Bright rangolis, colourful ‘torans’, chilled ‘faluda’ and a divine aroma of ‘patrani machi’, greeted all those who walked into the Seth Viccajee Seth Pestonji Meherji Agiary, in Secunderabad, on Sunday where hundreds of Parsis, from across Hyderabad, came together to usher in the season of spring — the first day of the Parsi new year. The air reverberated with the sound of ‘Navroz mubarak’, as the ‘Jashn’ (special prayer service) drew to an end, a little before noon, and the gathering spilled on to the lawns of the Agiary (fire temple) to rejoice, revel and reconnect with family and friends.
Dressed in all their fineries, members of the community were seen embracing each other and exchanging pleasantries while sipping on the traditional ‘faluda’ (a sweet drink) and helping themselves to generous servings of the ‘malido papri’ (a Parsi sweet dish). After all, Navroz is all about food, the Parsis admit.
Though the day begins with prayers, thanking the lord for good health and prosperity through the year, it is the sumptuous lunches and dinners that most look forward to on this day. "There is usually a wide spread for Navroz," saidDinaz Farouk Viccaji, a member of the family that runs the temple. ‘Dhaan’ (rice), ‘dal’ (pulses), ‘patrani’ (steamed) fish, fried fish, ‘saas’ (white sauce) fish, ‘sali margi’ (chicken with shoestring potato) and ‘lagan-nu-custard’ (like caramel custard), are some of the dishes that comprise a New Year meal, she explained. ‘Ravo’ (sevaiya), a sweet dish topped with loads of dry fruits, is another Navroz-special preparation, much liked by the Parsis. "We usually start our day with this," said Yazad Debara, a young professional adding, "The two main attractions for us is the food and the evening party where we youngsters get together and have a ball."
Traditionally celebrated only with family and kin, Navroz has now become more of a community festival, admit the elders of the 1,400-member strong Parsi population of Hyderabad. Not surprising then, that all the three fire temples of the city, in Secunderabad and Tilak Nagar, were brimming with people from the community, on Sunday, as they came together to pray and make merry.
"Today the community is far more bonded and there is a lot of enthusiasm among people to celebrate the occasion together," said Jeroo Debara, a resident of the city for the last 33 years. According to her it is largely the fear of "disintegration" that has brought the Parsis closer to each other, over the years.
The dwindling numbers of the community make for discussions even at the Navroz gatherings. With a lot of women marrying into other religions, the elders feel insecure and are, therefore, making every effort to encourage marriages within the community. "The evening Navroz party at the club is primarily aimed at letting the younger generation interact with each other and perhaps find a match for themselves. We just hope this works," Viccaji, rather candidly, revealed in between offering Navroz greetings to her guests.
Perhaps her New Year wish-list is no different from the other members of the Parsi community.