RAENIDAR ADERBAD MAHRESPAND
By Noshir Dadrawala
ZARATHUSHTRIAN SAINTS AND MARTYRS series in the Jam-e-Jamshed Weekly
Aderbad the son of Mahrespand was the Mobedan Mobed (Supreme Pontiff) and Prime Minister during the long reign (309-379 A. D.) of Shapur Hormazd also known as Shapur II. Shapur was also called 'Zul aqtaf' (breaker of shoulders) since he used to strike out violently at the Arabs after having a spiritual vision that Iranian sovereignty will one day fall into the hands of the Arabs.
During Shapur's reign, Christianity was being propagated all over the then known world with missionary zeal. The Roman Emperor Constantine had accepted Christianity and he tried to interfere with the internal affairs of the Iranian Empire on the plea of protecting interests of the Christians living in Iran. From the common man to members of the Royal family, Christianity began to make inroads and shake the ancient Zarathushtrian faith to the extent that it seemed that soon even Shapur and his nobles would convert themselves to the new faith.
It was at this critical stage in Zarathushtrian history that Aderbad Mahrespand, the "Magupalan Magupat" (the highest among the Magavs) performed a miracle to prove:
(a) The power and spiritual Truth of the Zarathushtrian religion and
(b) His own spiritual leadership as the Raenidar of the then new age.
Raenidar is a Pahlavi word meaning "spiritual leader", "promoter of the religion", "saviour".
To come back to the miracle, the Dinkard says Aderbad Mahrespand went through an ordeal where several men poured molten metal over his bare chest. As a result of his piety and spiritual strength, he was able to pass this ordeal without any harm. It is said the molten metal felt like warm milk on this pious Raenidar since his heart was pure and truthful.
After this ordeal Aderbad Mahrespand also had court and public debates with leaders of other faiths and intellectually proved the supremacy of the ancient Zarathushtrian faith.
By dint of his piety, rectitude, wisdom and learning, Aderbad Mahrespand rejuvenated the religion and established faith among the believers of Ahura Mazda.
From his father's side Aderbad Mahrespand belonged to the family of Zarathushtra and from his mother's to the family of Shah Vishtasp.
Having restored the faith among his people, his next task was to consolidate the scattered fragments of the Avesta. In a sense, Aderbad Mahrespand is the Editor of what we today call the "Khordeh Avesta". As the Raenidar of his age, he had the spiritual authority in Nature to introduce various changes according to the needs of the 'new age".
Three centuries before the birth of Christ, Hermippus the Greek had made a reference to two million hymns of Zarathushtra. Much of this was lost when Alexander the Accursed invaded Iran. In Parthian times, King Valakhsh (Vologases) ordered the collection of the scattered portions of the Avesta. In like manner, during Sassanian times Ardashir Babagan deputed his High Priest and Prime Ministar, Herbad Tansar with the task of compiling the fragments of the Avesta.
Many of the prayers, which we pray from the Khordeh Avesta today, were composed by the pious Aderbad Mahrespand. Among others he is said to have composed the 'Patet' (prayer of repentance), Afrin' (blessings) the Pazand Setayesh (adorations) as also the Pazand 'Nirang' we recite at the end of various Avestan Yashts.
Aderbad Mahrespand was also a store-house of worldly wisdom and some of his sayings are of timeless relevance. Here is a small sample from the Pand nameh": -
"Never speak without due reflection. Be polite in speech; do not tell a lie.
Man's greatest and best helper is wisdom - even when wealth and prosperity disappear, wisdom remains.
Culture is an adornment in prosperity, a protector in distress, a helper in calamity and garment in adversity.
A man who knows a lot and believes not in its practice is a sinner.
Do not be overjoyed in good times and over distressed in bad limes. Rise before dawn.
Show moderation in eating, drinking and speech.
Spend only according to your means."
May Raenidar Aderbad Mahrespand continue to bless us and guide us from the spiritual world and help us all become better and spiritually stronger Zarathushtrians.