Pray, atone and feast


August 19, 2007

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That’s what Parsis will do on Pateti today, a day before celebrating Navruz.

If you plan to wish your Parsi neighbours “Happy Pateti” on Saturday, don’t. That is, unless, you believe that penitence is a joyful event. Wait till Sunday (August 20) instead, and wish them a “Happy Navruz”.

Many non-Parsis recognise Pateti as the Parsi New Year. But, in fact, Pateti is New Year’s Eve, the last Gatha (day of ‘shraddh’) spent in remembrance of one’s ancestors. Pateti is also a day of thanksgiving for the joys and sorrows of life. It is a time to offer “patet” (repentance), to atone for what is not in consonance with good thoughts, good words and good deeds.

Parsis atone in style — with new clothes and flowers but also prayers and charity. They reward their patet with some delicious pilaf dal, sali boti, and custard feast at the end of the day. Fravashis (souls), goes the Parsi belief, rejoice in delectable scents and pretty surroundings.

In the five days that precede Navruz, fire and incense burn day and night in the prayer room. Fresh flowers in consecrated silver vases, one for each ancestor remembered, are placed on white-marble-topped tables. Flowers conjoined with light, oil lamps, sandalwood fire and burning of incense creates a virtual paradise to welcome visiting fravashis. The more orthodox Parsis resign from worldly affairs and engage in lengthy prayers. Staunch adherence to precepts enjoins one to abstain from cutting hair, shaving and paring nails for these five days.

Nails and hair are doctrinally seen as nasu (impure creation). Navruz is New Year’s Day, a time for expansive rejoicing. For most Zoroastrians in India, Navruz falls in August.

original article here