Ghambar: Parsi-style Thanksgiving
Come summer and the Zoroastrian community is buzzing with excitement, in anticipation of ghambar, a Parsi thanksgiving feast. Everyone is eager to know which residential compound is going to host the first event and whose arrangements are going to be better than the others.
For most of you who don’t know, if you see lots of Zoroastrians assembled together to share a meal and smell papeta ma gosht and dhansak chawal (traditional Parsi delcacies) being served, then it is safe to assume that you’re at aghambar. Among sounds of heavy, melodious laughter, you’ll hear an occasional “thoru aur nakho”, a Parsi dialogue instructing the waiter to pile on some extra rice and be generous with the dhansak serving.
The Zoroastrian year has six seasons and there is a ghambar for each season. However, the summer ghambar in the month of Dae is, perhaps, the most commonly celebrated one. As per custom, each Parsi residential compound in Karachi holds its own ghambar and extends the invite to residents of other Parsi compounds. The festivity commences with prayers or a jashan, led by priests, held earlier in the evening and is later followed by a three-course meal.
In comparison to earlier times, where women would gather to prepare the meal, ghambars have taken on a very elaborate form now. Parsis have started taking their ghambars very seriously; caterers are hired for the occasion to carefully prepare the elaborate meal and tables are laid out with cardboard sheets fortified with butter paper, in lieu of banana leaves which were previously used. And now, dessert is more often a non-traditional ice cream.
As Zoroastrians prepare to celebrate the festival every year, modern touches always make their presence felt. Although the ghambars for this season have ended, the next year will behold an even grander event.
If ever a Parsi asks you, “chalo jumva avoji” meaning ‘come, let’s eat’, you will know exactly what they are referring to.
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