A New Year arrives and Navroze opens its arms to embrace humanity, rekindling new hopes, new visions and the renewal and growth of a new life for Nature, says Shernaz Baji Avari
The joyous occasion of Jamshedi Navroze always falls on the 21st of March every year and is celebrated all over the world by the Parsis and the Iranis and by most Middle East countries. It’s tradition has emerged right from the heart of Iran’s ancestral history and is a gift for the entire humanity. A couple of years back, the United Nations General Assembly declared this day as a heritage of humanity, the day of peace amongst Nations and therefore it is more widespread throughout the Globe now. In Iran the entire Nation grinds to a halt 10 days prior to the festival. Even the Hindus celebrate Vasant Panchmi or Holi during this season.
Jamshedi Navroze heralds the onset of Spring, the day of Spring Equinox, when day and night stands equal in length, space and time as the Sun shines directly over the Equator, entering the Zodiac Sign of ‘Aries’. It’s the time when Nature sheds all that is redundant and superfluous to enter into a new festive garb.
Nature’s plentitude and richness are far beyond our wildest imagination! It’s the time for physical birth of new trees, leaves, grass, flowers and fruits, for animals to breed. It’s the time when Mother Nature casts off the old and dresses herself in vibrant colours rejoicing in her own spiritual beauty, year after year. Nature has a new birth in Spring, in Navroze, when various forms of life emerge.
As we embrace the Spring season, spring also signifies spring cleaning of the cobwebs within our minds, spring cleaning the redundant past, spring cleaning our homes a little prior to the festival, rejoicing with a spring in our step as we march forward erasing those errors on the way, focusing our attention to the divine effulgence springing from our hearts, breathing the spring air and feasting our eyes on the flora and the fauna which metamorphise so beautifully this season.
Spring is the time when Nature blooms into a festive garb, a fusion orchestrated to Natural perfection. It’s also the time for grooming our body, life and soul with philanthropic values and ideals. It’s an opportunity and the right time for renewal to better ourselves and our surroundings, to revive, re-grow and re-start so that we can live with hope, joy and success.
Jamshedi Navroze is a happy occasion to meet, greet, wish, eat and more importantly to pray at the Holy Fire Temple – our Agiaries and Atashbehrams with offerings of sandalwood, lighting oil diyas and garlanding Prophet Zarathushtra’s frame. When we pray devotedly at the Fire Temple especially with thanks giving prayers, we find spiritual solace and mental equanimity to start afresh as NAV (new) Roze (day) signifies a new day, a new awakening with new hopes and visions, a resurgence of life with the symbolic victory of the forces of light over darkness. It’s the day of spiritual rejuvenation to start anew with Dadar Ahura Mazda’s blessings who taught us righteousness in thought, word and deed. ‘Humata Hukhta Huvarshtha’ i.e. righteous living to pave the way for a better and better life. It’s a religion deeply rooted in values and traditions which have stood the test of time. Our Prophet Zarathushtra, whose photo adorns every home and is ensconsed in every heart, taught us that the world created by Dadar Ahura Mazda has the forces of good and evil running simultaneously and that we should constantly strive to negate the evil forces of destruction so that good triumphs within each one of us. We alone are responsible for the choices we make. It is also enjoined in our religion that we should enjoy Nature’s bountiful gifts in moderation, not defiling her atmosphere, biosphere or lithosphere as our personal well being is connected with the well being of the Earth. We should act as Trustees, tenants and guardians of the seven creations of Nature. Parsi rituals and festivities never ever degrade or pollute the environment, only purify it.
The festival of Jamshedi Navroze is synonymous with King Jamshed of the Peshadadian Dynasty of Iran who was anointed King on this day. ‘Jam’ means pure and ‘sheed’ is pure light, the light of intelligence. He was the ancient law giver surrounded by divine light and wisdom ruling justly and wisely. He ascended the throne with great aplomb laying the foundation of Zoroastrian Mazdayasni religion, the oldest, richest and the most glorious. His reign was known as the Golden Period in the history of Iran as many new reforms were introduced during that period. Jamshed pioneered the manufacture of iron weapons, the art of weaving and spinning, the science of wine making, preparing remedies for various illness, navigation, the development of art and craft. He divided the society into four classes according to their calling. He is also credited with introducing the ‘Sudreh’ and the ‘Kashti’, our spiritual undergarments and the symbol of our religion. It is said that death, disease and evil were virtually conspicuous by it absence. There was prosperity, abundance, beauty and bounty, complete orderliness accompanied by joy and happiness. It is believed that he ruled justly and wisely for 600 to 1,000 years! Whoever heard of corruption during those days! I wonder if such glory will ever return again.
Now let’s appease our tastes and appetites with the Navroze Table laid out by most Iranis on Jamshedi Navroze as it is their New Year. It’s a yearly ritual that makes a riveting sight. Seven items compliment each other starting with the letter ‘S’ or ‘SH’ in Persian dialect. Why seven? To rever the 7 Ameshaspentas or Archangels and also the 7 holy creations of Pak Dadar Ahura Mazda.
The seven ‘s’ represents ‘sirka’ (vinegar), ‘sumac’ (spice), ‘samanu’ (halwa), ‘sib’ (apple), ‘sir’ (garlic), ‘senjed’ (a dry fruit) and sabzi (herbs, sprouts and vegetables). The 7 ‘sh’ represents ‘sharab’ (wine), ‘shakker’ (sugar), ‘shir’ (milk), ‘shrini’ (sweetmeat), ‘shirbenj’ (sweet), ‘shira’ (syrup) and shahad (honey).
However with changing times all these items are not necessarily placed on the Navroze Table, though most of them are but there could be many variations in each household.
A couple of hours before the onset of Navroze and at the start of the Equinox, the lady of the house lights the ‘shem’ or diya and places it on the ‘sofreh’ which is a well preserved antique table cloth that comes out of the closet once every year to adorn the table. Milk or ‘shir’ is always centre stage at most rituals and therefore Falooda is offered as a welcome drink. A ‘boi’, a milk based mawa sweet in the shape of a fish (as fish is always considered auspicious) along with many other sweetmeats add to the milky delights. There is a glass of wine to keep you in high spirits throughout the year; well there’s also ‘sirka’ or vinegar to remind you that life’s a bit sour too, isn’t it? ‘Sib’ or red apples, Nature’s most wholesome fruit is there for you to bite along with other fresh delicious fruits. Green sprouts of wheat are kept for prosperity along with ‘sir’ garlic, (nature’s anti-biotic) and other colourful vegetables. A variety of dry fruits and ‘senjed’ (commonly available in Iran) along with badam, pista, akhroot, kismis, hazelnut and anjeer are kept for the guests to munch. ‘Shirbenj’, a traditional Iranian sweet dish (more like our Indian rice kheer) is prepared with rice and milk and topped with saffron.
Also placed on the table is our good old ‘sev’, a light brown vermicelli delight containing dry fruits and sprinkled with charoli. Infact in most Parsi/Irani households, sev along with curd or ravo is always prepared on auspicious days. Hard boiled eggs along with their shells coloured with red ‘kumkum’ are placed as a sign of productivity and grains are placed for abundance and prosperity. A pot of honey to sweeten up your life ‘naturally’ along with a plate of ‘noon’ popularly known as ‘naan’! It can be eaten with honey or cottage cheese. Placed on the table is also a small glittering glass bowl with a silver or gold coin to generate wealth throughout the year and placed on top of it is pomegranate surrounded with 5 or 7 roses. There is also a vase adorned with lovely fresh flowers, a silver ‘ses’ carrying ‘gulab jal’ to be sprinkled on the guests as they arrive, an oil diya, Prophet’s photo and a book of Avesta prayers. A mirror is placed in such a way to reflect Prophet Zarathushtra’s photo as well as the pomegranate. Believe it or not but at the exact time of the vernal equinox, the pomegranate moves and the mirror catches its movement! It is also believed that if you look into the mirror which has already reflected Navroze, you will have good vibrations throughout the year!
May Ahura Mazda grant our endearing community with a fair amount of equanimity in our approach to life and may we be blessed with good health, joy, love, happiness, peace and prosperity but certainly no controversies please! May our ‘Parsi-panu’ which other communities find so unique, admirable and adorable, continue in all its flavour and fervour and we may add a few more numbers to our dwindling community. Inspite of us being miniscule in numbers, we have made a significant mark and rich contribution in every field of life be it art, literature, culture, science, economy, law, medicine, industry, trade and philanthrophy enriching India’s development with courage, integrity and commitment. As Sonia Gandhi has rightly commented “Parsi community and the Zoroastrian faith is a shining jewel in the mosaic that is Indian culture. All Indians are proud of the Parsi Zoroastrian community, of the values that they epitomize and the rich contribution to every aspect of National life. “Let’s say Jai Hind to that. Jamshedi Navroze Mubarak.