Thursday, February 22, 2007

Esfandgan, a Day for Women

During the last one or two months I have been considering a post about the Iranian calendar and/or ancient Iranian festivals (which are closely related, and both are in line with my series of mythology related posts), so I was delighted to see a post in my friend's blog on the same topic. Since her blog is in Esperanto I decided to translate the post here (with her consent, of course). I thank Fifio for her great post. Be aware that this is a free translation. I'm not going to do a literal exact translation, nor I'm going to keep the author's writing style! I hope you enjoy it.

The title of the original post is "The 'Esfandgan' festival, an Iranian Day for Women."

In ancient Iran each day of a month had a name. Those names were names of deities. But don't get me wrong; ancient Iranians' beliefs were not polytheistic. In their beliefs, each natural power had it's own sacred master (or deity), while the all-powerful One God was "Ahuramazda."

All months in the old Iranian calendar had 30 days each of which, as I said, had it's own name. So there were thirty day names. For example, the first day was Ahuramazda day, the second was Bahman day, the third was Ordibehesht day, and so forth.

Note that today's Iranian official calendar has four seasons and twelve months:

1. Farvardin
has 31 days; from March 21, to April 20.

2. Ordibehesht
has 31 days; from April 21, to May 21.

3. Khordad
has 31 days; from May 22, to June 21.

4. Tir
has 31 days; from June 22, to July 22.

5. Mordad
has 31 days; from July 23, to August 22.

6. Shahrivar
has 31 days; from August 23, to September 22.

7. Mehr
has 30 days; from September 23, to October 22.

8. Aban
has 30 days; from October 23, to November 22.

9. Azar
has 30 days; from November 23, to December 21.

10. Dey
has 30 days; from December 22, to January 20.

11. Bahman
has 30 days; from January 21, to February 19.

12. Esfand
has 29 days (30, on a leap year); from February 20, to March 20.

Today's calendar is a little bit different from the old one. One difference is the number of days in each month. Another difference is that we don't have the day names anymore. The month names are the same, though.

You might have noticed that some month names are the same as the day names I gave as an example. In fact, all month names are also day names. So in each month, there is one day in which the name of the month and the name of the day are the same. These are the twelve festivals of ancient Iranians. For example, on Bahman 2, we have the "Bahmangan" feast. The "gan" suffix pluralizes a noun, so Bahmangan literally means Bahmans.

These are the twelve festivals:
  • Farvardingan (on Farvardin 19)
  • Ordibeheshtgan (on Ordibehesht 3)
  • Khordadgan (on Khordad 6)
  • Tirgan (on Tir 13)
  • Mordadgan (on Mordad 7)
  • Shahrivargan (on Shahrivar 4)
  • Mehrgan [also pronounced "Mehregan"] (on Mehr 16)
  • Abangan (on Aban 10)
  • Azargan (on Azar 9)
  • Deygan (on Dey 1)*
  • Bahmangan (on Bahman 2)
  • Esfandgan (on Esfand 5)

* As I mentioned, the name of the first day of each month is Ahuramazda. The word "Dey" in old Persian language means "God" or "Deity." Ahuramazda was the One God so Deygan was celebrated on Dey 1. You might have noticed the similarity between the word "dey" and the English (Latin) "deity." That's because these words, in ancient Persian and Latin, are from the same root.

I said every natural power has its master. As an example, Aban is the master of water, Azar is the master of fire, and Bahman is the master of good thoughts. Esfand is the mistress of the Earth and plants. Esfand's incarnation was a woman because in Iranian mythology the Earth is usually described as a woman. There's a simple philosophy behind this; the Earth is the mother of all.

On the 5th day of month Esfand, we celebrate Esfandgan. It is the festivity of women --the women's day. Although it is an old belief, we still celebrate it. (By "we" I mean everyone who loves Iran and the Iranian culture.)

I wish a happy Esfandgan for everyone.

(Here, Fifio thanks Ms. Emrani for correcting her Esperanto post. I thank both of them. Happy Esfandgan!)


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Jeremiah said...

This is an interesting post. Will you describe some of the other festivals in the future? Also, how is Esfandgan celebrated?

Homayoon said...

I will gladly do that. I'm trying to have a good post for Norooz --we have only a few weeks to the Iranian new year.

Zoroastrian News keeps an archive of Esfandgan-related articles here. Since most of the articles there are in Persian I give you a short summary about celebrating Esfandgan today. I'm summarizing from a Persian article at

This year's Esfandgan celebration was held by "Zoroastrian Women Organization," with the assistance of "Zoroastrian Society of Tehran." Part of the celebration was "honoring" several "well-achiever" women (I was not sure how to express the quoted words in English). Other parts included reading poetry and stories and performing music pieces related to women and Esfandgan.