FRAWARDĪN YAŠT (New. Pers. Farvardīn Yašt), the thirteenth of the Zoroastrian yašts (see AVESTA), devoted to the fravašis. It is accounted one of the eight great yašts, and is the longest of all (158 verses). It is also the most frequently recited, after that to Ohrmazd, being used in funerary rites (see DEATH). For this reason it is found generally in Ḵorda Avestas (service books), as well as in the old yašt manuscripts F1 and J10 (Kellens, 1975, pp. 5-7), and its text is relatively well preserved. There recurs all through it the formula, ḵšnūman, by which its recital is devoted to the fravašis. This formula (cf. Sīrōza II 19) is: “We worship the good, strong, bounteous fravašis of the righteous” (ašāunąm vaŋuhīš sūrå spəntåfrauuašaiiō yazamaide). Its recurrence to some extent divides the yašt into long and short sections (karda), but in places it is repeated in successive verses.
The fravaši cult appears to represent the fusing of an ancient general one of the souls (urvan) of the dead with a particular one of those of warrior-heroes, the fravašis proper. The yašt is evidently the work of generations of priests, composing within a fluid oral tradition. This tradition continued, it is reckoned, until some 400 years after the lifetime of Zoroaster (Burrow, p. 138; Kellens, 1987), when the Young Avestan texts were fixed essentially by being fully memorized. Till then priests would have worshipped the fravašis partly with verses which they learnt by heart from their teachers and elders, partly with others which they composed or adapted themselves, so that there was a continual process of preserving, losing, adding and reshaping, during which pre-Zoroastrian materials became Zoroastrianized, and Zoroastrian doctrines suffered some manipulation in the interests of glorifying the fravašis. The existing text deals repetitively with various themes. Its literary quality is uneven, with some fine poetic verses, and others which are as prosaic as their content, while yet others are dully imitative. Verses of the last type were probably included mainly to lengthen the yašt, and so honor the fravašis more greatly.
The simplest way to Zoroastrianize materials was to present them as part of Ahura Mazdā’s revelation to his prophet, with the standard words, “Said Ahura Mazdā to Spitaman Zarathuštra” (mraoṱ ahurō mazdå spitamāi zaraθuštrāi), and this is how Yašt 13 begins. The verses which follow are, in contrast, by no means stereotypical, but boldly adapt fundamental Zoroastrian doctrine to exaltation of the fravašis, who are presented, in verses rich in traditional poetic phrases, as on a plane with the lesser yazatas. The supreme deity is represented as declaring (vv. 2-10) that he brought into existence the encircling sky and the broad earth, which supports waters and plants to sustain cattle and men, through the “glory and splendor” (raiia xᵛarənaŋhaca, a standard yašt phrase referring to the powers of yazatas) of the “mighty, victorious fravašis” (frauuašinąm uγranąm aiβiθūranąm). These two epithets, which recur, may well belong to the fravašis as they were originally conceived. Moreover, without their aid, Mazdā is represented as saying (vv. 12-13), “cattle and men” (pasu.vīra) would not have been his, but would have belonged to Aŋra Mainyu (see AHRIMAN), who would never thereafter have yielded to Spənta Mainyu. This declaration is wholly unorthodox, and unsupported by any other text; but a slight measure of accord has been seen between it and accepted doctrine, in that the fravašis are, it seems, the souls of valiant warriors, and Zoroaster taught that humanity generally has a vital part to play in the cosmic battle against evil (Zaehner, pp. 147.).
Verses 14-15 are the first of a number, scattered through the yašt, which tell how the fravašis continue to sustain the material world and mankind. Verses 16-17 turn from cosmic themes and celebrate their ability to give aid both in trials of eloquence and “mighty battles” (uγrāhu pəšanāhu). These are the first of many verses which celebrate the fravašis’ warrior prowess, and which may well have their remote origins in the original fravašicult. In the main the “fravašis of the righteous” are assimilated to Zoroastrian ethical dualism by being presented as helpers of the righteous, the ašavan; and in verse 41 it is said that they will give good fortune to that man who worships them as did righteous Zoroaster. Amoral elements nevertheless remain. The fravašis are to be invoked generally, it is declared, “at fights, where brave men fight in battles” (pəšanāhu iδa yaṱ narō taxma pərətənte vərəθraγniiaēšo, v. 27); and there is a magico-religious character to the instruction to learn their invocation by heart, so as to obtain their help at times of peril (v. 20).
Verses 49-52 form a short karda in which the fravašis appear in the quite different role of the urvan, for it is told that they return to their (former) dwellings at Hamaspaθmaēδaya (see FRAWARDĪGĀN), seeking to be worshipped by name and given gifts of food and clothing, for which they will bless those living there. This karda is known to priests by its opening words as the yå visāδa. It forms the variable section of several Āfrīnagāns, notably those of Ardā Fravaš and Dahmān (see DAHM YAZAD), and so is frequently recited.
Verses 96-144 have also evidently been taken over from the urvan cult, for they consist in the main of a list of names of Zoroaster’s first disciples and of leading members of the early community, venerated with the formula: “We worship the fravaši of righteous so-and-so.” (For a detailed commentary see Avesta, tr. Darmesteter, II, pp. 530-54). This long roll of honor of “heroes” (hence called fravašis?) of the faith was presumably included in the yašt as part of the putative campaign to have the fravaši cult accepted as orthodox; and some names shed a faint light on the early history of the community and the date of the final version of the yašt (Burrow, p. 138). Before the list begins, worship is offered, preposterously, to the fravaši of Ahura Mazdā himself, and to those of some lesser yazatas; and the list is further dignified by being set in a frame of general veneration of the fravašis of all righteous humanity, from Gayō.marətan, the First Man (v. 87) to the Saošyant, who will be the last (v. 145). A number of epic and mythical figures are introduced, and there are fine lines among verses 87-94, devoted to the fravaši of Zoroaster.
Late in the hymn, verses 149, 155, offer worship to both urvan and fravaši as distinct components of man’s immaterial nature (see further under FRAVAŠI). This suggests the influence of schoolmen of the Young Avestan period. The yašt ends with a prayer, suitable to its regular devotional use, that the fravašis may come to “this house,” be satisfied, and return to Ahura Mazdā and the Aməša Spəntas.
Avesta, ed. Geldner, pp. 167-207.
T. Burrow, “The Proto-Indoaryans,” JRAS, 1973, pp. 123-40.
G. Gropp, Wiederholungsformen im Jung-Awesta, Kompositions-Analyse von Fravashi-Yasht, pt. I (Yt. 13.1-10), Hamburg, 1966.
K. M. JamaspAsa, ed., The Avesta Codex F1, facsimile ed., Wiesbaden, 1991, 175v-219r.
J. Kellens, ed., Fravardīn Yašt(1-70), Iranische Texte 6, Wiesbaden, 1975.
Idem, “Quatres siècles obscurs,” in Transition Periods in Iranian History, Stud. Ir., Cahier 5, 1987, pp. 135-39.
H. Reichelt, Avesta Reader, Strasbourg, 1911, pp. 17-21, 114-18.
F. Wolff, tr., Avesta, Leipzig, 1910, repr. Berlin, 1960, pp. 229-58.
R. C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, London, 1961.
For further bibliography, see FRAVAŠI.
Originally Published: December 15, 2000
Last Updated: January 31, 2012
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Vol. X, Fasc. 2, pp. 199-201