The Iranian people came to India in the 18th century and settled in the western region. With the passage of time, this community has spread to other areas of the country as well. Today, these people are living in the Central and South Asia, Northwestern China, the Caucasus and many parts of the world. They follow Zoroastrianism and worship Zoroaster, the prophet and founder of this religion. The celebrations of the custom and tradition are followed according to the Iranian calendar.
The Nowruz festival is held in March on any date from 20 and 21 and is the Iranian New Year. This is the time of the vernal equinox and the approaching of the spring. The festival is celebrated in India and other countries having the Zoroastrian population. The Iranians observe this day as a holiday and perform the rituals for heralding in the New Year. There is no record to comment on the origin of this festival. However, records show that it was started by Zoroaster to remind people about the change in the zodiacal position of the Sun. The term 'Nowuz' is a combination of two meanings according to the Persian language. Now means 'new' and roz means 'day.'
The Indians have been celebrating the beginning of the autumn and the spring since ages. Along with the harvest, people used to observe the first day of this season as the New Year day. It is believed that the Iranians too had this practice of celebrating it for more than 3000 years. Later, with changes in the time, it is said that the Zoroastrian transformed the harvest festival into the New Year feast. Today, it is celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, Alabama, Georgia, Iraq, Kazakhistan, Turkey, Istanbul, Serbia, Pakistan, China and India.
The Parsi community calls it the Jamshed Nawruz and involves in devotion and duty. They brace themselves up for the celebration by cleaning their homes. Many also do the whitewashing and apply new paints. The windows and the doorframe of their homes are adorned with flower garlands. Using of Rangoli (powder sawdust), like the other Indian festival is common. Different attractive designs are prepared on the open courtyards to welcome the first day of the spring month and to sanctify the occasion. Donning new traditional attires are the practice to mark the celebration. The day involves worshipping different symbols of stars, birds, fish and butterflies.
Friends are invited to join in the celebration and the greeting is done by sprinkling rose water and rice on them at the doorstep. Hosts also apply a tilak on the forehead of guests. The first meal of the day is cooked with vermicelli in pure ghee and garnished with dry fruits. A bowl of yogurt is also served along with this dish. Visiting and offering prayer in the Fire Temple takes place during the day. A holy fire is lit with sandalwood and offering are thrown into it. All the Parsis greet each other for the New Year by uttering 'Sal Mubarak.'
In the evening, there is a Jashan (feast) at homes. The traditional meal includes Sali Boti prepared with mutton and potato, rice pulav, chicken farhas, fish and roomali roti. The Parsi people are skilled in preparing non-veg dishes. The rice pulav is their specialty in which they use nuts and saffron. The gravy part is taken care by the moong dal (kind of thick soup made of lentil). The feast is complete without dessert, which is made of vermicelli, milk and rose essence. The whole day is busy in receiving and taking care of the guests with the all the delicious dishes.
Every household belonging to the Parsi community appears sparkling and refurbishing. In addition to marking the spring season, they also consider this day as the reunion of the departed ones with their loved ones. According to their belief, number 'seven' is regarded auspicious. Hence, the traditional table decorated on this day signifies the essence of health, wealth, love, patience, opulence and purity.
Parsis are the peace-loving people and add to the cultural richness of India. This is an important day for them when they wish for peace in the family and the world. The elders of the family present gifts to younger after the breakfast. They hug and kiss each other and wish for the happiness and prosperity of each other. In some places, fair is organized followed by a procession.
In other parts of the world, Nowruz celebration has become Parsi carnival. Many social functions are organized in the community in the presence of the clergy and the prominent personalities of the area. In Iran, Turkey and major area inhabited by the Zoroastrians, many firecrackers are burned. In Kurdistan, it is a tradition to jump over the fire, which is known as 'Churshama Kulla.' This function is organized to spread feelings of unity among the community.