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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee

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Contents

Zoroastrian Calendar

Organization

Overview

Types of Calendars

Differences Between The Calendars

Iranian National Calendar

First Year of the Calendar and Designation

Traditional Yazdegirdi Year

Conversion System Between Yazdegirdi & Gregorian Years

Attempts to Fix the First Year When Zarathushtra Proclaimed the Faith

Naming the Calendar Days and Months

Organization of the Zoroastrian Calendar

Intercalary / Gatha Days

Additional Hours - Leap Years

First Day of the Year, Nowruz, and Spring

The Seasons & Zodiac

The Lunar Month

The Day and Night

Divisions of the Day

Hour - Hasar/Hathra

365-Day Calendar

Zoroastrian Fasli & Gregorian Calendar

Gahambars

Forms of Month/Day Names & Meaning

Monthly Calendars

Fasli

Shenshai

Kadmi

Downloads

Pithavala's Zoroastrian Year

Page 1. Overview & Organization


» Page 1: Overview & Organization

» Page 2: 365-Day Fasli-Bastani/Gregorian Calendar Grid

» Page 3: Zoroastrian/Gregorian Monthly Calendar - Fasli, Shenshai & Kadmi

» True Zoroastrian Year by Behram Pithavala (pdf download)



Zoroastrian Calendar Overview

The Zoroastrian Fasli calendar is one of the most precise and consistent calendars used in the world today. One, 365-day calendar grid can be used perpetually. The calendar can also serve as a zodiac and seasonal calendar in temperate regions.

The Zoroastrian calendar is based on a solar year of 365 days. It consists of twelve originally lunar-based but now standarized months of 30 days each, plus five intercalary days after the last month. These intercalary days are festival days in preparation for New Year's Day (the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, or March 21 in the Gregorian calendar).


the seasons
The four seasons in temperate regions

Leap-year days, weeks or years are added according to the system selected (see below).

Each month consists of four divisions (which we will call weeks for convenience), beginning on the 1st, the 8th, the 15th and the 23rd day of the month. The first two of seven days and the next two of eight days, giving a total of 30 days. The first day of the month always starts with the first day of the first week and the same day every year falls on the same day of the week.

In Persian, a year is called sol, a month is called mah and a day is called ruz. In the Zoroastrian calendar, the months and days are named (in the western Gregorian calendar, only the months are named).

On this page, will quote extensively from two old Zoroastrian texts: Book 3, Chapter 419 of the Dinkard (Works of the Religion), written in the third century ACE, and Chapter 25 of the Bundahishn (Creation), written after the Dinkard. Both works refer to older sources.


Types of Zoroastrian Calendars

Presently, there are three types of Zoroastrian calendars:

  1. Fasli meaning seasonal also called the Bastani meaning traditional calendar,
  2. Shenshai (sometimes called Shahenshahi meaning imperial), and
  3. Kadmi or Qadimi (also spelt Gadimi) meaning ancient.

The Fasli or Bastani Calendar while the most recent of all three calendars, is perhaps the most orthodox as it conforms to the method of organization described in the thousand-year old Zoroastrian texts the Bundahishn and the Dinkard, a method followed before the Arab invasion of Iran.

The Shenshai Calendar was instituted by the Parsees of India after they fled the Arab invasion of Iran and arrived in India. While the name is often thought to be a corruption of 'Shahenshahi' meaning imperial, this is by no means certain. Parsees also call this calendar 'rasimi' meaning traditional or 'sharshai' of uncertain meaning.

The Qadimi Calendar was the name given to the calendar used by the Zoroastrians in Iran after the Arab invasion of Iran and the consequent disruption in maintaining the calendar according to the Bundahishn and the Dinkard. Qadim is the Arabic word for 'old'.

The Qadimi (also called Kadmi) calendar was instituted in India by some Parsees of Surat in the mid 1700s in an effort to reconcile the different calendars used by Parsees and Iranian Zoroastrians. The Kadmi calendar is the same as the Qadimi calendar and the word 'Kadmi' is the Parsi version of 'Qadimi'. Many Zoroastrian Iranian refugees to India after the 1750s became part of the Indian group that followed the Kadmi calendar.


Differences Between The Calendars

The differences in the three calendars have arisen because of missed adjustments (sometimes referred to by the Arabic term for intercalation, Kabisa) for the leap year. Otherwise, the calendars are the same. (Also see Kabisa Controversy)

The Fasli calendar follows the organizational system of the calendar described (and noted below) in the Bundahishn and Dinkard, two, one thousand year-old Middle Persian Zoroastrian religious texts. The system described in the Bundahishn and Dinkard and quoted below, include adjustments for the length of the year (leap years, months and even centuries).

The leap day or month adjustments were not consistently followed by the Shenshai and Qadimi calendars after the Arab invasion of Iran. The last adjustment made to the Shenshai calendar (by the Parsees then in India) was around 1126-1129 CE when an extra leap month was added called Aspandarmad Vahizak was added at the end of the year (Aspandarmad, derived from Spenta Armaiti, is the year's last month). The last leap month adjustment made to the Qadimi calendar (by the Zoroastrians still in Iran) was around 1006 CE. The missed adjustment of the Qadimi calendar in the 1120s resulted in the Kadmi / Qadimi lagging behind the Shenshai by a month (when it is Adar month in the Shenshai, it is the following month i.e. Dae in the Kadmi / Qadimi calendar. Similarly, Nowruz or New Year's day in the Shenshai calendar presently falls in August, while Nowruz in the Kadmi / Qadimi calendar presently falls in July. The missed adjustments by both Shenshai and Kadmi / Qadimi calendars since c. 1126-1129 and 1006 CE respectively have resulted in both lagging behind the Gregorian calendar by seven and eight months respectively.

In the 1720s CE, Jamasp Peshotan Velati, an Irani-Zoroastrian priest, visited India and during his discourses, he and his Parsi hosts discovered that there was a month's difference between their two calendars. This caused some consternation amongst a group of Parsi priests in Surat, Gujarat, and since Iran was considered the source of all orthodoxy, the assumption was that the calendar the Parsees were using was in error. These priests began to solicit community support for adopting the Iranian calendar which some Parsees of Surat formally adopted on June 6th, 1745. They called the Iranian calendar Kadmi (from the Arabic-Persian 'Qadimi' meaning ancient) and a new denomination of Zoroastrians in India was born. When, during Qajar rule in Iran, the Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman migrated to India in order to escape their ever increasing oppression by the Islamic regimes, they by-and-large joined the Kadmi denomination and temples that had been established by the time of their arrival - given that before their departure, they had traditionally followed the Qadimi calendar in Iran.

As time progressed, some Parsees of Bombay realized that both the Shenshai and Kadmi / Qadimi calendars had neglected to calculate the leap years (or centuries) consistently. Bombay priest, Khurshedji Cama founded the Zarthosti Fasili (Fasli) Sal Mandal or the Zoroastrian Seasonal-Year Society, and in 1906 the society unveiled a calendar that re-established the system of corrected years. Their calendar which they called the Fasli or seasonal calendar therefore made corrections for the extra quarter day at the end of a solar year (the earth takes approximately 365 1/4 days to complete one orbit of the sun) and was as a consequence in phase with the Gregorian calendar. While some Indian Zoroastrians adopted the Fasli calendar, others resisted the change and continued to follow the Shenshai and Kadmi / Qadimi calendar. The introduction of the Fasli calendar meant the start of a third denomination amongst the Parsees of India each with its priests and temples.

Not long after the Fasli calendar had been introduced in India, Kai Khosrow Shahrokh, who in the early 1900s, served as the first Zoroastrian member of the Iranian Parliament, visited India and was impressed by the development of the Fasli calendar. Upon his return to Iran, he introduced the Fasli calendar to Zoroastrians of Iran, calling it the Bastani, meaning traditional, calendar - perhaps in reference to its concordance with the Zoroastrian texts. In 1939, the Bastani calendar was readily adopted by Iranian Zoroastrians of Tehran, though many orthodox Iranian Zoroastrians, especially the Sharifabadi Yazdis, continued to use the Qadimi calendar.

Since the Shenshai and Qadimi / Kadmi calendars do not correct for the leap year, their New Year's day or Nowruz (see below and the Nowruz pages) has moved over the years to the Gregorian calendar's August and July respectively. Parsi Zoroastrians sometimes call Nowruz, Pateti, combining the observance of the last day of the previous year with the first day of the New Year. See the Pateti - New Year's Eve page for a more detailed description.


Iranian National Calendar

Earlier, soon after Reza Shah had gained the Iranian throne, he introduced a new solar (Khursheedi) Iranian national calendar - one that used Zoroastrian month names - to take effect from April 1, 1925. The organization of the months in the national calendar was, however, different from the Fasli / Bastani calendar. In the Iranian national calendar, the first six months, that is from Farvardin to Shahrivar have 31 days, the next five months from Mehr to Bahman have 30 days, and the last month, Esfand, has 29 days (30 days in leap years).

The year number of Iranian national calendar follows the solar Hejri / Hajira / Hegira system (which is different from the lunar Hajira system used by the Arab-based calendar). The solar Hejri / Hajira year is calculated by subtracting 622 from the Gregorian year from January 1 to March 20, and subtracting 621 from the Gregorian year from March 21 to December 31. Therefore, January 1 - March 20, 2010 of the Gregorian calendar is the Hejri year 1388 and March 21 - December 31, 2010 is Hejri year 1389.


First Year of the Calendar and Designation

Traditional Yazdegirdi Year

The Middle Persian text, the Dinkard states: "From the beginning of the world, the year is determined by adding up the past years of preceding sovereigns." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)

Since then Zoroastrian calendars have used the coronation year of the last Zoroastrian king of Iran, Yazdegird III as the first year for dating the calendar. The years following the first year are designated AY, that is, After Yazdegird III. The year of Yazdegird's coronation corresponds to the year 632 CE (some sources state 633 CE) of the Gregorian calendar (the day of the coronation is taken to be 16th June 632 CE). The question arises if the first Yazdegirdi year starts on March 21st 632 or 633. For our purposes, we will use the former i.e. March 21st 632 as the start of the first Yazdegirdi year.


Conversion System Between Yazdegirdi & Gregorian Years

If we take the Zoroastrian-Yazdegirdi year 1 as the Gregorian year March 21, 632 to March 20, 633, the difference between the Gregorian and Yazdegirdi years is 631 years. Or stated differently:
  First day, 1 AY (Yazdegirdi) + 631 = 21st March, 632 CE (Gregorian), or

  21st March, 632 CE (Gregorian) - 631 = First day, 1 AY (Yazdegirdi)
  1st January, 633 CE - 632 would continue to be 1 AY until 20th March, 633, and

  21st March, 633 CE - 631 = First day, 2 AY.

By this reckoning, 21st March 2013 CE - 631 = the first day of the year 1382 AY. Therefore,

1382 AY starts March 21 2013
1383 AY starts March 21 2014
1384 AY starts March 21 2015
1385 AY starts March 21 2016
1386 AY starts March 21 2017

The Lost Year: However, perhaps because of the loss of an entire year in the Zoroastrian calendar (perhaps in 1006 CE), the conversion number 631 has been changed to 630. We are told that in the year 1006 CE, the first day of the calendar that had not been intercalated for the leap days or months as required (see below), once again fell on the spring equinox. The implication is that the calendar since Yazdegird's coronation had lost a whole solar year. (If this is correct, the next leap month intercalation would have been required 120 years later in the year 1126 CE. We understand that the Parsi Zoroastrians of India did indeed one such intercalation around that time, but neglected to do so ever since.)

Therefore since 1006, the Yazdegirdi (AY) year (with the lost year added back) that corresponds to a Gregorian year is calculated by subtracting 631 from the Gregorian year (from January 1 to March 20) and 630 (from March 21 to December 31). For example:
From January 1 - March 20, 2010 is 2010 - 631 = 1379 AY.
From March 21 - December 31, 2010 is 2010 - 630 = 1380 AY.

From January 1 - March 20, 2011 is 2011 - 631 = 1380 AY.
From March 21 - December 31, 2011 is 2011 - 630 = 1381 AY.

From January 1 - March 20, 2012 is 2012 - 631 = 1381 AY.
From March 21 - December 31, 2012 is 2012 - 630 = 1382 AY.

From January 1 - March 20, 2013 is 2013 - 631 = 1382 AY.
From March 21 - December 31, 2013 is 2013 - 630 = 1383 AY.

Alternatively (with the lost year):
1383 AY starts March 21 2013
1384 AY starts March 21 2014
1385 AY starts March 21 2015
1386 AY starts March 21 2016
1387 AY starts March 21 2017


Attempts to Fix the First Year When Zarathushtra Proclaimed the Faith

The date when Zarathushtra proclaimed or started the religion has been lost to antiquity. Ancient Greek authors place Zarathustra's life around 6000 BCE (see Age in which Zarathushtra Lived in our page on Zarathushtra / Zoroaster.

Dabih/Zabih Behruz (also spelt Behrooz) (1889-1971 CE), a Persian satirist, is credited with proposing the vernal equinox of 1737 BCE (the beginning of the period of Aries), as the date when Zarathushtra proclaimed the religion. Some Zoroastrians have adopted Dabih's calculation and use March 21, 1737 BCE as the first year of the Zoroastrian calendar.

Therefore, the Gregorian calendar's
January 1 to March 20, 2010 CE would fall in the Dabih Behruz year 3747.
March 21 to December 31, 2010 CE would fall in the Dabih Behruz year 3748.

According to some authors - basing their conclusions on the work of Dabih Behruz and medieval Zoroastrian texts that they do not reference - state that Zarathushtra built an observatory in Zabol which is today the capital city of the eastern Iranian province of Sistan. In ancient times, the kingdom of Sistan would have included an western Afghan province curiously called Nimruz (or Nimroz / Nimrouz) today. The authors conclude that 'Nimruz', meaning mid-day, is confirmation of the presence of an observatory that could accurately establish the mid-day hour. The further assertion is that the observatory was inaugurated by Zarathushtra on 21st March 1725 BCE, the day when the start of the new-day, i.e. 'now-ruz' coincided with the start of the New Year on March 21. in other words, at the location of the observatory, the first rays of the sun were observed at the precise moment of the vernal equinox. We are also informed that 21st March 1725 BCE was supposedly the day when King Vishtasp accepted the religion preached by Zarathushtra. The further calculation is that since Zarathushtra received his Divine revelation twelve years earlier on vernal equinox, i.e., March 21, 1737 BCE - the date of the start of the religion.

With this system, dates subsequent to March 21, 1737 BCE can be said to be 'in the year of the Zoroastrian/Zarathushti religion' or 'Sal-e Dīni-ye Zartoshti' or 'Zarathushtrian Religious Era (ZRE)'.

The other implication of the use of an observatory to mark the start of the New Year is that the solar calendar so derived is self-correcting. In other words, the first day of the year is determined by the position of the sun in turn determined by observations at the observatory rather than by computation. This is a derived theory and an attempt at further reformation of the Zoroastrian calendar. There is no surviving evidence to indicate that this system of observatory-based adjustments rather than a computational method was actually used by Zoroastrians to determine the first day of the year or the year in which Zarathushtra proclaimed his religion.

Using the Dabih Behruz system:
3751 ZRE starts March 21 2013
3752 ZRE starts March 21 2014
3753 ZRE starts March 21 2015
3754 ZRE starts March 21 2016
3755 ZRE starts March 21 2017


Naming the Calendar Days and Months

The days and months are named after the creation related elements and attributes of God, some of which became archangels and angels. When the name of the month and the name of the day are identical, the days are consider auspicious and celebrated as Jashnes / Jashans or festivals and feasts.

The names as they have evolved from the Avestan language, are listed on page 2 after the calendar grid.


Organization of the Zoroastrian Calendar

The Solar Year

The year of the Zoroastrian calendar is a solar (Khorshidi) year. A year is called sal or sol in Persian.

"Be it known that the solar year is of two kinds. Of these, one is made up by the addition of days, the other by the addition of hours. The one that is made up by the addition of days consists of twelve months, each month of which is of thirty days." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)

"Whoever keeps the year by the revolution of the moon mingles summer with winter and winter with summer." (Bundahishn Chapter 25)

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Intercalary / Gatha Days

"Five additional days are required for the course of the sun through the constellations during twelve months. When added the year becomes one of three hundred and sixty-five days." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)

"The five days which are over and above the days of each month are placed at the end of the last month of the year. These five days are fixed after many calculations and are named according to the chapters of the Gatha (the hymns of Zarathushtra)." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)

"These Gathic days are to be added at the end of the month of Spendarmad. Hence during the five Gathic day, during prayers and other religious observances, Spendarmad (Aspandmard) month's name is not repeated with the name of the particular Gathic day." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)


Additional Hours - Leap Years

"Besides the total of three hundred and sixty-five days there are six additional hours in a solar year. These hours have to be added every year and amount to one day every four years, ten days every forty years, one month every a hundred and twenty years, five months every six hundred years, and one year every one thousand, four hundred and forty years." "The time of six hours should be kept apart from the last days of the year for many years." "The additional hours of each year are to be accumulated for some (four) years until they amount to a day." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)

"The calculation to determine the calendar's adjustment uses the course of the constellations and stars." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)

"The addition of the day or period should be maintained regularly and should not be neglected." "When the additional six hours are accumulated and adjusted, days align with days, months with months and years with years." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)

"The certainty with which people of faith have offered prayers at the allocated time, when the seasonal festivals are celebrated, when the corn will ripen and when the plants will grow depends on taking the intercalary period for the additional six hours into calculation. Thus, there is recognition of the difference between the seasons of summer and winter in the conduct of expeditions by kings, there is reasoning on when gales will blow and when the sea breezes will commence." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)

"The proper alignment of the four seasons of the year is connected with the motion of the sun through the constellations." "This additional day or period is fixed by calculation and is required in order that Nowruz, Mihragan, and other time-honoured Jashans, which are related to the four seasons of the year, are celebrated at the right time of the year." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)

While the Dinkard goes on to suggest the adding of an intercalary month (of 30 days) every one hundred and twenty years, it mentions the addition of a day every four years as another way to accomplish the same goal. Indeed, the importance of keeping the months and days synchronized with the seasons suggests that the addition of a day every four years is indeed, the preferred method.

The Fasli / Bastani calendars follow this system of a corrected year and the additional day in leap years is called Avardad. The Shenshai and Kadmi / Qadimi calendars do not follow this system anymore (see differences above).

As we have noted above, the reputed use of an observatory to mark the start of the New Year based on the physical astral and solar observance of the spring equinox is that the solar calendar so derived is self-correcting. In other words, the first day of the year is determined by the position of the sun in turn determined by observations at the observatory rather than by computation. We await further evidence that this method was employed.


First Day of the Year, Nowruz, and Spring

The spring equinox in the northern hemisphere (March 21 of the Gregorian calendar) is the first day of the Zoroastrian Khorshidi (solar) year and is called Now-ruz, meaning new day.

"The commencement of the year has been fixed by great kings as the first day of the year from the beginning of creation. On this glorious day, from the times of the ancient Pishdadians onwards, people of all countries have observed have Nowruz, or New Year's day. They celebrate this Jashan (festival and feast) with joy and happiness. For working people, it is a period of rest, comfort and holiday. It is a time for restoration, and renewal." "The weak and frail find relief from hard labour and a new gift is conferred on the world." "During this period of rejoicing, large quantities of food are exchanged among the people." "People should resolve not harm, and instead take care for animals." "People everywhere can benefit from the traditions surrounding this festival." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)

Nowadays, Zoroastrians sometimes call March 21 Jamshedi Nowruz, attributing the tradition to legendary King Jamshid of ancient Iran (Nowruz is still celebrated nationally in Iran) and possibly to differentiate the Nowruz on March 21 from the Shenshai Nowroz presently celebrated in August.

According to Fariborz Rahnamoon, the coinciding of the start of a new day (now ruz) at sunrise with the start of the new year (sol-e now) was a particularly auspicious occasion. Rahnamoon states, "One such Nou Rouz that has been archaeologically recorded in history was in 487 BCE when the Vernal Equinox coincided with the sunrise at Takht e Jamshid (Persepolis). A square stone was placed in the central hall where the first rays of the rising sun would fall at the same time as the equinox." Rahnamoon further states that another such event took place on March 21, 1725 BCE when Zarathushtra supposedly inaugurated his observatory in Sistan (near the present day border between Iran and Afghanistan). As we have stated above under Attempts to Fix the First Year When Zarathushtra Proclaimed the Faith, this is a derived theory. To our knowledge, there is no surviving direct evidence to this effect.

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The Seasons & Zodiac

zodiac constellations

"The zodiac and the festivals connected with each season are closely connected." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)

"Spring is the season of the commencement of the year. Spring starts when the sun enters the first degree of Varak (the lamb/ram or Aries) called the halo of the sky and continues for three months [Frawardin (Farvardin), Ardwahisht (Ardibehesht), Hordad (Khordad)] when the sun travels through the constellations of Varak (the lamb or Aries), Tora (the bull or Taurus), and Dopatkar (the two figures or Gemini)." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419 & Bundahishn Chapter 25)

"Summer is the second season of the year and regarded as the season of light. It begins when the sun enters the first degree of the constellation Kalakang (the crab or Cancer), and lasts for three months [Tishtar / Tir, Amurdad (Amordad), Shahrivar] till the sun continues its course through the constellations of Kalakang (the crab or Cancer), Ser (the lion or Leo) and Khusak (Virgo)." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419 & Bundahishn Chapter 25)

Earth's orbit, seasons and constellations "Autumn is the third season. It begins when the Sun arrives at the first degree of Tarazuk (the balance or Libra), known as Star, and lasts for three months [Mihr (Meher), Aban, Adar] till the sun completes its course through of Tarazuk (the balance or Libra), Gazdum (the scorpion or Scorpio), and Nimasp (the centaur or Sagittarius)." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419 & Bundahishn Chapter 25)

"Winter is the last and fourth season. It begins when the sun enters the limit of Vahik (Capricorn) called Dudtora, and lasts for three months [Dae, Vohuman (Bahman), Spandarmad] till the sun travels through Vahik (Capricorn), Dul (the water spout or Aquarius), and Mahik (the fish or Pisces)." (Dinkard 3, chapter 419 & Bundahishn Chapter 25)

The above coincidence between the constellations of the zodiac and the months would only have held true in the year of Varak (the lamb/ram or Aries), that is from approximately c. 2150-1 BCE. After that the constellations of the zodiac would have gradually regressed through the neighbouring months. Currently, the constellation of Mahik (the fish or Pisces) is at the point of leaving the month of Farvardin, to be replaced by Dul (the water spout or Aquarius). If the age is defined by the thirty-degree house assigned to these constellations then currently we are currently in at the end of the Age of Mahik (the fish or Pisces), c. 1-2150 CE, which started during the Parthian era making us near or on the cusp of the Age of Dul (water spout or Aquarius) (Also see our blog on Zoroastrian Cosmology and Astrology.)

What the zodiac-month alignments in the Dinkard and Bundahishn tell us is that the calendar they describe could have been developed around 2000 BCE - some four thousand years ago.


The Lunar Month

A month is called mah (meaning moon) in Persian.

"The lunar month is calculated from the motion of the moon along with the sun. A month of 30 days is ten hours longer than a lunar monthly cycle. (Dinkard 3, chapter 419)


Day and Night

It is always necessary first to count the day and afterwards the night, for first the day goes off, and then the night comes on. (Bundahishn Chapter 25)


Divisions of the Day

In the seven months of summer the periods (gas) of the days and nights are five, namely, Hawan the period of day-break, Rapithwan the period of midday, Uziran the period of afternoon, Aiwisruthrem the period when the stars appear in the sky until midnight, and Ushahin the period from midnight until the stars become imperceptible. In winter there are four periods, and Hawan extends from daybreak until Uziran (Rapithwan is omitted) while the rest are as previously mentioned. (Bundahishn Chapter 25).

Nowadays, the day is divided into five sections or gahs (also called geh) as follows:


 Havan* gah sunrise to noon dedicated to Mithra
 Rapithwan** gah noon to 3 p.m.**** dedicated to warmth
 Uziran gah 3 p.m. to sunset dedicated to Apam-Napat
 Aiwisruthrem gah sunset to midnight dedicated to fravashis
 Ushahin gah*** midnight to sunrise  dedicated to Sarosh

The word 'gah' or 'geh' is taken to mean a division or period of time and a watch. It lends itself to the word gahanbar / gahambar as a division of the year and even to the name of a place as in Atash-Gah and Yazishn-Gah.

In the Avesta, the five divisions of the day are called asnya ratavo or ayara ratavo, and in Middle Persian texts - gahan.

*Havan gah: In the Avestan languages, this watch is called Havani ratu and Havan-ni-Meher (Havan-e Mehr) - the watch when the rays of the rising sun dispel the darkness of the night.

**Rapithwan gah: During the five cool months of the year, i.e., the last five months of the Zoroastrian calendar from Aban to Aspandmard [also see our 365-day calendar grid], the Rapithwan gah is omitted resulting in the number of gahs / watches in a day being reduced from five to four and the Havan gah is extended from sunrise to 3 pm. As we will see in the section below on the Hours (in a day), the days in the cool months are shorter and sunrise occurs later in the morning making this adaptation necessary.

The Yasna liturgy - a ceremony of the inner circle conducted by priests in a fire temple's inner sanctum - is performed during the Havan geh. This means that during the seven warm Rapithwan-above-ground months, it is conducted from sunrise to noon while in the remaining five cool Rapithwan-below-ground months it is performed from sunrise to 3 pm.

Dastoor Daboo is quoted by Ervad Gev Karkaria in his article Ushahin Gah (currently posted on the NAMC website) as saying "in ancient Iran the word Geh/Gah was also associated with the time when the court of law would assemble to render their judgment. Different levels of court would assemble at different times with lowest court assembling during the Ushahin Gah and the highest court or the Supreme Court assembling during Aiwisruthrem Gah. The judgment in each court was then rendered by the Lord or Ratu associated with that Gah with Supreme Court judgment being rendered by Dasturan-e-Dastur or 'Zarathushtrem'."

***Some authors suggest that because the orthodox who pray during each gah, i.e., five times a days, recite the Ushahin gah immediately upon awakening (just before the break of dawn - Usha means dawn), the Ushahin gah is therefore the first gah and should precede the Havan gah. They go on to conclude by extension, that since the Ushahin gah is the first gah since the gah begins at midnight, therefore the Zoroastrian day must originally have begun at midnight. [Note: The Zoroastrian system of praying five time a day was later copied by the Muslims.]

However, in ancient times before the advent of personal / household clocks, determining the precise point of midnight and 3 pm would have been difficult. The laity would also have spelt through the midnight hour. In a natural sense, a person's day started when they woke up in the morning. We discuss this matter further on our discussion blog.

****Since ancient Zoroastrians used an 18-hour day (see below), each old Zoroastrian hour would have been 1.33 modern hours long. Therefore it appears that the 3 p.m. time used nowadays to mark the change in gah / geh would have been somewhat different in ancient times.


Hour - Hasar / Hathra

A day is divided into eighteen hasars (Middle Persian) or hathra (Avestan).

The summer day is twelve hasars, the night six hasars; the winter night is twelve hasars, the day six; a hasar being a measure of time and, in like manner, of land. (Bundahishn Chapter 25)

[Avestan references of a hathra: Vendidad 2.26 (65), 8.100 (280)/101 (287)/ 102 (291). Tir Yasht 23 and 29.]


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