Nowruz Celebrations In Mumbai: A Tapestry Of Cultural Traditions Unfolds

Nowruz Celebrations In Mumbai: A Tapestry Of Cultural Traditions Unfolds

The day, one of the oldest celebrations in ancient Persia, is held on the first day of spring, marking the beginning of the Persian or Iranian calendar.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Thursday, March 21, 2024, 12:28 AM IST
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A Haft Seen table set up by a Mumbai Parsi-Zoroastrian family  |

Parsi-Zoroastrians, Bahá’ís, and Iranians celebrated Nowruz, or New Day, on Wednesday. The day, one of the oldest celebrations in ancient Persia, is held on the first day of spring, marking the beginning of the Persian or Iranian calendar.

Nowruz festivities mark the beginning of the rebirth of nature and traditionally last for nearly two weeks. In Mumbai, the Iran Culture House, which is run by the Iranian consulate, usually organises a series of events to celebrate the festival. This year, however, because Nowruz has come during the holy month of Ramzan which is a period for prayers and dawn-to-dusk fasting, the celebrations are different. On Friday and Saturday, the Iranians are organising the 'Nowruz Cup', a football tournament at the Islam Gymkhana, Marine Drive. The tournament will feature teams from colleges and consulates. 

Nowruz is celebrated by practicing certain rituals such as spring cleaning, sprouting wheat or mung beans, buying new clothes, cooking local foods, and baking sweets. An official from the Iran Culture House said that the central point of Nowruz is the colourful ensemble of seven items or the Haft-Seen table. The word, which has common roots with the Sanskrit Sapt or seven, celebrates the precise moment the Earth finished its annual journey around the Sun, marking the first day of spring. The Haft-Seen table contains seven edible items whose names begin with a letter in the Persian alphabet which is equivalent to “S” in English.

It usually includes Seeb (apple), Sabze (green sprouts), Serke (vinegar), Samanoo (a food made from wheat sprouts), Senjed (the dried fruit of the oleaster tree), Sumac, and Seer (garlic). A  holy book, mirror (a sign of sincerity), goldfish (a sign of livelihood), candles (for light and brightness), and decorated eggs (denoting rebirth), are part of the display. Sabzi Polo or pulao with vegetables and fried fish is the main course of most Iranian families on Nowruz day. 

The Mumbai Bahá’í community, whose religious beliefs originated in Persia, marked the day as Nawruz, the Baha'i New Year. The community gathered at their main centre at New Marine Lines to take part in prayers, chants, and readings from their holy scriptures. Children from the community interacted with teachers and animators and shared with them the moral values that are central to the Bahá’ís faith.

The community said that they looked at the new year with a renewed sense of purpose and unity, inspired by the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the faith, who said: "The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens." 

Parsi-Zoroastrians started the day with a visit to the fire temple or agiary. Diniar Mehta, a resident of Cusrow Baug, Colaba, who often takes tours to Zoroastrian religious and cultural sites in Iran, said that the community creates a table of food and auspicious items similar to the Iranians. The Haft Seen table set up by Parsi-Zoroastrians, who call the day 'Navroze' has similar items but can include local fruits like mangoes.

Fish is an important item on the day's menu, with dishes like partani machi or fish with a green gravy steamed in a banana leaf, and saas ni machi or fish cooked in a sauce. Apart from Iran and India, the festival is celebrated by millions of people in countries that are influenced by Persian culture, like Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. The festival is inscribed on UNESCO’s 'Intangible Cultural Heritage' list. 

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