In light of the auspicious Parsi New Year falling on or about August 18th this year, the question arises why does the Parsi New Year fall 5 months after the Vernal equinox??? And shall it not begin with the vernal equinox, as it is so prescribed in the Avesta???
According to the Yasna and other Avestan accounts “hamas.path. maiðya” or “hamaß .path. maiðya” marks the beginning of the religious year.
The Avestan term refers specifically to the moment when the center/middle position (maiðya ) of the Sun is in the same/equal (hamas) position/passage/path (Avestan Path) as the Earth’s equator. It is specific to the moment when such a passage happens and when the celestial points/paths of intersection are at an equal/same length from each other, hence Equinox.
Avestan “hamas / hamaß” is the same as Greek homos, Sanskrit samah, Gothic sama; “even, the same, equal.” Avestan “path” is the same as English “path” and has survived in farsi slang as paté. Avestan “maiðya” Sanskrit madhya, Proto Indo European medhyó, Old Norse miðr, Gothic midjis, Greek mesos, Latin medius, “middle, in between, center, occupying a middle position.”
The Zoroastrian religious calendar coincides with Vernal Equinox as repeatedly and unequivocally mentioned in the Avesta . But because the calendar has exactly 12 months of 30 days each plus 5 enchanting gatha/song days at the end of each year; the calendar requires regular correction to keep it synchronised with the exact moment of the vernal equinox.
A solar calendar is around 365 ¼ days, which the Seasonal Avestan calendar accommodates by adding a day every four years (a leap day called avardaad,) or an extra month every 120 years as prescribed in Denkart (III.419.)
And here lies the difference between the old reckoning/qadimi and royal/shenshái calendars and the Avestan. The qadimi and shenshái FORGOT to add a sixth day in leap years, or a 13th month each 120 years; as is the case with the Seasonal Avestan calendar. Thus the qadimi and shenshái variant of the Zoroastrian calendar roam through the seasons, while the Avestan does NOT and is in harmony with the seasons.
It appears that the last time that the Parsi Nauvrooz coincided with the Vernal equinox was 600 years ago according to the Parsi Shenshái reckoning, and 500 years ago according to the Irani Zoroastrian Qadimi Calendar.
600 or 500 years ago is the timeline of the Safavid dynasty rule in Ian. Safavid were authentic Iranians yet despised their ancient religion and promoted a new Iranian identity under an Iranian form of Islam. Up to their time of rule, slightly less than half of the population were still Zoroastrians in Iran, fire temples could be seen all over the country and Zoroastrian although no longer a great majority, still represented a significant part of the population. Above all religious scholarship of authentic Zoroastrianism still thrived.
With their advent, religious scholarship and the last of real dastoors disappeared, hence I the ensuing chaos in various religious matters.
In Iranian heartland, few religious scholars or dastoors still remained for another 80 years or so, but that soon ended and Zoroastrians became an isolated group at the margins of the society.
The failure to bring the Calendar in line with the Vernal Equinox dates back to this period of the sharp decline of dastoors or the true religious scholars. The difference of a month between qadimi (ancient irani calendar) and parsi royal calendar could also be explained in term of implementation of an extra 13 month for another century in Iran, while the same practice was no longer followed among the Parsis of India.
I should add that an identical calendar to that of qadimi or ancient Irani calendar is still used in the lush Caspian provinces and Caspian Mountains of northern Iran. This is due to the fact The Caspian province of Mazandaran was ruled by a Zoroastrian dynasty until 1597. Their downfall also occurred during the rule of Shah Abbas the Safavid known erroneously as Great (1587-1628 CE.)
There exists a Nauvrooz-e ṭabari in Māzandarān on the 24 or 25 July; and, at a short distance from it, a Nauvrooz-e deylami in Gilān on 6 or 7 August.
Along the Persian Gulf coast, there is a Nauvrooz -e daryāʾi (Sea New Year) on 31 July or 1 August. Undoubtedly, there are other cases as well, which have not yet been investigated, which all point to the Zoroastrian ancestry and their forced conversion during the Safavid period.
In conclusion I wish all my Parsi brothers and sisters a heartfelt happy shenshai nauvrooz, may you always prosper and shine brightly.