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Delicious spread at the Navroz Table

Monday, March 18, 2013
By Dr. Shernaz Baji Avari

On this auspicious day of the Irani New Year, the Iranis lay out a delightful sumptuous spread on the table. Each item has its own special significance

The Iranis celebrate Navroz in a special way. A circular table or the dining table dons an exquisite new look. A special table cloth known as ‘sofreh’ is spread on the table which sets in the festive spirit. The whole decorated table known as ‘Haftashin’ is a feast for the eyes and delight to the senses and the soul. Afterall, Navroz ushers in the message of gratitude, joy, hope renewal, spiritual rejuvenation and renewed resolutions, new life in the natural cycles, growth, prosperity, inner awakening and of course the triumph of the good over evil for all humanity. A day of universal dawn: a dawn of a new awakening.

The joyous advent of spring and its traditions, customs and rituals are not only observed by the Parsi-Irani community in India and the Muslim community in Iran but is quite widespread throughout the globe, observed by several Nations of the world. The United Nations General Assembly has declared March 21 as the International Day of Navroz. This Vernal/Spring Equinox is celebrated by more than 300 million people world wide as the beginning of the New Year. In our own land, the Hindus celebrate it as Holi or Vasant Panchami, the South Indians as Pongal and the North Indians as Baisakhi. The Japanese herald spring with Chrysanthemum Festival. Greek Historians have also thrown light on the Navroz celebrations conducted by Persian Kings Darius and Xerxes. Each year, these Kings visited the ceremonial capital of Takht-E-Jamshed i.e. the throne of Jamshed in Persepolis to take part in the festivities as it was on this day that Jamshed was anointed King of Iran. The day of his anointment to the throne, as we all know, is called Navroz.

The table in each home varies in its contents and the availability of items. All the 7 items start with the leter ‘s’ or ‘sh’ in the Persian dialect having its own special significance. The number 7 represents the 7 creations of Dadar Ahura Mazda as also signifies the ‘Seventh Heaven’ or the state of perfect happiness or heavenly bliss in Islamic belief.

On this special day, we don’t welcome our guests with Pepsi, Limca and a plate of wafers as is customary in most Parsi-Irani households. Today it is the delicious tall pink falooda glass with dollops of icecream to appease your thirst and make you refreshed and of course ‘Gulab Jal’ or rose water is sprinkled on the guests as a sign of warm welcome, greeting each other with Navroz Mubarak.

The seven items represent ‘sib’ or red apples, Nature’s most wholesome fruit, ‘sirka’ or vinegar if wine or ‘sharab’ is not available, ‘shir’ or milk with its pristine sanctity as milk is the first sip a new born sucks as it enters the world, a plate of ‘shakker’ or sugar to make your whole year as sweet as sugar, ‘shama’, a candle to light up your life but today a ‘shem’ or a diya is kept on the table besides Prophet Zarathushtra’s photo with a book of Avesta prayers, ‘sir’ or garlic, nature’s most trusted anti-biotic which keeps our blood pressure in check as most of us today lead a pressure-cooker lifestyles, ‘sikkeh’ or coins to usher in wealth and prosperity and also to remind us that wealth has to be shared with our less fortunate bretheren, ‘sonbol’ known as hyacinth, a plant grown from a bulb with heads of pink, white or blue flowers and if that is not available then a pomegranate surrounded with 5 or 7 roses or a Vase adorned with fresh scented roses – all reminding us to remain fresh and colourful and spread the scent of success and family happiness to all around us, ‘sabzi’ fresh green vegetables or shoots of wheat grass signifying robust evergreen health throughout the year, ‘sirbenj’ a traditional Irani sweet dish more like our rice-kheer or simply sev-dahi or ‘ravo’ as is the custom on all auspicious occasions. Some even keep a mawa ‘boi’, a milk based mawa sweet in the shape of a fish as fish is considered auspicious. At most ‘Lagan-Navjotes’ i.e. wedding and Navjote thread ceremonies, ‘patra ni machhi’ or ‘sahas ni machhi’ is the first course served on a banana leaf which sets in the mood for a multi-course ‘Lagan Nu Patru’. ‘Senjed’, a variety of dry fruits for vigour and vitality are yours to munch at. Special Persian sweets are made only for Navroz like Lous Pista’, ‘Lous Badam’ and ‘Lous Zafran’ from special dry fruits some imported from Iran. Some keep hard boiled eggs along with their shells, a sign of productivity or is it to crack their hard boiled egos? Red ‘kumkum’ is applied on the shells as applying ‘kumkum’ on the forehead is a tradition in most Indian households on special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and various ceremonies and ofcourse red is a warm dynamic colour so that you remain active and dynamic throughout the year. Grains are also kept in a plate to usher in the spirit of harvest and abundance. ‘Sheesha’ or a mirror is placed in such a way to reflect Prophet Zarathushtra’s photo as well as the pomegranate. Some even keep a bowl of gold fish.

I think the table now looks very inviting and exquisite to usher in Navroz. You may believe this if you wish to but it is said that at the exact time of Vernal Equinox, the pomegranate moves and the mirror catches its movements!

It is also believed that if you look into the mirror which has already reflected Navroz and make a wish, you will have good vibrations and reflections throughout the year. Amin!

Welcome Navroz.

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