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KHVARENAH is the Avestan term for "splendor" (OPers, farnah; MPers, Pahl., khwarr; NPers, khurrah or farr ), designating one of the most characteristic notions of ancient Iranian religion. It is often associated with the aureole of royalty and of royal fortune, thanks to its identification in the Hellenistic period with Greek tuchē and Aramaic gad, "fortune" (gdh is also the ideogram with which khwarr is written in Pahlavi), but its meanings go beyond the sphere of royalty, and its influence transcends the confines of the Iranian world. Aspects of the concept of khvarenah are found in Manichaeism and Buddhism and are interwoven with similar concepts characteristic of other cultures, as in the Turkish notion of qut and the Armenian p'ak'. In the Avesta and in Zoroastrian tradition in general, khvarenah is also personified as a yazata or a being "worthy of worship."

Fundamental to the concept of khvarenah are its connections with light and fire, attested in the root from which it is derived, khvar ("to burn, to glow"), which is probablydespite the opposing opinion of H. W. Bailey, author of an important essay on the question (1943, pp. 177)connected with the same root as hvar, "sun" (Duchesne-Guillemin, 1963, pp. 1931). This explains why khvarenah is sometimes translated in Greek as doxa ("glory") and in Arabic-Persian as nūr ("light").

The khvarenah is a luminous and radiant force, a fiery and solar fluid that is found, mythologically, in water, in haoma, and, according to Zoroastrian anthropogony, in semen. It is an attribute characteristic of Mithra, of royalty, of divine and heroic figures in the national and religious tradition, of Yima, the first king, of Zarathushtra, and of the three Saoshyants, who perform their tasks (Pahl., khwēshkārīh ) on earth thanks to the khwarr that they possess. It has the power to illuminate the mind and to open the eye of the soul to spiritual vision, enabling those who possess it to penetrate the mysteries of the otherworld.

Recently the winged disk in Achaemenid reliefs has been interpreted as the khvarenah (Shahbazi, 1980, pp. 119147). Deified Khvarenah (Pharro) is depicted on coins from the Kushan empire as a standing man with flames rising from his back.


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Gherardo Gnoli (1987)

Translated from Italian by Roger DeGaris