Navroze Celebrations


March 21, 2007


Culture | India

Navruz: An evening crammed with joy

For Zorastrians, Navruz is a time to eat, drink and celebrate. But in recent times, the festival has lost its zest as people leave celebrating to those precious few hours ‘after work’

It’s the day before Navruz, and the city’s Zoroastrian community is preparing for a day of eating, drinking and making merry.

However, Navruz celebrations have come a long way since the days when Persian kings — wearing crowns with image of the annual solar cycle on their heads — led divine mass at Fire Temples and donated gifts to citizens. This spring festival, which signals the beginning of the New Year for a large section of the Zoroastrian community, has slowly been reduced in India to a mere evening of joy. It is no longer a public holiday and consequently, celebrations are reserved only for the time ‘after work’.

So, gone are the days of catching the evening show at the theatre or cinema hall, followed by a lavish dinner. “Ten years ago, theatres were packed on Navruz. Today, there are few Parsi plays and fewer patrons,” says Cyrus Dastur who worked with the much-loved Parsi playwright Adi Marazban.

Though Dastur continues to put up plays for the three Parsi festivals every year, he laments over the fact the festive spirit is missing. “We have a few patrons who adhere to the old ways, but today’s Parsis prefer a simple, relaxed evening at home. The festive zest is missing,” he says. However, Dastur adds that last year, when Khordadsal (Zoroaster’s birth anniversary) fell on a holiday, the rush for theatre tickets was unbelievable.

And what’s a celebration without good food? Food is a Parsi passion and Parsi caterers are often the best at judging the intensity of celebrations. “We have been catering special Navruz meals for the last ten years,” says Viraf Katgara of Roshni Point at Nanabhai Lane, Fort. “Earlier we would get orders for family lunches and dinners. But, in the last four years we have noticed that the lunch orders are placed by people, mainly non-Parsis, from nearby offices as it is a working day. The orders we get for evening meals are also small ones, as they’re placed by nuclear families. Rising costs and the fact that Navruz generally falls on a working day have changed festivities for us.”

Celebrating an identity

For Zoroastrians, Navruz is a day to celebrate life and togetherness! It is a time to put aside vexatious issues and celebrate their identity and cultural values. This is the one day when the entire community sets aside problems ‘eroding’ the community, and agrees that Navruz should be a lot of song and dance, eating and drinking.

Come March, and the Parsi newspaper is filled with advertisement for ‘Navruz Dahmakas’. Parsi gymkhanas and baugs are hired for cultural festivities.

Dinyar Mehta, of Dini Tours, who regularly organizes the Navruz function at Albless Baug says, “Twelve years ago, we organised our first public functions for Navruz. Initially only Parsis joined in the celebrations. But now, we have an equal number of non-Parsis coming to the function. Lack of time and rising costs was increasingly driving the working class to small private celebrations on Navruz.

The community was losing its spirit of bonhomie. My family decided to celebrate Navruz with all who will join us,” he adds.

Mehta’s functions have also become a platform for young Parsi talent. “Over the years, our Navruz function has become a platform for young talent. Parizaad Kolah walked the ramp for us in 1992-93. Now, she is appears on TV,” says Mehta. “Then there was Zeenia Mirza, who regaled the community with her wonderful voice before she became a professional songstress,” he added.

“We have also spent a great deal of effort in promoting are Parsi sari borders at our Navruz Dhamaka. Today it is much sought after,” says Mehta adding that, “This year too, we will be handing out prizes for the best-dressed male and female in Parsi clothes.”

The two Parsi gymkhanas in the city will also provide a cultural platform for the community at their ‘Navruz Gambaro’.

Original article here