Nauroz Then and Now


The Safavid KingTahmasp, with Mughal Emperor Humayun celebrating Nauroz
Nauroz : 21st March 2015
Tahweel : 4.15 am
Nauroz – Spring is here
Or 3714 British Library

Nauroz is an ancient Zoroastrian festival and believed to have been invented by Zoraster himself. Its earliest reference appeared in ancient Persian records dating to 2nd century AD but it was an important festival under the Achaemenids, the first Persian empire ( 550-350 BC).

Nau meaning new and roz means day and it is the Parsi/ Persian new year which fell on the first day of the Spring Equinox, usually 21st March.

It falls in the Persian month of Favardin.

Under the Mughals this festival was celebrated for 19 days with the first and last day being considered auspicious.

60373-003-638870ADJahangir celebrating nauroz in his court: 17th century

In India coming as it did so close to Holi it was linked to the cutting of the harvest and was a festival of happiness. Green shoots, milk and 7 coloured fruits would be kept on the table for celebrating it.

Parsi women would decorate the entrance of their houses with sandal and roli and visit the fire Temple.

aYfZxliDMzNhmuafdMSgLzz-Bb1O69ivam 3Kk923UOk9XzQDEr4DKOZCbaAvmBisLLSNyqVz016HyNlVuQhPq9R1HcuBlUh8Ahs7js0u9PYAz2RjfEad__qzV1tx80g=w283-h519-ncSala e Nau mubarak: Asmolean Museum

Those of Persian would dress up in new clothes and celebrate the festival. There would be feasts which would definitely include a few dishes of fish( a sign of prosperity in Persian tradition), yogurt, siwaiyan (vermicelli) and semolina. People would greet each other with the words ‘ Hama roz’.

The palaces of the Emperor and havelis of the nobility would be decorated and Nauroz would be celebrated with great pomp and show.

On this day the Emperor would receive expensive gifts and also give gifts in return. He would be weighed in gold and gems and that would be distributed amongst the poor.

Titles were also given on Nauroz.

Under Akbar, Nauroz was said to be an Alam e Afrozdan, which was celebrated by all. Following the customs of the ancient Parsis banquets were held and there was great festivity in the court, harem and the empire.

The Hindu subjects also joined in with great enthusiasm as importance was given to fire on this day.

Maheshwar Dayal writing about festivities in Red Fort, says that near the Diwan e Khaas there were 20 palaces and these would be given to individual nobles who were responsible for decorating it and establishing musical soirees in it.

Famous dancers and singers would assemble to present their art and it seemed as if it was the court of Raja Indra.

A day before at an auspicious moment a married woman would grind Dal ( pulse) and soak it in Ganga jal ( water of Ganges which is considered holy) and prepared into a tasty dish for nauroz.

The Emperor would bathe and wear bejeweled clothes, his family jewels and some Hindu style jewelry. He would wear a Rajput turban, when the auspicious moment of the festival came Brahmans would apply a tilak on his forehead. And tie a jeweled kangan ( bracelet) on his hand. With fragrance in the air, the havan would be prepared. As soon as the Emperor set foot on the imperial throne, the drums would be beaten to announce it. The Naubat Khana or drum house would be resonating with drum rolls and nobles would be present with trays laden with priceless gems, gold and silver coins, dry fruits and fruits which would be ‘nyauchavar ( sadqa ) over the Emperor.

The court would be full of Iranis, Turanis, Rajas, maharajas and all the royal Princes.

The first kurnish ( salam done by bending double ) would be done by the Royal princes, then the nobles in order of seniority .

Famous poets would come and read qasidas (paens in praise of the king.

Today it is a secular festival celebrated by Parsis, Shias, and many ethnic communities with ties to Persia.

The moment when the sun crosses the equator and equalizes night and day is known as tahweel and in Shia tradition families gather together to observe rituals, which are connected to health and prosperity.
It is considered auspicious to catch a coin in your palm at the time of tahweel.

The religious ones are supposed to keep an open Quran Sharif in front of them and recite prescribed duas. The secular ones keep copies of Hfez and Rumi in front of them.

In Lucknow when I was growing up people would keep vessels outside to gather rainwater ( as per legend it always rains) and then after reciting of certain duas ( prayers ) on it, that water is kept for its curative powers of curing every disease. I have friends who still do it even today.

We wear new clothes and greet each other; in our family we give nazar over fruits of 7 different colors.

But Iranians[1] traditionally gather around a “Haft-Seen” (translated as Seven-S’s), which is the traditional table setting to bring in the New Year and the new beginnings of spring.He also gives a photograph of the traditional fare.

Nowruz-1It consists of seven items that in Farsi begin with the letter “S.”

  • Sabzeh (lentil sprouts that grow in a dish, symbolizing rebirth)
  • Samanu (sweet pudding made from wheat, symbolizing affluence)
  • Senjed (dried fruit of the oleaster tree, symbolizing love)
  • Seer (garlic, symbolizing medicine)
  • Seeb (apple, symbolizing health and beauty)
  • Somaq (sumac berries, symbolizing the color of the sunrise)
  • Serkeh (vinegar, symbolizing age and patience)

I have many Irani friends and they normally add a gold fish for luck to their acquarium on Nauroz.

Parsis keep the 7 S (in Persian):

  • sham (candle/light),
  • sherbat (sweet fruit juice),
  • sherab (wine),
  • shehed (honey),
  • sheer (milk),
  • shalgum (turnip) and
  • shireeni (sweets
  • Though more non traditional food is now served. Rustom’s a Parsi restaurant in Adhchini, Delhi is celebrating with a menu of
  • keema samosa
  • russian pattice
  • mutton pulao with masala dal
  • eeda chutney na pattice
  • khajoor chapati along with its regular a la carte items

2015-03-20 10.54.41

Châhârshanbe Suri (Persian: چهارشنبه ‌سوری Châhârshanbe Suri‎,(Wednesday Ligh) Kurdish: Cwarsheme Kulle, Azerbaijani: آخیر چارشنبه Axır Çərşənbə) is a fire jumping festival celebrated by Iranian peoples such as Persian people, Azerbaijani people and Kurdish people and some other people in the world.Also called the Festival of Fire, it is a prelude to Nowruz, which marks the arrival of spring and takes place on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz.( wikipedia)

Spring housecleaning was carried out and bon fires were set up on the rooftops to welcome the return of the departed souls. Small clay figurines in shape of humans and animals symbolizing all departed relatives and animals were also placed on the rooftops.Iranians today still carry out the spring-cleaning and set up bon fires for only one night on the last Tuesday of the year.

21 Dishes You Need To Learn To Cook Before Persian New Year


Comment List

  • harsh v maheshwary 20 / 03 / 2015 Reply

    #Wonderful presentation ,lovely to read and save for future reading. …Thanks

    • Rana Safvi 20 / 03 / 2015 Reply

      Thank you so much.

  • Pingback: Nauroz Then and Now | Parsis, Iranis, Zarathushtis - ALL Under One Roof

  • Navroz 21 / 03 / 2015 Reply

    Thanks for this beautiful presentation. I love it especially it adds to birthday!

  • Mahendra II H-C 21 / 03 / 2017 Reply

    Very Nice Article Sir ….but Mughal Empror were celebrating Hindu New Year which is also in mid-end of March always… as thier wives were often Rajput Princess .. thats why they wore also Rajput Saffa and Jewellery as well presentation of Brahman doing Havan and Urid Daal washed in Ganga Jal and whole ritual in your own words show that it was a Hindu celebration not Farsi.
    Agree Persian Navroz is also in these days as well European Pagan also got similar. But Mughal Empror were celebrating a Hindu new year for the Respect of thier own wives and their Tradition. Persian gotta nothing to do with Ganga or with Urid Dal .. neither a Hindu Brahamn chanting Mantra and atlast wearing the family Kangan along with Rajput cloths etc. Sir … Sorry to suggest please reconsider for a moment the whole Ritual again Sir .. then it will be clear again …. I am a Sisodia Rajput .. know about our rituals … which are exactly same as you have describe above Sir … I am not Persian … they will never agree for such rituals. Lets be honest to our Heritage atleast. Thanks.

    • ranasafvi 21 / 03 / 2017 Reply

      That’s the beauty of the syncretic culture they adopted Rajput customs along with their own. Nauroz is still celebrated as the new year

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