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History of Norooz


Norooz, in word, means “new day”. It is the new day that starts the year, traditionally the exact astronomical beginning of the Spring.

For thousands of years, Norooz was rotating. The Zoroastrian religious calendar, used before Islam, consisted of 12 months with 30 days each, making 360 days, plus a “stolen five” (Panjeh-ye Mostareghe) days that was held at the end of each year, adding up to 365 days. Early astronomers were not aware of the leap years and did not add the one day more every four years, thus caused the rotation of Norooz. The other fact was that during the anarchic times and moments of unrest in the country such as time of Alexander, or end of Ashkanids, people forgot to add the five stolen days, and this resulted in another problem in the calendar. During the Sasanid era Tansar, the head priest (Mubedhan-i Mubedh) of Ardeshir I unsuccessfully tried to organise the calendar. There are accounts of Norooz in Autumn, winter or even Summer!

The first person who re-organised the calendar successfully was Omar Khayyam, the mathematician and astronomer of 5th century H (11-12th AD). He drew a chart for the year and put the start of the year at the moment of Aries’ entrance to the house of Sun. He made a calendar of 6 months with 31 days, and 6 months with 30 days making a total 365 days, and suggested the addition of 1 day every four years and also addition of a months every 13,000 years. This is the most complete calendar ever made. Khayyam called it “the Jalali Calendar” because of “Jalal” al-Din Malekshah Saljuqi, his patron king. Currently, his calendar is called the “Khorshidi”(Sun based) calendar, as oppose to the Arabic “Ghamari” (moon based) calendar.

Although Khayyam was Iranian and he created this calendar based on the pre-Islamic calendar of Zoroastrians, it was not used widely in Iran until the 1925 AD(1304 HS) when Reza Shah Pahlavi ordered it to be used instead of “Ghamari” calendar. In the process of finding names for the months, there are some interesting mistakes happened which are note-worthy. The first month is originally called “Fravartishn”, but when they wanted to choose it as the name, they found it too hard, so they made it shorter by calling it Farvardin. Second month was originally Ardibehesht, but it became Ordibehesht. Fifth month, Mordad, was suppose to be Amordad, but the Mordad form sounded better. Seventh months Mehr was “Mithr” at first, but ‘th’ sound is hard to pronounce in Farsi, so they chose the acceptable replacement of ‘h’. Azar, the ninth months was “Atar” at first, but it sounds too Zoroastrian, so ‘z’ was found to be more acceptable. And finally, the last month was “Esfandarmadh(z)”, but oh god, who is going to say that! So “Esfand” was thought of as more suitable, although it is the name of a spice!

Now, in ahistorical sense, Norooz is the oldest Iranian holiday. Together with Mehregan (entrance of Libra to the house of Sun), it was one of the “two” new years of ancient Aryans. Mehregan was the first day of the “cold” year (Autumn and Winter), and Norooz was the start of the “warm” year (Spring and Summer). It is said that Norooz is chosen as the official holiday by King Yama (Jamsheed), the ancient Iranian king who is the hero of the mythological story of expanding the earth. According to the story, when Yama expanded the earth three times, he ordered the day of the last expantion to be called Norooz, a New Day for the Iranian race.

The truth most likely lies somewhere in between this story and the fact that Norooz is the beginning of the Spring. It could be that Norooz was already a holiday for the Aryans, but when it coincided with an important event in the reign of Jamsheed, it was chosen to be the “special” holiday.

What ever it might have been, Norooz became the most important holiday in Iran after the Islam. Comparing to Norooz, Mehregan and Sadeh (another important Iranian holiday) lost their importance. The selection of Norooz as the only standing “Iranian” holiday after Islam might also be a direct result of the limitations imposed on Iranians by Moselm rulers. For Iranians after Islam, Norooz was a sign of holding on to the national values. It helped them to remember their heritage in spite of cultural attacks of Arabs, Mongols, Turks, and Westerners. Norooz continues its role of national pride in this world of cultural trades and influences. For the Iranians out side home, Norooz is an element of nostalgia and a reminder of home, at least once a year. Although Norooz has some outside influences like Qoran and the Arabic prayer during the beginning of the year, but it still holds the distinctively Iranian values of health, green-ness, life, light, and happiness.

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The Origin of Christmas

A brief history of the holiday

The first time the birth of Jesus Christ was attributed to the date December 25 was in the 4th century, according to early Roman history. Early celebrations of Christmas are thought to have derived from Roman and other European festivals that marked the end of the harvest, and the winter solstice.

Some customs from those celebrations that have endured include decorating homes with greenery, giving gifts, singing songs, and eating special foods.

The holiday developed further with the legend of St. Nicholas. Although much of his history is unconfirmed, the man who became St. Nicholas lived in the 4th century and is believed to have been a bishop in Asia Minor.

Many miracles attributed to him are dubious at best. Nevertheless, some countries named him their patron saint. He also is considered the patron saint of, among others, children (for protecting them), sailors (whom he reputedly saved at sea), and the poor (to whom he generously gave gifts).

In his honor, the Feast of St. Nicholas was marked on December 6 and gifts given the night before. The tradition was well established in many European countries by the 12th century. Eventually, because St. Nicholas’ Day and Christmas Day are so close together, their traditions generally were combined.

St. Nicholas took on different personas in different countries. For example, The Netherlands have Sinter Klaas; Father Christmas gives gifts in Great Britain; Père Noël does the same in France; and in Germany St. Nicholas has had many names including Klaasbuur, Burklaas, Rauklas, Bullerklaas, and Sunnercla, although Father Christmas is becoming more popular. In the United States, the Dutch settlers’ Sinter Klaas evolved into Santa Claus.

Foods that keep you cool in summer

Gear up for the rise in mercury level. Eat the right foods that will keep you hydrated and healthy.

It’s that time of the year when you start reaching for diet sodas, ice cubes and the remote to the air conditioner. But the quick relief can lead rather quickly to the opposite of what you intended. Anything lower than your actual body temperature produces a cooling effect only initially. Then, after about 20 minutes, the opposite happens.
Drinking very cold liquids may lead to constriction of the blood vessels and decrease heat loss from the body, which is bad when trying to cool down.

So stock up that refrigerator and kitchen with the right foods, not just to keep the temperature from raging but also to look and smell nice.

Smell right

Body odour is caused by the deficiency of zinc in our diet. Odorous sweat can be effectively avoided by consuming foods rich in zinc. Simple measures, such as adding wheat bran to your oats breakfast consumed with cold milk, can help. Shell fish, almonds, peanuts, dried watermelon seeds and sprouts are also rich sources of zinc.

Stay cool

Nutritionist Jyoti Lalwani highly recommends eating curd, drinking coconut water and sugarcane juice during summers. Intestinal infections such as cholera, typhoid, amoebiasis find it easy to surface during a warm climate. Eating curd helps increase the friendly bacteria in the intestines. These bacteria promote digestion and boost immunity. Due to sweating, water and many essential minerals are lost from the body which makes you feel tired and sluggish. Coconut water is packed with simple sugars, electrolytes, and minerals that replenish hydration levels. Research suggest that coconut water also has anti-ageing and anticancer properties. Sugar cane juice comes in handy for those who exercise or work out during summers. Containing only natural sugars, it not only cools the body but also energises with a high quantity of carbohydrates and proteins. The nutrients found in sugarcane are beneficial for the functioning of the kidneys, heart and the brain.

Nutritionist Naini Setalvad suggests eating raw mango to prevent sunstrokes and summer typhoid. “Have raw mango in any form, whether sliced and tossed in bhel or as a drink called ‘panha’,” she says. It contains natural sugar and prevents constipation. You can also consume musk melon and water melon which comprises of 90 per cent water. Lalwani adds cucumbers, bell peppers and ice-berg lettuce to the list of naturally watery food items. “These prevent urine from being acidic in the summer,” she says. Buttermilk and lemon juice are couple of other drinks that help cool the body and up immunity.

Persian Language & Literature

Molana Jalal-e-Din Mohammad Molavi Rumi


Jalal-e-Din Mohammad Molavi Rumi was born in 1207 CE at Balkh in the north-eastern provinces of Persia (present day Afghanistan), to a Persian-speaking family. His father Baha al-Din was a renowned religious scholar. Under his patronage, Rumi received his early education from Syed Burhan-al-Din. When his age was about 18 years, to avoid the Mongol invasions, the family moved westward through Iran, Iraq, and Syria, meeting famous writers and mystics, such as the revered poet Attar, who authored the finest spiritual parable in the Persian language, “The Concourse of the Birds.” The family’s flight ended in 1226 in the Anatolian city of Qonya—capital of the Seljuk Turkish sultanate of Rum, from which the poet’s name derives. Rumi settled, taught, and composed here until his death in 1273. Although Konya’s sultans were forced to pay tribute to the Mongols in 1243, the city remained a safe haven for Islamic culture, gathering outstanding minds from far horizons in a tormented age.

Rumi was sent to Aleppo (present day Syria) for advanced education and later to Damascus. He continued with his education till he was 40 years old, although on his father’s death Rumi succeeded him as a professor in the famous Madrasah at Konya at the age of about 24 years. He received his mystical training first at the hands of Syed Burhan al-Din and later he was trained by Shams-e Tabrizi. He became famous for his mystical insight, his religious knowledge and as a Persian poet. Rumi taught a large number of pupils at his Madrasah and also himself founded the Molavi Order of Dervishes in Tasawwof (Sufism) and instituted the ecstatic dance ritual for which the “whirling dervishes” are known to this day. He died in 1273 CE at Konya (present day Turkey), which subsequently became a sacred place for dancing dervishes of the Molavi Order.

His major contribution lies in Islamic philosophy and Tasawwof (Sufism). This was embodied largely in poetry, especially through his famous Masnavi. This book, the largest mystical exposition in verse, discusses and offers solutions to many complicated problems in metaphysics, religion, ethics, mysticism, etc. Fundamentally, the Masnavi highlights the various hidden aspects of Sufism and their relationship with the worldly life. For this, Rumi draws on a variety of subjects and derives numerous examples from everyday life. His main subject is the relationship between man and God on the one hand, and between man and man, on the other. He apparently believed in Pantheism and portrayed the various stages of man’s evolution in his journey towards the Ultimate. – See more at: http://www.iranchamber.com/literature/jrumi/molana_rumi.php#sthash.lYE0ujKz.dpuf
Works of Molavi Rumi:

Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Masnavi


Few examples of Masnavi:
1- The Reed Flute
2- Moses and The Shepherd
3- Moses describing the 4 virtues resulting from faith
– See more at: http://www.iranchamber.com/literature/jrumi/molana_rumi.php#sthash.lYE0ujKz.dpuf
Masnavi-e Manavi (in English)
By: Molana Jalal-e-Din Mohammad Molavi Rumi

Hafiz quotes


“Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.”
― Hafiz
“Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe Me.”

Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.”
― Hafiz

About Hafiz Shirazi

Family
Pen-Name

Hafiz or Hafez (a title given to those who had memorized the Koran by heart. It is claimed that Hafiz had done this in fourteen different ways).
Full Title

Khajeh Shamseddin Mohammad Hafiz-s Shirazi
Other variations of spelling are:
Khwajeh Shams al-Din Muhammad Hafez-e Shirazi,
or Khwaje Shams ud-Din Mohammed Hafiz-e Shirazi
Father:
Baha-ud-Din
Brothers:

He had two older brothers

Wife:

Hafiz married in his twenties, even though he continued his love for Shakh-e Nabat, as the manifest symbol of her Creator’s beauty.
Children:

Hafiz had one child.
Poetry
Divan-e-Hafiz

Some 500 ghazals, 42 Rubaiyees, and a few Ghaseedeh’s, composed over a period of 50 years. Hafiz only composed when he was divinely inspired, and therefore he averaged only about 10 Ghazals per year. His focus was to write poetry worthy of the Beloved.
Compiler of Divan

Hafiz did not compile his poetry. Mohammad Golandaam, who also wrote a preface to his compilation, completed it in 813 A.H or 1410 a.d, some 21-22 years after Hafiz’s death.

Also another person who compiled Hafiz’s poetry was one of his young disciples Sayyid Kasim-e Anvar, who collected 569 Ghazals attributed to Hafiz. He died in 1431 a.d. some 42-43 years after Hafiz’s death.
Death
Date
:

Late 1388 or early 1389 a.d. or 791 A.H. at the age of 69.

Place:

Shiraz

Tomb:

in Musalla Gardens, along the banks of Ruknabad river in Shiraz, which is referred to as Hafezieh.

Islam and Sufis

Sufism is commonly called the mystical branch of Islam, but many Sufis would argue the point, saying that Sufism existed before the advent of the Prophet Mohammed. This perspective makes Sufism a non-dogmatic tradition of devotion and mystical technology, somewhat parallel to the role of Yoga in India. Others, however, find this argument offensive, asserting that Sufism is well-rooted within the religion of Islam. Either way, it is a holy well of sacred experience and has inspired some of the finest mystical poetry given to the world.

The Sufis

Sufis are sometimes called the Masters of Love because the Sufi path strives for ecstatic ego annihilation in the fires of Divine Love.

The origin and meaning of the word Sufi is often debated. It is often said to derive from the Arabic word for wool (suf), and a reference to the simple, rough clothing often associated with early Muslim ascetics. Other possible meanings for the term relate to purity, the chosen ones, even a reference to the Greek word for wise man (sophos). The truth is that all of those possible meanings tell us something of what it means to be a Sufi.

The Sufi commentator Qushayri gives a beautiful description of the Sufi ideal:

Sufism is entry into exemplary behavior and departure from unworthy behavior.
Sufism means that God makes you die to yourself and makes you live in him.
The Sufi is single in essence; nothing changes him, nor does he change anything.
The sign of the sincere Sufi is that he feels poor when he has wealth, is humble when he has power, and is hidden when he has fame.
Sufism means that you own nothing and are owned by nothing.
Sufism means entrusting the soul to God most high for whatever he wishes.
Sufism means seizing spiritual realities and giving up on what creatures possess.
Sufism means kneeling at the door of the Beloved, even if he turns you away.
Sufism is a state in which the conditions of humanity disappear.
Sufism is a blazing lightning bolt.
(quoted in Sufism: An essential introduction to the philosophy and practice of the mystical tradition of Islam, by Carl W. Ernst, PhD)

Though not as widely known or practiced in the West today as Yoga, Sufism has had a profound effect on the mystical traditions of the world, both East and West, since the Middle Ages. The Sufi tradition seems to have influenced developments in modern Yoga, particularly the ecstatic devotional practices of Bhakti Yoga. In Europe, as well, where mysticism often had to remain underground and look for mystical traditions “lost” or suppressed in mainstream expressions of Christianity, the Sufis greatly inspired Christian mystics, reaching them through Moorish Spain, through the interaction of the Crusades, and through the influence of Islamic physicians and scientists in service at various European courts.

Sufi Poetry

Poetry has been a revered art in every world culture, but this is particularly so throughout the Islamic world. This is partly due to the traditional Islamic prohibition on representational art. Since portrayal of people and things was largely forbidden, the visual arts tended to focus on rich, elaborate patterns and calligraphy, while much of the Islamic artistic genius emphasized the power of words over the visual image. And the Quran itself uses highly poetic language which, of course, inspires a tendency among Muslims to express themselves in a similarly poetic fashion. Perhaps the desert environments that predominate in many Islamic countries likewise contributed to a vocal rather than a visual focus.

The poetic tradition within Islam, still very much alive today, has given us an amazing bounty of sacred and mystical poetry from the Sufi and Muslim traditions.

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