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Faravahar symbol above the front facade of the old building of the National Bank of Iran, Tehran.

The faravahar or farohar (transliteration varies) is one of the best-known symbols of Zoroastrianism. The symbol appeared again at the begining of the 20th century on the buildings of the Reza Shah era due to nationalistic ideas.

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).

The Faravahar in the Behistun Inscription. While the symbol is currently thought to represent a Fravashi (c. 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.

Faravahar or farohar derives from Middle Persian frawahr or frohar, through dissimilation of frawash, frawaxsh from Avestan Fravashi. This relationship between the name of the symbol and the class of divine entities reflects the current belief that the symbol represents a Fravashi. However, there is no physical description of the Fravashis in the Avesta and in Avestan the entities are grammatically feminine.

Prior to the reign of Darius I, the symbol did not have a human form above the wings. In the early depictions with a human form, the face is thought to be that of Darius himself.

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. 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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Additional Photos by Akbar Shafiee (Leo71538) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 172 W: 49 N: 167] (555)
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