Saturday October 20, 2018

Parsis celebrate Navroz, the New Year: A Resonance of History, Culture and Tradition

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Navroz or Norooz, which translates to “New Day”, is the Persian New Year. The holiday, which dates back 3,000 years, is rooted in Zoroastrianism – an ancient Iranian religion that influenced later religions including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Navroz is considered one of the largest celebrations of the year associated with the Parsis.

President Pranab Mukherjee has extended his greetings on the eve of Parsi New Year and said that Navroz represents new beginnings. “Greetings and good wishes to all my Parsi brothers and sisters on the joyous occasion of Navroz,” he said in his message.

History of Navroz

Navroz is partly rooted in the religious tradition of Zoroastrianism or even in older tradition of Mitraism, the Mystery Religion practiced in Roman Empire from 1st to 4th centuries AD. Novroz is believed to have been invented by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism, himself, although there is no clear date of origin. Since the Achaemenid empire (550-330 BC), founded by Cyrus the Great, the official year has begun with the New Day when the Sun leaves the zodiac of Pisces and enters the zodiacal sign of Aries, signifying the Spring Equinox, when the day and night are of equal length for the first time in Spring.

parsi-new-year-2

The Celebration

Before Navroz begins, on the last Wednesday before the New Year, Chahar Shanbe Suri is celebrated to cast away the misfortunes of the past year. Participants jump over bonfires with songs and gestures. A popular one, “Zardie man az to, sorkhie to az man,” translates to, “May my sickly pallor be yours and your red glow be mine.”

The phrase symbolizes trading in the color yellow, which represents sickness, to red, which is a sign of health.

A major part of the New Year celebration involves setting the “Haft Seen”, also known as the seven S’s. The traditional table setting includes seven items that all begin with the letter “seen” in the Persian alphabet. These seven things usually are – Seeb (apple), Sabzeh (green grass), Serkeh (vinegar), Samanoo (a meal made out of wheat), Senjed (a special kind of berry), Sekke (coin), and Seer (garlic).

White_house_haft_seen

At the exact moment of the New Year, known as Tahvil, families hug and kiss each other, wishing one another a happy new year. Cash, coins and gold are given as gifts – usually by the adults to the children.

On the 13th day of the Parsi New year, i.e the 13th day from the equinox, known as Sizdah Bedar, it’s typical for families to spend the day outside. Iranians are known to go to parks for a picnic, since it is believed that remaining outdoors will help one avoid misfortune. Another tradition involves throwing green sprouts into rivers and lakes to symbolize the rebirth of plants and the end of the New Year festivities.

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Parsi Community in India and What makes them Distinct from Others

10 Interesting facts about the Parsi Community in India

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A Parsi Community wedding ritual
A Parsi Community wedding ritual. Wikimedia
  • Parsi’s came from Faras, Persia, more than a thousand years ago
  • The reason of decreasing population is due to migration, declining fertility rate and late marriage
  • The religion Zoroastrianism was founded 3,500 years ago in ancient Iran by Prophet Zoroaster

New Delhi, August 19, 2017: The Parsi’s are an immigrant community, they are of Zoroastrian faith. Parsi Community came from Faras, Persia, more than a thousand years ago and are now located in Mumbai, India. They are mostly settled in old Mumbai but in recent times, they have settled in major cities and towns in India. Some of them are also found in countries like United States, Canada, England, and Pakistan.

In 1901 the Parsi population in India was around 93,952; in 1976 it was around 82,000   and in 2014 it fell down to 60,000. Since then the population has been decreasing. The reason of decreasing population is due to migration, declining fertility rate and late marriage.

ALSO READ: The decreasing number of Parsis in India and their concerns

Some of the holy Parsi festivals are Nowroz (New Year’s Day), Frawardigan (commemorating the dead souls), Pateti (the day of confession and repentance). Some of the famous Parsi people in India are Scientist Homi Jehangir Bhabha, Businessman JRD Tata, India’s first Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, Former Chairman Tata Sons Ratan Naval Tata, Bollywood Actor Boman Irani, among others. Parsi community makes up a very crucial community of India despite their presence in small numbers.  Here are 10 interesting facts about them:

  • The native language of Parsi’s is Avestan but they also speak Gujarati or English. The religion Zoroastrianism was founded 3,500 years ago in ancient Iran by Prophet Zoroaster. There is a collection of religious texts of Zoroastrianism known as the Avesta. Some of their religious literature is in Pahlavi (it’s an Aramaic-based writing system used in Persia from the 2nd Century BC to the advent of Islam in 7th Century AD).
  • Birth of a Parsi child is followed by a ritual bath, a cleansing prayer, sacred items are given to him/her. The main priest conducts prayers and formally invites him/her in the community and religion.
  • Parsi’s don’t usually bury or cremate dead bodies; they leave the body so vultures can feast on it. They do this as they don’t believe in polluting air or land. It is done at a place called Dakhmas or ‘Tower of silence’. They began using electronic crematorium after there was a decline in the number of vultures after 1990.
  • The Parsi’s had to face a struggle period of 200 years when they rebelled against the Arab invaders in Iran (their home country earlier). It was called the period of silence. In order to retain their regional and cultural identity, they ran from Iran as the Arab conquered it and took refuge in Gujrat, India from 8th to 10th Century AD. Some of them later migrated to parts of Mumbai.
  • Qissa- i Sanjan is the account of the early years of Parsi settlement in India.

Also Read: Parsi community lauded for role in nation-building

  • The Parsi Community believes in the existence of one invisible God. Atash Behram (victorious fire) which is located in the fire temple is of prime importance to them. There are total 9 Atash Behram in the world, out of which 8 are located in the western India and one is located in central Iran. The Udvada Atash Behram is the oldest Zoroastrian temple and the continuously burning fire temple in the world.
  • Male-Female Ratio of Parsi Community is different than others; they have more females and lesser males. As per 2001 Census, 1050 females per 1000 males which are more than India’s average of 933 females.
  • To solve the problem of declining Parsi community in India, Jiyo Parsi Scheme was launched on 24 September 2013. It was a government supported the initiative.
  • Some say that by 2020 the Parsi population will decrease to 23,000 and this can take away from them the tag ‘community’ and can label them as tribals instead.
  • The Parsi Community has the highest literacy rate in India among any Indian communities which is 97.9% as per 2001 census.

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