Nowruz 2023: Celebrating Parsi New Year in Goa

As Parsis worldwide celebrate ‘Nowruz’, the Iranian or Persian New Year, on March 21, so does Goa’s Parsi community
 A festive Nawroz haft-sin table
A festive Nawroz haft-sin

For decades, Nawroz, the Iranian/Persian New year, has been celebrated on March 21 (spring equinox), based on the Gregorian calendar.

Zoroastrians, followers of the prophet Zarathustra, living in Iran, were trading with India centuries before they arrived in India in the 7th century.

Threatened by religious persecution by Islamic conquerors, a group of them came to India in boats, landing in Sanjan, a port on the West coast of India, and were called ‘Parsi’ (meaning: people from Paras, the local name for Persia).

 A festive Nawroz haft-sin table
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A trading community by profession, they soon migrated to Bombay (now Mumbai). The first record of a Parsi, Dorabji Nanabhai, settling in Bombay dates to 1640.

They migrated to the Far East in 1888, and over the decades, to every country in the world. Parsis have played a significant role in the Indian economy, contributing to almost every sphere in society. Except for politics, they are eminent lawyers, doctors, scientists, businesses, architects, hospitality ... the list goes on.

As per the 2014 census, there were 69,000 Parsis in India.

Parsi festive delicacies: (L to R) Lagan Nu Custard, Mutton Pulao, Prawn Patio, Patrani Machchi
Parsi festive delicacies: (L to R) Lagan Nu Custard, Mutton Pulao, Prawn Patio, Patrani MachchiGomantak Times


Nawroze is celebrated by laying a Haft-sin table, decorated with flowers, and oil lamp, with seven ingredients starting with 'S' (in Persian).

Each has a symbolic meaning. Sabzhe (wheat/lentil sprouts) for fertility/rebirth; samanu (sweet pudding) signifies affluence; senjed (dry fruits) for love; sir (garlic) for health; seeab (apple) for heath; sumac (crushed spice) for sunrise, and serekh (vinegar) for age/patience, and a mirror for self-refection.

 A festive Nawroz haft-sin table
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The festive day begins by going to the fire temple (there isn’t one in Goa), visiting friends, going for cultural performances, attending community dinners.

This year, the dinner venue in Goa is Café Chocolatti, in Candolim, and includes a 9-course dinner with liquor of your choice.

 A festive Nawroz haft-sin table
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There is no record of when Parsis came to Goa, where there are around 40 families. Apart from those who have second homes, majority are from Bombay.

Firdaush Postwalla, a banker, came on a posting to the Mapusa branch of a bank in 2004. Following retirement after 39 years, he now lives in Caranzalem, and is an investment counsellor, and does freelance photography for events, marriages and other functions.

Behram Nagporwalla and his Goan wife have been living in Goa since 2018
Behram Nagporwalla and his Goan wife have been living in Goa since 2018Gomantak Times

Jamseheed Gandhi lives in Panjim, and has been a journalist since 1996, covering information and technology for print and online media. He moved to Goa with his family in 2015.

“We are hands on parents to twin boys. Goa is excellent, as travel is easy, and the market, school close by. Coming from a family of chartered accountants, I have been interested in the stock market, a simple and legit way to earn and keep inter-generational wealth. Both professions come with their own challenges. When I was younger, it was fun to run around meet people and companies and be a part of a growing sector. Now I’m a stock investor,” says Jamseheed.

 A festive Nawroz haft-sin table
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Manek Contractor came to Goa in 1992 to do a yacht charter in partnership with a Spain-based company. In 1996, he opened an Italian cuisine restaurant, Fiesta. In 2005, he got back to his passion of building highly efficient composite yachts and boats for personal use, and specialised in high performance boats for the military, a range of electric crafts partially solar powered. He now lives in Vagator.

 A festive Nawroz haft-sin table
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Kayomarz Bharucha came to work with the Leela Palace in 1992, joining as a junior sous chef, and retired after 28 years as an executive chef in 2020. He prefers Goa’s beauty compared to the teeming crowds in Bombay.

“Where else could you travel 18 km from Margao to Mobor to work through such lovely countryside? It was hectic with long hours, but the owners always appreciated everyone’s contribution and the positive experience made it all worthwhile,” says Kayomarz.

 A festive Nawroz haft-sin table
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A marine engineer, Behram Nagporwalla, lives in Varca, and worked on off-shore rigs with Enron Oil in Singapore and Malaysia. He and his wife, Revis, who is a Goan, decided to live in Goa in 2018.

He is now an independent oil-field consultant to SR Oilfield, Ernst & Young, IDBI Bank, Mormugao Port, among others.

 A festive Nawroz haft-sin table
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Shireen Sidhava, currently living in Nerul, was a company director/commodity trader for 20 years in the UK, and 5 years in Tehran (Iran). She took early retirement and came to live in Goa in 1998.

“The attraction was … a cosmopolitan society, crime-free and tranquil ambience, efficient government, international airport close to Bombay,” says Shireen.

GT wishes everyone Nawroz Mubarak!

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