Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | 6:30 PM | Central Courtyard, Academic Block, LUMS
Jashn-i Nowruz: Celebrating the Persian New Year Festival (GCLL in collaboration with the LUMS Culture Society)
Rooted in ancient traditions, Nowruz celebrates the Persian New Year, which marks the first day of spring, the end of winter, and the beginning of the new agrarian cycle. The celebrations generally begin on the night of March 20th, which is known as Chaharshanbe Suri, to symbolize the burning away of the old year and the purification of the soul. The main day of Nowruz falls on March 21st, also the vernal equinox, when day and night are equal in length. Hence the day for celebrations with feasting and the exchange of gifts.
The Gurmani Centre organized a vibrant celebration of Nowruz, the Persian new year festival on March 21, 2023, in collaboration with Khana-e- Farhang (Iranian Cultural Centre) Lahore. Mr. Jafar Ronas, the DG Khana-e Farhang graced the occasion as the Chief Guest and Dr. Spenta Kakalia as the Special Guest. The event was hosted in the central courtyard of the Academic Block on a very pleasant spring evening offering the guests a wonderful opportunity to be a part of an age old tradition that used to be an integral part of Lahore’s cultural milieu.
A table next to the stage was set up with the traditional Nowruz layout, the Haft-Seen—seven symbols of spring and rejuvenation, all starting with the letter S, or the Persian ‘Seen’. These included the Seeb or apple signifying beauty; Seer or garlic, a symbol of good health; Serkeh or vinegar denoting age and patience; Samanu or sweet pudding referring to fertility; Sabzeh or sprouts representing rebirth; Sanjad berries that are a symbol of love and affection and Sikkeh or coins promising prosperity in the year to come. Alongside these was a copy of Diwān-e Hafiz, a mirror and candles indication beaming reflections of the future.
The program started with a recording of a Nowruz song in Persian wishing Nowruz Mubarak to the guests gradually streaming in, setting the mood of the event. The proceedings started with Mr. Iftikhar Wazir, the MC for this event inviting the GCLL Director Dr. Nadhra Khan for the welcome note. This was followed by introductions of the festival’s historical and mythical origins by Dr. Fatima Fayyaz and Dr. Spenta Kakalia. The latter introduced the audience to an age old rosewater-and-wish ritual associated with Nowruz that inspired everyone present to come forward and perform it. Each person’s hands were sprinkled with rosewater using a traditional ‘itr-pāsh and were asked to touch their faces with their scented hands while looking into the mirror and making a wish. This participatory spirit brightened up the atmosphere boosting the event’s mood of celebration and cheerfulness. Lastly, Mr. Jafar Ronas expressed his appreciation for the Centre’s efforts at reviving this ancient Persian tradition. He also highlighted the warm and brotherly relationship between Iran and Pakistan and emphasized the need to strengthen these ties with closer contacts on cultural platforms. Mr. Ronas concluded by offering his best wishes for the forthcoming Pakistan Day on March 23rd by reciting beautiful Persian verses and wishing the audience a happy Nowruz.
In-between these short addresses were live performances by a master santoor-player Ali Raza and Usama Mustafa who sang celebratory melodies in Persian casting a spell on the audience. The santoor-player’s virtuosity on the traditional Persian stringed instrument was truly impressive and showcased the beauty and complexity of Persian music. Ali Raza’s musical medley for the evening was replete with prodigious improvisation. His performance was a reminder of how in the hands of a learned and skilled musician, music becomes a living language, charged with passion, creativity, always innovative, yet embodying cultural values and traditions handed down for centuries.
One of the highlights of the celebration this year was the egg-painting competition, which also generated excitement in the weeks preceding the event. Participants had been invited to decorate eggs and submit entries for a competition. The results were striking and egg painting during the event attracted many budding artists who actively participated in painting eggs throughout the evening. Tara Karrar, Bahar Karrar and Diya Adnan were declared winners and were awarded by the DG Khana-e Farhang.
This event was a testament to the Centre's commitment towards promoting cultural sensitivity and understanding among all communities across Pakistan and the region. The presence of the HSS Dean Dr. Ali Khan, several faculty members, students and a small group of Nowruz enthusiasts in Lahore turned it into a highlight of the Spring calendar.