“Nowruz: The Collective Passage,” the eighth issue of Tabl, a quarterly magazine on arts and culture, that is the final issue from the Cold War series, is now available.
Nowruz implies memories for all of us. Looking for aspects of Nowruz that are still unrevealed, Tabl explores the culture and memories of people from Iran, as well as nations with Persian roots. It addresses Nowruz from various perspectives, from mythology and anthropology to the influences that this festival has on universal cultural fields. This ancient ritual is studied as a phenomenon that is interconnected with the world and its changes.
This issue is dedicated to those who put effort into the field of art and culture.
- The Universal Case of Nowruz: Nowruz and Its Rituals in the Cultural Geography of Iran – Roshanak Roshanaee and Setayesh Nejadi
This article aims to highlight the universal importance of Nowruz, as an Iranian festive ritual. Therefore, according to ancient transcripts, a starting point for Nowruz is determined that is simultaneous with Jamshid, mythical king of ancient Persia, and the time Iranians turned to monotheism from Astro-theism. Subsequently, it attempts to emphasize the meaning of Nowruz for ancient Iranians, who mostly were Zoroastrians. To this end, it firstly clarifies how the intellectual theme of Nowruz relates to Zoroastrian beliefs and ideas, secondly, with a historical reference, it argues how this ritual survived, even after the Muslim conquest of Persia.
Moreover, Nowruz, a ritual celebrated for almost three thousand years, all around the globe, is also featured by national and international organizations, including UNESCO and the United Nations General Assembly. Therefore, the second part of this article reviews Nowruz as an intangible heritage registered by UNESCO, and at the same time, demonstrates the universality of this long-lasting festival. This article also thoroughly studies the time and procedures in which different countries, such as Azerbaijan, countries from middle Asia, India, and more geographically and culturally distinct countries, perform Nowruz rituals such as Chaharshanbe Suri and Sizdah Be-dar. This examination helps with comparing the practice of these rituals in different socio-cultural contexts.
- Nowruz, Celebration of the Revival of Human and Nature: A Mythological Glance Upon the History of Nowruz – A conversation with Abolghasem Esmailpour Motlagh, conducted by Mehrakali Sabounchi
The myth of eternal return, which is inspired by the myth of Bundahishn, can be interpreted as a battle with linear time. According to Mircea Eliade, this myth implies the inversion and destruction of the historical time. At the beginning of this conversation, Nowruz is studied concerning the myth of eternal return or periodic creation or cyclical renewal of time. Accordingly, for Esmailpour, Nowruz questions the meaning of time, regarding the fact that ancient Iranians believed in Farvahars, the spirit of the dead, who participated in Nowruz rituals. The inspiration for the myth of eternal return is the order of nature and changing seasons that is also comparable to the Nowruz rituals.
Among the subjects discussed and developed in this conversation are the emergence of Nowruz and the festival of rebirth among indigenous of Iran, crediting the foundation of Nowruz to Jamshid and his role in the ritualistic compilation of indigenous’ new year with Aryans’, the difference between the Zoroastrian festival of Farvardinegan and Nowruz, the definition of Farvahar, the old belief in the return of Farvahars at the time of Nowruz, differences between Farvahars and spirits, how human life inspired the concept of rebirth, the role of rituals in preserving myths, as well as two distinct characteristics for Nowruz: moral aspect that is related to Farvahars, time, rebirth, and creation, and material aspect that embraces the notion of rebirth in agriculture.
- From Threshold to Nowruz: A Study on the Rituals of Nowruz and Spring in the Context of Rituals of Rebirth – A conversation with Mohammad Asadian, conducted by Mehrakali Sabounchi
This conversation starts with distinguishing between the ritual and the myth of Nowruz, as these two, being the realization of cultural tradition, combine and confirm each other in the context of social life. Subsequently, Asadian examines how people adhere to Nowruz rituals, even to those festivals that are not noted in the official calendar of the country. Moreover, with the help of Claud Levi Strauss’ anthropology, he thoroughly discusses why Nowruz is celebrated differently in various countries. In the process of this anthropological study, he determines three different social categories living in Iran and examines the adherence of each to ritualistic festivals and myths. In this discussion, which is carried out with paying special attention to Nowruz, Asadian also discusses the importance of Nowruz, the symbolism of Haft-Sin items, how Nowruz rituals are performed in different cities, together with their symbolic meanings, as well as the ritual of rebirth. For Asadian, the collective belief or ritual of Nowruz is equivalent to the ritual of rebirth and reincarnation. Finally, he highlights how rituals are interconnected with the lives of the people and how this connection is realized in the rituals of Nowruz.
- Arbāb e xod am, čerā nemi-xandi? (Why Don’t You Smile, My Lord?): A Case on Haji Firuz – Elham Ebrahimi Naghani
There are a number of genealogical and phenomenological studies on the characteristics of Haji Firuz, which have received positive and negative criticism. Those previous studies and theories are put together in this essay to be neutrally reviewed. In general, attitudes towards Haji Firuz can be classified into five categories. Firstly, there are mythologists and anthropologists who, with a mythological and ritualistic approach, have proposed four theories. They have suggested that Haji Firuz can be: 1- the continuation of “dying-and-rising god,” 2- related to the ancient ritual of Firuzi that declares the arrival of spring, 3- a representation of the return of Farvahars or spirits at the end of the winter, or 4- a ritualistic, performative phenomenon. With critical and intellectual insight, the second perspective considers Haji Firuz as a representative of class oppression (black slavery). The third view considers Haji Firuz as a contemporary phenomenon that is inspired by the appearance of modern equipment and techniques during the Persian Constitutional Revolution. this theory considers Haji Firuz as a vagabond and a character taken by street performers. The fourth perspective compares and relates Haji Firuz with its European counterparts, such as Santa, Zwarte Piet of Scandinavian countries, and even Satan. The last but not least, is the theory of Shervin Vakili, an Iranian mythologist, that considers Haji Firuz equivalent to Persian Piruz. This person was an Iranian hero who killed Omar, the second Rashidun caliph, as the punishment of taking Iranian children as slaves.
- Nowruz Jobs: Memories of the Nowruz Culture from the 50s and 60s, in Tehran – Masih Azarakhsh
The pivotal and critical periods of contemporary Iran are the 50s and 60s when urbanism started to develop, symbols of modernity emerged, and economic conditions faced a transformation. These unexpected changes lead to forgetting certain traditions and made several transformations in the shape of not only cities but also traditional rituals. This article recounts Mehdi Asarpour’s childhood memories, during the aforementioned period in Tehran. In a conversation with Assarpour that lead to this article, he recounts temporary jobs that appeared in the cities around Nowruz, such as the vagabonds who wandered around the city and sold Nowruz-related items, the procedures of house-cleaning and getting help from workers, Ab-Howzi who maintained Howz and goldfishes by changing the Howz’ water, buying new clothes and the popular shops and tailors of the time, the tradition of Nowruz-Khani (singing songs related to Nowruz on the streets), their songs, and clothes of NowruzKhans, Haji Firuz, his clothes, and his shows, selling paper money and coins, popular confectionaries and popular types of pastry, those who put away their jobs around Nowruz to sell Haft-sin items, vagabonds who sold Samanou, barbershops and popular hairstyles, public baths, selling Caspian white fish and vegetables for the traditional meal of the new year, and jobs related to Chaharshanbe Souri and Sizdah Bedar.
- As the Eternal Glory of Nowruz: Rituals, Festivals, and Customs in Iranian Contemporary Paintings – Amir Soghrati
By a historical review, this article starts with the process of growth and advancement of painting in Iran. During the last century, the ideas and techniques of painting improved parallel with the socio-political changes and the development of modernity in the country. To shed light on the history of visual arts in Iran, this article, with a comparative approach, studies the history of social context in which artistic institutes, University of Tehran, Art University of Tehran, biennales of Tehran, Saqakhana movement, and new forms of art galleries appeared. After demonstrating the social context in which the contemporary visual arts developed, it explores artworks that represent rituals, festivals, and customs. This comprehensive study starts with works by Kamal-ol Molk, who has recorded important events during Naser-al-Din Shah Qajar’s reign (1848-96) in paintings, as well as his students. It continues with artworks that are depictions of local customs, festivals, and the rituals of grief. Along with artists that attempted to present rituals and customs, which are studied thoroughly in this article, there are Saqakhana artists, whose works are devoid of any traditional content. On the other hand, the Ghahve-Kaneh and self-learned artists had no formal approach, but with a tendency towards anecdotes and fables, they were pioneers in depicting rituals, customs, attitudes, habits, and the culture of ordinary people.
- You, Who Are Not Likely to Be Kind to Me: Notes on Tanavoli’s Sketches and Engravings During the 50s – Yashar Samimi Mofakham
The main concern of this article is the depiction of common people in Iranian paintings, a subject that is rarely addressed in historical studies of Iranian art. It was foreign tourists and orientalists who captured scenes from the everyday lives of people in travelogues or paintings. Public life, however, became of interest to Iranian artists no sooner than the mid-40s. Today, their artworks serve as important resources for anthropological studies. Among the most notable artists is Parviz Tanavoli who, in the mid-50s, created a series of sketches and engravings. By the means of this series, one may have a clear image of Tehran in the 50s together with its people and wanderers. With a focus on the representation of the public in artworks, this article studies the socio-political and artistic context of Iran from the 30s onward and subsequently, narrates the life of Tanavoli in six sections.
- A Passage Through the Winter and a Reflection on Nowruz-Khani: Including Conversations with Mohammadreza Darvishi – Ali Maghazeie
Resulted of a recent interview with Mohammadreza Darvishi, this article reviews both Nowruz-Khāni book and Zemestān (Winter) music album by the Iranian musician. In the beginning, Darvishi recounts certain details about the publication of Zemestān. The poem that inspired the whole theme of the album was composed after the 1953 Iranian coup d’état. In the 80s, Darvishi recorded the music and composed the album to legally publish it. However, it did not receive an official publication license for seven years, until 1990. Moreover, This article elaborates on the personal style of Darvishi in composing music, the problems he faced while composing the album, the musicians, the influence of Shahram Nazeri on the music, the republication of the album, its tracks, the principal motif of it, and the idea and the concept that inspired the music. The second part of the article concentrates on the Nowruz-Khani, a book by Darvishi, published in the winter of 1997. This book contains 25 songs about Nowruz that embrace Iranian folk music. After introducing the book, Darvishi defines Nowruz and categorizes Iranian musical heritage that is related to spring and Nowruz, into four parts: the ritual of Nowruz-Khani, songs about Nowruz, Iranian Dastgah and musical Radif in which several songs, such as “Arab’s Nowruz,” “Saba’s Nowruz” are performed, and several performances that are now obsolete, such as Kouseh Bar Neshin and Haji Firuz. Finally, Darvishi explains why and how he collected these songs, together with obstacles he encountered during the publication of this book.
- Grief and Joy of Deities in Nowruz: Comparative Mythology of Nowruz in Ancient Cultures and Civilizations – An Interview with Mohammad Hossein Bajelan Farokhi, Conducted by Mehrakali Sabounchi
This conversation starts with determining calendarial and astronomical features of Nowruz as well as describing the festival and ritual of Nowruz, according to Al-Biruni’s manuscripts. Subsequently, with the help of Babylonian inscriptions as well as several historical books such as those of Al-Tha’alibi, Al-Biruni, and Al-Masudi, Mesopotamian festivals (Zagmuk or Akitu) are compared with Nowruz and Mehregan. Moreover, Bajelan Farokhi reviews Nowruz in Egypt that became widespread during the Achaemenids, in Tanzania that started when people from Shiraz immigrated to Zanzibar and expanded when the great Britain seized the country, in India that is very similar to Iranian Nowruz and started when Muslims immigrated to India. He also describes ancient rituals in which people celebrated the arrival of spring and compares them with Nowruz. Finally, while exploring the mythical origins of Nowruz, he argues that the myth of Siavash (vegetation deity) is comparable with this festival. He also studies the different characteristics of Nowruz rituals.
- Nowruz in Tajikistan: Nowruz Customs and Cultural Similarities between Iran and Tajikistan – Touka Maleki
The first part of this article starts with a historical survey on Nowruz. With referring to writers from the 9th and 10th centuries, including Tabari, Al-Biruni, and Khayyam, as well as contemporary resources, such as Dehkhoda and Reza-Qoli Khan Hedayat’s Anjoman Ara-ye Nāseri, it explores the origins of Nowruz and dates of celebrating it. Subsequently, it thoroughly studies how ancient Iranians celebrated the ritual of Farvardegan as well as Nowruz during the Achaemenids, Parthians, Sasanids, Samanids, Buyids, and Safavids. In the second part, this article introduces Tajikistan and studies its geographical, historical, and racial characteristics to demonstrate its similarity with Iran. Finally, with a reference to Sadriddin Ayni, the author portrays Nowruz in Tajikistan. In this comprehensive study, by giving a thorough description of Nowruz rituals in Tajikistan, he studies Nowruz during the Soviet Domination, in Khujand, in the historic city of Hesar, and the role of Tajik women in performing this festival. Among the rituals of Nowruz in Tajikistan are:
Gol-gardāni (Flower festival), Bolbol-khāni, Espandegān (Zoroastrian love’s day), Atashparak (jumping fire), Khāne-takānī (cleaning the house), Dig-e Darvishan, Jashn-e Aroosan (festival of brides), Aghoosh kardan-e derakht, Parandegan-e Bahari, Samanak-pazi (cooking Samanu), Nan-e Samarghandi (Bread of Samarkand), Ash-e Alishkenan (sending foods), Dastarkhān (Haft-sin), Golgasht-e Nowruzi, Jang andazi Khorous (The Cock Fight), Gol Bazm, and Tabrik-e Nowruzi (Nowruz greetings).
- Nowruz in Travelogues: Nowruz in Iranian Public and Court Culture According to Foreign Tourists – Atiyeh Assarpour
Iranian festivals and rituals, especially Nowruz, have been always interesting for foreign tourists who have reflected their fascination in their travelogues. With the help of these written reports that have been recorded during the Safavids until the first Pahlavi, This article attempts to demonstrate Iranian society and the court around Nowruz. Among the studies carried out in this article are the atmosphere of the society around Nowruz, different rituals of Nowruz such as Chaharshanba Souri, the splendor of Nowruz festival, determining the exact time of the new year by Monajem Bashi (astronomer of the court) during the Nasar al-Din Shah’s reign, giving gifts to the king, and the presence of women. Among the resources are travelogues of Gaspard Drouville, Carla Serena, Eugène Aubin, Henry d’Allemagne, pollock, and Heinrich Karl Brugsch.
- The Arena of Cannon and Spectacle: Reading the Spatio-Political Meanings of Urban Ritual of Nowruz during Naser al-Din Shah’s Reign – Kamyar Salavati
Nowruz is a social phenomenon with a spatio-temporal value. When the festival of Nowruz is realized, it is held in a specific time and place. This article focuses on the place of celebrating Nowruz in pre-modern Iran. According to survived texts and images, these places can be categorized as follows: natural environment, urban built environment, and a built environment that is not urban. The concentration of this article is Nowruz in the “city,” namely Tehran, during the Naser al-Din shah’s reign. This article attempts to demonstrate a detailed image of the city around Nowruz in order to explain the architectural and socio-political meanings of Nowruz. With a reference to James Wills and Pollock, the author recounts the official and courtly festival of Nowruz in Tehran, and subsequently, through four descriptions, explains how space, Nowruz, and ideologies of Iranian society are interconnected.
- Nowruz, Celluloid, and the Lost S’s of the Cinema: A survey of Nowruz in Films produced in Iran and the Northern Neighbors – Alexander Ovanesian
During the first fifty years of the cinema industry, Nowruz was celebrated in definite geography. There were lots of socio-political and cultural obstacles that influenced the Cinematic visualizations of Nowruz. The beginning of the spring was sometimes an excuse to release a movie about Nowruz. However, what usually happened was releasing films for box office success. This article addresses Iran’s northern neighbors when their artistic products, including movies, must have been under the authorization of Stalin. Accordingly, the author explores why non-Russian cultures and traditions, including Nowruz, have been hardly ever portrayed in the cinema. Avanesov believes that the answer is related to politics. Moreover, there were countries that celebrated Nowruz, such as Afghanistan, but they did not enjoy the cinema industry to produce a notable movie. In Iran, on the other hand, Nowruz and New year were important times for releasing movies as they became a box office hit during the holidays.
- Nowruz, Celebration of Temporal Unanimity of Greater Iran: Nowruz Throughout the Iranian History of Art and Culture – A conversation with Ariasp Dadbeh, conducted by Mehrakali Sabounchi
The main purpose of this article is to demonstrate how every ancient ritual, including Nowruz, is related to the primordial birth. To clarify this theory, Dadbeh defines the cosmic era as the beginning point of history, starting from Bundahishn (Primal Creation) and differentiates the cosmic era from the European Magic Period. Subsequently, he defines Nowruz as a core of primordial birth, that is equivalent to renewal. In this conversation, Dadbeh also compares Haji Firuz with Rabihwin, the god of earthly warmth in Iranian mythology, and argues why people perform rituals. After describing ancient Iranian’s life, he finds it important for the societies to harmonize with each other through agriculture and sedentism. Moreover, Nowruz, which is interconnected with the agricultural calendar, by creating a common calendar and time among Iranians, organizes and unifies Iranians. He highlights that to reach the primordial idea of creation, Nowruz must be analyzed through a unanimity point of view. Finally, he elaborates on the symbology of Nowruz and Haft-sin.
- A Common Nowruz for Us: A Subculture in Place of Ideological Archaism – Sara Karimi
Nowruz is celebrated not only in Iran but also all over the Persian lands. This is not merely an ancient festival but encompasses the long-lasting myth, religion, and intellect. This celebration embraces a variety of beliefs, integrates and harmonizes different cultures. To reveal the efficiency of the Iranian cultural history, this article studies the reliance of Nowruz on the common lived experience. The first part of this article reviews time, as a mythical subject. History and calendar were inspired by the idea of the Highest Good and the creation of time was necessary for man to resist nature’s catastrophes. Afterward, this article clarifies modern philosophy’s approach towards time. During the Renaissance, certain questions were raised that challenged the origins of time and therefore, theories about this concept emerged. This article, after studying the notion of time during the Renaissance, reviews Kant’s theory of time, which suggested “the cosmological experience of man in time” and “time as a primordial form of self-knowledge,” the Cartesian philosophy, in which having “a consistent and coherent self-consciousness” is dependent on time, and finally, linear time that is the essence of the modern era. With the help of these studies, this article illuminates the differences between the divine and modern time. Subsequently, The second part of this article attempts to study the developmental history of Nowruz and therefore, studies time that is emerged from the cultural lived experience and interprets the Solar Hijri calendar.
- Nowruz in the Qajar’s Royal Court: An Account of an Ancient Celebration in Golestan Palace – Kianoush Motaghedi
This article studies the celebration of Nowruz exclusively in Qajar court, in Tehran’s Arg (citadel). This study starts from Mohammad Khan’s reign, who built the Arg as a place for coronations, royal ceremonies, and national and religious festivals. Fat′h-Ali Shah chose the Nowruz day, which was on the same day as Eid al-Fitr, for his coronation to show his respect for both the ancient ritual of Nowruz and his religious beliefs. To his command, the ritual of Nowruz was demonstrated in several paintings that are described in this article. With the help of travelogues and the diaries, especially the diary of Naser al-Din Shah, this article attempted to present the atmosphere of the Arg and the official festivals during Nowruz. Afterward, it studies subjects such as chronology in Qajar royal court, determining the exact time of the new year, and the Qajar royal festival.
- Nowruz Postal Cards: Happiness in Hardship – A Conversation with Aliakbar Sadeghi, Conducted by Mahsa Tehrani
In this conversation, Sadeghi recounts his childhood memories when he stated watercolor paintings, got accepted in the university of fine arts, did artworks in the military, and was invited by the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults for making an animation. After the revolution of Iran, he started making surreal oil paintings that inspired his later surreal artworks. Subsequently, he recounts memories of books, postal cards, and how they were well-received by the public. He also describes his watercolor works that he exhibited in a gallery, which were five works of the Persepolis, an album of twelve works of Kerman, and a series of postal cards for the industrial museum of Kerman.