Turkmenistan in the list of intangible cultural human heritage. Part 2. Nowruz

Turkmenistan in the list of intangible cultural human heritage. Part 2. Nowruz

In the first article dedicated to the elements related to Turkmenistan in the List of intangible cultural human heritage, website Golden Age has written about heroic epic of Gyorogly, which is included in the list.

However, the list has elements, which were included in the result of presentation made not only by one but by number of countries. It includes falcon hunting, which has become the element of the List in the result of presentation of 18 countries of the world or felt tent making, which was included to the list owing to joint application of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. 

The celebration of Nowruz has also become multi-cultural element included to the List owing to support of 24 states. By proposal of Turkmenistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan, special Resolution on proclamation of March 21 as International Nowruz Day has been adopted at the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly in February 2010.

Nowruz is one of the most ancient people’s holidays in the world, which are famous in Central Asian countries from Zoroastrian time. In Farsi language, the word ‘nowruz’ means a new day. Nowruz was the main celebration of the year in the states of Achaemenid dynasty (VII – IV BC) and Sasanian Empire (III – VII).  It is mentioned in Avesta that Zoroastrians related the beginning of Nowruz with the vernal equinox.

The night before Nowruz, the constellation of the Lion with royal star of Reglus came to zenith and the Pleiades, which used to be called the constellation of the Taurus, and the star of Deer went behind the horizon. This phenomenon was reflected in ancient visual art, in which the scene of lion tormenting bull or deer was very popular.

Antique historian Quintus Curtius Rufus wrote that image of the sun was hoisted above the ruler’s tent on the vernal equinox when the first sun beam fell on the king’s throne and celebration procession was started. It was opened by priests followed by 365 young men dressed purple cloaks representing number of days in the year.

People lit up celebration lights and performed fortune-telling rituals on sprouted seeds of seven plants about future harvest. All of these was accompanied by songs, dances and fun.

The Parthian poem “Vis and Ramin” about the king and his spouse says: “Although the celebration of the king was lavish, his citizens celebrated the holiday not worse… Everybody came out of the houses and went downtown. Various songs were sounded from all gardens, fields and river banks”.

Horse races, wrestling and archery competitions were organized on Nowruz, friends and relatives visiting their people were presented with lavish gifts, people used to come outside dressed in new clothes.

As Nowruz fell on spring works of people for development of their houses and yards, one week prior the holiday, the young women started overhaul cleaning, broke and dispose old dishware, got rid of old clothes.

During Nowruz, young Turkmen women were riding swings and baked round flatbread symbolizing the sun. According to ancient understanding, the old sun died and new one was born during the celebration. As the sun was Zoroastrian god, it has to be eaten in order new sun could be born. That is why baked flatbreads were finely sliced and added to ritual dish, which was served at the celebration table and eaten together with relatives and neighbors. After adoption of the Islam, a lamb has become a sacrifice animal during the holiday.

Young men gathered tulips and presented them to girls in the spring holiday. Young women were making flower wreaths and singing “Home, husbands, child in my hands on the thirteenth months of the next year” dreaming to get married.

The holiday was celebrated for several days. The red rose holiday came right after the Nowruz. Young people were gathering in groups and danced on the streets with bunches of red flowers. They throw the roses to baskets of pedestrians and gave to girls and had ceremonial procession with torches at night.

Khiva Khan Abulgazi wrote in XVII century that on the day of freedom, Oghuz people lit up a big fire and having put metal in the fire, slammed it with hammer giving the power of fire to water and land. According to their understanding, the land came back alive and the cold went away.

Such famous oriental poets and scientists as Omar Khayam, Khafiz, Saadi Shirazi, Jami, Firdousi and other highlighted the subject of Nowriz.

The Turkmens had two Nowruz – pastoral Nowruz “charva nowruzy”, which was celebrated on February 22 and farming “yupek nowruzy” celebrated on Mach 17 – 22. The difference was caused not only by the fact that winter ended up earlier in the southern parts of the country but also that domestic animals of Turkmens engaged in livestock farming gave birth in the end of the winter. The period between two dates was called the month of the wind. 

The Turkmens cooked traditional dish ‘semeni’ (made of sprouted wheat seeds) and 2nowruz yarma’ (from bulgur wheat).

The food was cooked in big cauldrons and everybody who came to the house ate the food. In his poem Nowruz, Magtumguly wrote: “Triumphant voice of Nowruz sounds in the Universe”.

In our days, the Nowruz, which absorbed noble traditions formed for thousands of years and urging peoples to peaceful co-existence, has become an international holiday. The value of the holiday has increased as an integral part of the world culture, which brings people closer.


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