Thursday, July 01, 2004

Revitalization of Zoroastrian festivities:
Nowruz, Mehrgan and Sadah as masterpieces of human heritage

Nowruz as multinational spring festival:

- History of Nowruz. Nowruz literally means New Day is the celebration of New Year in Zoroastrian calendar. It is in precise accordance with Spring Equinox. It represents refreshment and renovation of life. Environmentally it is connected with growth of plants and revival of nature after long sleep in winter. Zoroastrian mythologies date the beginning o Nowruz to the time of King Yima Khshaeta (Shah Jamshid) the Indo-European patriarch. It's mentioned that when King Yima was travelling in a golden chariot towards Azarbadgan (Azarbaijan) there was spring equinox and renovation of life in the Earth. Then people became glad and made merry. Since that time people celebrated Nowruz every year in the beginning of spring.
- Cultural Importance of Nowruz. Nowruz is of great cultural importance. Historically it was a mark of identity for the most people of Middle East, Central and South Asia and even beyond that. Today Nowruz I celebrated in Iran, Turkey, Central Asian countries, Kashmir and Pakistan, Afghanistan. Some times, historically and even nowadays, there was / is a danger of extinction of this beautiful celebration. It's recorded that one of Sheykh-ul-Islams (the Leader of Muslims) of Medieval centuries, famous Sufi poet Imam Ghazzali had ordered that Nowruz should be banned and traditional practice of playing with swords and other toys among children in the day of Nowruz should be stopped. It seems with more recent influence of extremist branches of Islam and Islamic revolution of Iran celebration of Nowruz has been stopped in some Muslims regions, like some parts of Pakistan and Kashmir. But it is still celebrated among Kashmiri pundits. With coming of Taliban to power it was banned in Afghanistan, but the recent moderate government of Afghanistan seems to be proud of celebrating Nowruz. Despite many efforts to ban and extinguish Nowruz in some places it's still celebrated as the most culturally important festival among the people. Nowruz marks the starting of spring and so the starting of a new life and brings joy and peace to the people. It crosses the boundaries of many countries and brings cultures and communities together. It was always practiced by the people of various creeds and races, different religions and beliefs, different ethnic groups and connected three great regions of Middle East, Central and South Asia and brought diverse cultures together.
- Environmental importance of Nowruz. The environmental significance of Nowruz lies in its being a spring festival. Tied with other traditions of Nowruz celebration, environmentally beneficial traditions and customs also developed hand by hand. In Tajikistan in the day of Nowruz people start planting trees and grow vegetables and flowers. Agrarians start working with their lands and throughout the year they continue to care about Earth. In this day waters are brought to thirsty lands. There is a custom of playing with water during Nowruz among some village communities in Tajikistan with the hope that this year becomes watery year and not drought one. In this custom, people throw water to each other and make merry just similar to "Chaharshanbe suri" when people jump over fire. Generally Nowruz is as sacred and holy for the people as their places of worship. They keep their homes very clean and put on new dresses in the day of Nowruz, cook the most tasteful meals and share collectively. Nowruz is a very collective celebration and people during Nowruz visit each other's homes and accept each other with open faces and happy smiles. They share food, sing and dance together and make merry. Especially among the women it's the most important festival. It's the time where all women openly express all their wishes and emotions, they sing and dance altogether without any fear and shy, young girls show their talents and abilities in various kinds of competitions organized by elder women. For them Nowruz has really educational experience as well, since they learn and share a lot of abilities and talents needed in their future lives.

Mehrgan as multinational autumn festival:

- Mehrgan is another Zoroastrian festival, which is connected with the time of harvesting and collecting of fruits and vegetables in the fields. It is in accordance with solar turn of time in autumn. In this time people usually come together and share sweet and food, especially fruits and vegetables gathered during the year. For thousands years the people of Middle East and Central Asia has celebrated it. Even Arabic spoken people of Middle East celebrate this beautiful festival. They pronounce it as "Mehrjan" because of lack of "g" in Arabic dialects. It has been a mar of identity for many peoples of Middle East and Central Asia like Kurdish, Iraqis, Syrians, Balochies, people of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran, Central Asia and Afghanistan.
- History of Mehrgan: The history of Mehrgan goes back to the era of ancient Iranian kingdoms. People of Ariana (old Iran) celebrated it since prehistory. It has been preserved throughout centuries despite different obstacles, foreign aggressions and changes in societies and cultures. It has been most times a mark of agrarian way of life and nowadays few traditions of it remains in most of communities, but most times it faces the danger of extinction among some communities because of different reasons like modernization, industrialization, urbanization etc.
- Cultural and environmental significance of Mehrgan/Mehrjan. Mehrgan first of all has great importance in cultural identity of the people who celebrate it. It brings together all peoples from various regions and diverse places like Middle East, Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan. It links diverse cultures and communities of these regions. Apart from this, Mehrgan has a great environmental significance. It's associated with the time of turn of nature in autumn and bears a lot of environmental aspects of this season. People collect and harvest their vegetables and fruits and give rest to the lands and trees until spring. In this time they have careful approach to the nature and various environmental traditions and customs can be seen associated with Mehrgan festival.

Sadah - as multinational winter festival:

- Sadah is celebrated among peoples of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran, some parts of Turkey and Iraq, Caucasus etc. in wintertime. As a mark of identity it brings all these people of diverse cultures and communities together. It's usually celebrated hundred days before Nowruz and therefore is called Sadah i.e. Hundred. It manifests environmental consciousness of people in the coldest season of year and has particular environmental aspects associated with wintertime.
- History, Cultural and Environmental significance of Sadah. The history of Sadah goes back to the time of Indo-European nomads who used to live in harsh environmental conditions and once upon a time they discovered Fire. "Shahnameh" of Ferdowsi states that when king Hushang discovered Fire, then they celebrated that day and it became "Sadah" and every year since then it's celebrated as a festival in reverence of Fire as a part of nature. The discovery of Fire was one of the greatest achievements in the history of humanity. Fire is kept sacred and paid homage by Zoroastrians because it is one of the most useful environmental element. It's something, which makes one warm and keeps this warmth in the heart of people and brings them together. Sadah has diverse cultural traditions and customs associated with it. During Sadah people make fires, sing and dance, make merry around fire. People become happy and make Nature happy.

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