Exploring the mysterious ritual of the ancient island of Qeshm
Nowruz Sayyad is an ancient ceremony held by southern Iranian people in Qeshm island to celebrate the beginning of the main fishing season.
In the southern parts of Iran, the sea and fishing play a very significant role in the daily life of people. Living in the islands like Qeshm, which are located next to the Persian Gulf, means the life of the locals is hugely dependent on the sea. Here, sea means life, as it brings vitality to the people who rely on it for their food. Fishing is a major part of the island’s people lives and different seasons and periods are defined according to its cycles. Unlike other parts of Iran which celebrate the costumery Nowruz in late March, local people in south celebrate their New Year, called the Fisherman’s Nowruz, (Norwuz-e Sayyad) at the beginning of the main fishing season in late July.
Nowruz Sayyad, which literally means a new day for the hunter, is a ritual held by the southern Iranian since many years ago. On this day, the fishermen stop fishing and do not even eat seafood in order to let the number of fish to increase. Besides, the local people celebrate this day by swimming in seawater. Young and old, man and woman, they all throw their bodies into the water in order to heal or stay away from all diseases throughout the year.
This ritual is specially celebrated in one of the villages of the island called Salkh. All the people of Salkh participate in this ceremony and they celebrate it by performing traditional rituals like reading Razif and dancing Shushi with songs played with their local instruments. Normally, a group of men who are dressed in white play drums. This is accompanied by another group singing local songs while dancing to the rhythm of the drums. As mentioned before, people avoid eating fish in this day, because they believe that’s how fish get a chance to reproduce and thus, the number of them will increase. This is a day when fish, without worrying about fishermen, can enjoy happy and free moments in the boundless waters of the sea.
The people of Qeshm believe that in this day (which is the last day of the first month in solar calendar) all springs pour into the sea and all fish should be kept safe so that they can increase the blessings of God on the islanders by multiplying their generation. Besides, families take sick people and the elderly to the sea and pour water on their bodies with the intention of healing.
Just like the costumery Nowruz, southern people wear new clothes on this day to bring good luck to their life. They also paint their animals with a red mud called Gelak and take them to the sea for celebration. Women cook a special type of pastry, which is made from the date and is called Ranginak. They also play various games and contests such as rowing and tug-of-war. The main principle of all games is based on living along the coast and fishing and on this day, older people teach the rules of the games to children and adolescents.
Other rituals consist of 2 men wearing black as a symbol for bandits, a wooden camel to carry off the booty, and a man disguised as a white bird to evoke purity.