The Winged Sun Disc, Fravashi or Fravahar

The Winged Sun Disc, Fravashi or Fravahar

The winged sun disc is one of the best-known symbols of Zoroastrianism today. The symbol of the winged sun disc IS THOUGHT TO represent a Fravashi or Fravahar.

Fravashi is the forerunner to the Greek idea of LOGOS “divine word, speech, reason.”  The word fravashi consists of 2 parts; “fra” simply means first, foremost, “vashi,” is derived from “vac,” word, voice, speech, discourse, formula. Thus, Fravashí is Ahúrá Mazdá’s pristine word/wisdom in every act of manifestation.

Hence, fravashí or “the first creative formula/word” is said to be a reminder of one’s purpose in life.

The term fra-vaxshyá or “pristine word/wisdom” appears in the 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 44.6,2nd and the 1st rhymed verse lines of Yasna 45.1, 45.2, 45.3, 45.4, 45.5, 45.6 in the poetic gathas.

However, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the entire Zoroastrian sacred lore that connects the idea of fravashí to the winged sun disc. There is NO physical description of the fravashis in the Avesta, and in Avestan the fravashis (the pristine creative wisdom/word are grammatically feminine.

Although there are a number of interpretations of the individual elements of the winged sun disc symbol, NONE of them are older than the 20th century, and they all appear rather fanciful and highly speculative, with no basis whatsoever in the original sources.

The symbol of the winged sun disc first appears in the Achaemenid period on royal inscriptions. It is clearly an artistic borrowing from the Assyrian. What the winged sun disc represented in the minds of those who adapted it from earlier Mesopotamian and Assyrian reliefs is unclear.

However, because the winged sun disc first appears on royal inscriptions, it is thought more accurately to represent the “Heavenly Glory, Luminous Good Fortune” (khvarenæ,) of the Achaemenid rulers, their divine mandate of sort.

I shall add that the winged sun disc has been likewise adapted by the Indo-European Hittites. And it represented royal fortune and Gd Sent Glory to the Hittites as well. Herodotus adds that no other nation like the Persians is kin in adopting foreign customs and symbols.

Yet, it shall be added that the idea of khvarenæ is an original ancient Aryan one. The concept of khvarenæ is that of the “splendor, energy of light and divine fire in connection with luminous good fortune.” The same idea of khvarog/Svarog exists among old Slavonic people.

It is clear from a number of passages in the Avesta that khvarenæ or farr was “a blazing fire, a magic force or power of luminous and fiery nature” that preceded the divinely favored. This “luminous energy/good luck” represented the wish/favor of Ahúrá Mazdá (vashna aúra mazða in Old Persian Achaemenid Inscriptions.)

khvarenæ, “fortunate glory/light” was represented by the Sun Wheel among the ancient Iranians. khvarenæ, and its original depiction is identical to the khvarog/Svarog of the old Slavonic people.

In ancient Proto Iranian art an eagle is often added to the sun wheel. In the Achaemenid art the sun wheel is mingled with the Assyrian sun disk, and divine flames are emanating from or surrounding the human form.

The winged sun disc did not survive into the Parthian or the Sassanid period and was not adopted by them as the symbol of khvarenæ or farr or fravahar.  It was rediscovered in the 20th century and instantly became the favored symbol of the ancient Iran and Zoroastrianism.

However, it is important to remember that in its original iconography, it was a luminous Sun wheel assuming the form of a fiery bird or eagle.

It had never anything to do with the fravashis or fravahar, but rather with the splendor and good fortune of khvarenæ or farr. While the concept of a fortunate sun wheel was original to the ancient Iranians/Aryans; its later iconography and depiction was greatly influenced by the Assyrian art.

The winged sun disc in the Zoroastrian iconography always faces the right direction, because the sun rises in the east and the right side is the symbol of new horizons and virtue.

The winged sun disc or as it is known erroneously as Farvahar is the most worn pendant amongst Iranians today and has become a national symbol, although its Zoroastrian roots are certainly not ignored. It is an important, customary and traditional symbol.


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7 Responses to The Winged Sun Disc, Fravashi or Fravahar

  1. ken says:

    Why are you so precious about the word God? Its an annoying affectation and actually makes it look like a blasphemy. Please reconsider your style.

  2. Chams says:

    Dear friends interested in our ancient lore,
    dearest Ardeshir, our professor,

    let me disagree firmly and strongly with your opinion on the subject of the (holy) Fravašis.

    You say the word fravaši is made of two parts, that is correct and affirmed by most scholars.

    Fra-, truly, means “foremost”, cognate of the Latin “pro”, Anglic languages forth/furth.

    Vaši, though, does not derive from Avestan “vac” (cf. Latin root “vox, vocis”: voice). This is indicated by the Avestan kind of “š” used for “vaši”, it is easy to recognize the “š” of “Ašem” which indicated a /rt/ cognate in Old Persian and Sanskrit. “Vaši” is then, very recognizeably, from the root /var/, to choose.

    The word fravaši is thus composed of a prefix fra+ var + ti, an Avestan suffix. In the Gathas we find its equivalent as “varəna”/”varna”.

    This is substantiated by the Pahlavi sequel to the Avestan word: fravardi, whose month is fravardin, and not *”fravachin” as it could be if it were derived from “vac”.

    Pahlavi keeps the Old Persian /rt/ cluster, which it renders as /rd/, likewise Aša Vahišta is Ardibehešt (the second “š” is not the /rt/ “š”, thus it is kept), because Pahlavi comes from Old Persian. In Old Persian vac is still vac.

    Of course I do not force this understanding on anybody, and I say this with all respect due to you, Erbad Ardeshir.

    Then I may give a little note as to what is a fravaši then, given to its etymology, the fravaši is the “[power] to choose forth”, the “choosing strength”. This can be substantiated by theological elements such as the asking of Ahura Mazda the Holy Creator: make a choice, whether you stay minogān or you go down on the earth and help to vanquish over the Evil Spirit. They CHOSE FORTH, they decided to come here and there and have victory of the Evil Spirit.

    They are “divine sparkles” which guide us toward the good choice.

    We venerate the holy fravaši of holy Zarathuštra,
    we venerate the Ameša Spentas, minog and getig.

    Ušta to you all!


  3. My Dear Chams, thnx for ur comment and respectful dissent. But i must disagree. Ancient Aryan poetry is inspired, passionate poetry. It deals with the magic of words, sounds and effect of melodies. Seer Poets express their visions not based on grammatical rules but on emotion and flow of harmonious melodies/sounds. Grammar comes always afterwards. The poetic gathas have a layer of meanings, and purposefully so. The emphasis shall be always on the sounds and the magical word play, and the multi layered meaning. f

    fravashí is Ahúrá Mazdá’s pristine word/wisdom in the manifestation of the universe. It is the link between the ideal and the world’s evolution and progress toward that ideal. It is the creative word/wisdom/ideal in the creation and manifestation of the worlds. It predates logos and most likely has influenced the idea of logos among the ancient Greeks.

    The term fra-vaxshyá or “pristine word/wisdom” appears in the 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 44.6,2nd and the 1st rhymed verse lines of Yasna 45.1, 45.2, 45.3, 45.4, 45.5, 45.6.

    Also, in Yasna 34.12, 2nd rhymed verse line and Yasna 46.7, 5th rhymed verse line we have fra-vaóchá in the sense of the “foremost word, saying, wisdom, revelation.”

    Furthermore, vaxshyá in the 1st rhymed verse lines of Yasna 30.1, 46.15, and 51.8 refers to “saying, disclosure of knowledge, wisdom.”

    fra-vakhshyá is the first creative speech, expressing the ideal and causing growth and increase. In other words, fravashí is the pristine formula that has taken individual shape in creation and/or manifestation of the worlds.

    fravashí is the limitless ideal in us and the universe, the dynamic, infinite possibilities at play, a spark of boundless will-power/energy where everything moves from progress and growth to progress and growth. The hostile/negative forces cannot have even the remotest action upon it.

    By a beautiful word play, vaxshyá or creative word is connected to “vakhsh,” to increase, grow, compare with Old Norse vaxa, German wachsen, “to grow, increase”, Sanskrit. vaksayati “cause to grow,” Greek. auxein “to increase.”

    The concept of sacred words/formulas causing growth is demonstrated for example in Yasna 10.5, where we say twice: “vareða-y-angúha mana vaca …..fra-vákhshæ.” Grow, become verdant vareða through my words…

    Also “vashi” through poetic word play could be derived from vash, “wish, desire” or var “will, choosing.”

    Farvaretá appears in Yasna 31.1, 1st rhymed verse line in the sense of pristine will/foremost desire for a guardian and multiplier of the living, a steward of the creation who is flourishing the world.

    Also from the same root we have fraóret or pristine will/foremost desire in Yasna 30.5, 3 rd rhymed verse line, in choosing the Gd of Wisdom and Genius in manifest action/enterprise.

    And in Yasna 53.2, 2nd rhymed verse line where fraóret is the pristine will/foremost desire to unite/yoke with the wondrous powers of the Gd of Wisdom and Genius.

    In Yasna 46.4, 2nd rhymed verse line the term fróretöish is “moving forward, advancing” of the world of the living and the animal creation.

    Gathic poetry like the rest of the ancient Aryan poetry abounds with masterful word-play. Prophet Zarathushtra was quiet adept at sound-based word play as an art of reinforcing layers of meaning. The importance of poetic word play in the gathas is greatly emphasized in the holy denkart. Hence, it is of paramount importance to study the poetic gathas in the ORIGINAL.

    So as you can see a layer of meanings is conveyed, but I persist that the origin of the later farvashí lies in fra-vaxshyá (the pristine creative word/growth formula/wisdom.


  4. zaneta garratt says:

    a very interesting article-mary boyce also believed the winged disc to represent the glory of God/ heavenly glory-i feel it is a part of folklore that has linked the winged disc sign with the farovar/guardian angel, maybe because of the half figure of a man in the middle-i also refer to it a Persian guardian angel, probably because it sounds so cool even though it probably is not correct

  5. Kaikhosrow Oshtori says:

    Hahahahaha I always said that it is an Aircraft with Wings, single propulsion Jet engine and landing gear. Modern aircraft were designed on the Fravahar. The half wheel in his hand is also identical to the one in any modern jet aircraft. Have fun guys, the Aliens are here. 🙂

  6. Kaikhosrow Oshtori says:

    Dear Ardeshir, you had said that the Fravahar should preferably be facing towards its right. Yet I notice that the Fravahar that you use as your Logo, is facing towards the left.

  7. Danny says:

    What does the khvarenæ sun wheel look like? Is it as well depicted as the fravagar?

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