Days of Commemorations---Parwanaiia or Panja (Banja) (Benja)
Parwanaiia or Panja is one of the most holy of the religious holidays celebrated by the Mandaean people. The holiday can be called Parwanaiia
Parwanaiia or Panja (Banja or Benja) occurs between the 8th & 9th months & lasts for 5 days. (3)
These are the five intercalary days of Parwanaiia, or Panja, the happiest time of the whole year, during which the great baptismal river feast is held. It falls at the time when the river is swollen by melting snows from the north, i.e. during the first warm days of spring. In 1932/ 1933/ 1934/ 1935 Panja fell an April 5th but in I936 it fell on April 4th. (4)
The days for Panja this year are as follows:
March 19-Monday -1 Panja year of Saturday (5)
March 20-Tuesday -2 Panja year of Saturday (6)
March 21-Wednesday -3 Panja year of Saturday (7)
March 22-Thursday - 4 Panja year of Saturday (8)
March 23-Friday -5 Panja year of Saturday (9)
The five days prior to Panja are considered mbattal days:
The last five days of Shumbulta (the Ear of Corn, Virgo) are mbattal for they are dedicated to the five lords of the underworld, Shdum, Hagh, and his consort Magh, Gaf, and his consort Gafan, Zartai-Zartani, and Krun, the Mountain-of-Flesh. These five mbattal days, given over to the Darkness, necessitate the reconsecration of the manda, or cult-hut, during the five ensuing days of light. (10)
This year those five days of mbattal are as follows:
March 14-Wednesday-26 Missay Gitta or Qam Shinbilta (8) year of Saturday (11)
March 15-Thursday--27 Missay Gitta or Qam Shinbilta (8) year of Saturday (12)
Friday 16-Friday -28 Missay Gitta or Qam Shinbilta (8) year of Saturday (13)
March 17-Saturday-29 Missay Gitta or Qam Shinbilta (8) year of Saturday (14)
March 18---Sunday--26 Missay Gitta or Qam Shinbilta (8) year of Saturday (15)
Panja is the time when darkness (i.e. evil) has no hold on the earth:
Thereupon come those five days of Parwanaiia that are uncounted in the reckoning of the days nor are they counted or included in a calculation of months of the year). They are the days of vigil, darkness hath no share in them and there is no night in them because night is defiling and night hath no claim in these five days, they are allotted to souls which ascends to the Life our Father. For rays from the world of light stream down to the earthly world. In them (five days) there is no darkness (souls) are awakened and are signed by baptism and they give garments to the departing souls that is to those that depart the body. (16)
Each of the five days of Panja is dedicated to an Uthra, a light being:
Each of the five days is dedicated to a spirit of light and, as the doors of the world of light are open during Panja by night as well as by day, prayers may be at night. On other nights of the year no prayer may be said after sunset. (17)
These five light beings are all manifested from Kings of Kings, who himself, is self-created:
"During those five days the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year were created so that in each one, one day (being?) was created, and then the five days of Pawanaiia which are called (days of) Commemorations. They are (days of) Commemorations of brightness. No darkness is in them: within them darkness has no mandate: on the contrary, mandate, command, and dominion are Mine. They (the five days) are like one single day; night doth not divide them.
For the first day belongeth to the King of Kings, Father of all worlds, in it He who is great and lofty created Himself.
The second day is that in which the Lord of (Celestial ) Majesty (Rabuta) created himself.
The third day is Mara d-Rabutha, he who created Manda d Hiia (knowledge of life): in it he created himself.
The fourth day is Mara d-Rabutha, he who is Dmuth-Kusta; he created himself therein.
The fifth day which is the day of Commemorations running streams were distributed, for he Mara d-Rabutha, Divider of running streams, he created himself therein.
For they are five Kings, in them they created themselves and they are the five mysteries of the Beginning in which spirit and soul rejoice (at?) the seven crowns that are placed upon them. (18)
This is a time for religious observation and devotion especially to the souls. At this time all Mandaeans should be dressed in white for this is a religious time:
During Panja every true believer should dress completely in white (this is not observed strictly), and should either wear sandals woven of grass or go barefoot. The latter is usually the custom, though priests tell me that in ancient times it was considered a sin to walk barefoot on the earth, and that the real object of the injunction was that worshippers of the Life should not wear upon their feet the skins of dead animals. (19)
This is also the time when no meat may be eaten except for the lamb that is included in any meals prepared for the dead:
"Then on the two days of Susian and the five days before Parwanaiia and the (fire?) following the Feast of Daima do not slaughter or cook (boil) neither shalt thou grid on the sacred girdle except for a dying person. . (20)
No meat may be eaten except the flesh of sheep sacrificed in the ritual meals for the dead. (21)
This is also the time that the mandi is consecrated and the appropriate steps taken in regards to slaughter and consumption of meat:
... the consecration of the manda involves the sacrifice of a sheep and a dove, described in a later chapter. (22)
Lady Drower wrote about her observation of a re-concencration of a mandi during Panja. For more information on the mandi please click here.
All Mandaeans, that can, are baptized during this time. This is also the time that anyone, who died, especially those under unfavorable conditions, may have lofanis, zidqa brikhas, and dukhranas said for them:
Thereupon Ziwa-Sagia ( Great Radiance) whose brilliance is more dazzling than all the worlds spoke about those nine treasures which we confer upon the soul when the five days of Yawar-Ganziel arrive, when the banner is unfurled in the presence of Abathur and all the souls stand before him each one seeking her share of the masiqtas, commemorations and tabahata. (23)
Panja is a religious festival rather than a season of carnival, and Subba who live far from a priest travel long distances in order to be baptized as many times as their means allow, and join in the lofanis, zidqa brikhas, and dukhranas for the dead. The dead, assembling at the sacred meals and summoned by the mention of their names in the ritual, are refreshed by the spiritual double of the foods, and bless the living. The uneasy souls of those delayed upon the road to the worlds of light because they died an unclean death, or on a mbattal day, or without the proper death-ceremonies and clothing, are represented by proxies at the ceremonies of ahab d mania and others, and clothed, purified, and sustained are furthered on their way through the mataratha. Families save up to pay the fees necessary for these ceremonies; indeed, they regard the barriers between them and their dead relatives, back to distant ancestors and the spirits of light who beget them, as down during the five days of holiness. The soul of a person who dies during this period, when it emerges from the tomb on the third day, passes without hindrance through the mataratha, and the costly death-masiqta is not necessary for such a one. Hence relatives of a person dangeriously ill long that he should die at this time, and I have noted that in a small hamlet three persons died of different diseases in one year at this season. No doubt, if a person is dangerously ill, a baptism in the river might be expected to produce the desired result. The patient himself is anxious to leave the world at this season, for no demons or wild beasts (zangoyi) will have power to harm his soul on its journey, and it accomplishes the long and difficult journey to the Gate of Abathur in a single day. (24)
(1) The Mandaic Dictionary by E.S. Drower and R. Macuch Orford:Clarendon Press 1963 page 363
(2) The Mandaic Dictionary by E.S. Drower and R. Macuch Orford:Clarendon Press 1963 page 361
(16) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower: Berlin: Akademi Verlag 1960: page 199-200
(17) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 85
(18) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower: Berlin: Akademi Verlag 1960: page 116-117
(19) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 90
(20) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower: Berlin: Akademi Verlag 1960: page 200
(21) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 90
(22) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 90
(23) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower: Berlin: Akademi Verlag 1960: page 140
(24) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 89-91