The Zoroastrians celebrate Jamshed Navroz on the 21st March as the first day of their calendar year. This Parsi New Year commences with the Vernal Equinox – when the length of the day equals that of the night. ‘Nav’ means new and ‘Roz’ means day and thus ‘Navroz’ means a new day.
Jamshed Navroz History:
The origin of the festival is not well established but according to popular legend the festival dates back to over 3000 years when the legendary king of Persia, Jamshedji ascended the throne on the day of ‘Navroz’. It is believed that he introduced solar calculation into the Persian calendar and also determined the date when the Sun enters the constellation of Aries. As a custom the king was weighed in gold and silver, and the money was distributed to the poor on this day.
This festival also finds mention in Shah Nameh, the Persian `Book of Kings’ written by Firdausi. According to the book, the festival was celebrated by the kings of Persia, Cyrus and Darius to rejoice in the spring and dates back to the 6th century B.C.
The first time celebration of the festival in India was started towards the end of eighteenth century when Seth Nasarvanji Kavasji Kohyaji first celebrated it in Surat. After a couple of decades Seth Merwanji Pandey started the celebrations in Mumbai which was further popularized by Khurshedji Rustamji Cama in the 20th century.
Jamshed Navroz Celebrations:
Parsis celebrate Jamshed Navroz in an elaborate manner. The celebration commences with cleaning of the house. Auspicious symbols like stars, butterflies, birds and fish are used for decoration.
The doors and windows are adorned with garlands of roses and jasmine, colourful rangolis add to the beauty. People wear new clothes along with Parsi caps on this occasion.
Ravo prepared with suji, milk and sugar and fried vermicelli cooked in sugar are special preparations for breakfast. After breakfast, people visit the Fire Temple or Agiary for a special thanksgiving prayer known as ‘Jashan’ where they offer sandalwood to the Holy Fire. After the ceremony is over, they greet each other by saying, ‘Sal Mubarak’.
Guests are welcomed in a special way by sprinkling rosewater and rice on them and applying tilak. There is a custom to keep a copy of the Gathas, a lit lamp, an afrigan, a bowl of water containing live fish, a shallow earthenware plate with sprouted wheat or beans for prosperity, flowers for colour, a silver coin for wealth, sweets and rosewater in bowls for happiness on a table. Apart from these, the table also has seven food items beginning with ‘sh’ and ‘s’. These are meant to symbolise creation.
Food is of great importance of this day and the menu is fixed. Pulav is an integral part, while plain rice and moong dal is a must. The traditional drink is falooda, prepared from milk flavoured with rose essence.
It is one of the three main festivals celebrated by the Parsi community. It symbolizes the spirit of friendship, happiness and harmony and brings people closer.
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