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Barashnûm, or Barashnûm nû shaba, is a Zoroastrian purification ritual which lasts nine nights. Because the ritual lasts nine nights, it is known as Barashnûm nû shaba or "Barashnûm of the nine nights".


Barashnûm is a Zend word meaning "top of the head". The whole ritual is named "Barashnûm" because purification starts from the head of the person, which is the first part in his body which is purified.


In pre-Islamic times, Barashnûm was used to purify men and women who had been defiled by contact with dead matter. But the Parsis of Indiamarker used Barashnûm not only to purify people defiled by the dead but also to purify adolescents during the Nû zûdî or Navjote when they reach the age of fifteen. The ritual is undertaken in order to cleanse the subject of the impurities that are believed to have have befallen him or her during the time he or she had spent as a foetus in the maternal womb and accompanies the tying of the kushti which marks the entry of a child into adulthood.

The ritual

Fargard 9 of the Vendidad prescribes the requirements for the Barashnûm ritual. It prescribes that a series of six holes two feet deep if it was summer season and four feet deep if it was winter season be dug at a distance of three feet from each other and a series of three holes at a distance of nine feet from the other six. The hole at the most extreme corner should be situated at a distance of at least thirty paces from the holy fire or consecrated barsom and three paces from "clean" Zoroastrians. The holes should lie in a north-south direction and the first six are to be filled with gomez while the other three are to be filled with water.

Holes 4-6 should be separated from from holes 7-9 through a ring of 3 furrows arranged concentrically which act as a protective barrier. Similarly, holes 4-9 were to be separted from holes 1-3 by a barrier of 3 furrows. This arrangement is called the Barashnûm-gâh and is to be separated from cleaner pastures by an outer enclosure comprising a series of three furrows.

The impure person should walk to each of the holes containing gomez in turn while reciting Yasna 49 of the Avesta while the Zoroastrian priest recites the same from outside the furrow surrounding the hole and sprinkles gomez upon the impure person on completion of each recitation. The priest purifies the brows, the back of the skull, jaws, ears, the shoulders, arm-pits, chest, back, nipples, ribs, hips, genitals, thighs, knees, legs, ankles, feet and toes of the subject by sprinkling a few drops of gomez upon them. Once the purification is complete, the subject recites the Ahunwar, Kem-na-Mazda, Kem verethrem ja and other principal prayers of the Zoroastrians.

The defiled person, then sits inside the outer enclosure but outside the ones enclosing holes 4-9 and rubs dust all over his body for it to dry. He, then enters the inner furrows and steps in the holes 4-9 cleansing himself with the water contained in them. Once the ritual is complete, he may come out of the Barashnûm-gâh and is permitted to return to his house. However, he is confined to a corner of the house called Armêsht-gah for nine nights. During this period, he is prohibited from contacting water, fire, earth, cow, trees and other Zoroastrians as he is considered to be impure and his contact is believed to defile the objects around him. Once every three days, he is enjoined to bathe himself and wash his clothes in gomez and water as a part of the purification ritual. On the completion of his third bath, he is considered to be "completely purified" and is permitted to lead a normal life.

Fee for the cleanser

The fee to be paid to the priest who cleanses an impure person is also specified in the Fargard 9 of the Vendidad. The Fargard decrees that a fellow defiled priest should be cleansed in return for blessings, the lord of province for the payment of a camel, the lord of a town for the payment of a horse, the lord of a borough for the payment of a bull, and a householder in return for a three-year old cow.

The Vendidad also specifies the punishment to be handed to a priest who has erred in the rituals.


  1. Darmesteter, Pg 119
  2. Darmesteter, Pg 133
  3. Darmesteter, Pg 121
  4. Darmesteter, Pg 120
  5. Darmesteter, Pg 122
  6. Darmesteter, Pg 123 - 125
  7. Darmesteter, Pg 126
  8. Darmesteter, Pg 127
  9. Darmesteter, Pg 128
  10. Darmesteter, Pg 129


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