By: Sujjawal Ahmad
Perhaps the most visually spectacular of the Persian festivals is Nāvroz, a festival celebrated on the first day of Persian calendar in the month of March, when the day and night become equal in length — vernal equinox, and our Sun completes its journey of all its 12 stations. Nāvroz signifies the end of winter and the beginning of the spring, and is celebrated by diverse communities especially those diverged from Persian roots.
It is a joyous celebration of the rejuvenation of nature, and conveys a message of renewed hope of happiness and optimism.
Celebrations of Navroz among Ismailis date back to Fatimid period, and then later on when office of Imamat shifted to Alamut and Anjudan, it became an integral part of the Ismaili culture.
Today the celebrations of Nāvroz are commemorated among the Ismaili Jamats around the globe with their own customs and traditions which although being diverse, keep a Persian zest. Ismailis of Central Asia, for example, have preserved some core Persian traditions on Nāvroz which include special cuisine for the day, more prominent of which is ‘Haft Mawa’ which includes arranging a table with seven different dry fruits which includes oleaster tree, Walnut, Almond, pistachio nut, Raisin, dry apricot and plum fruit. Other special cuisine for the feast of Navroz eve may include dishes for Nāvroz, like Sabzi Chalaw, a dish made from rice and spinach. Moreover, the bakeries prepare a special type of cookie, called Kulcha-e nowruzī, which is only baked for Nowruz. Another dish which is prepared mostly for the Nowruz days is Māhī wa Jelabī (Fried Fish and Jelabi) and it is the most common meal in picnics. Jamats of South Asia have traditional Juro called ‘Rozi’.
The observance of New Year is very much centred around food, family gatherings and feast which is accompanied with devotional and artistic presentations, which again are diverse depending upon the diverse cultures Ismailis live in. It is essentially a time of spiritual recuperation and communal reunion, which must inspire a Murid to strive to make the necessary readjustments in his spiritual and material life. Its a time to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in one’s soul on one hand and to revive with a new spirit to seek guidance from Imam of time and implement it at individual and communal level “to make this world a better place we found ourselves in”, on the other hand.
The celebrations of this day has thus a great significance, as the day renders its impact on the communal as well as individual life of the Ismailis.
The day silently cast a new spirit to the jamat which symbolically renews their covenant with the Imam of time. Special majalis that are held in the Jamatkhana bring together the members of local community for prayer, reading of manqabats, and ginans. One of ginan most commonly recited is Nāvroz nā dīn Sohamāna which opens with these lines:
On Navroz’s magnificent day,
Perpetual Imam Ali gone woods to play!
Servant’s heart plunged into sadness,
And soul at the feet of Ali lays!
This Nāvroz marks beginning of an unusal time in Ismaili history as during this year we will be celebrating Diamond Jubilee of Imamat of our beloved Mowlana Hazar Imam.So this Nāvroz is a time to decide, on our part, what best gift we, as murids of Hazar Imam, can give. With this hope that we will be able to follow the guidance of Imam of time, I would end my post by saying Nāvroz Mubarāk!