What is Navroz Festival?

On 21 March, Muslims belonging to a certain school of thought worldwide, observe Navroz (Nowruz), a festival celebrated in many Muslim communities and cultures, particularly those belonging to the Itnha-Shri tradition. It is also the Parsi New Year, Jamshed-e-Navroz -marked on the first day of the first month of the Shehenshai calendar followed by the Zoroastrian faith.

Named after the Persian ruler Jamshed, in whose reign the festival began, Jamshed-e-Navroz is symbolic of rejuvenation and revitalization.

For many communities, it marks the beginning of a new year and the first day of spring. More generally, it signifies a time of spiritual renewal and physical rejuvenation, as well as the spirit of gratitude for blessings and an outlook of hope and optimism towards the future.

The festival of Navroz commemorates a centuries-old, agrarian custom that over time was integrated into various cultures and faith traditions. Today, Navroz is celebrated in many parts of the Middle East and Central and South Asia, particularly among peoples influenced by Persian and Turkic civilizations.

In countries such as Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Kyrgyzstan, Navroz is observed as a public holiday.

In Central Asian traditions, dried fruits, nuts and grains are distributed, which symbolizes blessings of abundance and sustenance. Navroz is also a time of family gatherings and celebratory meals, thus strengthening family bonds and fraternal ties.

Festivities of Navroz begin with cleaning and decorating of homes. Jasmine and rose are flowers primarily used for decoration besides other symbolic objects of Navroz.

Parsees, on the other hand, visit the fire temple for thanksgiving prayers and offering sandalwood sticks to the fire. After the prayers, they greet each other ‘Sal Mubarak’ and exchange gifts.

It is a custom to lay down a table and place a copy of the Gathas, a lit lamp or candle, a shallow ceramic plate with sprouted wheat or beans, small bowl with a silver coin, flowers, painted eggs, sweets and rosewater, and a bowl of water containing goldfish in it. They all signify prosperity, wealth, colour, productivity, sweetness and happiness.

The UN’s General Assembly in 2010 recognized the International Day of Navroz, as the spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009 in Abu Dhabi, Navroz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Happy Navroz! May it revitalize a new beginning in our spiritual and temporal worlds. (Ameen)