Redbridge Zoroastrians celebrate the coming of spring with feast at home of former mayor

Members of the borough's Zoroastrian community.Photo: Aaron Walawalkar

Members of the borough's Zoroastrian community.Photo: Aaron Walawalkar - Credit: Archant

The borough’s Zoroastrian community marked the coming of spring with a feast at the home of a former Redbridge mayor.

The Recorder were invited to the home of Filly Maravala, in Mortlake Road, Ilford, to celebrate and learn more about Jamshedi Noruz on Wednesday (March 21).

Noruz - translating roughly as “new day” - takes place annually on the night of the vernal equinox - the date on which both day and night last around the same length.

The festival also takes it name from the mythical Iranian King Jamshed who, as legend has it, saved the world from a great deluge after receiving a divine intervention from the revered deity Ahura Mazda.

Fire is central to the traditional Noruz ceremony, Mr Maravala explained.

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“You would say your prayers at home and wear what we call a Dugli [a white dress traditional to Parsis],” he said.

“We then go to the fire temple and lay sticks of sandalwood by the venerated fire altar.”

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“Priests take the sticks in a ladle and place it into the fire so that it can continue to burn.”

But, as there are no consecrated temples in the UK, Mr Maravala recites special prayers at home and hosts a get together in the evening.

On either side of his front door of Mr Maravala’s home are intricate chalk drawings displaying good luck symbols designed to ward away evil spirits.

Indoors, the walls of Mr Maravala’s home are decorated with ornate Asho Farohar - the religion’s inconic winged emblem - and tapestries portraying Iranian King Shah Lohrasp and diety Aho Zoroaster.

Beneath Mr Maravala’s smart polo shirt he, and other guests, wear the traditional sudreh shirt kusti belt, made up of a 72 strands to symbolise the 72 prayers of the Holy Zoroastrian scripture the Avesta.

Describing the sudreh shirt, Mr Maravala said: “There’s a pocket in the front to collect good deeds and pocket in the back for bad deeds.”

After clinking their glasses together to cheers of “Noruz Mubarak,” the guests ate a three course meal topped off with a glass of falooda - a drink containing rose syrup, ice cream, sweet basil seeds and vermicelli.

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