Parsis celebrate Zoroastrian New Year ‘Navroz’ in Mumbai
Members of the Parsi community thronged the Agyari temple here on Thursday to celebrate their Zoroastrian New Year ‘Navroz’.
During ‘Navroz’ the Parsis decorate their homes with garlands and Rangoli (chalk designs). An important part of their celebrations is the get-together with friends and family.
“Today with the New Year dawning, everything new should come our way. We go to the fire temple and decorate with flowers. We do our Rangoli outside, which is supposed to be very auspicious and of course all the Parsi festival are incomplete without the grand feast, so that will follow at home,” said Binayfa Wyx, a professor in the morning.
The day before ‘Navroz’ is ‘Pateti’ when Parsis dwell on the wrongs or the sins committed the previous year.
“We pray for our departed souls and we wish all the best and our good year should be good,” said Kursheed Gandhi, a devotee.
Ten days prior to the ‘Navroz’, the Parsis hold prayers for the departed souls as they believe the spirits of the dead are present at this time and if remembered, they shower their blessings. These prayers are conducted at all Agyari temples of the city.
According to a legend, 3000 years ago Shah Jamshed of the Peshadian dynasty ascended the throne on “Navroz” – ‘nav’ meaning new and roze’ meaning day.
This particular day also came to be known as Jamshed Navroz and is celebrated even today.
Pune Parsis Mark New Year with Festivities
The city’s 8,000 strong Zoroastrian community is all set to bring in the Navroze or the Parsi New Year on Thursday with customary fervour
“The 10 days before Navroze are marked by prayers for the departed, at Agiaries in the city. The 10th day is called Pateti, which was on Wednesday,” said businesswoman Persis Katpitia. “Pateti is a day of repentance for people, to reflect on their thoughts, words and deeds in the preceding year and to repent any mistakes. Thus, everyone may bring in the New Year or Navroze on a fresh and positive note.”
“New Year’s Day or Navroze begins early with families offering prayers at the Agiary. Sev’ (a vermicilli preparation roasted in ghee and choc-a-bloc with dry fruits) is a favourite preparation for breakfast. It is eaten with yoghurt and enjoyed by young and old alike,” said retired professional Aspi Mistry. “People decorate their homes beautifully with floral torans along their doorways. In the old days, every door in the house was decorated with torans, but these days, it’s usually just along the main door. Intricate and creative rangolis dot the floor as well, indicating the sanctity of the festival. Fish and floral motifs (rangolis) are considered especially auspicious,” he said.
Calling on friends and family to offer them New Year greetings is the order of the day. Sutarfeni’, mawa’ fish (a barfi shaped like a fish) and chocolates are offered to visitors, as is falooda’ a sweet milky drink with vermicelli, flavoured with rose essence.
Lunch is an elaborate and delicious affair with various Parsi dishes jostling for space. “Sali boti a mutton and potato preparation, chicken farchas, patrani machchi’ (fish steamed in a leaf), mutton pulao and dal, kid gosh’ and sasni machchi’ a thick white gravy with pomfret are some of the favourites,” said Katpitia. “Parsi cooking is unique in its flavours not very spicy, but tasty all the same.”
Lagan-nu-custard’ or caramel custard is another dish, which usually features on her family’s list, said Katpitia.
For his part, chef Farshid Mullan would add dhandaal patio’ ( a yellow dal and rice dish served with fish or prawns) to the list as well. “Navroze is a day traditionally spent with family and friends, and dinners, plays and get-togethers are usually organised with much enthusiasm,” he said.
48-year-old Parviz Patel is looking forward to a pleasant meal at her uncle’s place on Thursday. “Like most joyous occasions, this is something to be spent with your loved ones,” she said, adding ” Navroze Mubarak to all!”
Ahmedabad Parsis celebrate New Year
Theirs was a community that blended in with the locals like sugar in milk, so goes folklore. Parsis, who’re now an inseparable part of the state, are all geared up to welcome their New Year. And from decorating their homes to feasting on special dishes, there’s quite a bit in store on Pateti, to be celebrated today.
DNA spoke to Parsis in the city on how they’re celebrating the day, and got some interesting replies. Executive director of Cama group, Rustom Cama, says, “We have a standard way of celebrating the day. We go to the temple first and from there, we will head towards office. On the way home, we drop in to greet relatives. The rest of the day, we’re usually busy entertaining guests at home.”
Cama says some of these visitors have been coming home since years, since he was a kid. “Amongst other dishes, pulao is a part of the standard fare for the day,” he says.
This year, like every year, Amdavadi Parsis will feast on patra ni macchi (fish wrapped in banana leaves), sali boti (meat with potato chips), rava and falooda. With these mouth-watering dishes finding place on the dining table today, there is wholesome gastronomical gratification in store.
Piruz Khambatta, MD of Rasna India Pvt Ltd, says Pateti celebrations have already begun for her family. “We went to the temple on Wednesday evening, and then headed to a restaurant for dinner. On Thursday though, we will stay at home as lots of guests are expected.”
Chief minister Narendra Modi, Gujarat governor Dr Kamla Beniwal, Ahmedabad mayor Kanaji Thakore and other prominent citizens have extended greetings to the Parsi community. “We have great pleasure in extending heartiest greetings to all citizens on the joyous occasion of the Parsi new year,” they said.
Parsis in Bangalore celebrate New Year
The Parsi community is one of the most peace loving and god fearing communities. Pateti which falls on today is the first day of the first month of the Zoroastrian year. And it is a time for celebration with close friends and family for Parsis.
Though small numbers camouflage their presence, the Parsi community in Bangalore continues to play a vital role in the field of education, business and sports. The Parsis have gracefully absorbed traditions from Hinduism, Christianity and Islam and continue to contribute to the growth and development of society.
Zoroastrianism was founded by the prophet Spitama Zarathustra. The religion asserts that there is one god, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), other gods being manifestations of his qualities. It is estimated that there are 1, 30,000 Zoroastrians in the world; majority of them, about 1, 00,000 live in India. They have retained their distinct identity and have contributed richly to India’s progress in all sectors of development.
In the early 20th century retired bankers, accountants and businessmen moved from west coast and established them selves in Bangalore, as in those days, Bangalore was considered a retirement paradise. The early settlers to Bangalore built the fire temple on Queen’s Road in 1926 with the help of Dinshaw Cawasji, a contractor from Mumbai and called it the ‘Baidhanmai and Cawasji Dadabhai Dar-E-Meher’, which caters to the small group of Parsis, about 700 -800 of them residing in the city.
An eternal fire burns in the inner sanctum fed by sandal wood, as the symbol of the life cycle and eternal recurrence. The temple has carvings of bulls on its many pillars. Only the priests are allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum where the eternal fire burns. “We are fire worshippers, as we believe it is a source of energy, and life. Our Fire temples or Agiarys has the holy fire burning all the time. Only sandal wood is added to it and we worship all elements of nature,” Says Jeroo, who believes that Parsis are a god-fearing lot.
She further adds,” Our Holy Book is known as the Kordeh Avesta along with the Vendidad; it lists prayers and prescribes tenets to be followed. And our New Year Jamshed-e-Navroze is celebrated on March 21 every year. It is a time for celebration and we offer special prayers at the fire temple on that day. And then there’s Pateti, where we celebrate New Year of the Zoroastrian calendar. On this day, we promise to live with good thoughts, use good words and perform the right actions,”
Food plays an important role in Parsi festivals
Food plays a very important role as a significant part of all Parsi festivals. Parsi food is a delicious blend of West Indian and Indian cuisine. Parsis being non-vegetarian, fish, mutton, chicken, nuts, spices and fruits are bought a day before and a variety of dishes are prepared on Pateti. “Ten days prior to Pateti, we offer prayers to the dead and on the New Year; we leave behind the past and look towards the future with hope. Pateti is a time for celebration with close friends and family,” says Zarine Dogra, who runs Daddy’s Deli in Indiranagar.
“For breakfast on the day of Pateti two special dishes are served. One is the “Ravo” made with Suji, milk and sugar and the other is fried vermicelli cooked in curd and sprinkled with raisins and lot of almond slivers. After breakfast all the family members go to the Fire Temple or Agiary as it is called. In the temple a Jashan – a thanks giving prayer is performed by the priest and each one of us offer sandalwood to the Holy Fire,” she adds.
After festivities at home, Parsis in the city head for the Parsi Club in Jehangir Kothari Hall, where they are greeted with cultural and theatre performances. “There will be a whole lot of singing and dancing by the little ones in the community. Also they show plays in Parsi, which is quite a regular now. This year however they have invited me as the Chief Guest and are honoring me for my achievements in the field of sports,” Says Rehan Poncha, Olympian Swimmer.
He further adds, “Though the community in Bangalore is quite small compared to Mumbai, we are a well-knit community. They are always there to support you and recognize your achievements. I’m very humbled that they have chosen me this year. What I’m particularly looking forward to is the amazing Parsi lunch,that will be served there”
The Bangalore Parsi Zoroastrian Association (BPZA) and the Bangalore Zoroastrian Anjuman (BZA) hold regular meetings to discuss the issues concerning the community.”There are approximately 250 – 300 families residing in the city now. And there is also a floating population of young Parsis who have made the city their temporary abode. Also since the older people don’t have much to do in the city, there is one cultural event happening every month, so that way we stay connected,” says Zarine.
Dadabhai Naoroji, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and other Parsis were leaders in the struggle for Indian Freedom. A radical leader who spent much of her life in exile was Madame Cama who designed and unfurled the Indian flag for the first time. The historical beginnings of Parsis in professional life came through their role as interpreters and professional middlemen between the Dutch and the Indians. They were weavers who introduced Chinese silk and brocade weaving into India. As foremen and carpenters in the construction of ships and dockyards, Parsis were pioneers. The Wadias were ship builders; some even qualified engineers although today they are known for their contribution to commerce and industry, like the Tata and the Godrej Business Houses.
In the early 18th century, the first Parsis came to Hyderabad on the invitation of Salar Jung 1 to lay the foundation for a sound administration. The Asaf Jahi Dynasty attracted some of the best Parsi talent and may of them spent their lives in the service of the Nizams in an unbroken record for more than 100 years occupying positions of trust and responsibility. Today there are around 1200 Parsis in Hyderabad.
The Parsi Anjuman which acts as a governing body take care of various properties while their Dharmashala takes care of Parsis from outstation by providing them with boarding and lodging for a very nominal amount. The Parsi school admits students from all walks of the society. The Zoroastrian club is the venue for most community activities. This is where the New Year festivities and sporting events are held.
The Stree Mandal (Ladies Chapter) devotes itself to charitable causes. Though the Mandal concentrates most of their activities in the Twin Cities, they have never shied away from contributing to needy causes anywhere in the country, which are brought to their notice, or giving generously, to the best of their abilities, for national calamities and disasters. The Mandal also donates regularly to various social organizations like the Spastic Society of India, Home for the Aged, Manasvi etc.
Hyderabad also has Parsi colonies. The majority of the Parsis are well educated with most of them opting for Defence services and business. The Parsis are well known for their Philanthropist activities and are fun-loving people with a passion for good living.
For over 200 years, Hyderabad has been home to the Parsis. In 1800, 16 men arrived here when the Hyderabad Contingency of the Hyderabad Subsidiary Forces moved to Bolarum, Secunderabad, from Jalna, Nizam’s Dominions. Shroffs or bankers to the contingency, they worked hard and honestly to reach some of the highest positions in the Asaf Jahi government. They spoke English, which helped them deal with foreigners and the two official languages of Hyderabad, Urdu and Persian. Later, the Parsis rose to positions of eminence.
Besides being Diwans of Jamnagar, Baroda and parts of Gujarat, Parsi Courtiers and advisors served in the States of the Deccan as well as at the Nizam’s court at Hyderabad. Many plans which improved the lives of the people and the economy of the states were designed by them like the transporting of Deccan cotton to cloth mills at Mumbai. The Peshtanshahi Sikka of Hyderabad is the only Indian coin to be named after a Parsi as an honour for the services he rendered the Nizam and Hyderabad State.
Being cohesive and close-knit, the community supports its less fortunate through its privately held trusts managed by the governing body, the Anjuman, rather than opt for minority status. Thanks to the largesse of some established families here, there isn’t a Parsi beggar on the streets today. The Anjuman houses some of its community in its seven housing complexes in different parts of the city.
Parsis of the twin cities celebrate Navroz with great gusto on the 19th of August. Households are decorated with flower garlands or haars, and the door step is decorated with ‘flower toran’ and ‘chowk’ which is the Parsi Rangoli. A sweet Ravo (made from sugar, milk and suji) and vermicelli are the best breakfast for Navroz. After breakfast, the whole family bathes, wears new clothes and visits a nearby Fire Temple or Agiary. Priests perform a thanks giving prayer in the temple called Jashan and the congregation offers sandalwood to the Holy Fire with covered heads. They wish each other ‘Sal Mubarak’.
Then it is greeting time for family and friends. They wish each other “Saal Mubarak” and this is followed by a 3 course non-vegetarian lunch. There is also a sumptuous dinner at the Zoroastrian Club. Lunch and dinner would mainly comprise Parsi specialties like ‘Dhan Dal Patio’, which is yellow dal and rice eaten with a prawn and tomato gravy, ‘Salli-boti’ which is a special mutton gravy served with crunchy potato sticks and the famous ‘Patra-ni-machi’, which is pomfret fish steamed in a banana leaf with a layer of green chutney. The accompaniments would include ‘lagan-nu custard’, dry fruit custard especially made during weddings (lagan). The Navroz ends with leave-taking hugs to the family members for the start of a vibrant year ahead.