The Festival of Tiragan (Jashan-e Tiragan)

Joesph H. Peterson, © 1997.

The festival of Tiragan is observed on July 1 according to Fasli observance. It is primarily a rain festival. It was one of the three most widely celebrated feasts (along with Mihragan and Noruz) of ancient Iran, and is even mentioned in the Talmud.

Tir, or more properly, Tishtar (Av. Tishtrya), is the Yazad presiding over the Star Sirius, brightest star in the sky, and of rain. Tishtar Yazad is thus especially invoked to enhance harvest and counter drought.

Besides an Afrinagan or Jashan dedicated to Tishtar, there appear to have been many customs associated with Tiragan. Mary Boyce (Persian Stronghold of Zoroatrianism) mentions a game of moradula ('bead-pot') or chokadula ('fate-pot'). She also related the custom of tying rainbow-colored bands on their wrists which were worn for ten days and then thrown into a stream.

Boyce observed during her time in Sharifabad that many of the charming old Tiragan customs had died away by the 1960's leaving "merry-making by young people and children, who with a happy licence... splash and duck one another in the village streams."

Tiragan is also associated with the legend of the arrow ('tir'), which is briefly alluded to in the Tishtar Yasht (Yt8.6):

"We honor the bright, khwarrah-endowed star Tishtrya who flies as swiftly to the Vouru-kasha sea as the supernatural arrow which the archer Erexsha, the best archer of the Iranians, shot from Mount Airyo-xshutha to Mount Xwanwant. (7) For Ahura Mazda gave him assistance; so did the waters ..."

An expanded account is found in Mirkond, History of the Early Kings of Persia, trans. by David Shea, p. 175: Erekhsha Khshviwi-ishush (Pahlavi Arish Shivatir, i.e. 'Arish of the swift arrow') was the best archer in the Iranian army. When Minochihr and Afrasyab determined to make peace and to fix the boundary between Iran and Turan, 'it was stipulated that Arish should ascend Mount Damavand, and from thence discharge an arrow towards the east; and that the place in which the arrow fell should form the boundary between the two kingdoms. Arish thereupon ascended the mountain, and discharged towards the east an arrow, the flight of which continued from the dawn of day until noon, when it fell on the banks of the Jihun (the Oxus).'

The following story from the Persian Rivayats ties together many of these elements:

The story of Tiragan (Dhabhar pg 342, Antia's MS. f. 330)

It is related that when the wicked Afrasyab, the Tur, ruled over the country of Iran, it did not rain, at that time, for 8 years. Afrasyab, the Tur, asked the wise and the astrologers why it was not raining. Zu Tahmasp answered: "You turned faithless, because Faridun had allotted to you Turkestan (only) and entrusted it to you whereas he had allotted Iran to us and given it to us. You turned away from that covenant and set it aside. It is for this reason that, owing to this sin of yours, it does not rain." Afrasyab asked how this could be ascertained. Zu Tahmurasp said: "I shall throw an arrow from here, and where my arrow falls, there will be the boundaries (of your territory)." Afrasyab accepted it and entered into a compact thus: "I shall consent to have as the boundaries (of my territory) that place where your arrow settles and I shall go out of Iran." When this compact was entered into, it was on the day Tir of the month Tir that Zu Tahmasp uttered the name of God and threw the arrow from the country of Iran and that arrow fell in the country of Turkestan by the command of Lord Ohrmazd. When that arrow settled in the country of Turkestan, Afrasyab took this witness that the rains did not come on account of his faithlessness. Then Afrasyab arose from that place and went out of Iran with his army and settled in the country of Turan. The intelligence of this spread on the day Govad and heavy rains poured down on the day Govad. Then they assented to institute a festival in the country of Iran on the day Tir of the month Tir and upto now the Dasturs of Iran write a Nirang (formula) and tie it on the hands of the faithful and remove it from their hands on the day Govad, throw it into the sea on that day for the reason that the glad tidings of the return of Afrasyab to Turkestan had reached on the day Govad. It is for this reason that this nirang is untied from the hands and thrown into the sea so that all calamities may sink into the sea.