0330 GMT October 22, 2020
The cold and sickness will depart from the Earth, being replaced by warmth, wellbeing and health once the winter is gone and the spring and Norouz arrive, says the head of Tehran’s Mobeds Association.
Mobeds are Zoroastrian clerics of a particular rank.
Norouz celebrations, held annually in Iran and a number of other countries to mark the arrival of spring and the Persian New Year (this year starting on March 20), is among Iranians’ biggest holidays and one the most ancient national festivals in the world.
Norouz has a historical background dating to several thousand years ago. There are a large number of myths and stories about the origin of the ancient celebration.
In an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Ardeshir Khorshidian, a historian and an ancient Iran researcher who holds the highest official spiritual rank in Iran’s Zoroastrian community, also provided further information about the historical background of Norouz and its origin.
Excerpts of the interview follow:
IRAN DAILY: Why do Iranians celebrate the first day of spring?
ARDESHIR KHORSHIDIAN: Principally, any country and its people celebrate a particular day to mark the beginning of the New Year, as they determine seasonal changes on this basis. Prior to Zoroaster – the ancient Iranian prophet and spiritual leader, also known as Ashu Zarathushtra – two religions were practiced in Iran: 1. Zurvanism and 2. Mithraism. In Zurvanism, it was believed that time changes everything and thus is of special importance. In Mithraism, the Sun was deemed to be God’s light. The followers of Mithraism maintained that at every sunrise and sunset, light and darkness fight with each other and that is why at twilight the sky turns red. Red was the symbolic color of Mithraism.
Through mathematical calculations, the followers of Mithraism had realized that the last night of autumn, they called ‘Yalda’, is the year’s longest and believed that the next day was the Sun’s birthday. They called the 10th month (December 22-January 20) of the Iranian calendar year ‘Dey’, meaning creation in Persian, and, therefore, marked it as the beginning of their year. In Zurvanism, the first day of the year was the same. Years later, Christians also began celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and the beginning of the New Year on December 25 annually.
However, years later in Iran, through a precise calculation of the relationship between the movements of the Sun and the Earth, Iranians came to this conclusion that at a particular time of the year, the Earth’s axis is aligned with that of the Sun. At this particular time, the day and night are the same length (exactly 12 hours) on that side of the Earth where most of the lands and countries, including Iran, are located, and our planet begins orbiting the Sun anew. Iranians thought that this particular day was the best time to be selected as the beginning of the New Year and, thus, Norouz was created.
How did Iranians manage to figure out such a complicated issue centuries ago?
Astronomy has a very long (over several thousand years) background in Iran. Iranians used to observe stars from above ziggurats – massive tower-like structures in the form of a terraced compound of successively receding stories or levels – or inside wells.
Since there was no telescope at that time, they either built ziggurats or dug wells, went to the top of or inside them, looked at the night sky from an opening – which was either the mouth of the well or one created at the top of the towers – and observed those stars that appeared in their sight each night through those small openings as the Earth orbited the Sun. This way, they could observe and identify the stars they saw during the 365 days of the year. For this purpose, they used astrolabes – elaborate inclinometers which can be considered an analogue calculator capable of working out several different kinds of problems in astronomy. Astrolabes were first invented by Iranians. Using an astrolabe, Iranians could distinguish between the stars more carefully and determine their distances from each other.
Why is Norouz still celebrated after centuries?
Norouz is rooted in the nature and the universe. Unlike other holidays or festivals, it is not conventional or manmade. It is Iranians’ discovery.