By Muhammad Amin Baloch
The word Nowroz has been derived from the Persian` Now and Roz`. Now means new and Roz means day, respectively. As a whole, Nowroz means new day of the year.The tradition marks the first day of the spring or equinox and the beginning of the New Year in the Persian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical Northward Equinox which falls accurately on the 21st of March every year.
The tradition of Nowroz is being celebrated by people belonging to different religious and ethnic background for thousands of years. The festival of Nowruz has its roots in ancient Persia since Achaemedians (550-330 BC). Nuwroz is believed to have been invented by Zoroaster himself. Since the Achaemenids era the official year began with the New Day (Nowroz).During this period various kings under Persian suzerainty used to bring gifts to the Persian kings or Shahanshas to pay their homage. Nowroz is also a holy day for the Sufi Muslims, Bektashis, Alewits, Ismailis, Alevis and adherents of Bahai faith.
The term Nowroz in writing first appeared in Persian historical records in the 2nd century AD. When Fars or old Persia was conquered by the Muslims in the 8th century, caliphs tried to minimize the scope of the tradition. However; the followers of the tradition continued and promoted it even in harsh times. In Iran also the Islamic Republic met with little success to suppress it as according to the Ayatollahs the festival was a pagan holiday and a distraction from purely Islamic practices. After the demise of the caliphate and the re-emergence of the Persian dynasties such as Sassanids and Buyids the festival of Nowroz was elevated even to more important event.
The Buyids lifted all the restriction imposed by the Caliphs. Even the Turkish and Mongol conquerors did not make any attempt to abolish the festival and hence the festival remained an important event in the Persian lands by both the people and officials. Presently the festival of Nowroz is being celebrated as public holiday in Iran, Afghanistan, Albania, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Iraqi Kurdistan and Kazakhstan etc. ranging from two to four days. In Iran preparations for the ritual begin months before.
The Shi`te Muslims of South Asia also commemorate the day with great religious pompous. [box type=”info”]ChitralToday wishes its Ismaili readers a very happy Nowroz.[/box]In Shi,ite Islam the festival of Nowroz occupies an important place. Muhammad Bakir Majlisi in his book Bihar al Anwar quotes from Imam Jafar a Sadiq, the great grandson of Imam Ali (a.s) that the following important events have occurred on this day:
• God made a covenant with the souls before creation. • Nowruz marks the first day when universe started its motion. • Adam was created • Hazrat Ibrahim destroyed the pagan idols that were being worshipped by his father and others. • The holy Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) on the night of Layla tul Qadr, the Night of Power. • Muhammad took hazrat Ali (a.s) on his shoulders to smash 360 idols in Mecca. • Muhammad (p.b.u.h) declared Ali as his legitimate successor at Ghadir Khum. • Hazrat Ali (a.s) was born on the day of Nowroz. • The prophet migration from Mecca to Medina took place on this day. • Hazrat Ibrahim and Ismail built Ka`baa on the day of Nowroz. • Hazrat Salman Farsi converted to Islam on Nowroz day and used to bring special dishes to the prophet and Ali on this day.
In Chitral, the Ismailis celebrate the festival of Nowroz with great religious zeal. Preparations for the festival start many days before. In Garam Chashma it is called small Pa`thak. New cloths are made for wearing on the day of the festival. The day of Pa`thak is preceded by Samoon when homes are completely cleaned and gifts are exchanged. At dawn a person visits the home with saying of Mubarak (giving congratulation for the festival).He is offered local pastries. Previously all homes were decorated with flour using wooden made tool. The decorations include different images of animals. However, with the passage of the time this practice has been tended to reduction.
After that all members of the house make local breakfast together, specifically prepared for the day and wear new cloths. The day is spent by visiting homes of dears and nears. Special religious programmes are also held highlighting the importance of Nowroz in the Ismaili faith. Women and men also go for traditional sports like swinging, local music and tug of war etc. Briefly the whole day is commemorated with rejoice and merry making. It is to be noted that people belonging to the Sunni sect of Islam also commemorate the festival along with the Ismailis.
The festival of Nowroz gives us the lessons of unity, tolerance, good will and peaceful coexistence. People visit each other homes and this in return promotes the spirit of unity and brotherhood among them. They understand about each other conditions and give helping hand to the needy. Last but not the least the festival is part of a great cultural heritage which highlights the rich cultural values of Chitral. This culture is entrenched since centuries and being commemorated with great enthusiasm.
The significance of Nowroz can be measured from the fact when the UN General Assembly in 2010 declared March 21st as the International Day of Nowroz describing it as spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3000 years and calling on world countries to draw on the holiday rich history to promote peace & good will. During the meeting of “The Inter-Governmental Committee for safeguarding the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28th September-2nd November 2009 at Abu Dubai, Nowroz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Therefore, it is essential that we should make all efforts to preserve this important ritual in its entirety as it is a symbol of our great cultural heritage plus a reflection of our identity in Shi,ite Islam.