Facts About Parsi New Year You Probably Didn't Know
New Year is fast approaching. Are you all prepped up?
Wait, what?! It’s not for another five months.
Well, we’re talking about the Parsi New Year, which is often referred to as Navroz in India. It falls on the 17th of August every year.
We’re sure most of us must be unaware about it and that’s why we decided to shed some light on the beautifully celebrated festival this year. After all, Parsi community forms such an integral part of our country. People like Dadabhoy Naoroji, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, Cyrus Pallonji Mistry, the Wadias, the Godrej family, and Bejan Daruwalla have contributed so much in the development of our nation in various spheres, including commerce, trade, industry, and education. As per Census 2001, their literacy rate was 97.9% as compared to the national average of 64.8%.
Parsi New Year celebration is no less than any other festival celebrated in our country. It involves wearing new clothes, gorging into scrumptious dishes, exchanging gifts which adds an aura of festive vibes in the air.
So, who are Parsis?
Pari, also known as Parsee, is a member of a group of followers in India of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster. Zoroastrianism was founded in ancient Iran about 3,500 years ago. It was the official religion of Persia from 650 CE until the rise of Islam in the 7th century. When the Islamic armies invaded Persia, they migrated to India to avoid religious persecution by the Muslims.
Initially, they settled at Hormuz on the Persian Gulf and when they still didn’t find themselves safe there, they set sail for India. First, they settled at Sanjan town of Gujarat. But in 1790 when famine struck the state, a huge number of Parsis went and settled in Mumbai and in few towns around north India. Soon after when East India Company took control over India, the Parsi community started flourishing. They saw a considerable amount of success in heavy industries owing to their ability as merchants.
Today, although they are a smaller group, they form a well-defined community in our country. And that’s why, regardless of our religion, let’s gather together to celebrate this joy-filled Parsi New Year and also learn few interesting facts about the day. Wouldn’t you like that?
Fact #1 The word ‘Navroz’ literally means a new day
The Parsi New Year is termed as Navroz in India, which signifies the first day of the Persian year. However, it is known as ‘Nowruj’ or ‘Nooruj’ in the rest of the world, where now means ‘new’ and ruz means ‘day.’ There are records of it being celebrated in the 6th century BC.
It’s a day that promotes friendship amongst people and different communities. Indeed!
Fact #2 On Navroz, they keep a burning fire surrounded by water and wheat
Parsis are worshipers of fire. Especially on Navroz, they keep a live fire surrounded by water and wheat. This symbolises cleansing by fire and ushering of wealth in forms of wheat grains.
On this auspicious day, they also visit the fire temple which is also known as agiary. The agiary is basically the sacred fire temple which was brought from Iran. It is always kept burning in the temple by the high priest.
Fact #3 They decorate their table with seven items that begin with the Persian letter sin or ‘S’
In Parsi culture, number 7 holds a great significance. It symbolises the seven elemental forces of earthly life. Therefore, a ‘Haft-Sin’ table is set up which includes seven symbolic elements, all starting with the ‘S’ sound. It consists of the following items –
- Sabzeh (sprouts) that represents rebirth
- Seer (garlic) that represents medicine
- Seeb (apple) that represents health and beauty
- Senjed (dried fruit) that symbolises love
- Sumac (berries) that represents prosperity and colour of sunrise
- Serkeh (vinegar) that represents age and patience
- Samanu (sweet pudding) that represents fertility
Other symbolic items include the Gathas, sacred texts of the Zoroastrian faith, lamps or candles, a small bowl with a silver coin, painted eggs, sweets, rosewater, flowers, and a goldfish in a bowl. It all represents prosperity, wealth, productivity, and happiness.
Interestingly, in Azerbaijan, the decoration of the festive table is called ‘Khoncha’ and in Afghanistan, Parsis make ‘haft mewa’ – using seven dry fruits items for the New Year’s Day.
Fact #4 On this auspicious day, the great King Jamshedji was crowned as the King of Persia
According to the legends, King Jamshedji was the one who introduced the Persian calendar. He made a code through which community started picking up the exact day to celebrate the Persian New Year. The day the sun leaves the constellation of Pisces and enters Aries, is interpreted as Navroz.
Fact #5 On the day of Navroz, day and night are approximate of equal duration
That’s true! The festival is celebrated on the dawn of the vernal equinox. At the time of the equinox, the sun is observed to be directly over the celestial equator, and the north and south poles of the Earth lie along the solar terminator. Sunlight is evenly divided between the northern and southern hemispheres.
Originally, the Persian New Year using the Fasli/Bastnai calendar, vernal equinox falls mostly on March 21st every year. However, in India, Parsis follow the Shahenshahi calendar which does not account for leap years. Parsi New Year is drifted away by approximately 150-200 days after its original day of the vernal equinox. Hence, the New Year is celebrated mostly on August 17th.
Fact #6 It is a regional holiday in states like Gujarat and Maharashtra
How you wish that you belonged to Gujarat or Maharashtra now. We know!
After the invasion of Islamic armies in the 7th Century, Zoroastrians fled Persia and mainly migrated to India. They settled down in the states like Gujarat and Bombay. Those states house a significant population of Parsis today and thus, Jamshedi Navroz is declared as a regional national holiday there.
Fact #7 No celebration is complete without exchanging gifts, blessings, and sweets
In India, the Parsi community celebrates Navroz with full enthusiasm. For the Zoroastrian community, Parsi New Year stands for the annual renewal of everything in the universe. Like any other festivals in India, it also begins with cleaning the house. Homes are decorated with flowers – in particular, the hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous – and other decorative items such as lamps. Kids and adults both buy new clothes to wear on this day.
The day usually begins by making a visit to the fire temple to gather the blessing of the Agni. They offer a prayer which is their custom. It is then followed by visiting friends and family, and they all have meals together. Rich, delicious delicacies are prepared for the day of Navroz. Some of which include pulav and sali boti, moong dal, patri ni macchi, dhansak, and farcha. They even go out for popular Gujarati plays across the theatre. In fact, many people also make charitable donations on the auspicious day.
It all sounds so amazing, doesn’t it? Are you ready to be a part of their celebration?
Tell us how you plan to make it special this year by sharing in the comment section below!
And hey, Happy Parsi New Year from the SaleBhai team!
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