Lion and Sun Flag – Shir o Khorshid


Different colors and designs in the flag of any country are a sign of the history and culture of that country.

In our country, Iran had its own flag for thousands of years.

The Achaemenids had a flag called Shahbaz with the eagle or hawk on it.

During the Parthian period, a flag was used that was decorated with the role of the sun, and the Sassanids used a flag called the flag of Kaviani, which was rooted in the ancient stories of Iran.

Leaving this aside, we come to the famous symbol of the lion and the sun, which was the main symbol of Iranian flags and coins for about a thousand years.

But how did the role of the lion and the sun come about and what is the sign?

And why did all governments use this symbol?

The symbol of the lion and the sun entered Iran almost universally about a thousand years ago, but the first image of the lion and the sun in Iran dates back to two thousand four hundred years ago.

In this discovered tablet, Ardashir II of the Achaemenid dynasty stands in front of the lion, the sun and the god Anahita and is praying.

The symbols of the lion or the sun separately are also very important in the culture of ancient Iran and can be seen separately in many ancient monuments.

The sun is a symbol of purity and life in the ancient religions of Iran, such as Mehr or Zoroastrianism, and is so abundant in their works that the role of the sun is used in most of the flags of great governments such as the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids.

But the lion, this role like the sun is seen in most civilizations of the world and is more indicative of strength and courage to the point that even today in most languages ​​of the world, the lion is used as a name for people.

In Iran, too, the lion was a symbol of courage from the distant past, and we can see its role in many surviving works from different periods.

But what the lion and the sun mean together and how they were first engraved on flags and coins dates back to eight hundred years ago, to the Roman Seljuk period and the reign of Cicero II.

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According to Ahmad Kasravi in ​​the book History of the Lion and the Sun, after Kaykhosrow fell in love with the beautiful daughter of the King of Georgia and married her.

Out of great interest in this princess, he wanted to paint his wife’s face on coins, but the court elders opposed this for Islamic reasons and instead suggested to Kaykhosrow to use the role of the sun instead of the princess and the role of the lion instead. .

In this way, people did not know the essence of the story and thus the first coins were created with the role of lion and sun, but after a while with the Mongol invasion, the role of animals or humans on coins was less used and more writing was seen on coins.

Until about three hundred years later, when the Safavids came to power, coins with the role of animals were created again, as can be seen from the coins, works and inscriptions left.

The symbol of the lion and the sun had a special place in the Safavid period.

Most of the kings of this dynasty used this emblem, only Shah Ismail, the founder of the Safavid dynasty, and his son Shah Tahmasb had different emblems.

Shah Ismail had a green flag with a moon on it, and Shah Tahmasb used sheep and the sun instead of lions.

Because he was born in Aries or the Lamb in the solar year, that is, the present-day April.

For this reason, many historians point out that the symbol of the lion and the sun in the Safavid era was due to astronomical reasons. It becomes obscene and occurs every lunar month and lasts for two or three days.

On the contrary, it happened only once a year, in August, when it is called “Shams in Assad” or the sun in the house of a lion, and people believe that this event is ominous and pleasant.

For this reason, this symbol has become popular and has gradually found its way into art designs, and it has also been used on flags and coins.

But there is another view that, because the Safavids were the first unified Shiite government in Iran, they used the role of the lion as a symbol of Imam Ali.

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Probably because the title of the first Imam of the Shiites was Assadollah, later a theory was also proposed among the Shiites.

However, this symbol was used during the reign of all the kings of Safavid rule, Afshari and Zandieh, but this symbol never had a fixed shape and sometimes the lion was designed from left to right and sometimes vice versa, or sometimes its tail was high or low or Even the position of the sun changed, for example, sometimes it was far from the lion and sometimes it was attached to the back of the lion.

Qajar was used, but the sword emblem was never engraved on coins and was mostly used in imperial palaces.

Until the time of Nasser al-Din Shah, Iran had more relations with European countries, and since most of these countries had official emblems and flags, Mirza Aga Khan Nouri, the then Prime Minister, ordered the design of the national flag of Iran.

The flag consisted of three colors, green, white and red, and the two symbols “Lion and Sun” and “Double Sword” were combined and placed on the flag.

From then on, a lion with long edges, an upward tail, appeared while standing on his feet and holding a sword. However, it was said that out of respect for Imam Ali (as), a double-edged sword was not used in this role and only an arched sword was placed in the lion’s hand. By doing this for the first time

The flag was officially identified.

Because before that, even the triangular Arabic flags were used in Iran and the lions were mostly without mane or less mane.

After the Constitutional Revolution, the clerics of the parliament were against the color of the Iranian flag and the emblem of the “Lion and the Sun”, because it forbade the map, and thus the task of defending the color of the flag and the emblem of the Lion and the Sun was entrusted to Mr. Kikhosro Shahrokh, a Zoroastrian MP. 

In his speech in parliament; Green was the symbol of Islam, white the color of the Zoroastrians as the ancient inhabitants of this land, and red the symbol of the blood of the constitutional martyrs.

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After the colors, it was time to defend the symbol of the lion and the sun, and they justified this issue by saying that the constitutional revolution had won in August, that is, in Assad’s tower, on the other hand, because most Iranians are Shiite Muslims and Assadollah is one of Imam Ali’s titles. The lion is both a sign of August and a sign of the first Imam of the Shiites.

As for the sun, it was said that since the constitutional revolution won in mid-August and the sun is at the peak of its power and warmth these days, we suggest riding the sun behind the lion, so that this lion and the sun are also a sign of Ali and It is also a sign of the month of August, of course, when we consider the lion as a sign of the first Imam, it is necessary to give him the sword of Zulfiqar.

Finally, this speech of Mr. Kaykhosrow Shahrokh did its job to officially raise the national flag of Iran for the first time in the constitution as a symbol of independence and national sovereignty.

After the Qajar government, during the Pahlavi dynasty, the three-colored lion and sun flag remained the official flag of Iran, only the eyes and eyebrows of the sun were removed by the order of Reza Shah.

But after the revolution of 1978, Ayatollah Khomeini said in one of his speeches about this sign:

“Iran’s flag should not be an imperial flag, Iran’s emblems should not be imperial emblems, it should be Islamic emblems, this evil lion and sun should be cut off from all ministries and departments.”
The government was then given ten days to end the work of the Lion and the Sun in Iran, and even shut down the humanitarian organization established by Amir Alam in 1301 called the “Red Lion and Sun Charity Society of Iran” and replaced it with the “Red Crescent Organization”. Was formed.

Eventually, the lion and sun emblem and hundreds of years of history were removed from the Iranian flag and national currency. But today, the Iranian Red Lion and Sun emblem is still one of the four official emblems of the Geneva Convention for the world’s humanitarian organizations.

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