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An introduction to Khshathra Vairya

& Jashn-e Sharivargan

(Iranian Father's Day)


CAIS - 2009 


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The Jashn or the festival of Sharivargān is celebrated on the fourth day of the sixth Iranian calendar month of Sharivar (21st of August). The date of the celebration and its’ cosmic philosophy began with the Prophet Zoroaster around 1800 BCE.[1]


New-Persian word of Shahrivar is a derivative of the Middle-Persian Šahrewar (the best rule)[2] which in turn came down from Old-Persian Xšača (dominion, reign, royal and empire),[3] and ultimately is a derivative of Avestan Xšathra, meaning 'power, authority, dominance and kingdom'.


In the Zoroastrian holy book, the Avesta, ‘Khshathra’ accompanied with the word ‘Vairya, meaning the ‘desirable, choice and divine – therefore together create meaning of the ‘Divine kingdom or dominion’.


In later centuries the doctrine of Khshathra Vairya influenced many benevolent sovereigns of ancient Iran in spreading justice and kindness, such as Cyrus the Great, Khosrow I, and Empress Pourandokht.


It also has shaped the cosmic-philosophy of three Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – and formed Western democracy and shaped the thoughts of many Greek philosophers, such as Plato who is known as the father of Western philosophy.



Khshathra Vairya and its concept

In Zoroastrian religion, Khshathra Vairya is third of the seven Ameshaspentas (MP. Amahraspand), lit. 'Beneficent Immortals', the highest spiritual beings created by Ahura Mazda.


Amshaspanta Khshathra Vairya, is the personification of the Power Divine that leads to purity and freedom from evil, which in turn confers divine power and God's kingdom. In other words, is a prefect society that only exists in ‘Heaven’.


In the material world Khshathra Vairya represents the power that each person needs to exert righteousness in life and mostly consists of people to care for their fellow humans, spurning evil and being spiritually perfect. The ‘sky’ and the colour of ‘red’ are his presentations[4] and his emblem is molten brass, thus presiding over the metals and minerals.


In the Zoroastrian cosmology, Khshathra Vairya was derived from the divine principal of Vohum Mana (Good Thoughts) and its role is the thought-beings, protected by Asha Vahishta and guided by Spenta Armaiti, which would live harmoniously and would enjoy perpetual bliss.


Vohu Manah, from its inception in the ‘void’ to its materialisation as Khshathra Vairya and its final struggle for perfection and immortality, is a thought world. In short, Khshathra Vairya is a cosmic prototype for the ‘real’ and immortal world to come, the world of Ahura Mazda, i.e. heaven that would be ruled by divinely ordained mythical monarchs based on goodness and love, until the appearance of God’s ‘only’ and the true prophet, Zarathushtra ( Zoroaster).



The influence of Khshathra Vairya on Semitic Faiths

Zoroastrian religion has influenced the Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in many ways, in particular the foundational concept known as the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or later the ‘Kingdom of God’.


The term was adopted by Judaism when Israelites were freed from Babylonian captivity and slavery by Cyrus the Great, who incorporated Babylon into his Achaemenid dynastic empire in 539 BCE.


The Israelites and Greeks together for the first time came across the term the ‘King of Kings’ (Greek  Basileus Basileon), when they came into contact with Achaemenid dynasty of Iran. Therefore, it is clear that the words malkuth (Hebrew) and malkutha (Aramaic) Greek word “basileia” (Βασιλεία) meaning kingdom are a direct translation of the Avestan and Old-Persian Khshatra.


In Greek language the Khshathra Vairya is translated as Basileia tōn Ouranōn" (Βασιλεία τν Ουρανν), meaning the ‘Kingdom of Heaven, and sometimes as "Basileia tou Theou", the kingdom of God.


It is claimed that the Jewish practice to avoid using God's name as an act of piety, and therefore the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than Kingdom of God. However, it is clear that Jews have adopted the idea directly from Iranians. The Khshathra Vairya means both the Kingdom of Heaven as well as the Divine i.e. God’s Kingdom. The Hebrew word for Khshathra Vairya is ‫מלכות השמים (Malkuth haShamayim).


The basis for these terms being equivalent is found in the apocalyptic literature of Daniel 2:44, where "the 'God of heaven' will set up a 'kingdom' which will never be destroyed", as in Avesta.



Khshathra Vairya and the idea of democracy[5]

The word ‘Democracy’ is defined by the Webster’s Dictionary as:

"[MF democratie, fr. LL democratia, fr. Gk dêmokratia, fr. dêmos (people) + -kratia –cracy (rule)] (1576) a: government by the people; esp: rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usu. involving periodically held free elections."


History of democracy, as presented by Western scholars, only goes back to the Greek cities of the pre-Christian era. The full fact is that regional elected councils are well documented in the Indo-European, particularly the Indo-Iranian, societies and among other peoples of the world of a greater antiquity – and therefore the notion of democracy was borrowed from Indo-Iranians.


In Gathas, Song 16 which is Ha 51 of the Yasna, containing 22 verses known as the Vohû Khshathra (Good Kingdom) is dedicated to "Khshathra Vairya," literally "Good Domain Worthy-of-Choice", and the notion of democracy. [6]


The song reads:

vohû xšathrəm vairîm

bâgəm aibî-bairištəm

vîdîshəmnâiš îžâčît

ašâ añtare-čaraitî

šyaothanâiš mazdâ vahištəm

tat nê nûčît varəšânê.



The good dominion is to be chosen.

It is the best dividend.

In fact, it is devotion for the dedicated,

who, Wise One, moves best

within righteousness by his deeds.

It is for this dominion that I am working for all of us now.


Avesta elaborates that a good government must be an elected one. It is then the best gain one can have. To serve a chosen government means to serve it best with devotion based on righteous deeds. It is for such a dominion, a world order that Zoroaster rose to work for us, mankind. He founded the foremost democracy -- mental and physical, spiritual and material.



Concept of Khshathra Vairya, Plato and Western philosophy

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. It is distinguished from other ways of addressing fundamental questions (such as mysticism, myth, or the arts) by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.


The teachings of Prophet Zoroaster appeared in Iran at some point during the period 1700-1800 BCE.[7], [8] He is believed to be the oldest monotheists in the history of world religions.


His wisdom became the basis of the Daenâ Vanuhi (the Good Religion) which is also known as the Zoroastrian religion, and generally influenced the development of the Iranian branch of Indo-Iranian philosophy. He espoused an ethical philosophy based on the primacy of good thoughts (Av. Humana), good words (Huxata), and good deeds (Hvarashta). Zoroaster was also the first who treated the problem of evil in philosophical terms.[9]


The works of Zoroaster and the Zoroastrian religion had a significant influence on Greek philosophy and Roman philosophy. Several ancient Greek writers such as Eudoxus of Cnidus and Latin writers such as Pliny the Elder praised Zoroastrian philosophy as "the most famous and most useful". Pliny in his Naturalis Historiae, describes one Hermippus of Smyrna having "interpreted two million verses of Zoroaster" in the 3rd century BCE.


According to Pliny, Ostanes's introduction of the "monstrous craft" to the Greeks gave those people not only a "lust" (aviditatem) for magic, but a downright "madness" (rabiem) for it. By the end of the first century BCE, "Ostanes" is cited as an authority on alchemy, necromancy, divination, and on the mystical properties of plants and stones.[17]


Before the ferocious invasion of Iran by Macedonian warlord Alexander II in 330 BCE many Greek philosophers were students of Iranian Mazda Yasna school of philosophy and travelled to Iran to learn the wisdom[13]. These Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras, Empedocles,  Democritus[14] and Plato returned to teach it(xxx.2.8-10).[15], [16] For instance, Democritus was a student of early 5th century Persian philosopher and a Zoroastrian priest Osthanes.


Plato who is considered to be the father of Western philosophy learnt of Zoroastrian philosophy through Eudoxus and incorporated much of it into his own Platonic realism.[10] He was particularly influenced by the concept of Khshathra Vairya.


However, according to the historical accounts Plato was more than influenced by the Old-Iranian philosophy. In the 3rd century BCE, Colotes exposed Plato plagiarising ‘The Republic’, in copying parts of Zoroaster's On Nature, such as the Myth of Er.[11], [12]


In addition, after the invasion in 330 BCE and before burning the Dež-Nepešt (the Achaemenid Imperial Library) in the city of Estakhr to the ground[18], many of the Iranian texts written on hide and parchment among them philosophical and religious[19], [20] were taken away and translated into Greek and it is believed upon the translation the original texts were destroyed and were claimed to be written by Greeks.


The word English "philosophy" which comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), meaning "love of wisdom", seems to have been originated and it is a loose translation of the Old-Iranian Ahura Mazda, meaning the ‘Lord and Worshipping the Wisdom’. Ahura is the symbol of pure Love in Old-Iranian traditions.



Rituals and its historical importance

Sharivargan is all about helping other people, to share good thoughts with them, doing acts of kindness for someone else and spreading wisdom and love.


In this day Iranians lit fires in their homes as the sign of eternal fire within and love of the creator of all good, while reciting passages from Avesta, especially Yasna 51 which is dedicated to Khshathra Vairya.


The main ritual for the celebration is to help fellow humans, especially the needy ones by any means, financially, mentally or physically. In short helping others, is helping themselves in order to exalt themselves to be a better person and moving towards the perfect society of Khshathra Vairya, the Divine Kingdom.


According to the Zoroastrain traditions this day was the birth of Cyrus the Great, the Father of the Iranian Nation, who in Zoroastrian texts is referred to as Darab (dārāb - داراب)'. Apart from the Zoroastrian texts, Khalf Tabrizi the author of Borhan-e Qat’a, also writes King Darab was born on this day In addition, it is believed that the merciful character of King Darab in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (the Book of Kings) and his deeds correspond with the historical figure of Cyrus the Great.


Therefore, it is possible the benevolent ancient king who is considered by the Iranian nation as the ‘Father’ was born in this good- ominous day. If that is the case, no wonder this meaningful day had impact on him and shaped the mind and the future of the great king, which resulted in his humane approach to his own and conquered subjects, freeing Jews from Babylonians’ slavery and captivity, spreading love and equality and respect for each others beliefs, which ultimately led to the creation and order of world’s first Charter of Human Rights, known as the Cyrus Cylinder. It is not also an exaggeration to claim that modern Jews owe their existence to the Great Iranian king.


According to the Manichean texts, this day was the day of celebration of the Avestan king Yima (Jamshid) and also marks the death of Persian philosopher and visionary Mani in 276 CE.


In the recent decade, the Association of Mobeds has chosen this day as Father's Day for the Zoroastrain community.



Festival of Shrivargan in modern times

Festival of Shrivargan despite of being one the greatest and oldest celebrations in pre-Islamic Iran, has been forgotten and today only a handful of Iranian Zoroastrians in Kerman and Sistan are still celebrating.


However, in the recent decade the numbers of Iranians, majority of which are Muslims have shown interests to revive their ancient festivals and rituals, in particular Zoroastrian ones including Sharivargan have substantially increased. This is mainly due to the nation defying the dogmatic rule of the Islamic Republic and their anti-Iranian stance in favour of an Arab-Islamic one.


Since 1979 and the rise of the theocratic-totalitarian regime to power, the clerics have tried to turn Iranian society from a lax-Muslim to a puritan-Muhammadan society. As a result the regime have targeted and attacked Iran’s pre-Islamic past as well as the Persian language[21], the two main obstacles for executing their plan.


This force-belief-invasion by the regime has resulted in Iranians turning their backs on Islam and devoting themselves to revive their Zoroastrian and pre-Islamic heritage; realising by glorifying pre-Islamic Iranian heritage and civilisation, they cause the regime anger, creating a form of protest and an act of defiance to the clerics’ rule.


Many Iranians despite the threat and danger of execution have even converted to their forefathers’ religion in clandestine for the first time since their force-conversion to Islam as the result of an Arab invasion of Iran in the 7th century.[22]


[1] Whitley, C.F. (Sep. 1957). "The Date and Teaching of Zarathustra". Numen 4 (3): pp 219–223.

[2] D. N. MacKenzie, “A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary”, Oxford University Press (1990), p.79

[3] Martijn Theodoor Houtsma, “”, E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, p. 262

[4] Ervad Phiroze S Masani, “The Rational of Zoroastrian Rituals; The Avsta as the Master Science”, pdf file [LINK]

[5] A. Jafari, “Zoroasterian Religion and Democracy”, CAIS 2007 [LINK].

[6] D. K. Irani, “Vohu-Khshathra Gatha”, The Gathas; the hymns of Zarthushtra, CAIS [LINK]

[7] Jalal-e-din Ashtiyani. Zarathushtra, Mazdayasna and Governance.

[8] Whitley, C.F. "The Date and Teaching of Zarathustra". Numen 4 (3), (Sep. 1957). p. 219–223.

[9] Ibid

[10] A. D. Nock "Studien zum antiken Synkretismus aus Iran und Griechenland by R. Reitzenstein, H. H. Schaeder, Fr. Saxl", The Journal of Hellenic Studies 49 (1), (1929), p. 111.

[11] David N. Livingstone, The Dying God: The Hidden History of Western Civilization, iUniverse (2002), p. 144-145.

[12] The Journal of Hellenic Studies 49 (1), (1929), p. 111-116.

[13] David Livingstone, The Dying God: The Hidden History of Western Civilization, iUniverse (2002), p. 218.

[14] Smith, Morton, "Ostanes", Encyclopaedia Iranica, New York (2003). [LINK]

[15] Roger Beck, "Thus Spake Not Zarathushtra: Zoroastrian Pseudepigrapha of the Greco-Roman World", in Boyce, Mary; Grenet, Frantz, A History of Zoroastrianism, Handbuch der Orientalistik, Abteilung I, Band VIII, Abschnitt 1, 3, Leiden: Brill (1991) pp. 491–565.

[16] Smith, Morton, "Ostanes", Encyclopaedia Iranica, New York (2003). [LINK]

[17] Ibid

[18] Iran’s National Archive [LINK]

[19] Peter Clark, “Zoroastrianism: An Introduction to an Ancient Faith”, Brighton (1998).

[20] Rasmus Christian Rask, “Über das Alter und die Echtheit der Zendsprache und des Zend-Avesta, und Herstellung des Zend-alphabets”

[21] Before the Western-orchestrated 1979 Iranian revolution only 15% of Persian language contained foreign loanwords, mainly Arabic, but since then the Arabic loanwords has increased staggering further 15%, shrinking Persian language to 70% today (Shapour Suren-Phlav (2007), Persian NOT Farsi; Iranian Identity Under Fire: An Argument Against the Use of the Word ‘Farsi’ for the Persian Language, CAIS [LINK]).

[22] Refugee Review Tribunal, AUSTRALIA (2009) [LINK]




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