Zurkhaneh – The original Iranian athletics

Zurkhaneh – The original Iranian athletics
ID : N-2178 Date : 2018/07/01 - 17:23

(Persia Digest) – On the Iranian official calendar, 1 July is known as Zurkhaneh Day – a day for heroes.

Zurkhaneh athletics is the name of Iran’s ancient athletic exercises, the practitioners of which are known for their heroic and Pahlevani traits.

The collection of movements practiced here, with or without accessories, has a special ritual rooted in the distant past of Persian civilization.

Presently, this is mostly known as a type of ancient body building, with much in common with wrestling. It is believed that martial arts were also initially part of the practices.

Zurkhaneh is the name of the venue were the sport is practiced. The entrance of the Zurkahneh, which is called “hashti”, has a low door so that the athletes have to bow down as they enter the venue and remember that the stronger they get, the humbler they must be. This traditional gymnasium and house of strength is built as a sunken pit, unlike most other sports such as boxing, because it is a supporter of the poor and those who live in sunken pits. As such, the Zurkhaneh is also considered a school of moral code and ethics.

The various athletic moves include push-ups, grappling, pacing, and other types of calisthenics, such as using metal shields (sang), and wooden clubs (mil). The Zurkhaneh has a grading system which is based on age and the number of years an athlete has been practicing the sport, rather than physical strength.

The legendary heroes of Zurkhaneh

Puria-ey Vali is a name well-known in the Iranian Zurkhaneh. He was a symbol of ethics and heroism among Iran’s athletes. Not only is he considered a hero, he also holds a legendary, holy place amongst people. The story goes that a young man falls in love with the ruler’s daughter. The girl says she will marry him on the condition that he beats the town hero in a wrestling match. The young man knows he won’t be able to beat Pouria-ye Vali, but he still accepts the condition. When Pouria-ye Vali is informed of the condition by the young man’s mother, he loses to the young man on the day of the contest. The town folk only find out about the story when Pahlevan Pouria was no longer living. Alongside Pouria-ye Vali, one must also name Imam Ali (SA), the first Imam of the Shia faith, who has a special place among the Zurkhaneh athletes. Muslims call him the leader of the mystics. The connection between the Zurkhaneh and mysticism means that the name of Imam Ali is also deeply intertwined with this environment.

The origins of Zurkhaneh

The origins of Zurkhaneh in Iran is said to be in Azerbaijan Province and Ardabil region. But more accurate investigations have shown that the sport was practiced across Iran.

The place of Zurkhaneh in today’s Iran

Iranians continue to hold the Zurkhaneh in very high esteem. But, in today’s modern lifestyles and the progress of competitive and commercial sports, the Zurkhaneh is not as prosperous as it used to be. Some sociologists see this as a sign of the separation of the Iranian people from their original identity.

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