Navroz: Celebration of New Day

Navroz: Celebration of New Day

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Fariha Mansoor

Celebrating the commencement of the New Year is an oldest and the most universally observed festivals among all nations and people used to share their love and delight to have a prosperous and pleasurable year. Navroz is the significant day for the people of Iran and other religious groups like, Ismailis, Bektashis, Alewits, Alevis and adherents of Bahai faith. The word Navroz has been derived from the Persian` Nav and Roz’, Nav means new and Roz means day, respectively. As a whole, Navroz means new day of the year. The tradition marks the first day of the spring or equinox and the beginning of the New Year in the Persian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical Northward Equinox which falls accurately on the 21st of March every year.

It is the most cherished of all the Iranian festivals and is celebrated by all. This occasion has been prominent in one form or another by all the major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. What we have today as Navroz with its uniquely Iranian characteristics has been celebrated for at least 3000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian belief system of the Sasanian period (3rd-7th century AD). This was the religion of Ancient Persia before the advent of Islam in the 7th century AD. The familiar concepts of Hell, Heaven, Resurrection, the coming of the Messiah, individual and last judgment were incorporated for the first time into this belief system. They still exist in Judo-Christian and Islamic traditions. In order to understand Navroz we have to know about Zoroastrians’ cosmology.

History of Navroz:

Until 2nd century AD, the word Navroz didn’t appear in any Persian writings or records.  It has often been suggested that the famous Persepolis Complex, or at least the palace of Apadana and Hundred Columns Hall, were built for the specific purpose of celebrating Navroz. However, no mention of the name of Navroz exists in any Achaemenid inscription. After the succession of Ardashir I Pabakan, the founder of the Sasanian Dynasty (224 AD), the consistent data for the celebration of Navroz were recorded. Throughout the Sasanian era (224-650 AD), Navroz was celebrated as the most prominent ritual during the year. Most royal traditions of Navroz such as yearly common audiences, cash gifts, and pardon of prisoners, were established during the Sasanian era and they persisted unchanged until the modern times.

There are records of the Four Great Caliphs chairing over Navroz celebrations, and during the Abbasid era, it was adopted as the main royal holiday. Following the demise of the Caliphate and re-emergence of Persian dynasties such as the Samanids and Buyids, Navroz was elevated into an even more important event. The Buyids revived the ancient traditions of Sasanian times and restored many smaller celebrations that had been eliminated by the Caliphate. Even the Turkish and Mongol invaders of Iran did not challenge to eradicate Navroz in favor of any other celebration. Thus, Navroz remained as the foremost celebration in the Persian lands by both the officials and the people.

The festival of Navroz is celebrated by many groups of people in the Black Sea basin, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Western Asia, central and southern Asia, and by Iranians worldwide. So more particularly it is celebrated as a public holiday in Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In Pakistan the Shia Ithna Ashri and Shia Ismaili communities living in different areas, most notably in Gilgit Baltistan and Chitral, celebrate this day as a new day of celebration and it has got religious perspective as well.

In Chitral, the Ismailis celebrate the fiesta of Navroz with great religious passion. In local language the day of Navroz is called “Pathak”. Preparations for the festival start many days sooner than the actual day. The homes are properly cleaned a week before and new cloths are made for wearing on the day of the festival. In the morning a person visits the home to greet family and friends and local dishes are served to the visitors. Previously all homes were decorated with flour using wooden made tool. The decorations include different images of animals. However, with the passage of the time this practice has been tended to reduction.

The festival of Navroz gives us the lessons of unity, tolerance, good will and peaceful coexistence. People visit each other homes and this in return promotes the spirit of unity and brotherhood among them. They understand about each other conditions and give helping hand to the needy.

The contributor is a student of Communication & Media Studies at Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi.

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