xii. The Kavian XˇARƎNAH

The nature of the Avestan xᵛarənah and its three subtypes, the Aryan (airiiana), the “unseizable” (? axᵛarəta), and the Kavian (kāuuaiia), have been much discussed, but is still not well defined (for bibliography on xᵛarənah in general, see FARR(AH) bibliography, and Philippe Gignoux, 2006).

The Kavian xᵛarənah is found in the following contexts. In the litanies of the Yasna, the Kavian and “unseizable” xᵛarənahs are associated with Mount Ušidarəna (Crack of Dawn) and the other mountains that reach up into the heavenly free spaces of Order, that is, the sunlit spaces. Similarly, in the Sīrōzag and Niyāyišn 5, all three xᵛarənahs (“set in place by Ahura Mazdā”) are associated with the Fire, Ahura Mazdā’s son, that is, the (rising) sun, and the Kavian xᵛarənah specifically with Kauui Haosrauuah and the two lakes associated with him, as well as Mount Asnuuaṇt and Mount Raēuuaṇt (also “set in place by Ahura Mazdā”).

Association with luminosity is also found in the supplementary texts to the Šāyist nē šāyist (22.25), where, in a list of what each day of the month grants to humans, the day of Aršišwang (Avestan Aṣ̌iš vaŋhuuī) is said to grant the radiance (bām) of the kayān xwarrah, with which we may compare the description of the formation of Zarathustra’s body in the Dēnkard (9.24.3), where the kayān xwarrah is said to have stroked his chest (sēnūg?) and, together with Ardwīsūr and Ahlišwang, his body (cf. Yašt 17.22; cf. Skjærvø, 1997).

As the “strong (uγra) Kavian xᵛarənah,” it is counted among the heavenly companions of the deities that fight the powers of darkness. In Yašt 8.2 to Tištriia, it is listed together with Tištriia, the heavenly lights and waters, the “name of the cow/bull,” and Zarathustra’s fravashi; in Yašt 10.66 to Miθra, it is listed together with Ašị and Pārəṇdī, the Manly Valor, the Dāmōiš Upamana (see DĀMI for speculations on the meaning), the “strong Firmament,” and the “fravashis of the aṣ̌auuans” (see ašavan); in Yašt 10.127 it and the Blazing Fire accompany the Dāmōiš Upamana. In Yašt 12.4, 6 to Rašnu, it is listed together with the Victorious Wind, the Dāmōiš Upamana, and the “Saokā (Glow?) set in place by Ahura Mazdā.” In Yašt 1.21 to Ahura Mazdā, it is listed together with Airiiana Vaējah, the heavenly river and waters, and the Saokā. Similarly, in the Pahlavi Rivāyat (65.14), where the nightly struggle between the powers of good and evil is described (when the sun goes down [andar šawēd], not “comes up,” as in Williams, 1990, I, p. 114), the kayān xwarrah is listed between Nēryōsang and the “fravashis of the ạšauuans.” 

In Yašt 19 to the xᵛarənah, the Kavian xᵛarənah is closely associated with creation and the Renovation (see FRAŠŌ. KƎRƎTI) and the “Renovation-makers.” It “belonged to” Ahura Mazdā, the Aməšạ Spəṇtas, and the deities in both worlds when they established the creations and when they shall make the existence fraša (Yašt 19.10-24).

It followed all the ancient hero-sacrificers, permitting (?) them to perform their respective feats: Haošiiaŋha, Taxma Urupi, and Yima when they ruled over men, demons (daēuuas), etc., in all seven continents of the earth (Yašt 19.26-33), but it left Yima (in the shape of the Vārəγna bird), when he spoke a lie (Yašt 19.34; see JAMŠID). It did so three times and was seized, successively, by Miθra, Θraētaona (see FERĒDUN), and Kərəsāspa (see KARSĀSP; Yašt 19.35-44). It followed the Saošiiaṇt, the third and last of Zarathustra’s eschatological sons, who will be born from Lake Kąsaoiia (Yašt 19.66-69, 89-96; Dēnkard 7.11.3); the seven kauuis and Kauui Haosrauuah (Yašt 19.71-77); and Zarathustra and Kauui Vištāspa (Yašt 19.71-87). It was sought by Fraŋrasiiān, but it eluded him (Yašt 19.82). During the battles presaging the end of time, when the Foul Spirit and Wrath shall come to the aid of the demon-worshippers, the kayān xwarrah will also come to Čihrōmēhan, that is, the “luminous” (bāmīg) Pišōtan, son of Wištāsp, and “the true redresser of the kayān xwarrah of the dēn” will be summoned (Dēnkard 7.19; cf. Dēnkard 9.9: at the end of the millennium the victorious kayān xwarrah will come to him).

The connection with the mountains is also seen in the Dēnkard (9.22.7), in the story of Kay-Us, where we are told that the kayān xwarrah was in the shape of a mountain (gar-kerb), and in the Pahlavi Rivāyat (46.5), where the world is made out of the body parts of the primeval giant. The demiurge is said to have made the earth from the giant’s feet and filled in (nigand) xwarrah as its substance (gōhr) and made the mountains grow from that substance, and it surrounds them above and below. (The missing part of ms. TD4 in the British Library [RSPA 228], fol. 53r, has <ŸŶE = GDE> twice, and the replacement part of TD4, p. 108, has <YYM> and <YYMW = YYE>; Williams, 1990, I, p. 162, adopts H. K. Mirza’s emendation <BYN> andar “in” for <GDE> xwarrah; see also FARR(AH) on the connection with mountains.) It was so strong in Siāwaš that he made the Kang-diz with his own hands and the power of Ohrmazd and the Amahrspands (Pahlavi Rivāyat 41.1).

The assumption of a special connection with royalty is primarily based on the assumption that the kauuis were kings or princes. For instance, in the Dēnkard (3.412b), the establishment of royalty (xwadāyīh winnārišn) is by means of the kayān xwarrah, and, in the Kār-nāmag (3.20), the ram (warrag) which follows and catches up with Ardašīr is interpreted as the xwarrah ī kayān. The connection is probably not with royalty per se, but with the role any person having the xwarrah ī kayān plays in the history of the world and its progression toward the Renovation.

In Manicheism, the personal name Kāy-farn is listed in the Mahrnāmag (M1 line 81; see Weber, p. 197, no. 9; Sundermann, p. 255, no. 2.6).



(Prods Oktor Skjærvø)

Originally Published: January 1, 2000

Last Updated: May 16, 2013

Cite this entry:

Prods Oktor Skjærvø, “KAYĀNIĀN xii. The Kavian XˇARƎNAH,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kayanian-xii (accessed on 20 September 2016).