Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Prayerful start to Bahai New Year

The 300-odd followers of the Bahai faith in the city will be celebrating Naw Ruz or New Year today. The faith, which was founded around 150 years ago, has nine holy days that are observed throughout the year. Naw Ruz is one such holy day of the Bahai faith.

"On Naw Ruz, the Bahais across the world go on a holiday, organise get-togethers and rejoice," said legal consultant and a follower of the Bahai faith Marzia Dalal.

Today, Bahais from the city will gather and offer prayers, sing devotional songs and also play games and have dinner together. "In Iran, Naw Ruz is celebrated by people of all religions," said Dalal.

Founder of the faith Baha'u'llah propagated that religion is not a matter of birth but a matter of individual investigation of the truth. Dalal said people belonging to different religions have adopted this faith. "On Naw Ruz, we sing songs and offer prayers in different languages such as English, Persian, Hindi and Marathi. This day provides an opportunity to aspiring poets and song writers to share their talent with the community members," said Dalal.

The Bahai calendar has 19 months of 19 days each and four intercalary days to achieve a balance with the Gregorian calendar. These days are dedicated towards doing social work and charity. The Bahais observe fast during the 19th month, which is from March 2 to March 20 and the New Year is celebrated on March 21. "During the fasting period, we generally meditate, read scriptures and offer prayers. It is a symbol of learning detachment," said Dalal.

Bahais do not have a fixed cuisine. They follow the traditions of the region they live in. "Before Naw Ruz, we clean the house and prepare sweets," said freelancer Jyoti Mehta. She added that their day starts soon after sunset and the family members gather around a table to offer prayers and have dinner. "The table has a copy of the sacred book, a mirror, candles, incense burner, bowl of water with a live gold fish, the plates and vessels with green sprouts, flowers, fruits, coins, bread, sugar cone, various grains, painted boiled eggs and seven articles beginning with the Persian letter S," said Mehta.

She added that this tradition is a part of the Persian culture and is not invoked by the writings of Baha'u'llah.

Interior decorator Naresh Mehta, who belongs to a Jain background but follows the Bahai faith, said, "Though my family members aren't followers of the Bahai faith, we do celebrate it by preparing sweets and having a family get-together."

Meena Pandey, a secretary, said Naw Ruz is celebrated like any other Hindu festival in Maharashtra by cleaning the house, inviting friends, drawing rangolis and making sweets. "My sisters who have married outside the religion also make it a point to celebrate Naw Ruz," she added.

(Published in DNA Pune on March 21, 2010)

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