FIRE IN AVESTA
Presented by Ervad Gustad Panthaki
At The North American Mobed Council AGM
Montreal, Canada April 14-15 2006
We find many references in Avesta and Pahlavi literature to show that
Fire is venerated, and equated with the glow of Ahura Mazda.
We also find that there is a close association of Fire and Asha in
Asha primarily means Cosmic Order, similar to what ancient Aryans call
it "Rta" in Sanskrit.
Aryans was a stock comprised of modern days Hindus and Zoroastrians,
and they put forward an ideal to be in tune with cosmic order, and
through it, with Omniscient God: From Nature to Nature's God.
In order to achieve this, Zarathustra has provided the path of Asha for
mankind. It is well said Yasna 72:
Aevo panto yo ashahe, vispe anyesham apantam
"There is only one path, the path of Asha, all the rest are no paths."
Asha has many meanings and connotations such as; Purity of mind and
body, Truth, Justice and righteousness.
In the mechanics of Amesha Spenta "Asha" is third in line after Ahura
Mazda and Vohumana, and there it is named with an apellation
"Vahista" meaning the best.
Asha Vahista is presided over Fire, Ahura Mazda's most glowing
creation. In Bundahishn, it is said that "Ohrmazd created fire and
attached to it a ray from the endless light." Aryans too paid glowing
tributes to fire in Rig Veda. No doubt that a devotee yearns to have the
glimpse of the Supreme Being through the medium of fire.
Let us now turn to the relationship between Fire and Asha in Zoroastrian
From the Gathas:
(i) In Yasna 34-4 the devotees yearn for the bright fire of Ahura Mazda
At toi Atrem Ahura aojonghvantem asha usemahi
"O Ahura Mazda we ardently desire Thy mighty Fire, through Asha."
(ii) In Yasna 43-4 Ahura Mazda provides justice through the heat (glow)
of His Fire and the strength of Asha.
Thwahya garema athro asha-aojangho
hyat moi Vangheush haze jimat Manangho
"And (Thou) shall come to me through the heat (splendour) of Thy Fire,
possessing the strength of righteousness and good mind."
In Haptan Yasht (Yasna 36:1) we come across a very interesting simile.
Here Fire is compared with Ahura Mazda's beneficent mind:
Ahya thwa athro verezena paouruye pairi-jasamaide,
Mazda Ahura thwa thwa mainnyu spenishta,
Ye a akhtish ahmai yem akhtoyo daonghe
"(We) first approach you through your agency, this Fire,
O Ahura Mazda which is your beneficent mind,
Whoever is near filthiness you you remove filthiness."
Further in Haptan Yasht (Yasna 36:3):
Atarsh voi Mazdao Ahurahya ahi,
Mainyeush voi ahya spenishto ahi
"O Fire you are the symbol of Ahura Mazda, you are the symbol of the
In Hormazd Yasht-7 we come across an oblique statement, that the
whole creation (universe) is created through Divine Cosmic Energy
pukhdha vispa vohu Mazdadhata asha-chithra
"(My) fifth name is the whole good creation of Mazda, the seed of Asha"
"Seed of Asha" is the cosmic energy which is the origin and sustenance
In Rig-Veda 10-121-001, we find a similar statement:
Bhutasya jata: patirekaseet
"In the beginning the golden egg (fire),
He was the Lord of all the worlds, as soon as He came to be."
Compare "golden egg" and "seed of asha" for similarity of the two
In Ardibehesht Yasht-1, Ahura Mazda instructing Zarathustra that for
the worship and invocation of Him and the Ameshaspand, Zarathustra
must appoint Ardibehesht (the Fire) as the praiser, the invoker, the
extoller, the glorifier of all good shining lights and brilliant works
Adoration, respect and symbolization of fire were in vogue before
Zarathustra. The very first line of Rig-Veda (I-001-01) states:
Agnimile purohitam yajhasya devam rutvijam
"Let us honour the fire, the chosen priest, god, minister of yagna"
In Gita 10-36 Krishna tells Arjuna that he is tejas tejasvinam aham "the
glory of the glorious". In Hormazd Yasht we come across similar
apellation for Ahura Mazda rayomand khorehmand.
In the Bible,
Leviticus 6-12 states:
And the Fire upon the alter shall be burning in it; it shall not be put
out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning.
Leviticus 6-13 states:
The Fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.
Compare our rites of ever burning Fire and praying with an offering of
sandalwood in Fire temples, and the boi ceremony.
In the final analysis we get clear notion through mysterious, allegorical,
poetical and lucid language of Avesta and Rig-Veda; and also from The Bible that:
- Fire represents cosmic order and energy
- Fire represents righteousness, truth and divine law
- Fire represents individual spark (atma) in every human being
- Fire represents universal spark (Ahura Mazda-paramatma) unto which
all other sparks (fires) finally merge; Man ano awayad shudan "I have
to reach Him".
This short essay provides a glance through Zoroastrian and other
religious literature the veneration, respect and symbolization of fire to
realize the Supreme.