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NOWRUZ IN THE IRANIAN CALENDAR

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In 471/1079, Saljuq ruler Jalal-al-Dowla Malekshah (r. 1073-92) introduced a calendar reform which fixed the New Year day, called Nowruz-e jalali after a part of his name, at the first degree of Aries. Even afterwards, however, the vague solar calendar survived among some Zoroastrian circles which, until now, consider the Nowruz days to be linked to different forms of Persian vague solar calendar (Boyce, 2005, p. 22), and there are traces of a popular Nowruz which moved to the 1st day of other Persian months in non-Zoroastrian context, too (Cristoforetti, 2007, pp. 45-54; Karamshahyef, pp. 687-88; Vakilian, p. 202).

Besides, in most sections in Arabic and Persian astronomical works, which describe various calendars, one comes across a Nowruz-e kabir or Nowruz-e bozorg (Great Nowruz) on 6 Farvardin, but the surviving sources on the importance of the sixth day of the first Persian month are all from the Islamic period. The “Great Nowruz”‌ was also called Nowruz-e Khordaل¸ڈi (Nowruz of day of KHordad; Dhabhar, p. 339; KHordad is the name which was given to the sixth day of every Persian month) or Nowruz-e Khaan (Nowruz of the elite; see Borhan-e qate s.v.), and it followed the Nowruz-e Saghir (Small Nowruz) or Nowruz-e amma (Nowruz of the common people) on 1 Farvardin.

The earliest source (mid-9th century) for the occurrence of the Nowruz on 6 Farvardin is the account by Kasravi recorded in the Ketab al-mahasen wa al-ayad (p. 363; for the identification of the author see Inostrantsev, pp. 85-87).

A similar, but not identical, account is to be found in Biruni (Atar, text, pp. 217-19, tr., pp. 201-4). In addition, a relevant source about the Nowruz on 6 Farvardin is the Middle-Persian text entitled Mah i Frawardin Roz i Hordad (see J. M. JamaspAsana, pp. 102-8 for the text; and K. J. JamaspAsana, pp. 122-29 for the translation) from the Codex MK, which was once part of the personal library of the editor of the text, J. M. JamaspAsana. The importance of 6 Farvardin is confirmed in the 52nd chapter of the New-Persian work ل¹¢ad dar natr, probably composed during the 7th century CE (West, pp. xxxvii, 314-15) and in the New-Persian narration (rewayat) by Dastur Darab Hormazyar (Molé, pp. 99-100). According to Kushyar b. Labban Jili (d. ca. 1030 CE; apud Taqizada, p. 191), “the sixth day of the Nowruz”‌ (that is, 6 Farvardin) was called ل¹£abb al-maت¾ (water-pouring [day]), and it was revered as the Great Nowruz and ; “the Day of Hope,”‌ because it commemorated the completion of the act of creation.

Biruni mentions that “the man who connected the two Nauroz with each other is said to have been Hormuz b. Shap¨r the Hero [Hormozd ;I, r. 272-273 CE], for he raised to festivals all days between the two Nauroz”‌ (Biruni, Atar, text, p. 218, tr., p. 203; cf. Idem, Atar, text, p. 224, tr., p. 209 for an identical notice about the Mehragan). Yet, “this measure can reasonably be attributed in fact to his [Hormozd ;I’s] high priest, the mighty prelate Kerdir”‌ (Boyce, 2003, p. 59). However, this implies the existence of an old rivalry between the two Nowruzes””a fact that is made implausible by the disagreement of some scholars (cf. de Blois, p. 48) on the matter of the supposed intercalations prior to late Sasanian era, which caused the doubling of the Nowruz. The idea of the absolute importance of 6 Farvardin, because it is the day of fulfillment of creation (Belardi, pp. 72-75), is of general value in a phenomenological perspective and can enlighten the importance given to 6 Farvardin independently from calendrical problems. In this regard, consideration must be given to Biruni’s hypothesis about 6 Farvardin celebrated as “the moment when Jam returned successful”‌ (Biruni, Atar, text, p. 233, tr. p. 220). According to Christensen, “the sixth day of the spring festival was in origin the day of the spring equinox, the right Nowroz; then, when Persians adopted Islam ... , the Mazdaian festival Hamaspaomaedaja disappeared, and the spring festival began at spring equinox, but the idea of the solemnity of the sixth festive day has been conserved”‌ (tr. of Christensen, p. 144).

The question is complicated by the existence of various other festivals, similarly doubled, as attested in Iranian tradition. In this regard, the coincidence between the 6th day of the Persian calendar and the New Year of the Armenians, Sogdians, and Khwarazmians obviously creates further complications.

In the TariKh-e BoKhara, Abu Bakr Mohammad Narshakhi speaks of a second local Nowruz that followed the first one by five days, but he does not call it “the Great Nowruz”‌ (NarshaKhi, text, p. 16, tr., p. 18; for a discussion on the topic see Cristoforetti, 2006b, pp. 100-3).

Ebn awqal (p. 364) reports about seven festive days of Nowruz in Isfahan during the 10th century (see NOWRUZ, Islamic Period); this is an apparent reference to a week. As a matter of fact, in spite of Biruni’s account on Hormozd ;I, there is no historical evidence of a 6-day festive period of the Nowruz celebration.

Source: iranica


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