Navroz is a Central Asian and Indian holiday. With the United Nations calling it ‘The Festival of Spring,’ it is widening its scope to be celebrated as the beginning of a new year and, symbolically, a new life. The Zoroastrians in India observe the Spring or Vernal Equinox on March 21st each year as the New Year.
As ancient Zoroastrians deciphered existence, Zurvan was time and space. Despite the lack of clocks to calculate time, the King of Persia, Jamshed (son of Tehmooraz of the Peshdadian dynasty in Iran), enlisted the aid of the greatest astronomers and mathematicians of the time, who invented the “Tacquim-e-Nowrooze-e-Sheheriyari” calendar. As a result, the King decreed that Navroz, or the New Year, begin on the Vernal Equinox when night and day are of equal duration. Jamshed is said to have introduced a variety of crafts, including yarn spinning, to better the lives of his people.
Since they claimed that the planet was placed on one horn of a cosmic Bull that stood on the back of a cosmic turtle and that the turtle swims in an ocean of time, they would put an egg on a mirror and watch it very closely to see when it would move. The Bull will grow tired of holding the world on one horn and move it to the other at the exact time of Nowrooz. This will result in a slight shake that could be felt if you kept a close eye on the egg in the mirror and noticed it! This conviction is the source of the *mirror* and *egg* on the navroz table… The ancient Persians considered an egg to be a copy of Mother Earth. One was painted to reflect the earth’s rebirth in the spring, while the other was painted to represent the earth’s rebirth in the winter. On the occasion of Navroz, gifts of yarn and textiles are brought up in the Apadana Staircase at Persepolis as gifts to the King of Achaemenian Iran.
The Faslis, the Kadims, and the sehensahis are the three sects of Parsis. The Faslis, for example, celebrate Navroz ( Jamshedi Navroz ) on the first day of Spring as the only New Year declared by King Jamshedi. The other two sects have two new years, one of which is jamshedi Navroz and the other of which is the anniversary of their arrival in India. Some traditions have changed as a result of mingling with the locals, but their tradition has not. The most important Navroz day ritual is the spreading of a white cloth on which seven articles beginning with the Persian letter “seen” (the sound of the letter S) are put. This happens to be regarded as the “Haft Sin,” or the seven S’s.
Young, Avestan names indicate that six pastoral and farming year festivals (later known collectively as ‘gahambars’) were annexed to create a chain of seven feasts in honour of the Heptad – the seven eternal archangels, according to Mary Boyce, a renowned scholar on Zoroastrianism (Amesha Spenta). The greatest of the seven feasts, ‘No Ruz,’ was considered the final one, dedicated to the celebration of the seventh life, fire, and its great guardian, ‘Asa.’ The Afarghanyu, or Fire Centre, was used for prayers and offerings to Ahura Mazda through Adar or Atar (‘Ahura Mazda’s Son’). As a result, Navroz commemorates the coming together of the seven elements, also known as the ‘Amesha Spenta,’ who serve as creation’s guardians.
Navroz is still the most important festival of thanksgiving and celebration of nature in Central Asia. It is the time of year for material and spiritual cleansing in the spirit of tradition. Navroz is a Zoroastrian tradition in India that stresses the importance of daily activities. As a result, women play a critical role in the continuation of Navroz activities. They initiate Toran Weaving, Chalk Making, and bringing around the Loban (frankincense) in the act of ritual purity, in addition to playing a vital role in disseminating the importance of Navroz to children and family members. The Loban/Frankincense is lit by a Zoroastrian woman.
The sprouting of Sabzeh (wheat) and Khane Tekani begins in early March, in preparation for Navroz (house cleaning). The former, involving washing carpets, painting the home, and sweeping the yard, derives from the Zoroastrians’ fascination with cleanliness as a means of keeping evil at bay. The ancestors are invited to return to their former homes to assist in the nourishment of the sabzeh, their primary source of sustenance, which had been exhausted during the long and cold winter days. Navroz has grown sprouted wheatgrass as a reminder of the beginning of a new existence.
Kharid-i-Nowruz, or Nowruz shopping, follows these two habits. All must be weighed and outfitted with shoes, topis or headgear, and the like for Kharid-i-Nowruz, which is a family affair. Sweets, confectionaries, candles, vegetables, and nuts, which will be used later as part of the festivities, are also purchased at this time. In addition, the women of the house bake sweetbreads and knit special garments for the family’s children. Finally, a trip to the bank is required to procure new coins and crisp banknotes for gifting (sagan) and for the sofreh (Nowruz display cloth.)
The Pomegranate on the Navroz Table, which is embedded with a Silver Coin, is regarded as a holy sign of fertility and immortality. With the Zoroastrian community’s diaspora and population loss over the years, activities like the Navroz celebrations have become rare opportunities for community solidarity. It’s fascinating to see how the Navroz celebration prioritizes passing on the Zoroastrian spirit and rituals to the next generation. This is achieved by participating in events or contests that can be passed over into memory and daily life.
Navroz must have a morning ‘Jashan’ of thanksgiving – a central religious ceremony that unites all creations through the recitation of the Yasna Text. Special customs are distinguished by the number 7 in honour of the Navroz feast. Special food objects are cooked in homes to represent the 7 Amesha Spenta, Zoroastrianism’s special angels, and placed on the Navroz table.
A prototype of the Sofreh-e-Haft Seen, also known as the Navroz Table, can be found in Iranian homes. A candle, a mirror, and the Holy Book – ‘Avesta’ put on the Navroz table represent fire. The goldfish in the tank represents abundance. The Navroz table is not complete without the decorated egg. It’s lying on a rice bed. Both are fertile videos. In comparative cultural studies, Navroz holds a unique position. Special cultural variations can currently be found in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran’s Islamic Republic, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.
Ses is a typical silver tray with a circle shape that represents family harmony. It contains things that represent a long and happy life. For Navroz, it is adorned with a flower garland or har. A mirror stands next to it, which is used on Navroz to look in the mirror and make a new year’s wish. The thread and needle reflect mending broken ties and sewing together new year’s dreams.
The ‘Ses,’ or standard silver tray. On Navroz day, the Mirror of Reflection symbolizes leaving the past behind and looking forward to a bright future. Zoroastrians were never the only ones who celebrated Navroz. Non-Zoroastrians were also invited to the celebrations and came to see the table that had been painted. Four girls with a tiny jar filled with vermilion to add tile to the forehead, a rosewater sprinkler, a mirror, and a basket full of sweets will then lead each student into the room, chanting “Avo Ji” (please come in). ‘This will carry on for the rest of the day.’
After Zurvan, there’s Spenta Armaiti, or *Soil* on the table, which reflects Earth’s Fertility, which is a strong force. Then there’s Haurvatat/Khordad, a feminine influence that symbolizes well-being and is expressed by *water*, while Zoroastrians tend to view *wine*. Immortality is symbolized by *plants* in Ameretat/Amardad. Our mission on this planet is to do good…and to live forever as good memories…that is immortality.
Khashatra Vairyu/Shahrevar signifies control over one’s own mind rather than superiority over others. It promotes self-control as a virtue. It is expressed by *metal* on the navroz table. The concept of self-control and self-realization ( Khoddavund) differs radically from that of the Abrahamic Faiths, which believe that nothing can come from the self and that everything should come from the Above. Magis wearing a red cap symbolized Dominion over his Self and Self-reliance rather than naive conviction in ancient times. A *Gold coin* is a preferred metal on the table reflecting Khashatra Vairyu/Shahrevar. And it’s *yellow* in colour. Spenta Mainyu/Sepantaman, which means progressive mind in humans, is represented on the navroz table by a knowledge-giving book. As a result, *Avesta* is shown. Animals and their souls reflect Vohu Manah/Bahman, a positive mind and love. Animals are believed to have “healthy brains,” and a mother pig caring for orphaned dog pups reveals that kindness and love are not confined to human culture. We can’t get a live animal on the table…but Bahman’s compassion on the Navrooze table is represented by *flowers*.
The last of the seven ameshapands on navroz table is Asha Vahishta/Hormazd/Ormozd. He is fire/light. Upholds justice against injustice. Represents our wisdom and judgement we make while choosing between good and bad. On the Novrooze table, he is symbolised by a *candlelight* or *oil lamp*. Colour- white. So Norooze Table and it’s seven articles are representative of seven shades/attributes of Ahura Mazda and Zurvan. Also called Ameshaspentas.
Another ritual involved sprinkling water into earthenware bowls and leaving them in the sun to raise wheat. The green stalks were strategically cut to make them of even height and the bowls were put all over the house when the wheat was around seven inches above the rim of the bowl before New Year’s Eve. Bowls with green wheat stalks were a sign of life and prosperity. The bowls were taken the next day after Navroz and placed in a stream or river as a symbol of respect for and greenery in areas where water was scarce. It is not important in India, where there is plenty of greenery. Other acceptable rituals have now been replaced.
Generally, these are the things kept on the table:
- Somaq (sumac berries)
- Sonbol (hyacinths)
- Senjed (dried oleaster fruit)
- Serkeh (vinegar)
- Sir (garlic)
- Sekkeh (coins)
- Sib (apples)
This is the usual way of setting the table for the Baha’i New Year celebrations.
Visitors are served falooda, and a thali containing rose petals, vermillion, rice grains, a sprinkler of rose water, and coconuts is ready to be served. Families then go to the Fire Temples, where the priest leads thanksgiving prayers or Jashan. At the Fire Temples, it is customary for men to wear velvet caps and women to wear sarees to cover their heads. Following the prayers, everybody embraces and exchanges Sal Mubaraks (New Year greetings). As is customary at the Festival, the children have a great time.
These festivals have a common theme of welcoming spring, celebrating nature, and rebirth.
The Monajat, ‘Khudaviind-e-Khavind,’ is recited at the end of the day to pray for blessings and to remind oneself of Zoroastrianism’s tenets of Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds.
Wishing all a very Happy Navroz (Navroz Mubarak) and a warm welcome to the spring season.