Celebrating The Kadmi (Or Ancient) New Year!

Parsi Times wishes all our Kadmi readers a hearty Sal Mubarak! May the auspicious New Year bless our community with unity, peace, prosperity, happiness and unending smiles, all through the new orbit!


We may we small in numbers as a community, but we are always big on celebrations! So big are we on celebrations, that the hindi tagline, ‘Ek se mera kya hoga?’ comes to mind! We double up on Birthday celebrations and triple up on New Year celebrations!! There’s the regular English-calendar based Birthday and the ‘Roj nu Birthday’; and, when it comes to New Years, it’s a year-round bonanza! We start off with Jamshedi Navroz in March, the Kadmi New Year in July and the Shehenshahi New Year in August!

For those still a little blurry about the difference between the Shehenshahi and Kadmi New Years as also the sect, here’s a simple understanding…  The root of this division goes back in history to our calendar. The Zoroastrian calendar dates back to the coronation of the last Zoroastrian King (Yezdazard III) of Zoroastrian (Sassanian dynasty) Iran. Thus, when we say that currently the year is 1392 YZ, it means 1,392 years ago, our last monarch, Yezdazard Shariyar or Yezdazard III, ascended the throne of Iran.

The Zoroastrian calendar is fairly simple, yet meaningful – each month comprises thirty days and each of these days is dedicated to a divinity, which presides over a good creation of Ahura Mazda. The twelve months of the Zoroastrian calendar are also dedicated to different divinities that preside over a good creation. Thus, we have twelve months multiplied by thirty days, giving us a calendar of 360 days, to which are added the five days of the ‘Gathas’ at the end of the year, aggregating to 365 days. Since Zoroastrians traditionally do not add a leap year, the New Year slips by a day, every four years.

The Zoroastrian tradition, in ancient Iran was to add a whole month of thirty days, every 120 years, to keep the calendar in tune with Nature and the seasons. The Zoroastrians who stayed back in the province of Yazd, in Iran, discontinued this tradition after the fall of the Sassanian Empire and even the Parsis who came to India (from the province of Khorasan) intercalated a month only once after their arrival in India. This explains the difference of one month between the Kadmi (ancient) calendar followed by some Iranian Zoroastrians and some Parsis of Gujarat and the Shehanshai (Imperial) calendar, followed by the majority of Parsis in India.

Of course, the community also celebrates Jamshedi Navroz as ‘Nature’s New Year’ on or around 21st March since it also marks the spring equinox. The Fasli (Fasal = seasonal) calendar was introduced in India by the renowned scholar K R Cama around the beginning of the twentieth century with 21st March as the New Year and adding an extra day every four years called Ruz-i-Vahizak. Though it didn’t gain much popularity in India, the community in Iran and the USA has largely embraced it.

The Kadmi movement emerged in eighteenth century India mainly over disagreements among priests whether to adjust the one-month discrepancy between the calendars of the Indian Zoroastrian (Parsi) and the Iranian Zoroastrian (Irani) communities. The Kadmis considered the Irani calendar as ‘Kadim’ or old and therefore original, while most Parsis, who did not change their Imperial calendar (followed from the time of Yazdazard III) came to be known as Shehenshahis. The fact remained that both were going wrong!

The Shehenshahis and Kadimis are generally in agreement with Zoroastrian theology and doctrines, and there aren’t any social or religious restrictions between the two sects. However, there are a few minor differences in their rituals, apart from the different calendars and the subsequent discrepancies between their festivals.

In the Khordeh Avesta, Shehenshahis and Kadimis use different opening and closing phrases for most prayers. In the Ahem and Yatha prayers, the Shenshahis say ‘vohu’ and ‘ahu’ whereas the Kadmis say ‘vahi’ (or ‘Vohi’) and ‘ahi’. There are also minor differences in other rituals, such as the Afringan, Ijashne and the Boi at the change of the gah. Navjote, marriages and death ceremonies too, are conducted slightly differently.

Ancient, imperial or seasonal, it’s yet another excuse to feast and celebrate. Let’s not be embarrassed that we have three New Years.  Let’s celebrate the fact that we are thrice blessed! Sal Mubarak!!

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