parsis celebrating new year

Celebrating Parsi New Year in India: Customs and Festivities

Today, the 16th of August 2021, marks the auspicious day of Navroz or Parsi New Year in India. The day is very special to the Parsi community. The Parsis are a small but highly influential minority group in India. Originally hailing from ancient Iran, their ancestors, a group of Zoroastrians fled their homeland to avoid religious persecution and sought refuge in India between the 8th and 10th centuries AD.

Navroz is a Persian word that literally translates to New Day, with ‘Nav’ meaning new and ‘Roz’ meaning day. And for the followers of Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest religions in the world, it has always been an important and joyous occasion.

The New Year marks new beginnings, rejuvenation, joy, purifying one’s energies, peace and friendship.

In today’s post, we shall learn about Navroz and how the Parsi community celebrates the festival.

About Parsi New Year

Parsi New Year or Novruz, is one of the most important festivals for the Parsis and Iranis in India. In India, however, the dates for Novruz aren’t always fixed. It depends on the sect of Zoroastrianism that a person may belong to. The sect is determined by the type of calendar that the person or their community follows.

There are three types of Zoroastrian calendars; Fasli-Bastani, Shahenshahi and Qadimi. Zoroastrians and places with high concentrations of Zoroastrians around the world usually follow the Fasli calendar. So, Navroz for them falls on the day of the spring equinox, on March 21st. This is also the first day of Farvardin, the first month in this calendar system. Places like Iran, Central Asia, the Middle East, Afghanistan observe Navroz on this day. Even the Irani community in India celebrate New Year on this day. The Iranis are a group of Zoroastrians who migrated from Iran to India between the 19th and 20th centuries. While Parsis descended from those Zoroastrians who came to India from Iran between the 8th and 10th centuries.

Zoroastrian Shahenshahi calendat
Shahenshahi Calendar. Image Credit: Palvkasti

Coming back to the different dates of observing Navroz, in India, most Parsi follow the Shahenshahi or the Imperial calendar. This calendar doesn’t account for the leap years. As a result, Navroz presently falls in August, some 200 days after the Fasli Navroz. The Qadimi Navroz, on the other hand, is celebrated a month before the Shahenshahi Navroz. This is the reason why India is celebrating Navroz today.

The celebrations remain similar regardless of which calendar a person may follow. Besides, the objective is to celebrate life and new beginnings, to purify oneself from sins and to enjoy themselves. Parsis in India today celebrate Navroz in August as their main New Year and the event on 21st March as a festivity to welcome spring.

In India, Navroz is mostly celebrated in states Gujarat and Maharashtra, as the highest number of Parsis in the country and, in the world, reside in these places.


The celebrations commence the previous day, which is known as Pateti. Pateti or Parsi New Year’s Eve is a day that is meant for confession and repentance. On this day, one confesses sins committed both consciously and unknowingly to harm others. In Zoroastrianism, the faithful must practice good deeds, good thoughts and good words. This is the threefold path of righteousness or Asha. Not following this path attracts evil powers and, therefore, is a sin. So, on Pateti, people reflect on their words, thoughts and deeds and acknowledge their sins that may have been committed either knowingly or unknowingly. Then, they offer a prayer of repentance or, patet in the fire temple.


parsi woman offering patet at a fire temple
A woman offering patet. Image Credit: Cyrus49

On Pateti, Parsis wear new clothes, go to the fire temple and offer patet. This purifies their minds so that they can start afresh from the following day. People then come together, setting aside their differences and conflicts and mingle with each other harmoniously.

They then enjoy special dishes made for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

Navroz Celebrations

Preparations for Navroz are made early in the morning. Upon waking up, Parsis begin cleaning their house and their surroundings. This is an opportunity to get rid of unnecessary items that are no longer useful or that are taking up too much space. Then, they begin decorating their home to make it aesthetically appealing for the guests that they’ve invited later for the festivities.

rangoli patterns with flowers
Rangoli with Happy New Year written in Gujarati. Image Credit: Pinterest

Garlands made of colourful and fragrant freshly picked flowers are made to hang on the doorways. The floors, staircases and thresholds are decorated with rangoli, which are traditional patterns made with ground-up chalk. Motifs of fire, fish and flowers are accompanied by a phrase or word wishing a Happy New Year in Gujarati or English. Traditionally, rangolis are made by hand, but these days, rangoli stencils are used to make precise designs. These patterns tend to be auspicious and are believed to bring prosperity, health and good fortune.

Incense such as sandalwood and myrrh may also be burned in a bowl and its smoke is wafted around the house. This is believed to purify the house against any evil forces and negativity. The smoke and its heat may also be offered to others for them to take in the warmth and positivity from the fire.

Going to the Agiyari

Once all the preparations are made, and they’ve had their breakfast, Parsis change into their finest pieces of traditional clothing and pay a visit to the fire temple or Agiyari.

Women wear the most exquisite gara saris, little girls wear special dresses, while men and boys wear the white jacket-like caftan called dugli. Finally, they cover their heads with a skullcap or headscarf before entering the temple.

jashan ceremony in mumbai
Jashan ceremony held in the Banaji Atash Behram in Mumbai. Image Credit: Kainaz Amaria

The reason that they visit the temple on this joyous day is to participate in a special thanksgiving prayer known as Jashan.

At this ceremony, Parsis express their gratitude and thank God for what they have, they pray for continued prosperity and once again ask God to forgive their sins. They then place milk, water, fruits, flowers, and sandalwood in the holy fire. A flame that can never be put out.

A little bit about Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism was the first monotheistic religion in the world that once had many followers. It was in fact the official religion of the Persian Empire before the Islamic conquests of the 7th century. Many of its ideologies inspired other monotheistic religions such as Islam and Christianity.

Zoroastrians worship fire as it is the most important element that symbolizes purity. It also symbolizes the light of Ahura Mazda or God. Zoroastrians worship in fire temples where the flames are never extinguished. Additionally, no ritual is complete or even legitimate unless it is performed in front of the holy fire. Being a monotheistic religion, Zoroastrians believe Ahura Mazda is good and is the supreme entity that all Zoroastrians have faith in, whereas Ahriman is the evil spirit.

Spending the rest of the day

After visiting the fire temple, Parsis may spend the day making charitable donations to different organizations or by offering food and clothing to those in need. Many people also tend to make important purchases on this day, believing it is auspicious. For instance, they may wait for Navroz to buy new jewellery or a car or a house, etc.

pieces of a silver ses tray
Components of the metallic tray called ses. The longer piece in the image is known as a gulabaz. It is used to sprinkle rose water on guests. Image Credit: Michael Backman

Then, they spend time visiting each other’s homes to exchange gifts and wish New Year’s greetings. When they enter someone else’s house, they are welcomed by a sprinkle of homemade rose water. Rosewater is believed to purify the soul and it acts as a natural perfume.

Families and friends reunite, spend time together, share a warm and delicious meal and, they all wish for prosperity, good health and fortune for each other.

The Haft-Seen

half seen table set up
A haft seen table set up. Image Credit: Heritage Institute

Customary to Navroz celebrations, Parsis set up a special table that contains seven dishes that start with the letter ‘s’ or ‘seen’, the 15th Persian letter. Seven is believed to be a holy number in Persian mythology. And, in this case, the seven items symbolize the seven aspects of God’s creations, such as fire, air, water, earth, plants, animals and humans. This table spread is called Haft-Seen and here are the seven items most commonly found in Parsi households:

Sheer– Sheer translates to milk. It represents the first thing that a human consumes after birth.

Sharab– Sharab translated to wine. It is a symbol of health and happiness.

Seer– Seer is garlic, which is also a symbol of good health because of its medicinal properties. It also symbolizes eternal bounty.

Serkeh– Serkeh translates to vinegar. This item represents age and patience.

Seb– Seb or Apple is a symbol of beauty and health.

Shirini– Shirni is sugar candy, which evidently means sweetness.

Somaq– Somaq or sumac berry powder resembles the colour of sunrise.

Some spreads add additional symbolic items such as mirrors, a bowl of goldfish in water, a pot of growing lentils or wheatgrass, candles, eggs, coins and a book. Coins, for example, represent fortune, prosperity and a new life and mirrors symbolize self-reflection and purity.

The traditional dishes or items placed in the Parsi Haft Seen are slightly different. For example, many a time sabzeh, or the live pot of growing wheatgrass isn’t placed. This is because sabzeh is a symbol of rebirth and spring but, since it is August, the arrival of spring isn’t so much celebrated as it is in Navroz in other places. Which is usually observed on March 21st.

Navroz Food

Parsi cuisine has a reputation for being extremely delicious and flavourful. On Navroz, the food is made with even more love and care, making it even better than it normally is. Parsis are known to be food-lovers, so, they really look forward to the feast cooked especially for Navroz.

Family, friends and acquaintances meet over a meal, share their stories, share each other’s company and bond with each other. Guests in a Parsi household, on this occasion, in particular, will never find themselves short of a plate full of food in their hands for too long. It is truly a never-ending feast that starts from breakfast and ends with dessert after dinner.

full navroz thali with colourful foods
A navroz thali. A plate full of special navroz food. The food item at the centre of the plate is Patra ni Machhi. Image Credit: Mid-Day

Specialities such as dhansak, moong daal, berry pulao, sali boti, prawns, chicken farcha, haleem, meethi sev dahi, sweet ravo and falooda are just a few notable dishes.

A very festive dish is the Patra ni Macchi, which is a pocket of pomfret or any other type of sea fish, smothered in a delicious and spicy paste of spices wrapped in banana leaf and steamed.

rose flavoured parsi faloods
Parsi falooda. Image Credit: Vishnuji ki Rasoi

Another famous dish is the Falooda. It is a dessert more than it is a dish and it is popular all over the country, even among non-Parsis. Falooda is a cold dessert traditionally made with swelled up basil seeds, rose syrup, cream, milk and heaps of ice cream. More toppings like jelly and cold unsalted noodles can also be added as desired.


Entertainment is an inevitable and crucial part of any event. Parsis are known to have relatively discreet celebrations compared to their Hindu counterparts. They are usually known not to cause any commotion, play loud music or generally create a lot of noise, even during their festivities. But that doesn’t mean that there is no entertainment. It usually stays within their small community or indoors.

parsi traditional theatre play
Parsi natak. Image Credit: Anandabazar Patrika

In residential areas with large Parsi populations, a small stage is set up within a designated area where everyone gathers in the evenings and socializes and enjoys various performances. Entertainment includes singing, dancing, comedic sketches and performance of the traditional Parsi Natak or play by local Parsi theatre groups.

The evening could also include a group of women doing the traditional Gujarati dance, the Garba. To do this festive dance, women stand in a circle, they start dancing and the circle begins moving anti-clockwise. The dance involves a lot of turning and clapping.

Keeping Traditions Alive

parsis celebrating navroz
Image Credit: BP Guide

In this post, we discover how Navroz or Parsi New Year, a little bit about Parsi culture and Zoroastrianism in India. Here we discovered that Zoroastrians celebrate their special occasions and practice their daily life by performing the threefold path of righteousness, by saying good words, thinking good thoughts and doing good deeds. In case they are unable to do so, even occasionally, they repent for their sins on Pateti, or New Year’s Eve to start the New Year with a clean slate. Then we saw the importance of fire to Parsis, learned a little bit about Zoroastrianism and saw that every celebration and ritual must be done in the presence of the sacred fire. We saw how age-old traditions have still been brought to India by their ancestors and how well the Parsi community has managed to preserve them for over seven centuries.

Festivities such as Navroz provide an opportunity for the Parsi community to reunite, perform their culture and keep their traditions alive. Encouraging the celebration of such festivals is crucial, especially since the Parsi population is rapidly declining.

With that said, Navroz is all about starting afresh, about new beginnings, peace, kindness, friendship, positivity and purification. Keeping that in mind, I wish all Parsis Navroz Mubarak!


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Choudhury, C., 2019. Review: Preserving An Ancient Holiday of Light and Life — The 60,000-strong Parsi community of India is bringing the celebration of the Zoroastrian new year into the 21st century., New York: Dow Jones & Company Inc.

Free Press Journal, 2017. Mumbai: Iranians prepare for Nowruz, Mumbai: Athena Information Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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