NAVZOTE

The induction of a person into the fold of the Zoroastrian religion is known as Navzote. The word Navzote is made up of two terms: (1) Nao meaning new, and (2) Zote meaning one who offers prayers. Hence the word Navzote (Naozote, Nawzud, Nozud, Naojote) has been interpreted to mean a new initiate who will offer Zoroastrian prayers [1]. The Irani Zoroastrians use the phrase "sedreh-pushi" (which means putting on the shirt) for this ceremony [2].

The initiation seems to be based on the ancient Indo-Iranian custom of investing only the male members of society with a sacred girdle as a sign of their membership within the community. A similiar practice persists to-day among the upper caste Hindus where male members are ceremonially invested with a sacred cord at the time generally called the ceremony of the Second Birth (Skt. UPANAYANA) conducted between the ages of eight and twelve The pre-Zoroastrian origin of the rite of initiation is found in 'Dadestan-i-Denig', (Ch. 39, 18-19) where it is clearly stated that King Yima Xshaeta (Jamshid) introduced the sacred girdle, centuries before Zarathushtra. The age of initiation into the faith of Zarathushtra was gradually lowered with the present day Irani Zoroastrians undergoing it between the ages of twelve and fifteen. The Parsis (Zoroastrian of India) believe that their children should have their Navzote as soon as they are 7 years old. During the ceremony the child is invested with Sedreh (shirt) and Kusti (girdle) which are the visible insignia of the religion.

The word Sudreh has been variously derived as described by Jivanji in his book [1]. The Sudreh is made of white cambric, as white represents purity. It is made of two pieces sewn together on the sides. The front and the back parts of the Sudreh symbolically represent the past and the future. The most important part of the Sudreh is the Girehban which is small pocket at the end of a V-neck in the front. It indicates symbollically that during our life time we have to fill this pocket with good deeds and righteousness. The Kushti is made of wool, which represents the animal kingdom and it is tied around the waist, the middle part of the body, to signify moderation. It is made of 72 strands to signify the 72 Has (chapters) of the Yasna, one of the religious scriptures of the Zoroastrian religion. The Sudreh and Kusti are also considered as symbols that remind the initiate to share this world with the plant and the animal kingdom.

For the Navzote, a formal ceremony of admission of the child to the Zoroastrian fold, relatives and friends are invited. They bear witness to the declaration of the candidate's acceptance of the Zoroastrian religion during the ceremony when the child is invested with Sedreh and Kusti. The Navzote is an occasion for rejoicing, because a new worshiper has been added to the ranks of the Zoroastrians.

	
The Parsi version of the Navzote ceremony consists of four parts:


(1) Nahn
(2) Prayers of Repentance
(3) Investiture of Sedreh and Kusti
(4) Blessings
(1) Nahn
The word Nahn (Sanskrit: Snan) literally means bath and is a kind of physical and spiritual purification. After reciting a short prayer, the candidate is asked to chew a pomegranate leaf, sip Nirang (Taro) and take a bath.

(2) Prayers of Repentance
After the bath, the child is taken to a room, where the congregation has assembled. The part of the child's body which is to be covered with the Sedreh by the priest, is wrapped in a shawl which can be easily removed. The child is made to sit facing the Sun (east or west) on a low wooden stool (Patlo) placed on a stage and the officiating priest sits opposite to him, amongst other priests who are invited to invoke blessings on the child.

A tray containing clothes for the child along with some betel leaves and areca nuts (pan and sopari), pieces of sugar, rice, and garland of flowers is placed on the stage. All these have nothing to do with the Zoroastrian religion, but being considered in India as symbols of good luck, are later on handed to the child by the officiating priest. Another tray containing a mixture of rice, small slices of coconut, raisins etc., a lighted oil lamp, and a fire vase are also placed on the stage.

The Sedreh is placed in the child's hands and all the priests begin to recite the Patet Pashani, a Pazand prayer of repentance composed by Dastur Adarbad Mahraspand. During this period the child is expected to pray as many Ahunavars as possible. The Patet is recited in order to ask forgiveness for the child's past deeds which were done in innocence.

(3) Investiture of Sedreh and Kusti
The officiating priest and the child both stand up on the stage and face each other for the investiture ceremony. The Sedreh is placed in an easy to wear position upon the child hands which are held by the priest and they both chant the Din No Kalmo or Confession of Faith.

The priest and child together recite one Ahunavar and upon the word shyaothananãm, meaning action or deeds, the priest ceremoniously makes the celebrant wear the Sedreh. White symbolizes purity of thoughts, words and deeds and cotton represents the plant kingdom. It is believed that the child is now invested with the "garment of the good mind".

The officiating priest then positions himself behind the child and holding the Kusti in his hands, begins to recite aloud a portion of the prayers from the Ohrmazd Yasht followed by the small Khshnuman (which means to satisfy) of Ohrmazd.

After the Khshnuman, the priest and child together recite the Ahura Mazda Khodae prayer and upon the words Manashni, Gavashni, Kunashni, the priest makes two loops of the Kusti. The two loops signify the present material world and the future spiritual world and it is enjoined that the two worlds are linked because just as we sow in this world so shall we reap in the other.

Upon the words Khshnothra Ahurahe Mazdao the priest encircles the Kusti twice around the child's waist while they recite two Yatha Ahu Vairyos. Each time on the word shyaothananãm (which means action) of the Yatha Ahu Vairyo, a knot is made; and the word shyaothananãm is emphasized in order to indicate to the child the importance of good deeds required to fulfill a religious commitment. Finally, the Kusti is encircled around the child's waist and a reef knot is made at the back whilst reciting the Ashem Vohu prayer.

The child, as a newly confirmed initiate, next declares an oath of allegiance to the religion by reciting Jasa-mê avanghe mazda prayer in unison with the officiating priest. With the words:

		mazdayasnô ahmî mazdayasnô zarathushtrish 

(I am a Mazda worshipper and a follower of Zarathushtra)
the child affirms his (her) allegiance to the religion and then declares his (her) appreciation (Aastuya) for the Zoroastrian religion. Henceforth, the child is spiritually responsible for every thought, word and deed as he (she) is endowed with a religious identity of his (or her) own.

(4) Blessings
Both, the officiating priest and the child, now sit down and the priest does a "Tila" (a mark with a red powder) on the child's forehead, puts a garland around the child's neck and gives the child a bouquet of flowers, coconut, beatle leaves etc. These are considered in India as being symbols of good luck. The officiating priest once again stands up and gives the final benediction for the health, wealth and well-being of the child by reciting the Doa Tandarosti prayer. Whilst doing so he periodically showers the mixture of rice, slices of coconut etc. upon the child's head, as a symbolic gesture to ensure prosperity and plenty in the life of the newly initiated Zoroastrian.

The audio version and the meanings of the prayers required for the Navzote are provided in Prayers.

References
1.	The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees, Jivanji Modi, 2nd edition, Union Press, Bombay, 1986
2.	A Guide to the Zoroastrian Religion, Translated and Edited by Firoze Kotwal and James Boyd, Scholars Press, California, 1982


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