Expressing Faith through Worship
Zoroastrians worship, in the sense of praying, anywhere facing Ahura Mazda’s creation, fire, light or water. The sudre kusti prayers are the key form of daily worship. There is no compulsion to visit the fire temple (Dar-i Mihr, Persian for Court of Mithra, or Agiary, Gujarati for House of Fire), nor any special day of the week.
In practice most Parsis in India visit the temple often as part of their daily routine, calling on the way to work. At the entrance to the temple there is a place to wash the exposed parts of the body and say the sudre kusti prayers to cleanse themselves physically and spiritually. Outside shoes are removed.
In India, only Parsis or Iranian Zoroastrians may enter, whereas in Iran there is more open access. There is usually a hall inside the entrance with pictures of the heroes of the faith such as the prophet Zoroaster, the benefactor who built the temple and revered priests of former times. These meant to inspire the worshipper. The prayer room is oblong in shape with one wall forming the sanctuary and surrounded by other walls, and including a doorway through which the officiating priest (Mobed) enters. The Mobed feeds the fire with sweet smelling sandalwood five times a day. The priest wears clothes with a cap and a mask over his mouth (padan) and nose in order to ensure he does not defile the fire with his impure breath. The worshipper kneels and bows his or her head before the fire, having previously left an offering of sandalwood in the doorway for the priest to lie on the fire. The worshipper takes a pinch of ash from a metal ‘spoon’ and puts it on his forehead in order to unite himself with the fire. (S)he then stands reciting prayers before the sacred fire (Atash) in which Ahura Mazda is thought to be physically present . Prayer is individual, and not congregational, with the worshipper approaching Ahura Mazda alone even when in the company of others.