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National Flag Rooted in Iranian Myth


12 July 2005



The roots of the national flag can be traced back to Iranian myths. It represents the campaign of Kaveh, a blacksmith and leader of popular uprising against Zahhak, a notorious king for his tyranny.

The Kaviani banner, was a flag Kaveh had made from leather and hoisted it atop a wooden pole under which the people gathered to voice their repugnance over the oppression of the king.

A popular uprising under Kaveh’s leadership gained momentum until the people destroyed the Zahhak and brought to power a popular Iranian figure called Fereydoun, a report by ISNA said.

After assuming power, which was entrusted upon him by the people, Fereydoun ordered the decoration of Kaviani’s leather banner with colorful pieces of silk--red, yellow and violet--and placing jewelry on it. So, the Iranian flag which originally had three colors--yellow, red and violet--did not have any emblem on it. Kaviani banner was not a matter of legendry and history support for the event which took place in Iran before the Arab invasion.

During the Achaemenid (550 BC-330 BC) and Sasanid (224 AD-651 AD) reigns, Kaviani banner was held in esteem by both the civil and military apparatus of the governing system as a national flag.


It reported by early Islamic historians that after the death of General Rustam Farokhzadan, commander of Iranian forces by Arab invaders, the Sasanian NAtional Flag, also called Kaviani Standard which was adorned with jewels were cut to pieces and divided among the Arab forces.

Emblem on Iranian Flag

In 976 AD when the Ghaznavian dynasty assumed power after destroying the Samanian dynasty, Sultan Mahmoud Ghaznavi ordered that an emblem of a moon with a dark background be placed on the tri-color flag. The emblem was embroidered with golden thread on the flag.

In 1031, Sultan Masoud Ghaznavi ordered that the emblem of a lion be placed on the banner in view of his interest in hunting. So the moon was replaced with lion on the national flag. The lion remained on the flag forever until the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Under Seljuk and Khwarezmid reigns, coins were minted with emblem of sun. Therefore the emblem of the sun also took its place on the national flag.

There are two schools of thought about having the sun and lion on the national flag.

Lion has always been a symbol "Iran" since Achaemenid dynasty, which represents bravery and power in Iranian culture, while the sun symbolized the Iranian month of Mordad. The sun is very hot and reaches its zenith in Mordad (July-August, or the zodiac sign of Leo) which falls in the middle of the summer. Thus there is correlation between lion and sun.

However, in the second theory, Mithraists and sun worshippers in ancient Iran believed in the sanctity of the sun and that’s why they preferred to put the emblem of the sun on coins and the national flag.


Flag, Symbol of National Solidarity

Nader Shah, king of Iran who captured India and brought home the spoils of war, helped form an integrated Iranian governing system by putting an end to oligarchy and declaring the flag as a symbol of national solidarity.

Qajar Reign and Quadrangle Flag

During the reign of Agha Mohammad Khan, the founder of the Qajar dynasty (1796-97 AD), fundamental changes were made to the national flag by changing it into a quadrangle form from the earlier triangular shape. Agha Mohammad Khan also replaced the colors because of his hostile views about Nader Shah. Therefore only the red remained from the earlier three colors and Green, White and Red became the official colors of the national flag with lion and sun atop and a sword in the middle.


When Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, who was opposing to the concept of the Iranian-nationalism and anything Iranian, ordered the ban and removal of the "Lion & Sun" from public life and government organisations. Since then extensive efforts by the ruling clerics and repressive actions were made to demonise the "Lion & Sun", but the emblem still considered by majority of Iranians (apart from the Islamic fundamentalists and the communists) as the sole insignia of the Iranian nation.






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