The 21st of March for some it is just another date on the calendar, for others it is the beginning of spring. However, for a few religio-ethnic communities such as the Shia Ismaili Muslims, the Zoroastrians, the Iranians and some others around the globe, it is the day that marks the new year, a new beginning – Navroz.

This Persian word literally translates into “new day”, and it is the day of the summer solstice – the day when both the North and the South poles experience sunlight. This results in equal hours of light and darkness. The phenomenon symbolizes that the earth is reviving itself, beginning a new cycle - a cycle where light will increase and darkness will decrease. This is true in the northern hemisphere.

Navroz marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) on the Iranian calendar. Al- Biruni, a 10th century scholar, wrote in his work Kitab al-Tafhim li Awa'il Sina'at al-Tanjim that, Iranians believe it was on Navroz that the universe started its motion.

If we weave our way back into history, we will find that the significance of the 21st of March or Navroz was given special importance by various communities around the world. According to an ancient Iranian belief, Navroz is the day when the Creator completed the creation of the world and created Man—the most supreme among his creations. On the solar calendar, the day also marks the birth of H. Ali. Even today, countries like Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Ka-zakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan observe a public holiday on Navroz, and the celebrations go on for at least a week, sometimes they last for even 15 days.

Though there are various incidents linked to this date, it is important that people understand what they actually signify. We can safely say that they indicate a time of spiritual renewal and physical rejuvenation, where everyone unites in a spirit of gratitude, expressing thanks for all the blessings received. It is the time when people are optimistic - for a brighter and better tomorrow.

With people, nature rejoices too!

We see a transformation in our surroundings; bleak and dead winters pave the way for the warm, joyful summers; new shoots crop up marking the beginning of greenery and life. This transformation can also be made spiritual from the phase of ignorance towards the phase of contemplation and introspection. 

A tradition that is specific to Navroz, is a beautiful combination of spiritual and physical significance of this day – the Seven ‘S’ or the Haft Sin, a traditional table setting for Navroz. The table includes seven items starting with the letter S or Seen in the Perso-Arabic alphabet. These items are:  Greens (Sabze), Wheat, Barley or lentil sprouts grown in a dish; Samanu- A sweet pudding made from germinated wheat; Senjed - the dried fruit of the Oleaster tree; Garlic (Sir); Apples (Sib); Sumac berries (Somaq) and Vinegar (Serke). Other symbolic items that also form a part of the Haft Sin are candles, a mirror, decorating coins, decorated eggs, a bowl of water with a gold-fish, a holy book and rose water. Each of them signifies prosperity, wealth, color, productivity, sweetness, happiness and creation.

Navroz is also a time for strengthening family bonds, observing rituals, preparing elaborate feasts, adorning ourselves with new attire, spring cleaning and offering special prayers and gratitude for always being blessed with spiritual and material blessings. In the Shia Ismaili tradition, Jamatkhanas are decorated beautifully and there is exciting and happy chatter everywhere of people hugging and wishing each other ‘Navroz Mubarak’.

Navroz is all about everything  ‘new’ - a new day, a new year, a new wish and a new opportunity to start afresh.

On this happy and auspicious occasion, let us all pledge to do something new, something useful with our lives. Let us up skill ourselves and contribute not just in projects or activities, but also try to achieve something bigger and more significant begin working on a new ‘version’ of our-selves.
Wishing each and every one of you Navroz Mubarak!