By Jayaram V
The Zoroastrians, especially the Parsi community in India, celebrate
some important festivals each year. However as a religious rule,
these festivals are celebrated in an austere manner without pomp
by the community among themselves or in their homes and temples.
Zoroastrian festivals can be divided into seasonal festivals, monthly
festivals and annual festivals which are celebrated on a particular
day in a year according to the Zoroastrian calendar.
These are the six seasonal festivals celebrated by the Zoroastrians
to commemorate the six universal creations of God and reaffirm the
sanctity of God's creation. They are celebrated for five days each,
during different seasons of the year. The actual dates on which
they fall vary, depending upon the Zoroastrian calendar. During
the five festive days of Gahambar, the five material creations are
honored, namely earth, water, plants, animals and humans. The first
four days are spend reciting verses from the scriptures and on the
fifth day people come together and enjoy a feast. The six Gahambar
- Maidyozarem Gahambar. It is the mid spring festival,
comes in April or May each year.
- Maidyoi-shema Gahambar. It is the mid summer festival,
falls in June or July each year.
- Paitishahema Gahambar. It is celebrated on the occasion
of bringing the harvest home, falls in September every year.
- Ayathrem Gahambar is celebrated to mark the return
of the herd of cattle from grazing in far away lands, which
was the custom in ancient days. It usually falls in October.
- Maidyarem Gahambar is celebrated to mark the mid
year winter festivals, falls either in December or January.
- Hamaspathmaidyem Gahambar. It is called festival
of all souls, celebrated usually in March.
The monthly festivals are celebrated in honor of the divine entities
to whom a day of the month and a month of the year are dedicated.
They are also known as jashn days. Thus the six Amesha Spendas or
the Immortal beings are honored on six days in each month, in addition
to six times each year in the months dedicated to them individually,
as shown below.
- Jashan of Asha Vahishta, dedicated to fire and all
- Jashan of Hauravata, dedicated to the waters.
- Jashan of Ameretat, dedicated to plants.
- Jashan of Kshatra Vairya, dedicated to metals and
- Jashan of Vohu Manah, dedicated to animal creation.
- Jashan of Aramaiti, dedicated to the earth.
Other important name day festivals are:
- Farwardigan, dedicated to Fravashis, the guardian
- Tiregan, dedicated to to Tishtrya, the rains
- Abanagan, dedicated to of Apas, the waters
- Adargan, dedicated to of Atar, fire. Adargan
- Mehregan, in honor of Mithra
Nouruz.The most important festival of Parsis is Nouruz,
or the New Year Day, which according to one version of the Zoroastiran
calendar falls on March 21st. Some Parsis follow the Shahenshai
and Kadami calendars and celebrate the spring-Equinox as Jamshed-i-Nouroz
and the actual New Year Day in July/August. Nouruz is celebrated
as a mark of respect for the creation of god, the birth of the spiritual
and material world, the elements of earth, sky, water, air, plants
and animals. In Zoroastrianism God symbolizes light and life and
Nouruz is a celebration of God and the life He has created upon
earth as an extension of Himself. On the New Year Day, Zoroastrians
visit the fire temple, offer prayers, meet relatives and friends
and spend the evening in Jashn.
Thanksgiving. A thanksgiving ceremony or a ceremony of
blessings is performed occasionally outside the premises of a fire
temple, in a clean place, by two or three priests to commemorate
some important and auspicious occasion or an important public event.
The ritual is used to enhance the purity and integrity of the visible
and invisible worlds and bring good tidings to the assembly of the
followers as well as the departed souls. As in yasna, the implements
used Jashan also represent symbolically the six immortal and universal
aspects of God and the seven material aspects of visible creation,
namely earth, water, sky, fire, plants, animals and humans.
Khordad Sal is the birth anniversary of Zoroaster. It
falls on the 6th day in the first month of Parsi calendar around
Ancient Zoroastrian Festivals
Following are some of the ancient festivals of Zoroastrians which
are not celebrated now, but important for our understanding of the
Zoroastrian traditions and practices.
Zartosht No Deeso or Zartosht no-diso is the symbolic
death anniversary of Zoroaster which falls on 11th day of the 10th
month or approximately in June. On this day special prayers are
offered and followers visit fire temples to pray.
Mihragan or the feast of Mithra is one of the most popular
festivals ancient Zoroastrian world, whose origin is considered
to be rooted in pre-Zoroastrian or Indo-Iranian festival to the
sun god. It was celebrated in first month of old Persian calendar,
which fell in the early part of the autumn. According to the current
Zoroastrian calendar, Mihragan falls on the sixteenth day of the
seventh month which usually corresponds with October 1, but celebrated
16th the name day of Mithra in the month.
Tiragan or Jashan-e Tiragan was one of the most celebrated
festivals of ancient Iran which fell on July 1st. Primarily a rain
festival it was celebrated in honor of Testar Yazad to enhance harvest
and counter drought.
Sadeh was another ancient Zoroastrian festival celebrated
with a bonfire by the entire community during the winter season
to drive away Ahirman (represented in cold). The festival is similar
to the one performed in southern India by Hindus on the occasion
of Sankranti. Verses were recited on the occasion seeking blessings
for the entire community. The wood used in the bonfire was usually
collected from the members of the community.
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