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  • 3/6/2012


(part 4)



What mattered, however, for the introduction of any new measure was the approval of the Great King.  As his Daiva inscription (q.v.) shows, Xerxes was a devout Zoroastrian and capable of ruthless action over what he thought right for the religion; and in the case of the proposed calendar reform he was also doubtless interested in a development that promised more efficient administration of his immense possessions, and could command enough obedience from those in authority among his subjects ”” the Persian satraps and their priests and nobles, the judges and ministers of state, and above all the army ”” to impose his will.  It was proposed to follow the Egyptian model by introducing the 5 extra days at the end of the year, which for Zoroastrians was just before Nowruz (with Rapiowina not yet returned and winter still theoretically reigning); and a year for this would naturally have been chosen when by the 360-day religious calendar Nowruz was to be kept 5 days before the spring equinox.  This, it has been calculated, would have been the case in the years 481 to 479 BCE. The discrepancy would up till then have been adjusted in due course when an extra month was intercalated.  Instead it must now have been decreed that 5 days were to pass after the last day of the old year before the great festival was celebrated, with heavy penalties doubtless for any who disobeyed.  As with the days of the Egyptian “Little Month”‌, these 5 days were evidently simply numbered.  (There is no indication of dedications being assigned to them before the later Sasanian period, see under gahanbar.)   Various Persian terms are recorded for them as a group in post-Achaemenian times, and the one which most probably represents their original official designation is Phl. Andar Gah, the “Between Time”‌, cf. the Av. adj. antara- (Air. Wb., col. 132) and MP gah ii (EIr. X, p. 253), used also for “days of the) Between Time.”‌

An also well attested Phl. term for these days is, however, the abusive “Stolen Days”‌, Roz ؤ« duzؤ«dag/truftag; and plainly most people remained utterly perplexed about how they had seemingly been conjured into existence, _”‌stolen”‌ from where, and why?  The concept of days without religious dedications would have long been alien to Zoroastrians, and some courageous individuals may have felt impelled openly to defy the royal decree, and so almost certainly to suffer martyrdom.  (Men have died resisting calendar change in other societies.)  But the reformists and those submitting fully to the imperial decree, would have celebrated Hamaspaomaedaya and the Fravashis’ Night as usual, on XII. 30 bidding their unseen visitants farewell as dawn brightened, and when have entered the unfamiliar limbo of the “Between Time”‌, all religious activity suspended.  Most people, however, the evidence shows, in their incomprehension ignored the 5 extra days and celebrated Nowruz, as usual, but with perforce diminished observances, in the privacy of their own homes, and then continued counting the days normally, so that when the time came for the official celebration of Nowruz with religious rites and public banquets, it was by their reckoning not 1.1. but 1.6.

There is no reason to doubt that then almost all would have joined in the public observations, both out of prudence and because these would have been familiar and both deeply felt and much enjoyed; and as long as the proper holy day had already been kept, there could be no harm in keeping it again.

 And so it must have gone on throughout the first year of the reform, with every major festival being celebrated twice by the traditionalists, once privately and five days later publicly.  But by doing this they had to confront the reality of the new calendar: however inexplicable it origins, and however wrong its workings, it now existed, side by side with their own, and, having the weight of royal authority, to be accepted.

When, however, they reached the end of their own old calendar year, because at the introduction of the 5 extra days they had ignored them, they were now 10 days in advance of the reformed calendar: their XII.30 was its XII.25, with the second “Between Time”‌ still to come. They were faced thus with a dilemma for which there was no simple solution; but they evidently decided (which suggests consultation among their leaders) that the best way of not failing in their religious duty was to maintain the tradition of a ritual farewell to the Fravashis just before sunrise of Nowruz.  This then meant entertaining these honored guests for all the 10 days which now intervened between their apprehended coming after sunset of XII.25 by the old calendar and departing before sunrise of 1.1 by the new.  All 10 days came accordingly to be called the “ “Fravashis Days”‌, (Phl. Rozan Fravardؤ«gan, reduced in later usage to Frordgan).

Thereafter, through this acceptance of the new calendar, there should have been a return to the single observance of festivals.  But what marked the traditionalists was good memories, and they did not forget that in the previous year Nowruz had been officially celebrated on what was for them I.6; and so they now celebrated it again, privately, on that day, which is the month day dedicated to Haurvatat (Phl. Hordad/Khordad).  All other major festivals were evidently then repeated similarly through the second year of the reform; and it indicates the utter perplexity produced for the majority by that reform, and the confusions in their struggles to cope with it, that whereas in its first year they had celebrated the major festivals privately 5 days before they were officially kept, now in the second year they did so days afterwards.

The one exception to this pattern of duplication which developed in the second year of reform is Hamaspaomaedaya, the greatest of the 6 Seasonal Feasts, and evidently indissolubly linked to the “Fravashis’ Night”‌.  The two were now celebrated, one after the other, during the 24 hours of XII.25, but not again until the 5th “Between Day”‌, in order that the “Fravashis’ Night”‌ should immediately precede Nowruz.  So in their case the duplication took place after 10, not 5, days (with a third celebration of the “Fravashis’ Night”‌ alone to judge from later usage, on the eve of I.6).

Source: iranica

Other Links:

Persian Cuisine, a Brief History (part 2)  

Iranian Girl Names (part 2)    

Iranian Girl Names (part 3)   

Astrology & Astronomy in Iran and Ancient Mesopotamia (part 2)  

Astrology & Astronomy in Iran and Ancient Mesopotamia (part 3) 

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