Nowrouz Vital Meeting to be Hold
in Tehran, 14 July 2004
As six countries featuring Persian culture agree to hold a joint coordination
session prior to submitting Nowrouz for the Third Proclamation of Masterpieces,
the chances of registering one of the grandest celebrations in the world
on the UNESCO's document has doubled, Iranian Cultural Heritage News
Agency reported on Wednesday.
In 1998, UNESCO created an international distinction entitled "Proclamation
of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity"
to honor the most remarkable examples of the oral and Intangible heritage
of humanity. According to this proclamation, traditions and rituals
observed in several countries must be submitted as a common file by
all those member states. As the biggest nation with Persian culture,
Iran has, thus, invited 10 other countries including Pakistan, Azerbaijan,
Tajikistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, and India to attend a meeting August
6-9 to coordinate the file.
"So far Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Afghanistan
have accepted the invitation and we are expecting Kazakhstan to introduce
its representative to the meeting in a couple of days," said Fatemeh
Farahani, cultural head of Iran's National UNESCO Commission.
Though it has often been associated with cultural sites, monuments
and museums, the cultural heritage also includes the intangible heritage,
which can be defined as the body of cultural and social expressions
that characterize communities and are based on tradition. These intangible
forms of heritage, passed on from generation to generation, are modified
through time by a process of collective recreation. They are ephemeral
and therefore particularly vulnerable.
On May 18, 2001, for the first time, UNESCO proclaimed 19 of the world's
most remarkable examples of the oral and intangible heritage. Selected
by a 18-member jury, the winning entries were chosen for their outstanding
value as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The global proclamation emphasizes the importance of protecting this
outstanding but endangered heritage - cultural spaces and forms of popular
and traditional expression - and of preserving cultural diversity.
Upon the recommendation of the International Jury for the First and
Second Proclamations (2001 and 2003), UNESCO has so far proclaimed 47
"Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity"
from all regions of the world. In a Circular letter, CL/3698 of 23 January
2004, the Director General invited UNESCO Members States and Associate
Members to submit candidatures for the Third Proclamation of Masterpieces
which will take place in Paris in July 2005.
Nowrouz is the New Year holiday in Iran, Azerbaijan, Central Asia,
Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of India and among the Kurds. The word
itself literally means "new day" in Persian, and the festival
marks the beginning of the solar year and new year on the Iranian calendar,
as well as among several other nationalities.
Nowrouz traditionally celebrates the awakening of nature, and even
the triumph of good over the oppressive darkness of winter. It is a
time to celebrate life at the time when life begins or is renewed for
much of that which is on the earth. The new year is marked at the instant
the sun leaves the astrological sign of Pisces and enters that of Aries.
This renewal of nature is the essence of this millennia-old tradition.
Originally held as a spring festival, it is believed to have been first
acknowledged and named "Nowrouz" by the mythical Persian emperor
Jamshid. Others credit the Achaemenid dynasty of the 12th century B.C.
for institutionalizing the Nowrouz festival.
There is also a tradition, mainly in Iran, of cleaning everything in
the house before Nowrouz, which may even play a role in the origins
of the "spring cleaning" practiced by many American households.
The spirit and significance of the holiday has often made Nowrouz a
target for foreign invaders and anti-nationalist forces throughout the
history of Iran. Alexander the Great and the Arab conquerors a thousand
years later tried to eliminate the holiday.
The Soviet Union banned it in Central Asia and Azerbaijan, as it was
considered a nationalist or Islamic holiday. The celebration was banned
in Kurdish sections of Turkey, though, for the last few years, Turkish
officials have allowed some festivities. Even in Iran, the birthplace
of the tradition, some conservatives favored banning it just after the
1979 revolution, but public opposition was strong and the ban proved
impossible to enforce.