FRAWARDĪGĀN (New Pers. farvardagān), name of the ten-day Zoroastrian festival (gāhānbār) at year’s end in honor of the spirits of the dead. The name itself is elliptic for (rōzān ī) frawardīgān (ten days dedicated to) the frawards. The festival is divided into two five-day halves. The first half is known as the lesser five (panj-e keh, ḵardag or kasōg), the second half, forming the five intercalary days, is known variously as the greater five (panj-e meh or vazrog) and Gathic (gāhānīg). Among Persian Zoroastrians the entire festival may be referred to as panjī, while among Parsis the term moktād is also used. Among the Parsis many observe an extended duration of eighteen days. Originally the festival fell on the last five days of the last month of the year, Esfand, and on the five intercalary days between Esfand and the first month, Farvardīn. Thus, it was an “all-souls” festival that immediately preceded the New Year’s festival (Nōg-rōz). However, owing to calendar problems occasioned by the Persian 365-day year, it appears that discrepancies arose already in Sassanian times between civil and religious calendars. This is witnessed, for example, in the contradictory testimony of the Dēnkard (Madan, 683.4 ff.), where the traditional placement at the end of the winter and of the year is mentioned and that of the Pahlavi Rivāyat (ed. Dhabhar, p. 1) where the ten rōz frawardīgān are placed in the month of Ādur. Even in modern times Farvardagān will fall at different times of the year depending on which of the Parsi calendars (Shenshai, Kadmi, or Fasli) is used.
There can be no doubt that an All-Souls festival at the end of the year immediately preceding the celebration of Nowrūz is extremely ancient. It is possible to speculate about the original duration of the festival (Boyce, 1970, pp. 513 ff.), yet our earliest source (Yt. 13.49), already recognizes it as lasting ten nights. There it is identified by its ancient name of uncertain meaning Hamaspaθmaēdaya. The passage itself proclaims the worship of the fravašis of the righteous who come to the dwelling places of the living for the dual purpose of enjoying worship and receiving gifts of food and clothing. While the Pahlavi books and the Rivāyats give little information about specific practices they do not deviate appreciably from the description of Yašt. Modern studies (Boyce, 1977; Modi) show that Farvardagān is, and was, a festival rich in detail, in which local variations embellish the basic purpose of welcoming into the home and treating with rites of hospitality the souls of the departed ancestors.
See also FESTIVALS i.
M. Boyce A Persian Stronghold of Zoroastrianism, Oxford, 1977, pp. 212 ff. (detailed description of modern Persian practice).
Idem, “On the Calendar of Zoroastrian Feasts,” BSO(A)S 33, 1970, pp. 513-39.
J. J. Modi, The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees, Bombay, 1922, pp. 465 ff.
H. S. Nyberg, Texte zum mazdayasnischen Kalender, Uppsala, 1934.
(William W. Malandra)
Originally Published: December 15, 2000
Last Updated: January 31, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. X, Fasc. 2, p. 199