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  • 3/7/2012

NOWRUZ IN THE ISLAMIC PERIOD

(part 6)

nowruz

In other lands

Nowruz has been celebrated with considerable zeal amongst the nations of Iranian background inhabiting other lands, namely, the Tajiks, Afghans, and Kurds of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. In Tajikistan, particularly in the province of BadaKhshan, Nowruz is “the Great Festival”‌ and “the inherited national festival,”‌ symbolizing friendship and renovation of all beings (Sulaqani, p. 245). Various sweet dishes are prepared, and, in accordance with an old custom, before Nowruz the matriarch of the house places a pair of red brooms in the upright position in front of the house entrance, and hangs a piece of red cloth over the lintel””red being the color of happiness and blessed times. The family’s most important belongings arte gathered outside, all doors and widows left opened, the house meticulously swept, and utensils thoroughly cleaned. Then the matriarch of the house re-enters, carefully replacing the furniture and utensils, and prepares for the arrival of Nowruz. Visitation, greetings, and partaking of the sweets and drinks follow. The guests are entertained with sumptuous meals, particularly the baj (head and trotters of a sheep cooked with whole wheat), and there then follow outdoor games, among which tab-bazi (playing on swings), egg-cracking, and wrestling are common (Sulaqani, pp. 245-46).

In Afghanistan, Nowruz is the official holiday, and in the BalKh area it is also called “the Feast of Red Roses”‌ (jashn-e gol-e sorKh). The rites associated with welcoming the holiday (cleaning houses and buying new clothes, preparing sweet dishes and elaborate meals) and with celebrating it (school holidays, visitation, exchange of gifts, partaking of sweets and fruits) are much the same as in Persia (Sulaqani, pp. 248-49; Makari; Nabaت¾i; Hamilton, p. 388). Even the preparation of the meal for the departed souls is customary (Honari, p. 61). In Heart, the special meal is rice pilaf and rooster stew. The men who are betrothed, send Nowruzi gifts to their brides, including a rooster, sweet dishes, and a set of clothes. Shortly before the “turning of the year,”‌ men gather in mosques and shrines, and local priests recite prayers and write them on paper using as ink the water mixed with saffron contained in copper tubs; each man drinks a sip of the saffron water (ab-e zafarani), and some also take a bowl of it home for their family, viewing it as a symbol of blessing and abundance. The haft-sin spread (sofra) is not usual, but the samani (called samanak in Herat) and sizdah bedar are. Outdoor games, particularly wrestling and bozkashi (lit. ‘goat-dragging,’ an equestrian game) follow the usual visitation and indoor entertainment. A particular custom is to raise an ت؟alam. In Mazar-e sharif region it is called ت؟alam-e mobarak”‌ (attributed to Imam ت؟Ali) and is raided by the elders and notables on the morning of the first Nowruz day and taken down forty days later. During this period, it is an object of public veneration, and various votives are offered to it and boons are sought from it. The holidays continue for a time, but two days are especially important: the first ؤچaharshanba (Wednesday) and the sizdah. The first Wednesday rivals the usages of sizdah in Persia: people prepare special meals and spend the day outdoor in merrymaking and playing games. The day is especially joyful for women, who gather in gardens and peacefully party, sing, dance, and play, especially in the swing. Watching cock fights and camel fights is also common (Makari, pp. 221-26).

All Kurds celebrate Nowruz with enthusiasm, even in lands where their traditions do not meet with official sanction. Great quantities of sweets and fruits are consumed, and women ceremoniously cook samani. Everywhere elaborate bonfires are kindled and fireworks (on hill tops and roofs, in streets and the countryside) are accompanied by music, dancing, singing, and picnicking. In some areas the setting up of the “Nowruzian king”‌ is still practiced (Mokri; Minorski, pp. 102-03; Keyvan, pp. 59-140; Bois, p. 477).

Wherever Persian culture has gone Nowruz has gone with it. Moqaddasi witnessed it celebrated in traditional Iranian way in Yemen (pp. 45, 100). In the Fatimid Egypt, Nowruz was observed as a national festival with all its Persian rituals: wearing new clothes, sprinkling water, kindling fire, carnivals, singing and playing music, official public receptions, exchanges of gifts, recitation of congratulatory poems, and distributing alms (citing Qalqashandi, Maqrizi, and Nowayri). A text, allegedly written by Ptolemy and based on the predictions of the Prophet Daniel, was circulated, which described the qualities of Nowruz according to its place in any of the seven days of the week and in relation to planets and the Nile River (Harun, V, pp. 47-8). It was later adapted by Safavid scholars in describing the qualities of Nowruz based on astrological and calendrical associations (see HAFTA). Despite some opposition, Nowruz continued to be celebrated in Egypt albeit somewhat modified, and survives to this day (Lane, 1895, Chap. 26; for contemporary Egyptian Nowruz poems see pp. 127-29). In Spain, Ebrahim Hojri al-Qayrawani found it useful to give a collection of the congratulatory phrases used at Nowruz (II, pp. 1005-1006). Moslem dynasties of the Indian subcontinent observed the Nowruz rites ardently and fully (Taqawi; udahri, pp. 31-37) as did the Ottoman sultans and officials (Carra de Vaux), the amirs of Bukhara (Olufsen, p. 367), and the people of Central Asia and the Caucasus (Inostrantsev, pp. 100ff.;Abd-Allah Jan;). In Northern Talesh (Abdali) and Arran (now in the Republic of Azerbaijan) Nowruz is a national holiday, and buying of new clothes, cleaning and repainting houses, carnival-style minstrelsy and firework (Chaharshanba suri), and visiting relatives and friends are customary, as are the Nowruz-Khani and preparation of the Nowruz table with candles, water, flowers, sweets, fruits, colored eggs, and the samani. The latter is considered the symbol of Nowruz and celebrated in folk poetry, for example “Samani, look after me; I will prepare you every year”‌ (Madadli; Abdali). The four Wednesdays before Nowruz are days of festivities commemorating the four acts of creation, and are called Water Wednesday, Fire Wednesday, Earth Wednesday, and Air or Trees Wednesday (Fuad Aliyev, pers. comm. dated 2 February 2002).

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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