HUŠT, a Zoroastrian-Persian term of unknown etymology, designating the area (in known practice a town-quarter, a village, or a group of villages) assigned to a priest called the hušt-mōbed. He performs, or arranges to have performed (when more than one priest is required), all the religious services needed by Zoroastrians of his hušt,and receives payments for these, from which he lives. According to a passage in two of the Persian Rivāyats (ed. Unvala, II, pp. 35.3-4, 444.11-12; tr. Dhabhar, p. 421) there was to be a distribution (baḵš) of hušt every fifteen years, and the priests were then to receive hušt “in accordance with their priestly attainments (hērbadī)” and to “take the profit (nirumad, Pahl. nīrmad).” There is no suggestion (as surmised by Dhabhar) of a casting of lots, the system being, it seems, devised so that the more experienced and able priests should be given the better (that is, in the main, the richer) hušt, on the decision of the high priest and college of priests. Fees for services were regulated by this body, but naturally the residents of a prosperous hušt would be apt to ask for extra observances, generating more income, which could make the life of their priest more agreeable.
This system in essentials appears old, since it is reflected in that of the Parsi panthak (although the correspondences are not exact). A panthak, like a hušt, is an area; and the panthakī, like the hušt-mōbed, is the priest in charge of that area, who serves its residents’ religious needs and lives from the fees they pay him. The best-documented group (panth) of Parsi priests is that of the Bhagarias (q.v.), whose records show that their priestly assembly (anjōman), presided over by their high priest, used to send priests from their center in Navsari to other towns and villages on contract (though not for any specified length of time). These appointed (gomāšta) pantha-kīs had to make an annual payment in cash and kind to the Navsari anjōman, to which they applied for the services of assistant priests, as they needed them, and for all ritual requirements. In time this system ended, with panthaks becoming hereditary, which led to longstanding links between lay and priestly families. In Persia the system of allocating hušt also gradually broke down, and by the latter part of the 20th century the number of priests, even in the Yazdi area, had dwindled so sharply that those remaining had spread their work over a number of hušts, aided increasingly by dahmōbeds, instructed members of the local laity.
Mary Boyce, A PersianStronghold of Zoroastrianism, Oxford, 1977, index s.vv. hūšt, hūšt-mōbed.
F. R. Kanga, Bhagarsāth anjumannī tawārīkh, Bombay, 1932, pp. 92-94.
D. S. Meherjirana, Nōdh anē nuktēchīnī, Bombay, 1939, pp. 10, 11, 13, 15, 20, 21, 96-98, 116.
Report of the Proceedings of the Society for the Promotion of Researches into the Zoroastrian Religion, 1890-1898, Bombay, 1902, pp. 111-12.
(Mary Boyce and Firoze Kotwal)
Originally Published: December 15, 2004
Last Updated: March 23, 2012
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Vol. XII, Fasc. 6, p. 582