The Navjote (Persian: سدرهپوشی, Sedreh pushi) ceremony is the ritual through which an individual is inducted into the Zoroastrian religion and begins to wear the Sedreh and Kushti. The term navjote is used primarily by the Zoroastrians of India (the Parsis), while sedreh pushi is used primarily by the Zoroastrians of Iran. Zoroastrians from Pakistan consisting of both Parsis and Iranis use both terms. The word ‘navjote’ is a Latinized form of the Parsi Gujarati compound of nav “new” and jote “reciter [of prayer]”, “invoker”, “sacrificer”. The second half of the word is—via Zoroastrian Middle Persian zot—an indirect continuation of Avestan zaotar, with /z/ eventually becoming /j/ because /z/ is not upheld in Gujarati. The Persian term Sedreh pushi translates to “Putting on the sedreh,” a reference to the main component of the ritual. The ceremony is traditionally is the first time a Zoroastrian wears the sedreh undershirt and kushti belt, which they then continue to wear for the rest of their life. The sacred clothing signifies parental responsibility as well as responsibility for the one who is undergoing this ceremony. When the child wears the sacred clothes, it means the parents are now obligated to morally and religiously educate the child. If the child commits a wrongful act, it is their responsibility, as they may also take some pride in themselves when their child commits a righteous act. The sacred thread and shirt also teach the child responsibility, as they are to be untied before certain practices, such as prayer, bathing, and before meals, and re-tied shortly after the task is completed. The Sudreh shirt has a construction extremely specific to this culture.
Preparation often begins years before, as similar to a Bar Mitzvah in Judaism a basic knowledge of several key prayers must be shown during the ceremony. The child must bathe in sacred water before the ceremony. This represents a cleansing and purification. A full tray of rice is also placed in the room, to be given to the officiating family priest, after the ceremony. Flowers are also placed in the room, to be given to the assembling guests after the ceremony. A tray bearing a mixture of coconut, pomegranate grains, raisins, and almonds, are in the room as well, and will be sprinkled on the child after the ceremony to symbolize prosperity.
The ceremony is quite intricate, consisting of many recitals of faith and prayer. Like most Zoroastrian rituals, Navjote takes place in the presence of a fire (Atar). In the case of this ceremony, which takes place in a public place, the fire is not sanctified and following the event it is allowed to die out. The Navjote ceremony itself comprises three parts: Patet Pashemani, Din no Kalmo and Investiture of Sedreh and Kushti, and Tan Darosti. The Patet Pashemani is a traditional prayer of repentance and is recited by the priest on behalf of the person being initiated. The sedreh is then slipped on the to initiate’s forearms while reciting Yatha Ahu Vairo. The initiate then recites the Din no Kalmo (recitation of Faith to the Zarthusti religion). With another Yahta Ahu Vairyo prayer the sedreh is put onto the initiate. The priest then stands behind the initiate and starts the opening stanzas from the Hormuzd Yasht. The initiate then joins in and prays the Hormazd Khodai and Jasme Avangeh Mazda prayers. The initiate is then seated and garlanded. The priest then recites the Tan Darosti (blessings and good wishes) prayer where for the first time the appropriate prefix (behdin, osta or osti) is used (see below) for the initiate. Persons who have not yet had a Navjote are accorded the prefix Khurd. Following the ceremony, the child is viewed as a member of the Zoroastrian community, bearing responsibility with its rewards and repercussions. An individual from a lay family is addressed in the liturgy as a behdin, “follower of the [good] religion”. This may be distinguished from the title for a member of a clerical family who is henceforth addressed as an osta (for males) or an osti (for females). This does not change unless the individual actually joins the priesthood.
Here is the traditional Ses for the Navjote:
Photo: Parsi Ses