Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Nawrouz, Novruz, Nowrouz, Nowrouz, Nawrouz, Nauryz, Nooruz, Nowruz, Navruz, Nevruz, Nowruz, Navruz

Inscribed in 2016 (11.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

New Year is often a time when people wish for prosperity and new beginnings. March 21 marks the start of the year in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is referred to as Nauryz, Navruz, Nawrouz, Nevruz, Nooruz, Novruz, Nowrouz or Nowruz meaning ‘new day’ when a variety of rituals, ceremonies and other cultural events take place for a period of about two weeks. An important tradition practised during this time is the gathering around ‘the Table’, decorated with objects that symbolize purity, brightness, livelihood and wealth, to enjoy a special meal with loved ones. New clothes are worn and visits made to relatives, particularly the elderly and neighbours. Gifts are exchanged, especially for children, featuring objects made by artisans. There are also street performances of music and dance, public rituals involving water and fire, traditional sports and the making of handicrafts. These practices support cultural diversity and tolerance and contribute to building community solidarity and peace. They are transmitted from older to younger generations through observation and participation.

‘Nav’ means new and ‘roz’ means year i.e. Navroz is Persian/ Iranian New Year. It marks the day of vernal equinox which falls on March 20th or 21st each year. Navroz has a Zorastrian origin going back to the ancient period in Persia. Records suggest its celebration as early as the Achaemenid period (c. 550–330 BCE). By the period of Sassanids (224-621 CE), it had assumed prominence in Persia. Despite a religious origin, Navroz is celebrated by various ethno-linguistic groups across Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, Central Asian countries etc.

In India, Navroz is celebrated by the Parsi community who are followers of the Zoroastrian religion. It is called Jamshedi Navroz here because, according to a legend, the fabled King Jamshed of Persia was crowned on this very day which marked the beginning of the Persian calendar.

There are around 60,000 Parsis in India, living predominantly in the western part of the country. To celebrate Navroz, they wear new clothes and clean and decorate their houses with flowers. They also make rangoli using colors. One of the most important aspects of the celebrations is food. Family members gather around a table on which food and gifts are kept and wait for the arrival of New Year, the exact time when the sun crosses the equator. The timing varies every year. Traditionally, and especially in Iran, the table is known as a Haft-seen (‘seven s’) table. Seven dishes with their name starting from the Perisan letter  ‘س’ or ‘s’ are prepared. It includes somaq (berries), sharab (wine), sheer (milk), seer (garlic), sirceh (vinegar), seb (apple) and shirini (sugar candy). Painted eggs are also kept.

Navroz celebration in India goes back to the medieval period. It was celebrated in the Delhi Sultanate. However, under the Mughals, it assumed grand proportions wherein the Navroz celebrations lasted for 19 days, the first and the last days being considered very auspicious. In the medieval period, Persia was the centre of cultural refinement. Under Akbar, Mughal empire underwent consolidation and institutionalisation. There was an attempt towards establishing the Empire as the cultural hub. Hence, they borrowed heavily from the Persian culture including  Persian art, poetry, language etc. Navroz was also a result of this attempt towards cultural consolidation of the Mughal Empire.

The imperial palace used to be heavily decorated. The Emperor and Nobles exchanged expensive gifts. Thomas Roe and William Hawkins, visitors to Jahangir’s palace, record that massive shamianah (tents) were erected, gold and silk carpets were spread and lavish gifts were bestowed. Extravagant banquets were also organised coupled with singing and dancing. On Navroz, Mughal Emperors bestowed titles to their nobles and elevated their ranks.

Navroz represents prosperity and well-being. It was inscribed in the list of UNESCO intangible cultural heritage in 2016.