Parsis of Karachi to mark Navroz today

The Parsi new year Navroz celebrations started in Karachi on Thursday night. It differs from the Iranian new year, also referred to as Jamshedi NovRuz, which was commemorated towards the end of March at the spring equinox.

Navroz day is preceded by Navroz eve when young people meet for dinner and dancing at an event organised by the Parsi Pakistan Collegiate Association. This is possibly the most festive event, as the celebrations continue till the early hours of the morning and sometimes even longer than that.

Navroz is a time of joy and celebration for the Zoroastrian Parsis. It is a festival that has been observed since the 6th century BC when legendary kings such as Cyrus and Darius ruled over the Persian Empire. Today the tradition is carried on by Parsis all over the world.

On Navroz day it is customary for the men to wear white clothes and for the women to dress in bright colours. They begin the day by offering prayers and thanks at the Agiari or fire temple. They also greet and wish other members of the community there. Special prayers are recited by the ‘dasturs’ (priests) and then offerings of sandalwood are presented to the fires and money is donated in the charity boxes.

As the day goes on, families meet for lunches and dinners, they exchange gifts or just engage in conversation. The menu of most Navroz meals consist of Prawn Patio, ‘Sali Ma Murg’, ‘Patra Ni Machhi’ and Pillau along with tempting desserts such as ‘Lagan Nu Custard’, ‘Mawa Nu Khaju’ and ‘Malai-Nu-Khaju.’

Navroz evenings in Karachi are usually spent at the Beach Luxury Hotel where a funfair or ‘mela’ is organised by different groups. The massive lawns of the hotel are booked for this occasion by the hotel’s owner, Byram Avari, who is also a senior member of the community. He has been making this generous contribution on Navroz for countless years.

Activities such as face painting, carnival rides, games and other novelties are enjoyed by Parsis of all ages. The ‘fish pond’ which is an activity where wrapped prizes are randomly picked out of a large tub, the ‘lucky draw’ hamper and the gift stall are organised by the Karachi Zarthosti Banumandal.  Other games stalls are arranged by the Pakistan Parsi Collegiate Association. The annual mela is a charity event, most of its proceeds are donated to the Parsi General Hospital.

After the mela, families may go to restaurants or private parties where they can enjoy quiet meals and pleasant company.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2011.