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  • Date :
  • 3/6/2012

NOWRUZ IN THE PRE-ISLAMIC PERIOD

(part 9)

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The year chosen for implementing the reform was one when 1 Adar, the ninth calendar month, coincided with the spring equinox.  This occurred in 507-511 CE (S.H. Taqizadeh apud V. Minorsky, 1947, p. 35), when Kavad 1 (488-531 CE) was on the throne; but the great council for deciding on the reform may well have been held in the time of his father Pؤ“roz (459-484, see Biruni, Aل¹¯ar, pp. 45, 118-19. Otherwise idem, Qanun, I, pp. 91, 132).  The way it was carried out (cf. de Blois, 1996, p. 47) was presumably that before the beginning of the chosen year people were ordered to ignore the 5 “Between Days”‌ and to proceed directly from XII.30 to 1.1 (as their ancestors would have done in the distant times of the 360-day calendar).  They would then have carried on through the following eight months, with every family observance, and every communal one which remained in the Royal Reckoning, coming 5 days early.  The Fravashis would then have been welcomed on 25 Aban and entertained through 26-30 Aban and the “Between Days”‌; and on 1 Adar the lesser Nowruz would have been celebrated.

The confusion attending this reform must have been less than at the Achaemenian one.  There was apparently agreement on it, so confrontations should not have existed. It was led by the priests, which must have been reassuring in matters affecting the religion; and they could give the reason for it, which was relatively easy to understand, and if not understood could nevertheless be provided in firm dogmatic terms, with the compelling argument that the religious Nowruz should be held in the spring; and the calendar remained unchanged in length, with no inexplicable “stolen days”‌ appearing. Yet the reform must have caused considerable distress in its first year and for some little time afterwards.  The earliest reference for it having taken place comes from a Syrian Christian martyrology, where it is stated that in the thirtieth year of King Kavad, that is in 518 CE (when 1 Fravardin was a summer month), the Persians celebrated “Frordigan”‌ in a month equivalent to the English spring month of March (G. Hoffmann, p. 79).

Another development brought about by the calendar reform affected Hamaspaomaedaya, and so indirectly Nowruz. In its case (it has been deduced, see above) when “r made the “Seasonal Feasts”‌ 6-day festivals, Hamaspaomaedaya had been awkwardly split, with 25 Spendarmad as its first day and (after a 5-day gap) the Panj Gah, the 5 “Between Days”‌, as the remainder of the observance.

But now by the Priest’s Reckoning the link was broken between 25 Spendarmad and this rad, which had existed since the time of the Achaemenian reform; and it evidently occurred to some priest that Panj Gah could – or perhaps even should – be understood to mean, not the “(Time of) the 5 Days”‌ but the “(Time of) the 5 Gaoas”‌, that is, the 5 groups of Zoroaster’s hymns.  (The Avestan word gaoa- had developed into gah in MP usage, and so was identical in form with MP gah “time, day”‌).  So the celebration of the first day of Hamaspaomaedaya was abandoned, and this rad was reduced to the 5 “Between Days”‌, with each day being dedicated to the Spirit of one of the Gaoas, and the whole festival being known as the Gahanbar, “Time of the Gaoas”‌.  This development appears to have been treated by some with reserve, to judge from the (un-datable) reference in the Iranian Bundahishn (Ch. Ia.22) to “those 5 stolen days – some call them the 5 Gathic Times, some the Good Pentad”‌ (an panj roz i truftag, ast kؤ“ panjag i weh gowؤ“d).  But the usage became widely accepted, and in time the term gahanbar was applied to the other Seasonal Feasts also.  The old one, rad, was dropped, and all six were reduced to the same pattern of 5-day feasts, the 5th day being in each case the “great”‌ one.  (See further under gahanbar, p.255 and Boyce, 1970, pp. 535-36).  Only Nowruz remained a 6-day observance.

There is no trace of the term gahanbar, or of one like it, in any of the calendars inherited from Achaemenian times by Zoroastrian communities outside the Sasanian empire, nor of the moving of the 5 “Between Days”‌ to before Adar Mah.

Nowruz in early post-Sasanian times: The effects and the local failures of the sixth-century calendar reform can be traced, but in a way that sometimes leaves problems, in the literature of the early centuries after the Arab conquest. Because of the huge losses of Zoroastrian books, then and thereafter, most of the information comes from the writings of Moslem scholars. These sometimes contain materials from earlier Moslem works that have also been lost, so that dating can be problematic.

To take first the connection claimed between the Panj Gah and the Gaoas: Biruni (Aل¹¯ar, p. 43) cites three books which he had consulted, in all of which these 5 days were called individually by badly garbled forms of the Gaoas’ Avestan names, but then, by an unwitting confusion, he cites from a fourth book 5 terms for them as group, each of which refers to them simply as the Panje, “Pentad”‌.  The 5 adjectives which are given for the Panje (elucidated by Henning, 1952, p. 203 n.1) are the traditionally abusive “stolen”‌ (trufte and duzide); a laudatory “fortunate”‌ (hujaste); and the neutral “of Fravardigan”‌ (Varvardiyan) and “of the Between Days”‌ (andargahan). Biruni’s contemporary, the astronomer and mathematician Kushyar, says simply that the 5 additional days “are called the stolen days”‌, the only term apparently known to him.

This statement appears in his Ziju-l jami‘ (in a passage cited here from de Blois, 1996, pp. 41-42), in which he gives the only direct information there is about when the 5 days were moved back to the end of Isfandarmad month (which meant abandonment of the Priests’ Reckoning and return of the religious Nowruz to 1 Fravardin).  Kushyar writes that “after the Arab conquest the five (days) remained at the end of Aban-mah up until the year 375 of Yazdegird, and the sun took up residence in Aries on the first day of Farwardin-mah, and the five (days) were moved to the end of isfandarmad-mah”‌.  The year 375 Yazdegirdi corresponds to 1006 CE, and 1 Fravardin to March 15th in that year by the Julian calendar.

Source: iranica


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