Zoroastrian (Shenshai): Start Clean On Khordad Sal

The entrance of a building used in ancient Zoroastrian death ceremonies is pictured; Zoroastrians are receiving environmental attention as of recent for their “green” burial rites TUESDAY, AUGUST 24: It’s a prophet’s birthday today for Zoroastrians who follow the Shenshai calendar, and devotees will pay tribute to Zoroaster today. While most predominant in India, Zoroastrianism is seen throughout the world – and the Diaspora, too, will say prayers and partake in feasts today. (In fact, according to Wikipedia, the United States houses the largest Zoroastrian population after India.) While not a New Year’s celebration, many Zoroastrians will take time on Khordad Sal to reflect on the past year and work to improve themselves in the coming year. To symbolize the fresh start, many of the faithful will clean their homes and wear new clothes today.

While Khordad Sal is a holiday about life, it is, ironically, Zoroastrian death ceremonies that have been drawing recent attention from environmental enthusiasts. Perhaps the specifics of the burial procedures would be difficult to duplicate today, but they are being studied as Western countries seek “greener” alternatives.  (Green Prophet, an environmental news site, recently devoted an article to this.) According to the Zoroastrian tradition, corpses that are unclean pollute the soil; ancient devotees would wash a corpse, place it in a high tower and expose it to the sun, so that it could properly decompose. Once a corpse was decomposed, Zoroastrians believed it could best reenter the natural environment.

(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)

(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)

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