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Noruz in the Iranian World: Afghanistan


24 March 2006




LONDON, (CAIS) -- In Afghanistan, New Year is pronounced Nawrooz, which literally means new day and is one of the oldest holidays celebrated in former Iranian provinces in Central Asia. In Afghanistan the New Year begins on March 21 and is celebrated with community gatherings and special meals.

Within each group Afghans from vastly different provinces are mingling with a degree of ease that is notable in a nation still struggling to forge a national identity after years of regional conflict.

That sense of community was one of the few uplifting aspects of the Chila Khana. A large fenced-off out door nock in Mazar-e- Sharif shrine’s western wall, the Chila Khana or House of Forty, is reserved for the most seriously ill and disabled of worshipers. According to tradition, those who sleep here each night will be cured of whatever ails them. Mazar Sharif (burial of the Noble-one) is believed to be the burial city of Asho Zarathushtra.

A few days into Norouz, more than 100 pilgrims were huddled there in a tableau of human misery.

Buzkashi matches are held during Norouz or Persian New Year. Horsemen race each other while fighting for a headless goat carcass. Buzkashi is said to date from the time of Mogul invasion of Iran. With their Asiatic feature, high heeled boots and quilted jackets and sashes, the professional players look as though they step out of another area, but they had also accessorize their outfits with a few touches from Afghan’s more recent past including olive green Soviet tanker’s helmets from 1980s and black plastic knee pads that would have fit in with the rollerblades in Rock Creek Park.

Every few minutes the scrum of horsemen whooshed by in a blur of clattering hoofs, rearing horses and cracking whips. Then the announcer would call out of the name of the player judged to have gained possession of the carcass never an obvious choice and the winner ride up to receive a fistful of cash from the sponsor of that round.






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