Nowruz: A manifestation of Iranian Culture

Nowruz: A manifestation of Iranian Culture

On the night before the last Wednesday before the Iranian New Year people jump over fire for health (source: Tasnim News Agency, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikipedia Commons)

On the essence of the Iranian new year: a miracle politics and swords cannot achieve

Fereydoun Majlessi

The Iranian new year (Nowruz) is an ancient celebration for a wide geographical and cultural space that extends far beyond the borders of modern Iran. In 2022 the Nowruz takes place on 20th March 2022. In order to have a look at the deeper meaning of this celebration and its importance, the Persian bridge of Friendship republished an article by Fereydoun Majlessi – an Iranian former diplomat, current analyst of international affairs and leading intellectual. 

This article was published on Nowruz 1401 (March 20, 2022) by the publication Nim Rooz.

What do we expect from Nowruz and the arrival of spring that we congratulate each other. Does a new hope and a sense of life blossom in our psyche? Do we expect to be green and happy again, instead of the crumbled leaves of last year?

This year, we have more hope for Nowruz. In the last two years, we have been mourning Nowruz. Two Nowruz that, instead of being together and sharing joy, invited us to isolate ourselves and stay away. Many of us have lost friends and relatives. And tired of quarantine isolation and in the snout, we are impatient!

In the last days of the old year, the sixth wave of the corona gradually subsided, and the death toll was much lower than for the sick. Most people have been vaccinated with two or three vaccines and have learned how to deal with the disease. For many, the New Year’s passion now promises revolt. The promise of freedom from the self-made quarantine prison and rebellion against this forced muzzle, and the tiredness of not seeing our friends and comrades that remain our happiness. We want to survive! And to survive is to be together.

Nowruz is not a tradition, nor a custom or ritual. It is culture. It is art proper. Nowruz, the first day of spring, the vernal equinox, is drawing, painting, music, blossoming, youth, love, and in one word, ‘LIFE.’ Ending the winter’s cold and darkness, a season of house-cleaning for one’s nest and self, including setting aside all rancor and bitterness towards others, it symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Nowruz is a time for freshness, smiles, happiness, and enriched relationships and friendships.

Buddhists impose much pain and agony on themselves by taking a long and laborious journey  to their places of worship so that their vows might be fulfilled! Hindus spend their annual savings for a trip to Benares, to bathe in the muddy waters of the Ganges, where they pour the ashes and leftovers of their dead, in the hope of cleansing their soul and reaching peace! These are traditions – rituals – remaining from the past; from the times immemorial when the knowledge and wisdom of mankind was much less and his delusions in full sway. Suffering was deemed a price to be paid for their wishes to come true! As if only pain and suffering satisfies the Merciful God!

Nowruz is not so. It does not involve this sort of transaction. It neither impregnates the barren, nor does it promise paradise to the wretched and the hapless. It never imposes pain and agony in anticipation of false hopes and aspirations! ‘Traditions’ everywhere are usually criticized as archaic and incomprehensible convictions and painful rituals imposed on the present ‘presumed holders’ of wisdom and knowledge. But Nowruz is like music and other forms of art. It is like a book and a report on the virtues and wisdoms of our antecedents rather than a reflection of challenges and indignations. No pain and loss, in any form whatsoever, is involved. The symbolic and decorative Haft Sin [Seven S] table of Nowruz (these are seven dishes whose name in Persian starts with the letter S) contains no other message but a celebration of nature – life – jubilation, happiness, and hope.

As eloquently described by Dr. Eslami Nodushan, a prominent Iranian literary figure, “The realm and expanse of the Iranian cultural borders spread as far and wide as Nowruz is being honored and celebrated.” Iran symbolizes a cultural domain that transcends conventional political boundaries. Throughout history, there have been countless times when different Iranian and non-Iranian rulers have governed over one part or another of the ‘cultural Iran’ at one and the same time; but the people they ruled over were all Iranians, whether they were Turks, Turanians, Arabs, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Sistanis, Persians, Gilacs, Kurds or Kirmanis! It is the same culture that transformed the Moghul Nikolay Uljaytu – the grandson of Hulagu Khan and the great grandson of Genghis Khan, whose names still send shivers down one’s spine – into the Muslim-Shi’ite “Sultan Mohammad Khoda Bandeh” (King Mohammad ‘Servant of God’, 1280-1316 A.D.), who built the famous city Sultanieh and its glorious Dome. The elixir of this metamorphosis and transformation – the cherishing of gentleness out of violence, growing flowers in the swamp – is the miracle and the masterpiece that politics and swords cannot accomplish. Just as simple as that. This can only be the harvest of an old, rich, delicate, pulsating, and engaging culture – the Iranian culture – of which Nowruz stands out as an innocuous and encouraging manifestation.

If the hundreds of millions of residents of the vast cultural domain extending from western  China to the eastern Europe wish to make Nowruz an International symbol, it is only because they want to honor a celebration that simply heralds purity, beauty, goodness, equilibrium, friendship, flexibility, cooperation, moderation, and conciliation, and mind you, without conflicting with any religion, creed, or ideology. It deserves to be recognized as an international and world event.

Photo: Nowruz table is called “haft sin”, because it contains 7 dishes whose names begin with “s” (sin) (source: Pixabay, CC0)

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