These are supporting notes for our page on the Navjote / Sudreh-Pooshi (initiation / coming-of-age ceremony) ceremony.] During the ceremony, the initiate is invested with a vest, the sudreh, and a kusti, a cord tied around the waist three times. Below, we cite extracts from old Zoroastrian texts, the Sad-dar, the Vendidad and the Rivayets.
Sad-Dar is a sixteenth century BCE Persian text, Sad-Dar meaning 'Hundred Doors'. Together with the seventeenth century Rivayats which frequently quote the Sad-Dar, it is one of the most modern post Middle Persian Pahlavi religious texts to come out of Iran. The Sad-Dar and Riviyets are not scripture. A number of Arabic words (4%) have made an incursion into the Persian language used by the author. The style is also prescriptive and the tone harsh. However, we are interested in Sad-Dar as a record of Zoroastrian practice - specifically, in this case, on the age when it became 'incumbent' on a Zoroastrian to wear a kusti (the cord worn around the waist of Zoroastrians who have been initiated into the faith), that is, the age of investiture with the kusti. We notice that in the reference below there is no mention of the sudreh, a vest and other article of investiture during the initiation ceremony.
Sad-dar Chapter 10:
1. The tenth subject is this, that it is incumbent on all those of the good religion, women and men who attain the age of fifteen years, to wear the sacred cord (kusti).
3. The first person who set the wearing of the kusti, the sacred cord, in view of all was (King) Jamshed.
7. It (the benefit of wearing the kusti) is like that which occurs when the (faithful) are performing (see hamazor) and hama-asho and have put on the kusti for that reason,...
...or when as when someone in Kashmir, or Eranvej, or Kangdez (see Kangdez below), or the enclosure formed by Jam (King Jamshed) performs a good deed,...
[Meaning from the four corners of the world where Zoroastrian spread far and wide perform good deeds...]
...and when a person is not able to perform it (the kusti rite) with hamazor, then those (that do perform the rite) and those who wear the kusti around the waist (and cannot perform the hamazor), are mutually connected, one with the other, and are equally meritorious.
9. And the four knots (when tying the kusti around the waist) give four attestations:
10. The first knot is that which preserves loyalty and steadfastness (qarar), and gives attestation as to the existence, unity, purity, and matchlessness of the sacred being, the good and propitious (favourable).
11. The second knot is that which gives attestation that is the good religion of the Mazda-worshippers which is the word of the sacred being.
12. The third knot is that which gives attestation as to the apostleship and mission (rasuli) of the just ('haqq) Zartosht Spitaman.
13. The fourth knot is that which attests, gives assurance (iqrar) and openly accepts that one should think good, speak good, and do good.
14. And from the whole a person becomes established; and the pure, good religion is this, that a person persist in these views.
16. It is incumbent (to wear the kusti) both on woman and on man.
Sad-dar Chapter 46:
1. The forty-sixth subject is this, that, when people become fourteen years of age, it is necessary to tie on the sacred cord (kusti), because the high-priests have said that it is necessary to take into account those nine months that they have been in the womb of the mother.
[Note: Presumably, this attempts to reconcile the age of fourteen mentioned here with the age of fifteen mentioned elsewhere in this and other texts. In other words, fourteen plus nine months in the womb effectively brings a person into her or his fifteenth year.]
2. For in our religion there is no duty better than wearing the kusti, and it is incumbent on man and woman.
3. And, in former days, if any one became completely fifteen years of age, and did not wear the kusti (i.e. had not started wearing the kusti, i.e. had not been initiated or having been initiated, stopped wearing the kusti), then that person was ostracized.
The Orthodox Age of Initiation
From the above we gather that the age for initiation is on attaining the age of fourteen and before the fifteenth birthday.
The Vendidad is one of the books of the Avesta, the Zoroastrian scriptures. It is also the latest of the surviving scriptures though parts of it are very old (or based on old texts) and some parts might even have pre-Zoroastrian origins.
Vendidad Fargard (Chapter) 18:
18.9 [The one who causes great harm is the person who] continues for three springs (years) without wearing the kusti, the sacred cord.
[Note: This line seems to make a three year allowance for inidivuals who cannot wear the kusti continuously.]
18.54, 58 [The one who is susceptible to fall on evil ways is] either that man or woman, who being more than fifteen years of age, walks without wearing the kusti, the sacred cord) and the sudre, the sacred vest or shirt.
[Note: We notice here mention of both the kusti and sudre.]
RivayatsThe Rivayats are seventeenth century epistles from the Yazd Zoroastrians to the Parsi Zoroastrians of India. They were written in the form of answers to the questions of the Parsees.
In one of these Rivayats, that of Kaus Kamdin (p. 29-30 of manuscript MU 1), it is mentioned that "Kodac haft shala va sahe mah va ya zayadah az aan ama kam nshyid." This translates roughly as 'A child of seven years and six months and higher, but not less.' We do not have the question or the entire answer and are given to understand that the statement is in response to a question regarding at what age a child can be invested with the sudre and kusti.
We also understand that the answer states that during the investiture, the child should face the direction of the sun, and that after the investiture, the child should observe the hamazor (presumably the handshake and not the prayer) with the entire congregation.
We note on our page on the navjote or initiation ceremony, "Nowadays, for children born to Zoroastrian parents, the navjote ceremony takes place between the ages of seven and twelve. Perhaps initiation at a young age is for reasons of modesty since the sudrah is worn over a bear chest during Navjote ceremonies in India (however, the sudrah can be placed over, say, a blouse). However, one wonders whether a child of seven can understand the significance of a covenant made during the Navjote ceremony, and whether a person and her or his soul can be considered responsible for decisions made at the age of seven. It would be interesting to know how Zarathushtra initiated the "first hearers and teachers" of the faith listed in the Farvardin Yasht, a chapter within the Zoroastrian scriptures that memorializes Zoroastrians of old."