Jamshedi Navroze….a festival to welcome Spring

Jamshedi Navroze is one of the three main festive days in the Parsi Calendar. The others being Parsi New year in August and Khordad Saal, the birthday of Zarathustra.

Navroze falls on March 21st, which is also Spring Equinox. It is celebrated the world over in various manifestations. It heralds the coming of Spring. In Iran it is celebrated as a ten day celebration and is the one Zoroastrian festival celebrated in an otherwise Islamic country.

In India, it is another day for us Bawas to party and eat and drink….as if we ever need a reason. Since it is not a public holiday, most celebrations are reserved for the evening.

Over time, the festival has sometimes been labelled “Jamshedji” navroze, which is a misnomer. It is Jamshedi Navroze, after the ancient Sassanian King Jamshed, who proclaimed the day as the start of the ancient Persian Calendar.

Navroze is one of the oldest known festivals of the Parsis. Firdausi, in his Shah Namesh, Book of Kings, attributes its origin to the legendary King of Persia, Jamshed son of Tehmooraz of the Peshdadian dynasty in Iran. Persia was ruled by many dynasties, the last being the Zoroastrians. It is said that Jamshed was a great king and cared for the welfare of his subjects. Though there were no clocks to measure time, the King sought the help of the great astronomers and mathematicians of his day who devised a calendar which was known as the “Tacquim-e-Nowrooze-e-Sheheriyari”. The King accordingly decided that Navroze or the New Year would start on the Vernal Equinox when night and day were of equal durations. {…link…}

The rituals of the day include a visit to the fire temple and then the gathering of the entire family to partake in drink and food.

Of course this is only if you are in Bombay. Here in NYC, the day is just another Tuesday. The local Zoroastrian association did have a get together last Saturday. And in recent times there has been a Persian Day Parade here in NYC. The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg will welcome a group of Zoroastrians at City Hall this week to celebrate the festival.

This article appeared in Sify, in 2003 and is an informative synopsis of what Navroze is all about.

Navroze is the Parsi New Year which is celebrated on 21st March annually. It is regarded as the Parsi New Year chiefly by only a sect of Parsis viz., the Faslis. But, all Parsis participate in this festival and rejoice. Navroze is celebrated by the Muslims of Iran and by Zoroastrians all over the world.

On 21st March falls the vernal equinox of the sun and the season of spring commences. It is the beginning of the period when all the trees are in full bloom and wear the look of greenery. Our Hindu New Year also falls during the spring season heralding the advent of bright sunshine bidding farewell to the cold season.

Navroze is one of the oldest known festivals of the Parsis. Firdausi, in his Shah Namesh, Book of Kings, attributes its origin to the legendary King of Persia, Jamshed son of Tehmooraz of the Peshdadian dynasty in Iran. Persia was ruled by many dynasties, the last being the Zoroastrians. It is said that Jamshed was a great king and cared for the welfare of his subjects. Though there were no clocks to measure time, the King sought the help of the great astronomers and mathematicians of his day who devised a calendar which was known as the “Tacquim-e-Nowrooze-e-Sheheriyari”. The King accordingly decided that Navroze or the New Year would start on the Vernal Equinox when night and day were of equal durations.

The Parsis, the followers of the Zoroastrian faith fled from Persia 1200 years ago and migrated to India to escape Muslim and Arab persecution. They settled down on the Western coast of India mainly Gujarat and Bombay worshipping God according to the teachings of their prophet Zoroaster and observed their festivals. The Zoroastrians were called Parsis as they hailed from Pars a province of Persia and are the descendants of Persians. The Parsi community was not interfered with their religion though they adopted many of the customs of the new homeland. When the British arrived, they slowly took over their style of living and prospered in commercial and professional fields.

The Parsis are divided into three sects – the Faslis, the Kadims and the Sehensahis. Of these, the Faslis observe Navroze (Jamshedi Navroze) as the only New Year proclaimed by King Jamshedi, on the first day of the Spring. The other two sects observe two new years, one being Jamshedi Navroze and the other being the anniversary of the day they landed in India. Some customs have changed having mingled with the locals but their tradition still remains.

It is learnt, according to an ancient Iranian calendar nearly 200 years old, the Iranians celebrated two Navrozes _ one according to the lunar year and one according to the solar year. One was said to be based on 1508 lunar year of astronomical cycle which was changeable and the other based on 1507 solar year astronomical cycle which was unchangeable. About 8500 years ago both Navrozes were celebrated on the same day, the 1st day of Farvardin which was a Tuesday. Zoroaster their prophet, who himself was a philosopher, and also an astronomer corrected the calendar.

Navroze is one of the most important festivals of the Parsis. In the past, it was celebrated for 15 days but now it is observed for only two days. The advent of Navroze was announced in early times by firing a cannon at the correct hour but now it is done through modern announcements. Centuries back they followed the tradition of ‘rolling egg’ according to which an egg was placed on a very smooth surface and the exact time was determined by the slight movement of the egg. The legend says that the earth was supposed to rest on the horns of a bull and that every new year it flipped from one horn to the other resulting in the movement of the egg. After this, youngsters kissed the hands of the elders by way of respects and visited elderly relatives or friends in return getting gifts for the festival.

Amongst rituals observed on Navroze day, the most important is spreading of a white cloth on which seven articles beginning with the Persian letter “seen” (the sound of S) are placed. This it seems, is known as the “Haft Sin” or seven S’s.

The origin is attributed to the letter S taken from the word Sepandan meaning Holy and the figure 7 from the fact that Ahura Mazda and his archangels numbered seven. There were each seven types of items like flowers, dry or fresh fruit and seven twigs of fruit-bearing trees laid on the cloth making 21 items to coincide with the 21 words of the ancient prayer “Yatha Ahu Vairyo” Nowadays the items usually used are vinegar (serkeh), a coin (sekkeh), garlic (sir), sumac sorb (senjed), a mixture of sugar and malt called samanu, and greens (sabzeb) depending upon what is available.

Again, another ritual was to grow wheat in earthenware bowls by sprinkling with water and keeping them in the sun. When the wheat was about seven inches above the rim of the bowl till the New Year’s Eve, the green stalks were carefully cut to make them of even height and the bowls were placed all around the house. The bowls with green stalks of wheat meant the symbol of life and growth. The next day after Navroze the bowls were taken and put in a stream or river which was a mark of reverence for and greenery where water was scarce. In India it is not necessary where there is full of greenery .Other relevant rituals have been substituted now.

In the olden days it was the custom of the Kisras or the Persian Kings to inaugurate the Navroze festival by proclaiming to his subjects his wish to hold a session and bestow gifts to all. Each day was allotted to people according to their ranks beginning from princes, noblemen, warriors, priests, relatives and the last sixth day for himself and his personal friends.

Jamshedi Navroze is a great day for the Parsis and there is much rejoicing by all young and old. The houses are washed and cleaned and decorated with ‘Torans’. Designs like Rangolis are drawn with chals. People have early baths and dress up in their best attires. Food plays an important part of the Navroze Festival. All types of delicious dishes are prepared and a grand feast is held. A thickish kind of kheer called rava is prepared out of sooji, milk, sugar and cream garnished with roasted dry fruits, sprinkled with rose water.

Falooda is offered to visitors and a thali with rose petals, vermillion, rice grains, sprinkler with rose water and coconuts are ready to be offered to the visitors. Families then attend the Fire Temples where thanksgiving prayers or Jashan are offered led by the priest. It is customary to cover their heads at the Fire Temples, men with their velvet caps and women with their sarees. After prayers embracing and greeting of Sal Mubaraks or New Year greetings are exchanged. Children enjoy a lot as usual during the Festival.

Many of the customs are common to our Hindu Festivals though they have strictly retained their own religious traditional rituals.

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  • navroze mubarak…….hope the eating was good.

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  • ARUN AJINKYA

    My entire childhood went in the company of an aristocratic Parsi family;the Motashaws.My job which I got with the Taj group a Parsi owned company and where I worked for 27 years ,was due to a Parsi gentleman called Mr.Guzdar.

    I HAD GREAT BOSSES LIKE MR.JIMMY LAM ,MS.SHIRIN BATLIWALA,MR.MANECK PATEL AND NOT TO FORGET THE GREAT LATE MR.RUSI DARUWALA A FORMER DIRECTOR OF IHC.

    In short ,I have to accept the fact that though I am not a born parsi,I have drawn a lot of strenght from them.Very nice,warm and helpful people.

    I WISH ALL PARSIS A VERY WARM NAWROZ.

  • hi, this is a very nice article. I linked it to an article on my blog on Navroze Bhonu. Navroze Mumbarak

    http://finelychopped-k.blogspot.com/2010/03/jamshedi-navroze-mubarak-to-all-parsis.html