AIWYǠŊHANA, Avestan term “wrapping round, girdle” (from the root yāh, OInd. yās “to put on, wrap,” AirWb., col. 948); it designates a strip from a date-palm leaf which is consecrated in the Yasna liturgy and used to tie the bundle of wires which constitute the barsom (Av. barəsman), originally a seat for the divinities at the sacrifice, as in Vedic ceremonial. In the Avesta and after, it was a bundle of sacred twigs held in the hand of the officiating priest during the performance of rites (see, e.g., Vd. 19.19). Depending on the ceremony, the number of twigs varied, usually between three and thirty-three. Eventually metal wires were substituted, but the aiwyǡŋhana binding remained equally necessary. In preparation for the Yasna rite, the zod (Av. zaotar, the officiating priest), who has observed the xūb (the barešnūm purification), goes before a date-palm tree in the precincts of the Dar-e Mehr (fire temple) and washes a leaf three times, reciting the usual formula of xšnaoθra Ahurahē Mazdā (Yt. 1.0). He cuts off the leaf and removes the twig, washes it again, and, after placing it in his water pot, carries it to the yazišn-gāh. There he divides the leaf into six strips, which he twists into one string knotted at both ends. He places this in a clean metallic cup and lays it upon the barsom stand (māhrū). After the recitation of appropriate prayers, the aiwyǡŋhana is wound three times around the middle of the barsom and tied with two knots. Later, as the priest completes the Yasna rite with recitation of hā (chapter) 72, he ties five additional knots.
The word aiwyǡŋhana is also employed in the Avesta for the kusti or sacred girdle.
M. Haug, Essays on the Sacred Language, Writings, and Religion of the Parsis, 2nd ed., London, 1878, pp. 396-99.
Modi, Ceremonies, pp. 272-76.
(M. F. Kanga)
Originally Published: December 15, 1984
Last Updated: July 29, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 7, p. 695