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Rhythm A Day Blog for March 21, 2020: Nowruz (Persian New Year)

Posted by Wolf Murphy on

Nowruz (Persian New Year)

Nowruz is the Persian New Year, now also as the Iranian New Year. It is celebrated worldwide by diverse communities. It has Iranian and Zoroastrian origins and has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in Western, South, and Central Asia as well as the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans. It is a secular holiday for most and is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, and is a holy day for Zoroastrians, Bahais, and some Muslims.

Nowruz marks the beginning of spring and the first day of the first month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendars, usually on March 21 give or take a day. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated with precision, and families gather to observe their rituals.

There are myths that explain Nowruz in Iranian mythology. The holy day is said to recall the mythical King Jamshid, who saved mankind from a winter destined to kill every living creature. Some have theorized that Jamshid may symbolize the transition from a hunter/gatherer lifestyle to animal husbandry. To overcome the fatal winter, the King made a throne studded with gems. He had demons lift him  into the heavens and sat there, shining like the Sun—and warming the planet enough taht the people made it past the winter. All the living things of Earth proclaimed it New Day (Now Ruz).

In many areas on Nowruz Eve there is a ritual bonfire lit. Again—our kind of party!

Celebrating Nowruz in Mariwan

Iranians sing to the fire "my yellow is yours, your red is mine" during the festival. The symbolism of the colors is that they asking the fire to take away sickness and challenges and replace them with comfort, health, and vigor.

In most areas there are feasts, visits are made to family, the house (as we see in so many New Years' Celebrations) is thoroughly cleaned to insure nothing negative from the passing year remains, and new clothes and decorations are purchased for the New Years' celebration.

Iranian Kurds celebrating Nowruz in Mariwan
(Photo: Tasnim News Agency / CC BY)

Nowruz in Tangi Sar, Kurdistan province

Nowruz Celebration in Tangisar Village. About 30,000 people a year
from all over Iran and Kurdistan come to this celebration.
This photo was taken in Tangisar village in Iran, Kurdistan province.
(Photo: Salar Arkan - سالار ارکان / CC BY-SA)

Persia has a long history of drumming as a way to connect with the sacred. The various Sufi sects in Iran still celebrate Nawruz with this rhythmic technology:

"The drum serves as a concentration device for stilling the mind and focusing our attention. Shamans have understood for centuries that sustained focused attention on a specific intention, while in a state of inner silence, channels our creative energy into manifesting the physical equivalent of the focus. The key is to focus your energy to that point on the drumhead's surface that you are striking, not beyond it. Transfer your energy and intention into the drum, stroking it firmly, yet gently, until it sings and hums. With practice, you learn just how much energy to send out to achieve a desired result and how much to retain so that you don't tire.

Sufis úse this power and ability and commence the prayer rituals with drumming that is repeated and induces trance-like qualities within the listener during Zikr circles, similar are also Native American and most tribal & shamanic drumming."

—Shirzad Sharif, Persian Drumming (Great article by a Persian Percussionist, Zarb, Daf & Tanbur Performer)

Here are some parts from a Sufi Nowruz ritual:

Today's Vlog Lesson


Landing page photo: Happy Nawruz! (User:wayiran/Public domain)

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