History and culture

Faravahar (OP *Pravarti > MP: prʾwhr)[1] is one of the best-known symbols of Zoroastrianism, the state religion of ancient Iran. This religious-cultural symbol was adapted by the Pahlavi dynasty to represent the Iranian nation. The etymology of Paravahar is the Middle Persian root /prwr/ (the Pahlavi script of Middle Persian did not represent short vowels), and the word is thus variously pronounced/written Parohar, prohar, prawahr, pravahr and so forth, as there is no agreed upon method of transliterating the Middle Persian word into English. In Dekhoda's dictionary and the 17th-century Persian dictionary Burhan Qati', it appears as فروهر "puruhar". The Encyclopedia Iranica renders it as prawahr (this reflects the Pazend dibacheh form, corresponding to Book Pahlavi prʾwhr). The winged disc has a long history in the art and culture of the ancient Near and Middle East. Historically, the symbol is influenced by the "winged sun" hieroglyph appearing on Bronze Age royal seals (Luwian SOL SUUS, symbolizing royal power in particular)[citation needed]. In Neo-Assyrian times, a human bust is added to the disk, the "feather-robed archer" interpreted as symbolizing Ashur. While the symbol is currently thought to represent a Fravashi (approximately a guardian angel) and from which it derives its name (see below), what it represented in the minds of those who adapted it from earlier Mesopotamian and Egyptian reliefs is unclear. Because the symbol first appears on royal inscriptions, it is also thought to represent the 'Divine Royal Glory' (Khvarenah), or the Fravashi of the king, or represented the divine mandate that was the foundation of a king's authority. This relationship between the name of the symbol and the class of divine entities it represents, reflects the current belief that the symbol represents a Fravashi. However, there is no physical description of the Fravashis in the Avesta, the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, and in Avestan the entities are grammatically feminine. In present-day Zoroastrianism, the faravahar is said to be a reminder of one's purpose in life, which is to live in such a way that the soul progresses towards frasho-kereti, or union with Ahura Mazda, the supreme divinity in Zoroastrianism. Although there are a number of interpretations of the individual elements of the symbol, none of them are older than the 20th century.

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