NOWRUZ IN THE IRANIAN CALENDAR
The day Hormoz (the first day of any Persian month) of the month of Farvardin is the New Year day in the Persian calendar; at present it coincides with the day of the vernal equinox (the day on which the Sun enters the first degree of Aries). This entry does not deal either with the position Nowruz occupied in other calendars (for instance, in the Ottoman fiscal calendar, or in the Nobayri calendar), or with the names of the New Year days in other calendars, which derive from the Persian nowruz, like Nayriz in Egypt or Nayruz in Andalusia (a bibliographical survey on the matter is given in Cristoforetti, 2003), since they are often different from their Persian originals and parallels.
In the Iranian world, too, there were other days called Nowruz. They did not coincide even theoretically with the day when the Sun entered the first degree of Aries. The Nowruz-e motazedi was introduced for fiscal purposes in 282/895 by the Abbasid caliph al-Motazed (r. 892-902, hence the name). It existed for about a century and was fixed on 11 aziran in the Syrian calendar (11 June in the Julian calendar), which corresponded to 1 KHordad in Persian calendar during 892-895 CE (see Taqizada, p. 157).
In astrological context, the expression Nowruz-e Khلµ›arazmshahi indicates the day when the Sun enters the 19th degree of Aries, which is the Sun’s exaltation (Taqizada, p. 140). Originally, this expression indicated the reformed Nowruz introduced in 958-9 CE in KHلµ›arazm (see CHORASMIA) and fixed on 2 or 3 Nisan (2 or 3 April in the Julian calendar; see Biruni, Atar, text, p. 241, tr., p. 229). In Biruni’s Al-Atar al-baqiya an al-qorun al-Khaliya (text, p. 230, tr., p. 217), one finds a “Nauroz of the rivers and of all running waters” on 19 Esfandarmoل¸ڈ (the corresponding day in the Julian calendar changed in time, because the Persian calendar was a solar vague calendar).
In modern popular context, there exist a Nowruz-e Tabari in Mazandaran on the 2nd day of Mordad of the solar Hejri calendar (24 or 25 July; see Humand, p. 107) and, at a short distance from it, a Nowruz-e deylami in Gilan on 15 Mordad (6 or 7 August; see ت؟Arshi, 2000, p. 24). Humand (pp. 107-19) provides yet another date of this New Year day for the years 1996 (1375 ;SH.) and 1997 (1376 ;SH.), namely 17 Mordad which corresponds to 8 or 9 August. Along the Persian Gulf coast, there is a Nowruz-e arab (Arab New Year), or Nowruz-e darya (Sea New Year) on 9 Mordad of the solar Hejri calendar (31 July or 1 August; Arshi, 1997, p. 18; but see Sadid-al-Salana Bandar-Abbasi, pp. 35-36, where the given date is the beginning of Leo, that is, 1 Mordad which is 23 or 24 July). Besides, in Kerman province (Lalazar), there is a Nowruz-e Chupani (Herdsman’s New Year) on 27 Esfand (17 or 18 March; p. 693). Undoubtedly, there are other cases as well, which have not yet been investigated.
Abu Reyل¸¥an Biruni (see Atar, text, pp. 32-33, tr., pp. 36-38) speaks of a Nowruz of the ancient””that is, Sasanian””kings on the day of the summer solstice. However, the Persian tradition refers to the coincidence between the Nowruz and the first degree of Aries (see Biruni, Atar, text, p. 45, tr. p. 55). Yet, such a fixed coincidence has no historical evidence, because in Sasanian times the Persian calendar was based on a vague solar year of 365 days, and the above-mentioned coincidence would only take place during four consecutive years once in 1,461 years. According to an out-of-date theory””particularly based on Arabic and Persian records in astronomical works””there were two Nowruzes during the Sasanian period: a “civil” Nowruz which moved back throughout the seasons, and a “religious” Nowruz, approximately fixed within the year by means of monthly intercalations carried out in every 116 or 120 years (see CALENDARS). However, “it has been fairly widely accepted ... that there is no documentary evidence for intercalations and that it is indeed unlikely that they ever actually played a role in practical time-keeping” (de Blois, p. 40).
The Nowruz on (vague solar) 1 Farvardin is the only historically testified Nowruz, and it represented the New Year’s day par excellence.
This Nowruz moved one day backward throughout the solar seasons in every four years, and the above-mentioned passages by Biruni could be very well explained as traces of replacing the Nowruz from a position close to the summer solstice in late Sasanian times (620-23 CE; during the 7th century, the summer solstice occurred on 19 June of the Julian calendar, and 1 Farvardin coincided with 19 June only during these four years) to a position which coincided with the first degree of Aries during the years 1004-7 CE ; (during the 11th century, the vernal equinox occurred on 15 March of the Julian calendar, and 1 Farvardin coincided with 15 March only during these four years). Such a dramatic event has been implicitly recorded in the monumental inscription of Gonbad-e Qabus (see Cristoforetti, 2004, pp. 10-14). Then the Nowruz moved back again, and according to the Nowruz-nama (p. 12)””which is a New-Persian treatise attributed to Omar KHayyam(i) and probably composed during the 11th-12th centuries””the Saffarid ruler KHalaf b. Ahmad (r. 963-1001/2; d. 1008-9) reformed the calendar in order to fix the Nowruz, but the text is not clear (for a discussion see Cristoforetti, 2006a, pp. 33-39). The Nowruz-nama (p. 10) mentions a Farvardin-e Khish (its [that is, of the vernal equinoctial Sun] own Farvardin) in order to indicate the moment of the “correct” occurrence of the Nowruz, in spite of the different seasonal positions it occupied at various times.
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