by Shahin Bekhradnia
This ancient Iranian festival celebrates the presence of one of the life sustaining elements, namely water.
Anyone who has experienced the arid desert climate which most of Iran enjoys, will have no doubt that it is a blessing from heaven and should be properly appreciated. It’s no coincidence that most of the sacred pilgrimage sites (pir) around Yazd are located at places where natural waters spring out of the rock face, most famous of which is Pir e Sabz. The reverence for such places indicates the great value attached to water.
Along with earth, fire and air, the harmonious management of the elements allows crops to flourish, fruit to develop & ripen and fragrant flowers to bloom thanks to careful water husbandry
In the month of Tir in the height of the summer when the temperature can reach very high levels, and on the day of Tir, we celebrate one of our monthly Gan festivals (when name of month and day are the same) in a special way. All Zoroastrian festivals are joyous and life affirming and Tirgan is possibly the most fun.
Traditionally those who were game for some innocent mischief would lie in wait with a bucket of water on the flat roofs of their traditional homes, listening out for the sounds of a passerby. Once they were within their sight/hearing range the contents of the bucket would be tipped over them! But it was all taken in good heart, and greeted as a welcome cooling shower which would dry off in minutes, given the intense desert heat.
In Iran it’s not just Zoroastrians who still treat this as a special day (loosely equivalent of 13th of Tir month) but also iranians in the northern provinces who were the last to adopt Islam and in the towns of Fars province and in Tajikistan as a revived festival.
Of course here we have to modify our fun and games but we have a little plan ……. !!
The other aspect of Tirgan is associated with Arash the Archer who was chosen to settle a long raging war between Iran and neighbouring Turan ruled over by King Afrasiysb. When Arash fired his arrow as far as he could, wherever it landed would demarcate the boundary between the two states. Once the arrow landed, the rains began to fall on both countries and the drought long-suffered in Turan came to an end and peace came back to the 2 states states.
The word Tir is a modern rendering of the Middle Persian Teshtar and Avestan Tishtriya which was considered the star of rain and harvests. In the Teshtar Yasht prayer there is a short reference to the legend of the arrow and in Persian Tir means an arrow.
It became a tradition which children enjoyed to make fine wristband braids from rainbow coloured threads which were offered as token gifts to friends in this day and worn for 10 days before being discarded into running water. To round off the fun of the day, the pass time of chakeh douleh was organized which allowed a bit of amateur fortune telling with the help of verses from the beloved poet Hafez.