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    Zoroastrian Mehregan Festival, Part 1

    Iran - Zoroastrian Mehregan Festival, Part 1


    Sometimes Spelled Mehregan, Mihregan or Mehrigan is an ancient Persian festival dating back almost 3000 years ago. Mehregān (Persian: مهرگان‎ or Jašn-e Mehr  جشن مهر Mithra Festival) is a Zoroastrian and Persian festival celebrated to honor the yazata Mithra (Persian: Mehr‎), which is responsible for friendship, affection and love. It is also widely referred to as the Persian Festival of Autumn.



    It was originally a feast honoring the Zoroastrian Angel Mithra. By the 4th century BCE, it was observed as one of the name-day feasts, a form it retains in today. Still, in a predominantly Muslim Iran, it is one of the two pre-Islamic festivals that continue to be celebrated by the public at large: Mehrgān, dedicated to Mithra (modern Mehr), and Tirgan, dedicated to Tishtrya (modern Tir).

    Name-day feasts are festivals celebrated on the day of the year when the day-name and month-name dedicated to a particular angel or virtue intersect. The Mehr day in the Mehr month corresponded to the day farmers harvested their crops. They thus also celebrated the fact God had given them food to survive the coming cold months.



    Irrespective of which calendar is observed, Mehrgān falls on the 196th day of the calendar year.

    It is celebrated on the 16th of the seventh month (Mehr) at the time of the harvest festivals and beginning of the winter. This feast would be celebrated for 6 days, starting on the 16th the "Mehr Ruz" and ending on the 21st known as "Raam Ruz". The first day was called "Mehregan'e Khord" and the last day "Mehregan'e Bouzorg". In these days, farmers had taken their harvest and they could pray God for it and relax.



    There are many accounts to the beginning of Mehregan which are listed below:

    First, Avestan texts (the Zoroastrians' holy book) divide the Iranian year into two equal parts or seasons. The first season was summer and the second was winter. The coming of the two seasons would be celebrated through, Norouz and Mehregan.



    Second, ancient Iranian's calendar had 12 months and each month contained 30 days. Each day had its own name and 12 days in each month had month's names as Farvadin, Ordibehesht, Khordad, etc and Iranians celebrated the day, which its name was like the month's name, such as 19th of Farvardin, 2nd of Ordibehesht and 4th of Khordad, etc. The name of 16th day of month was Mehr, so they celebrated this day as Mehregan. Now in our new calendar 6 first months of year have 31 days so Mehregan has come 6 days earlier, at 10th of Mehr. I should probably mention that in such a day the length of day and night are exactly equal.



    Third, Mehr day is mentioned as the day when the first male and female, Mashi and Mashiane were created from Gayo-maretan. Ancient Iranians believed, Mashi & Mashiane asked God to change them from plant to human shape, and God accepted their wish in such a day.

    Fourth, Feraydon's victory over Azydahak (Zahak in king's letter) happened on this day. Mehregan is a day of victory when Angels helped Fereydoon and Kaveh become victorious over Zahak. They imprisoned him in the Damavand Mountain where he died from his wounds 6 days later! This fragment of the legend is part of a greater cycle that ties Mehrgan with Nowruz; Zahak vanquished Jamshid (who the legends have as the one establishing Nowruz or New Year's Day), and Fereydun vanquishes Zahak, so restoring the balance. Mehrgan is the association of the polarity of spring/autumn, sowing/harvest and the birth/rebirth cycle, for as Biruni noted, "they consider Mihragān as a sign of resurrection and the end of the world, because at Mihragān that which grows reaches perfection."



    And at last some people have believed that Mehregan is the day God gave light to the world that had previously been dark. The seventh month in the Persian calendar is named Mehr and is dedicated to the Goddess of Light -- Mithra or Mehr. Her followers believed that she defeated evil and darkness, a scene that is often depicted with a triumphant lion residing over a bull. (Mithra is also a common noun in the Holy Book Avesta meaning contract).

    Some scholars believe that the month of Mehr was the beginning month of the calendar year during the Achaemenian era.  The Mehregan feast celebrated the beginning of a new year.  Later, Mehregan was especially important for the people of southern Iran who considered it still to be their Norouz.

    In a non-Zoroastrian context, where Mehr-Mithra is no longer worshipped, Mehregan remains a celebration involving family and friends. However, it is today recognized as a harvest festival.



    In some form or another, the feast day of Mehregan has always been honored for many hundreds of years in Iran. Long ago, Mehregan was celebrated by Iranians with the same magnificence and pageantry as Norouz. It has been the second most elaborate celebration after Norouz .Though most Iranians have heard about Mehregan, unlike Norouz it is not celebrated by all and is mainly regarded as a Zoroastrian festival. In the recent years, there has been a revival of this joyful and merry occasion and more Iranians are participating in this festival.

    Mehrgān was celebrated in an extravagant style at Persepolis. Not only was it the time for harvest, but it was also the time when the taxes were collected. Visitors from different parts of the Persian Empire brought gifts for the king all contributing to a lively festival.



    It was customary for people to send or give their king, and each other gifts. It was common for people to give presents that they personally liked themselves! Rich people usually gave gold and silver coins, heroes and warriors gave horses while others gave gifts according to their ability, even an apple. Those fortunate enough, will help the poor with gifts.

    Gifts to the royal court of over ten thousand gold coins were registered. If the gift-giver needed money at a later time, the court would then return twice the gift amount. Kings gave two audiences a year: one audience at Nowruz and other at Mehregān. During the Mehregān celebrations, the king wore a fur robe and gave away all his summer clothes.



    After the Mongul invasion, the feast celebration of Mehregan lost its popularity. Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman continued to celebrate Mehregan in an extravagant way.

    In part 2, how this festival is celebrated in recent years will be discussed.


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    This workshop is designed according to the UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme in order to give young people a chance to voice their concerns and to become involved in the protection of our common cultural and natural heritage. It seeks to encourage and enable tomorrow’s decision-makers to participate in heritage conservation and to respond to the continuing threats facing our World Heritage. The idea of involving young people in World Heritage preservation and promotion came as a response to Article 27 of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention). Furthermore, Patrimonito means 'small heritage' in Spanish and the character represents a young heritage guardian. Patrimonito has been widely adopted as the international mascot of the World Heritage Education Programme.
    Date: 29th December
    Number of trainees: 7
    Duration: 3 hours

    The workshop of "Patrimonito" was held on 29th of December. Participants arrived around 10:30 and they were welcomed by hot chocolate and Persian cup cakes. After a little introduction by trainers and trainees, the process started by making two groups and letting them choose a name for their group, each group was accompanied by a mentor then each group was given some images of world heritage sites in Iran and some descriptions, each group was asked to match images and descriptions, the mentor was guiding them throughout the activity. All trainees were participating actively and trying to remember their experiences about their travels to these places. When they were done with the activity, the mentors started giving the answers and a brief explanation about each site; mentors were using trainees’ ideas and experiences to complete their tasks.

    Shortly after that, the second part started which was a presentation done by two of mentors. The aim of this presentation was to define the value of these world heritage sites and duties of each person as a "Patrimonito", and what happens if there is no "Patrimonito" and nobody cares about our tangible or intangible heritage. In this part trainees started questioning and understanding the whole concept of being a "Patrimonito", they also added their own suggestions on how to protect our heritage and by the end of this part, they were completely aware about their role as a "Patrimonito".
    Now it was a best time to have a short break, during the break trainees were introduced to some of intangible heritages as they were served by traditional food and snacks and even they way of serving was according to traditions and everyone had this opportunity to discuss about intangible heritage while enjoying some traditional food and snacks.
    When the break was done, everyone was asked to choose a heritage either tangible or intangible and they had to introduce their chosen heritage to a tourist by making a postcard using what they have learnt. They were given all of necessary tools such as color papers, color pencils, glue, scissors, images of heritage and a mentor was with them in order to help them completing the task.

    When they were done, they handed out their postcards and with the mentors they sat together and spent a few minutes asking and answering about what they have learnt. Then they were told to say their vows for protecting their heritage and caring about it, the mentor said the vow and the trainees repeated after her and they officially became a "Patrimonito".

    The last but the best part was when they were given the certificates, and they were told that since they are aware of the value of the heritage and they know how to protect it, they are chosen as "Patrimonito" and they should continue their mission by introducing the value of heritage to others. They were granted certificates and labels and the workshop of "Patrimonito" was finished by taking some memorial photos.