Sadeh festival, one of Iranian festivals, is the biggest festival of fire and one of the oldest rituals in ancient Iran. In this festival, at the beginning of Bahman (one of the months in the Solar calendar) 10 evening, people all across the Iranian lands would light fires and torches atop mountains and rooftops, and even today more or less some people uphold this rich and lively tradition in some places of Iran. We at Irantrawell have dedicated a special section to the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism, and we recommend you read our other articles in this section.
The History of Sadeh Festival
Of the customs of this festival in pre-Islam era, not much information is available, since after Arabs invaded Iran and destroyed documents of the Sassanid era and before that, especially whatever was about Zoroastrianism religion. However, Ferdowsi has referred to this festival a number of times in his Shahnameh, and from his poems it can be said that Sadeh is equal to Nowruz and Mehregan in grandeur and magnificence.
Ferdowsi says with regard to the creation of Sadeh: Hooshang, the pristine king, to whom the characteristics of working, plowing, and planting are attributed, one day faced a snake in a mountain range and took a stone and threw it to the snake, and run did the snake. But after the rock hit another, sparks flew, and fire came to be.
Birooni, Beihaghi, and Gardrizi have also considered Sadeh to be among the three major festivals of Iran and believe that this festival was upheld people and kings until the end of khwarazmian era and the Mongol invasion.
The most famous and the biggest Sadeh festival was held in the year 323 (Lunar calendar) in the era of Mardavij Ziari in Isfahan. He was the first one to celebrate this festival with such grandeur in Isfahan after the Islam invasion, and so he was killed after the celebration was over.
Sadeh festival during the reign of Sultan Masood Ghaznavi in the year 430 (Lunar calendar) was considered to be one of the most important Sadeh festivals during the history.
The Status of Sadeh Festival in the Iranian Culture
In Avesta, fire has a special place, sine it is the symbol of life and love. Ancient Iranians used to lit fire in all their festivals and used this as a token to worship Ahura Mazada. Sadeh festival which is accompanied by joy, happiness, and lighting of the fire, is a quintessential original Iranian festival. A festival, which after Nowruz and Mehregan, is considered to be the most important Iranian festival.
Cultural Roots of Sadeh Festival
Sadeh, is the festival of the advent of fire. There are different narratives as to why this festival used to be held in ancient Iran; in some historical narratives, it is said that: hundred days into the great winter, Iranians would hold the Sadeh festival, since in the ancient calendar, winter had 150 days and summer had 210 days. From the beginning of winter, which coincided with the first of Aban (one of the months of Solar calendar), until Bahman 10, which is the date of Sadeh festival, 100 days and nights would pass, and from then until the first day of spring, 50 days and nights would pass. They believed that during this time, the peak of the cold of winter has passed, and so everyone used to gather in the meadows and plains and would collect a big pile of twigs and logs, and as soon as the night came, they would light fire. Thus eliminating what had remained from the cold. And since everyone participated in the lighting of the fire, Sadeh festival used to represent integrity and cooperation among people.
But in the Al-Tafhim and Asar-Olbaghieh books by Abu Rayhan Birooni, there is not talk of the advent of fire, but believes that the fire of the Sadeh is the fire people used to light atop their roofs by the order of Fereidun. It reads in Nowruznameh:
“Fereidun founded the Sadeh festival the very day he defeated Zahhak, and people who were weary of the cruelty of Zahhak, welcomed this festival with enthusiasm, and celebrated that day, and each year until now, they uphold the customs of those reputable kings in Iran.”
Read about the Legend of Fereidun and Zahhak HERE
Today’s Iran and Sadeh Festival
Sadeh festival is celebrated on Bahman 10 in different cities. Zoroastrians of Tehran, Karaj, Yazd, and the villages around Meibod and Ardekan, Kerman and its villages, Ahvaz, Shiraz, Isfahan, Europe (Sweden), U.S. (California), and Australia get together and pray by lighting fire. Though, in some cities Sadeh is celebrated with more grandeur than other cities. For example, in Kerman and in Yazd.
Such that people would go to rooftops, grasslands, and mountain ranges, light a fire and based on an ancient ritual gather around it and pray to God.
It is still a custom in Kerman for farmers to pour some of the ashes of the fire on their fields, because they believe the ash of Sadeh festival would bring prosperity to their fields. Many believe that Sadeh festival in Kerman is unique, not only in Iran, but in the world. Sadeh festival has been celebrated for about 80 years in the Sadeh street of Kerman and the garden of Bodagh Abad, and most years about two thousand people attend.
All the grand festivals of Iran have their roots in the culture and background of Iranian people, like Nowruz, Mehregan, Chaharshanbe Suri, Yalda, and the festival of Sadeh. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to uphold them better and more than before to keep the blazing torch of Iran’s ancient and affectionate rituals and customs alight.