In this video Prof. Kavas Kapadia and Mobed Firouzgary, Zoroastrian High Priest of Iran speak of the water harvesting and wind towers of Zoroastrian settlements around Yazd.

Water and its life forms have also been adopted in everyday material culture from ancient times.

Fish and water in this Cylinder Seal, represent fertility and the continuous movement of the waters of life, date back to the 2nd Millenium B.C, Khuzestan.

This Fish Gara, in auspicious red, was probably an engagement Sari, made to order in China by Parsi merchants from Western India dealing with opium, tea, textiles and other trade.

The element of Ava is again seen in traditional lifestyle usage.

In this table cover, it is characterised by a sequence of Tortoise, Simurgh from the epic - 'Shahnameh' and aquatic plants embroidered inside a boundary of water.

A Silver Agiary Toran with Zarathushtra on water.

Ava Yazad, Angel of Water is depicted in this Parsi Jhabla or Tunic with the Water Lily, her representative flower.

These bracelets called 'Tir-O-Baad' or rainbow bands are named after Tir or Tishtra, Yazata of Rain and Govad, Yazata of Wind. Worn for ten days from the Tirgan or Water Festival in Iran, they are then let loose into the blowing wind with this little verse -

'Tir! You go away! Let the wind come!
Sorrow, go away! Happiness, come in!
Suffering, leave! Sustenance, come!'

Wells across the ancient Zoroastrian lands and in Parsi-Gujarat are believed to have Waters of Healing. It is considered improper to disturb water at night. Water bodies are to be respected especially on 'Ava Parab'.

One of the most useful adaptations of this reverence to water, from Iran to India by the Zoroastrians, has been that of the Tanka System.

Rohinton Jambusarwala at Gulshan, Bharuch speaks about this system of harvesting rain water falling on the roof top, locally known as the Tanka, practised by the Parsi Zoroastrians in Gujarat.

Tanka Water on scientific analysis by WHO standards, has been proved to be purer than bottled water.

Left : Bharuch, Gulshan Tanka

Pipes leading to the Boiya or Copper Colander at the vertical mouth of the well from which water is drawn. The Tanka is placed horizontally so that no sunlight can enter and therefore without bacterial growth, the water stays pure.

Manu Bhatnagar, Principal Director, Natural Heritage, INTACH and Prof. Kavas Kapadia elucidate the need and the practicalities of reviving community practices of water conservation.

Parzor Foundation
Credits: Story

Rohinton Jambusarwala and Farida Jambusarwala, Bharuch

Sahapedia in Collaboration with Parzor Foundation & India Picture

Prof. Kavas Kapadia, Advisor, Parzor Foundation

Mobed Mehrban Firouzgary, Zoroastrian High Priest of Iran

Pir-e-Chak Chak Film, Courtesy Mobed Mehrban Firouzgary

Dushyant Mehta, Hemant Mehta and Sanha Kohli of India Picture

National Museum, Tehran

Curated by Dr. Shernaz Cama and Vanshika Singh

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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