The main goal of this Committee is to manage all aspects of, and prepare food for Gahanbar festivals
M A N I J E H A R D E S H I R I
B I J A N S A L A M A T I
S H A H R A M P O U R E S F A N D I A R I
F A R Z A N E H K A V O O S I
M I T R A S E P E H R I
K A T A Y O O N S A L A M A T I
Gahanbars are six seasonal thanksgiving festivals or high feasts when Zoroastrians assemble to eat and share food communally. They are joyous occasions at which rich and poor met together, new friendships are formed and old disputes resolved. While each gahanbar traditionally spans five days, nowadays it is the last day that is usually observed.
Gahanbars are a demonstration of beliefs, principles and values in action and are an expression of piety in thought, word and deed.
The food stuffs are contributed anonymously according to a person or family's means. Many community members volunteer to prepare the food, prepare for the occasion and serve the meals - without regard to status. During the meal, everyone sits together and partakes of the same food. The customs are an expression of egalitarian communal togetherness. The free and equal sharing of food with everyone, the environment of togetherness, goodwill and sharing - all serve to help build and strengthen the community.
Name & Meaning
The books of Yasna at 1.9 and Visperad at 1.2 mention the names of the six different gahanbars/gahanbars in connection with the "yairya" [said to stem from the Avestan "yare" meaning a (solar) year and which might mean annual (feasts)] and with the saredhaeibyo, the solar year or seasons. We find the word "gasanbar" in Pahlavi, Middle Persian texts. The Lesser and Greater Bundahishnsat 25.1 mention the division of the year into the period of the six gahambars and calls them "gas", divisions (some translate as "seasons"), of the religious calendar.
Some derive Gahanbar from gah-anbar meaning time-gathering, the time for gathering (food and people) or assembly-time. Gahs or Gas are the periods into which a day is divided. It could also be taken to mean the periods into which a cycle of time such as a day, a month or a year is divided. For the purposes of seasons, a year is divided into seasons (fasl) or harvest times (gahanbars).
Yet others take the name Gahanbar to be derived from gah-anbar or gah-ambar meaning time-for-storage in Persian. The name therefore signifies the period for storing food (or accessing stored food in winter). The dried fruits and nuts, called lorg in Persian, are distributed and collected by the assembly for storage.
Middle Persian Pahlavi texts such as the Shayest Na-Shayest at 12.31, Sad-Dar at 6.1-2, the Vohuman Yasht at 2.45, and the Menog-i Kharad (Spirit of Wisdom) at chapter 4, speak to the observance of the Gahanbars as an act of piety. The Menog-i Kharad places the observance of gahambars as the third act of piety preceded by radih, generosity or charity, and rastih, honesty.
Seven Acts of Piety
The gahambars are seen as a manifestation of seven acts of piety and goodness:
Generosity of the spirit (including speaking well of others)
Material generosity & sharing
Community participation and inclusion (including supporting the Gahambars)
Selfless help towards those in need (without desire for recognition or reward)
Remembrance of the souls of the righteous and one's ancestors.
The number seven plays a significant role in all Zoroastrian and Zoroastrian-based customs and rituals. Seven stands for the divine seven, God and God's six archangels. There are also seven aspects to the corporeal creation (gaiety): fire, air, water, earth, plants, animals and human beings.
The Six Gahambars
There are six gahambars - each with its own theme - observed during the year.
Apr 30 - May 4 Maidyozarem Mid-spring
Jun 29 - Jul 3 Maidyoshem Mid-summer
Sep 12 - Sep 16 Paitishem Harvest time
Oct 12 - Oct 16 Ayathrem Herding time
Dec 31 - Jan 4 Maidyarem Mid-winter
Mar 16 - Mar 20 Hamaspathmaidyem Mid-path-of-all
The last gahanbar celebrated during the five days before Nowruz, is the most significant. This sixth gahanbar, the Hamaspathmaidyem (or Hamaspathmaedaya) Gahambar, is a gahambar devoted to remembering the fravashis (farohars/guardian angels/souls) of those who have passed away. Mid-path of all could refer to the vernal equinox with other meanings attached.