It’s That Time Of The Year Again!

Veera is a published Author (‘Endured’ and ‘#LoveBitesLifeHacks’) and Columnist; a passionate Educator and Counsellor; Poet and Philosopher… but most of all, a lover of all things literary.

 Navroz is the Iranian New Year, celebrated by Parsis, perhaps more fervently that our Iranian brethren, much in the spirit of all celebrations that us Parsis are known for. So be it Eid and that biryani or Christmas with that succulent ham, you will have Parsis tucking in all the flavour and fervour of every festival, adopting it as though it was their own!

The literal meaning of the term Navroz is ‘New Day’; it marks the first day of the Persian calendar, the dawn of the New Year. The Navroz festival has a broad mention in history; retaining pride amongst us Zoroastrians as a day of observance, thankfulness and gratitude for all the blessings about to follow in the New Year. On this day, we pray that our plates are forever full, our palates constantly teased, our bellies generously overloaded while our waist and form always retain their form, year in and year out!

References to Navroz celebrations date back to the 6th century, historically. As glorious as its legends and history, Navroz is additionally a grand occasion that Parsis plan for and look forward to, every year. Modern day Parsi households have the reference dating back to their grandparent’s era, where theatre-goers saw Parsi plays to packed houses at multiple venues in the same evening! Greats lik, Dinoo Nicholson, Piloo Wadia, Villoo Kapadia and later, the adored stage couple – the Patels – Ruby and Burjor, were cast for uproarious capers, courtesy Adi Marzban – Parsi theatre’s legendary writer-director. The audience was delivered an evening of great comic proportion with his devilish humour and crazy wit, that invariably fuelled great conversations and laughs at that night’s dinner, and for many moons to follow. To say that the glitz and the glamour have faded over time, is an understatement.

Now last year saw, what we Parsis deem, an apocalypse of sorts, at least by our books. With the pandemic and the government restrictions on gatherings and celebrations, we live in times that have ousted even the Great Depression of 1929! Nothing in the history of Parsi tragedies can ever compare to the year we have faced. While our population is rather miniscule, our celebrations are huge. They always are. Since you are somehow distantly or distinctly related to, and acquainted with, every single Parsi ever born – in your apartment, your building, neighbourhood, community, city, country or the whole wide world – it seems we are all offsprings from that same damned family tree!

Though the pandemic has put the brakes on all our celebration and festivities, the bonhomie and spirit of gratitude will still prevail in every home. While we savour the fare and sip those faloodas, deck our homes and prepare the table, get our parents and the frail one vaccinated, we pray for a covid- free world, back to the days of crowds, chaos and carefree commotion… the kind us Parsis love and thrive on!

While there are two equinoxes in a typical year – namely the Spring / Vernal Equinox in March and the Autumn Equinox in September, it’s the former that marks the beginning of New Year. It heralds in bounty and abundance and so it was believed the reason why March 21st was celebrated. In fact, I’m sure Parsis need no excuse or reason to celebrate. I, for one, am rather surprised that, we haven’t yet found reasons enough, to mark and celebrate the Autumn Equinox as well!! Come to think of it, why have the solstices not been added to that list too? You give us a reason for celebration and all we ask is, “WHEN?”

The Persian tradition attaches a lot of importance to the King Jamshed, highly famed for his significant achievement of introducing the Persian Calendar. The legend follows that though there were no clocks to measure time, the King sought the help of the great astronomers and mathematicians of his day, who devised a calendar. King Jamshed, accordingly decided that Navroz or New Year would start on the Vernal Equinox, when night and day were of equal duration – and Navroz is celebrated hence. King Jamshed’s exploits, as the most charismatic Pishdadian ruler, are extolled in Zoroastrian scriptures including the Vendidad. He is credited with bringing to the world practical knowledge in the field of science, medicine, arts and agriculture. His reign began the tradition of Navroz. Zoroastrian sacred texts expound the importance of this day. Navroz also celebrates the coming together of the seven elements or the ‘Amesha Spenta’ – the guardians of creation – and the gratitude we owe them.

Now, whether you celebrate Navroz or New Year in March or August, whether your cultural inclinations are Iranian or Parsi – we are all followers of the Zoroastrian faith and as Zoroastrians, our story is much the same. Ours is a tale of religious persecution but the story of safeguarding our faith from Persia to the shores of India is one of continuity and endurance, thankfulness and joy.

According to Persian legend, King Jamshed possessed divine glory by none other than the supreme Zoroastrian deity – Ahura Mazda – who represented light and fire, truth, goodness and wisdom to fight Ahriman, his wicked twin brother – the god of darkness, anger and death, who caused drought, famine and destruction of all that was good and abundant on the earth. There’s plenty of narratives about the association of Navroz and King Jamshed. One such can be traced from the epic Shahnameh (Book of Kings) by the 11th century poet, Ferdowsi, which credits King Jamshed for establishing Navroz, after he saved all mankind from the harshest winter that was destined to freeze the world.

And as we celebrate Navroz this year in 2021, let it be said that it was a Zoroastrian that saved the world from a virulent pandemic as well. The roll-out of this tiny vaccine could soon force the dark hands of fears and disruption away. This year, let’s acknowledge all the good that surrounds us, the joy that abounds us. Let us be grateful for the abundance of good health, friends, family and relationships; and in that abundance, let us be ever joyful and thankful!

 Navroz Mubarak and Tandarosti!

Veera Shroff Sanjana
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