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Religious significance of the Sacred Sudreh & Kushti

Friday, November 18, 2011
By Shernaz Baji Avari

These two sacred undergarments worn by the Parsi/Irani Zoroastrians are the spiritual apparatus giving us a sense of purpose and identity. They fight the forces of evil and lead us to faith, devotion, piety and purity through prayers.

It is the duty of every Parsi/Irani Zoroastrian to don the Sudreh and the Kushti after initiation into the Zoroastrian fold by means of the Navjot Ceremony. This ceremony is usually performed at the age of 7, 9 or 11 years. For a girl child, it should be before the start of her menstrual period. In today's jet-set-go world, the parents of a girl child do not wait till 11 years for this obvious reason. The word NAVJOT means that now a new offerer has come to pay respects to the religion and that the child is now responsible for his or her actions.

It is said that every moment `druj’ or subtle putridity oozes out of every pore of the body and more so from certain parts. To restrict and neutralize this evil or `druj’, the Zoroastrians wear the spiritual armour of the SUDREH-KUSHTI. This given protection to our physical body and also reminds us of our faith and devotion to the Mazdayasnie Religion.

Let’s take a look at the Sudreh. It is a very light white cotton vestment made from `mulmul’. It is stitched from 9 white cotton pieces joined together as seen in the illustration which totals 9 seams. Each seam is said to mean something in the ethical and mystical symbolism of the religion. The stitchings on the Sudreh are called TIRIS.

NO.1: Stands for the front and back pieces thus making 2 side seams.

NO.2: This consists of the left and right sleeves having 2 seams. The 2 sleeves remind us to follow the path of light, as also the laws of polarity i.e. the good and the evil which exists simultaneously in this world. Generally the right hand is inserted first and then the left hand.

No. 3 - The Gareban also known as `kisse –i-kerfe’ is a small pocket, oblong in shape. It is the symbolic duty of every Zoroastrian to fill up this bag of merit, to accumulate good deeds which accompanies the soul after a Zoroastrian passes away. It has one seam.

No.4 The `Girdeau’ is the back neck pocket, crescent in shape telling us that we take birth on this earth with a responsibility which we have to fulfill and be answerable to the choices we make. It has one seam.

No.5 It is a slanted `tiri’ with 2 seams. It is on the right side of a man’s sudreh and on the left side of a woman’s sudreh.

No.6  It's a small vertical 'tiri’ with one seam.  It is on the left side of the sudreh for men and on the right side for women.

All these total to 9 seams.  Why 9? Number 9 plays a very significant role in the Zoroastrian context. Abed Saheb Nairyosang Dhaval who ignited and consecrated the first Iran Shah fire asked the Zoroastrians in Iran at that time before leaving for alien shores to recite the Atash Niyayesh 9 times before the holy Atash preserved in their homes. The Zoroastrians who sailed towards India to finally land in Sanjan numbered 1,305 which totals to 9. The Maghav Sahebs who are our great sages number 72 which equal 9. They still live in the Daemavand Kas of Pak Demavand Koh in Iran, the highest peak of the Albura Mountains. Part of Demavand Koh is invisible due to divine fortification. This invisible part is called Demavand Kas which cannot be seen by people of this earth, nor can they enter this place which is cordoned off by Avesta prayers. This is the Heaven on Earth - Believe it or not! The natural beauty and bounty of this place are  unsurpassed.

Back then, to our religion's significant No. 9. Lord Zorathusthtra our prophet was the 9th descendant from his father’s family side – Spitman. The bells in the Atash Behrams and Agiaries i.e. our Fire Temples toll 9 times (boie) to ward off any evil energy that may have gathered around the holy Fire and at that time till the bell tolls, we have to stand if we are sitting and praying and mentally pray to ward off negative energy within us. According to the Yasna 55, the human body is divided into 9 parts - 3 physical, 3 mental and 3 spiritual totaling 9.  There are 72/9 Chapters in the Yasna, the greatest liturgical text of the Zoroastrian faith. The Hoshbam prayer is recited/after deducting 72 minutes from the time of Sunrise. The Iran Shah Atash Bahrain was enthroned YZ 90. Aren’t you already on Cloud 9?

It is always woven by women of the priestly class. It is a woollen waistband worn upon the Sudreh, intricately made by weaving together 144 thin woollen threads made up of lamb's wool. The 144 strands are twisted together to make 72 strands. These 72 strands are passed around the loom 72 times and then divided into 6 bands, each of 12 threads. One continuous thread is made to pass in the process of weaving through each of the 6 bands. Each end of the Kushti belt has 3 tassels or `laris’ referring to the Zoroastrian 3- fold path of Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds. Together the 6 tassels represent the 6 gahambars or stages of evolution and progress of the soul.

The sacred Kushti is tied around the waist passing 3 times. The 3 circles around the waist again represent the 3 principles of HUMATA, HUKHTA and HUVARSHTRA. The meaning of the word `KUSHTI’ is `boundary’ and it reminds us to keep within the boundaries of religious duties. These boundaries link us to the mortal and immortal worlds and suggest that we remain faithful to our religion.  The Kushti is tied, tied and re-tied while chanting the Avesta prayers. The Sudreh and the Kushti are our divine Spiritual garments to ward off evil and vice leading to a more truthful, pious and righteous life. When we crack the Kushti in the air 3 times, we also annihilate bad vibrations which are cast off making the Kasti fit for absorbing new vibrations. It is sad that some of today's youngsters do not believe in wearing these 2 sacred undergarments. The Sudreh and the Kushti - our spiritual garment and belt - are the religious implements of the Zoroastrians,) forming a magnetic circuit around the physical body leading us to the path of piety and duty.

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