Happy Navroz Mubarak
Nowruz literally “New Day”is the name of the Iranian New Year, also known as the Persian New Year,which is celebrated worldwide by the Iranian peoples, along with some other ethno-linguistic groups, as the beginning of the New Year.
Today, the exact moment of the spring equinox — when the sun passes above the equator — will usher in the Persian New Year, and the beginning of spring.
Nowruz, literally translating to “new day”, is celebrated here by the Zoroastrian and Mughal Iranis alike, with equal fervour. And though the observances are largely familial, the day is welcomed with goodwill and hopes for the year ahead, inundated with interesting rituals and traditions…
Table of thanksgiving
After the customary spring cleaning, restaurateur Rustom Irani’s house in Kondhwa wears a festive look. His wife Fauzia, sons Shahnawaz and Farheez, and their wives Rukhshin and Farzana bustle around the house, readying the ceremonial Haft-Seen table.
The Haft-Seen is at the heart of the celebrations. Rustom says, “Literally translating to ‘the seven seens’, the table comprises an arrangement of items (atleast seven) beginning with the Persian letter ‘seen’.” He says that these elements represent key symbols of life. “Sabzeh (wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish — symbolising rebirth), Samanoo (a sweet, creamy wheat germ pudding — symbolising affluence), Seeb (succulent apples — symbolising beauty and health), Senjed (sweet, dried sea buckthorn fruits — representing love), Seer (garlic — representing good health), Sumac (a Persian spice — representing sunlight and light overcoming darkness), and Serkeh (vinegar — representing age and patience) — these are the key elements we place on the table,” explains Farheez.
Getting all this together takes days of preparation. “Customs have changed with regional variations, but at the core, the table represents a gesture of thanksgiving to God for the year gone by and the new one,” adds Shahnawaz.
Bonding over Kookoo Sabzi and Samanoo
Myriad food preparations are associated with the new year, differing across the countries where Nowruz is celebrated. But Fauzia has laid out a real feast for the day. She suggests starting off with Kookoo Sabzi, a traditional Nowruz dish of fluffy Persian herb omelettes. Next comes the Sabzi Polo Mahi, a mildly spiced chicken or mutton pilaf infused with the flavours and textures of sumac, coriander, spinach, cranberries and dried fruits. “This usually goes well with the mahi or fish,” says Fauzia, who has smeared the fish well with a paste of rice flour, chickpea flour, fennel seeds and black salt, and steamed it to tender perfection. The meal can be ended on a sweet note with Baklava (a sweet pastry of filo layers enriched with chopped nuts and the flavours of orange blossom and rose water), traditional ice-cream Falooda and Samanoo, the traditional wheat germ pudding that’s a must.
A celebration of goodwill
Nowruz is a time of glad tidings for the community. At Ramtekdi resident Kashmira Irani’s house, the day will begin with ‘Jashn’. “The priest will come over and perform the ‘Jashn’ or prayer for everyone’s happiness,” says Kashmira. She will prepare the auspicious ‘khana’ comprising Mora Dal Chawal, Kolmi no Pattia (a rich prawn preparation), Patra ni Machchi and Salli Boti. “At Nowruz, an Iranian salad – potatoes, spring onions, egg and a whole lot of spices – is a must,” Kashmira adds. The Iranian Gaz (a Persian nougat), Daal ni Pori and the traditional ice-cream Falooda will feature on the table as well.
A similar celebration will ensue at the house of Dr SMM Irani of Taboot Street’s Husseny Bakery. “Today, it is customary for us to say a special prayer, wishing for not just the family’s, but everyone’s best in the new year,” says Dr Irani. At his place too, Sabzi Polo Mahi will be prepared and enjoyed.
Nowruz Mobarak from iLuvIndia.com
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