Navroz 2024: Why Is Parsi New Year Celebrated Twice In India?

Navroz is a significant cultural and religious festival celebrated by millions of people around the world, particularly in Central Asia, the Middle East, and parts of South Asia. The word ‘Navroz’ itself means ‘new day’ in Persian, and this day essentially marks the beginning of the Persian New Year. 

In India, this ancient festival carries deep cultural, historical, and religious significance and reflects the traditions and beliefs of the communities that observe it. Navroz is believed to have its origins in Zoroastrianism, where it was celebrated as a major festival dedicated to Ahura Mazda, the supreme deity of the faith.

The most prominent Navroz celebrations in India, take place in Maharashtra and Gujarat since the two states have a sizeable Parsi population. Interestingly, Navroz is celebrated in the month of March globally, but it arrives 200 days later in India and is celebrated in August. There’s a very good reason for that. Parsis in India typically follow the Shahenshahi calendar which doesn’t account for leap years. To understand why, you must trace the origin of the festival.

Parsis are the followers of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster, and they migrated to Medieval India during after they fled the early Muslim conquests of Persia to preserve their Zoroastrian identity. The Navros which is celebrated globally is known as “Jamshedi Navroz,” and is based on the Zoroastrian calendar, on the first day of the Iranian month of Farvardin which has a sprititual connection as well. 

Navroz And Its Origin

The Parsi residing in India follow The Shahenshahi calendar, also known as the “Kadmi” calendar, based on a later version of the Zoroastrian calendar. The Shahenshahi New Year is celebrated six months after Navroz, typically around August or September. This difference is connected to the Parsis’ historical migration from Persia to India. When the Parsis migrated to India to escape religious persecution in Persia between the 7th and 10th centuries, they came across some differences in local calendar systems and this gave birth to a second Navroz.

This year, the Shahenshahi New Year, or Navroz celebrations in India are Navroz also signify the arrival of spring, which is widely deemed to be a time of renewal and rejuvenation in nature. The celebration of Navroz is deeply rooted in the traditions of Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions. Zoroastrianism originated in ancient Persia and exerted a profound influence on the cultural and religious practices of the region. 

Navroz is a celebration of culture, heritage, and identity. Across the regions where it is observed, Navroz is marked by vibrant festivities, including music, dance, feasting, and elaborate decorations. As a spring festival, Navroz symbolizes the rebirth of nature after the winter months. 

Some historians believe that natural changes in weather gave rise to the festivities and for some, Navroz is actually a religious ritual. Zoroastrians believe that the month of Farvardin (the first month of Iranian solar calendar) has a connection to Farvashis, or spirits, which return to the material world during the last 10 days of the year. The 10-day period is honoured in order to appease the spirits of their deceased ancestors. 

Those who adhere by Zoroastrianism, believe it to be a time of cosmic renewal when the forces of light triumph over darkness. The festival is associated with themes of purity, righteousness, and the battle between good and evil. 

Navrozi Food And Haft-Sin

Navroz serves as an occasion for communities to come together and strengthen bonds of friendship to foster a sense of belonging and unity. Naturally, food plays a central role in Navroz celebrations. On Navroz day, Parsis traditionally set up a table with candles, and a plate with a silver coin, sprouted wheat, rosewater and sweets, and a goldfish in a bowl. His set-up is inspired by symbolic aspects. Navroz doesn’t officially begin until a Haft Sin (7 Sin) is arranged to celebrate the arrival of spring. 

It is essentially a traditional arrangement of symbolic items that represent various aspects of life and nature. The Haft Sin typically includes seven items, each beginning with the Persian letter "seen". These items may include sprouted wheat or lentils, apples, vinegar, garlic, sumac, dried fruits, and sweet pudding, all of which have a symbolc meaning as per the Haft Sin tradition. 

For instance, sprouted wheat symbolises rebirth and renewal and represents the arrival of spring and the rejuvenation of nature, while apples are associated with health and beauty, symbolizing vitality, longevity, and the sweetness of life.