The Avestan term Fravashi does not appear in the Gathas, the hymns of Zarathushtra, but in Yasna Haptangaithi, a prayer of seven chapters which was compiled in the post Zarathushtra era. In the Avesta (Zoroastrian scriptures), this yasna is placed between the first (Ha 28-34) and the second (Ha 43-46) Gatha in order to give it prominence and credibility. In the yasna, the word Fravashi appears as:

Asaonam fravash naramca nairinamca
we adore the Fravashis of the righteousness men and women.

The term Fravashi is made up of two parts, Fra which has been interpreted as "to go forward" and, vashi which comes from the root vaksh, meaning "to grow". So Fravashi is that power in a substance which enables it to move forward i.e. to progress. The Avesta tells us that the Fravashi is inherent in every animate and inanimate object of Nature and helps in its development. The Fravashis constitute the internal essence of things as opposed to the contingent and, work as spiritual entities for all of Ahura Mazdaís creations. The Fravadin Yasht, the longest of the twenty-two yashts (hymns), is dedicated to the Fravashis and mentions that Ahura Mazda created the Fravashis before he created the universe. This implies that Ahura Mazda had conceived a complete and perfect Universe from the very beginning by forming the spiritual essence of all objects before their creation. The earth, sun, moon stars, trees and human beings, all have their Fravashis and the duty of the Fravashis is to watch over the orderly growth of the world and to make it prosper. Jivanji Mody [1] has interpreted this to mean that the Fravashis help the universe to evolve and grow.

Fravashis are the divine, spiritual essence and guarding sprits and represent the omniscience and omnipresence of Ahura Mazda. They are the proto-types of mankind, the active presence of Ahura Mazda in everyone of us. From zravana akarena (from time unlimited) Ahura Mazda conceived a most complete, harmonious and orderly system of universe and the Fravashis in the natural objects helped the universe to evolve and will lead it to perfection. The Fravadin Yasht mentions that the Fravashis help the waters to flow, the trees to grow, the winds to blow and the sun, moon and stars to move in their orbits.

According to the Avesta every human being has (1) Tanu, (2) Urvan and (3) Fravashi.
(1) Tanu is the body or physical self made of flesh, blood and bones.
(2) Urvan is the soul, the nature of every human. It is the decision maker for it controls the body and is responsible for all the decisions and actions done by the humans in this world.
(3) Fravashi is the spiritual guide, the active presence of Ahura Mazda in every human being. It guides and helps the soul but does not interfere in the decision making. The soul is free to choose what it wants to do with its life on this earth and the Fravashi is that inner voice that warns the soul of evil and guides it away from spiritual danger.

Jivanji Mody says: ďA fortunate man is he, who accepts the guidance of his Fravashi, communicated through his intelligence (baodha), and accepting the guidance, makes use of his five senses which lead to support his life (ahu) as would keep his soul (urvan) pure and uncontaminated, so that when he has to pass on to the other world, he can present himself before God with a pure conscience (daena)Ē [1]. Man becomes perfect when his soul realizes and reaches his Fravashi [2].

After death the uravan and Fravashi are separated from the tanu which is disposed off. The Fravashi which is pure and perfect returns to the celestial abode [3]. The soul which is responsible for all deeds done in this world is frightened since it is now exposed. This is the only time prayers (Paydast and Sarosh nu patru) are dedicated to the soul and Sarosh Yazata is invoked to protect the soul from evil. After death, on the dawn of the third night the departed soul appears at the Chinvat Bridge guided by Sarosh. The word Chinvat comes from the root Chi meaning to pick up, to collect. At the bridge the soul picks up the judgement which is rendered by Meher Yazata who guards the bridge. This yazata, also known as Meher Davar (Meher the Judge), weighs the actions of the soul, performed during its life in this world and if the good deeds outweigh the evil ones then the soul is allowed to cross the bridge and rewarded with Vahista-ahu, the best life or heaven. If the evil deeds outweigh the good ones than the soul is not allowed to cross the bridge and it is cast into Achishta-ahu, the worst existence or hell. Ahura Mazda cannot be held responsible for soulís punishment for it is the soul that brought havoc upon itself by not heeding to its Fravashi to follow the path of goodness during its lifetime.

The Avesta states that the Fravishi of every human being has three periods of existence, namely, Fravashayo zatanam (Fravashi of the unborn), fravashayo zavantam (Fravashi of the living) and fravashayo irirathusham (Fravashi of the dead). The Fravashi of the unborn, with all the other Fravashis, does its work in the field of evolution. When a child is born its Fravashi comes down to earth and acts as a guardian sprit, a true friend and an unerring guide. At death the Fravashi which is pure and perfect returns to its celestial abode and joins all other Fravashis. However, it is believed that at Frasho kereti (the end of this universe) all souls, good as well as the evil ones having cleansed of their wickedness, will rejoin with their Fravashis in a perfect body, Tan-i-Pastin. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul and of compensating justice with heaven or hell in the next world forms a fundamental dogma of Zoroastrian religion and has been a major influence on the other religions in this world.

Zoroastrians venerate their dead relatives and the Fravashis are considered to be the medium between the dead and the living. The Fravashis of the departed are invoked because they expect to be remembered and respected by the living and they, in turn, bless the living with spiritual wealth. In order to receive the blessing the living must lead a virtuous life full of righteousness for the Fravashis feel satisfied and contented if they see virtue and goodness or else they become distressed. Many prayers, such as Satum, Farokshi, Afringhan, Jashan, are dedicated to the Fravashis who are specially remembered on dehum (tenth), sirouz (thirtieth) and salruz (anniversary) after death. These prayers invoke the Fravashis, praise them and ask for their blessings.

It is believed that once a year all the Fravashis come down to earth during the annual festival of Hamaspathmaidya which coincides with the sixth Gahamber. In early Iran this was a one day festival and the Fravashis were believed to dwell with the families and relatives they had left behind. On the dawn of the next day, which happened to be the New Year day (Noruz), the Fravashis departed from this world and returned to their spiritual abode. During the Sassanian period, the extension of the Zoroastrian calendar to 365 days caused a lot of confusion and the original one day event became a ten day affair, known as Fravadigan days. This ten day festival has been mentioned in the Fravadin Yasht and among the Parsees of India it is known as Muktad which is the corrupted version of the word Mukhtar, meaning supreme or important. Thus, the Mukhtad are considered to be important days of the year when prayers are recited in honour of the Fravashis, flowers, fruits and meals are offered during the rituals and consecrated after the ceremony.

During the Avestan period, a distinction was always maintained between the urvan, conceived to be masculine and Fravashi, which is feminine. In the Avestan portions of the Khorshed and Meher Nyaishes, our soul and Fravashi are invoked separately by the words:
Haom urvanam Yazamaide, haom fravashim yazamaide
we revere our soul, we revere our Fravashi.

Even the Fravedin Yasht mentions urvan and Fravashi as two separate entities:
Ahumcha daenamcha baodhascha urvanemcha fravashimcha yazamaide,
we revere life, conscience, intelligence, soul and Fravashi.

However, during the Sassanian period the distinction between the Fravashi and Urvan disappeared and the soul was believed to come to earth during the Fravadigan days. The Satum no Kardo (a prayer for the deceased) mentions:
Nam chesti anusheh ravan ravani ....
Among all the souls we name the departed soul .....

Later on, this intermingling of the soul and Fravashi gave rise to the idea that the prayers offered by the living helps the soul of the departed to progress from a lower to a higher place in the cycle of life. This concept of reincarnation is totally alien to Zoroastrian doctrine and has been vehemently denied by many scholars who have correctly advocated the concept of one life.

In pre-Zoroastrian times, the spirits of the departed heroes were believed to be powerful winged beings and were invoked by the living for protection and help [4]. The winged figure shown below is mostly observed in the ruins of ancient Iran and has been incorrectly interpreted by many foreigners to be the figure of Ahura Mazda. According to the Avesta, Ahura Mazda has no shape, form or colour and, is an invisible power from which emanates light and goodness.


The winged figure, know as Fravahar, is believed to represent devine glory which shines only in the hearts of righteous kings. It is seen in the carvings on royal palaces and buildings of the Achaemenids era and there is no trace of it during the other dynasties in Iran. The Achaemenid kings Darius and Xerses adopted this winged symbol to indicate that they had received the glory and sovereignty from Ahura Mazda.

One of the interpretations of the winged symbol is that it signifies divinity and the three layers of feathers in the tail depict Humata (good thoughts) Hukhta (good words) and Huvereshta (good deeds). The five layers of feathers in the wings represent the five gahs (periods) of the day and the two hooks depict the two opposing forces of good and evil that exists in this universe. The raised hand depicts the truth and the central ring, the power of righteousness.

  1. Jivanji Mody, "The religious ceremonies and customs of the parsees", Society for the
    Promotion of Zoroastrian Religious Knowledge", Bombay, India, 1986.
  2. Maneckji Dhalla "History of Zoroastrianism", K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, Bombat, 1963.
  3. Khojeste Mistree, "Zoroastrianism: An ethnic perspective", Zoroastrian Studies, Bombay, India, 1982.
  4. Mary Boyce, "Zoroastrians Their religious beliefs and practices", Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, UK, 1979.

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