Nowruz during the time/ How Persian new year celebration has been changed during the history

3/27/2018 10:22:00 AM

Tehran (KNA): We have had an exclusive interview with some western historians and professors of religious studies (Zoroastrianism) about the non-Persian roots of Nowruz and its influence on other civilization’s feasts.

Nowruz is the traditional Iranian festival of spring which starts at the exact moment of the vernal equinox, commencing the start of the spring. It is considered as the start of the New Year among Iranians. The name comes from Avestan meaning "new day/daylight". Nowruz is celebrated March 20/21 each year, at the time the sun enters Aries and Spring begins.There are many questions about Nowruz. One of the most important and Controversial questions about this ancient feast is that how much this ceremony has been changed during these times from Achaemenid and Sasanian empire to Islam age and until now?

Many thinkers believe that these questions cannot be answered briefly, and there are many different opinions. But if we examine this question more, we will find some good points. We asked this question from Professor Jenny Rose. Jenny Rose is an adjunct professor and historian of religions in the Zoroastrian Studies program in Claremont Graduate University’s Religion Department. She holds a doctorate in Ancient Iranian Studies from Columbia University.

Rose lectures extensively at other academic institutions, museums, and Zoroastrian Association events throughout North America and Europe. She also leads study tours of some of the most important archaeological, cultural, and devotional sites in Iran and Central Asia.Her ideas about this subject are collected in her famous article: “Festivals and the Calendar" in the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism, eds. M. Stausberg and Y Vevaina (2015)”.

Professor Rose, explains his ideas about the ancient Persian roots of Nowruz. He said:“Based on Šahname, Sasanian monarchs from Ardašir, I onward am said to celebrate both Nowruz and Sade, and Khosrow II’s wife Širin to have donated funds for the New Year’s celebration and “summer festivals”.

A parallel form appears in Sogdian, Chorasmian, and Armenian calendars as the name of the first month of the year, which was also a festival time.”

Professor Rose believes that at first, Persians celebrated Nowruz as two feasts.“These references denote the existence of at least two New Year celebrations with different names, which were held on different dates. The form nowsard appears to refer to the festival celebrated on the sixth day of Farvardın month, which is the day of Hauruuatat (Ruz‐e Khordad), now known as Khordad Sal. It was referred to as the “great” Nowruz and was preceded by the “Little” Nowruz on 1 Farvardın. Following the calendar changes of the late Sasanian period, until the recalibration in the 11th century CE , the religious Nowruz was celebrated in Iran on 1 Adar, while the civil New Year remained on 1 Farvardın, thus triplicating the festival .” Professor Rose said.

“It seems that during the time of the Sasanian king Hormizd I (r. c. 272–273) both New Year festivals in the month of Farvardın were connected together to form a six‐ day Celebration. This tradition of celebrating the festival over six days is recorded by al‐ Bırunı, but in the subsequent calendar reforms the extra day was dropped, so that Nowruz and five of the gahanbar s came to last only five days. The exception was Farvardıgan, which by the time the Middle Persian texts were compiled had been firmly established as a ten‐ day celebration.” She continued.

Professor Rose, then, focused on the influences of Islamic time and culture and said:“Arabic {Islamic} accounts of the festival of Nowruz refer to seven kinds of seed or seven grains that were considered to be auspicious at this time of year. The seven elements of the modern‐ day Iranian haft‐sın (‘seven s’s’) table at Nowruz may derive from these groupings of seven plant items. Traditionally, the seven items have been connected with the ameša spenta s, and the table itself considered to represent the world in miniature.”

“The Buyids, who rose to power in Fars province, supported the continued celebration of local festivals (Frye 1988: 210), and contemporary Islamic historians mentioned the persistence of the Persian festival calendar, including the six seasonal festivals, the New Year, and the midwinter festival of fire.” She adds.

“Al‐ Bırunı considered Nowruz, Mehragan, and Tırgan to be the most important of the numerous Zoroastrian celebrations that occurred in different places. In his Chronology of Ancient Nations, al‐ Bırunı noted that the main Persian festivals were connected to ancient Iranian legends.” Professor Rose finishes her words.

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