Zoorkhaneh, A sports club from the heart of ancient Iran
Zoorkhaneh rituals and Pahlevani is an Iranian martial art. Throughout history, Iranians pay attention to nurture their body and morality and heroism. In traditional Iranian society, Zoorkhaneh was a sacred place for shaping the body and raising moral thoughts and virtues.
An atmosphere that was fragrant with heroic, and chivalry manners and self-sacrifice. A place that in addition to performing ancient sports and its special rituals, wrestling was also practiced which is still going on. Zoorkhaneh rituals and Pahlevani is an incredible symbol of humanity left from ancient Iran.
The place where his and his heroic rituals were registered in 2010 in Iran cultural and intangible World Heritage List at UNESCO.
17 Shawwal, the day of wrestling culture and Zoorkhaneh sports
The seventeenth of Shawwal (tenth month of lunar based Islamic calendar) is the day when Imam Ali fought Omar ibn ‘Abdud, the famous Arab hero. And he defeated him on the battlefield. For this reason, this day has been called the day of wrestling culture and Zoorkhaneh sport.
In this war, Imam Ali went through his side after defeating Omar ibn Abdud to remove his head from his body. Omar threw his spittle in the face of Imam Ali. Hazrat did not show any reaction, and he got up and walked for a while on the battlefield. Then he went back to him. Omar asked the reason why he did not kill him. Imam said: The moment you spilled water on my face, I was angry. I didn’t want to kill you like this. I walked to calm down and kill you for God’s sake.
Since days of the lunar month change every year compared to the solar calendar, there is no exact day for this occasion in solar calendar, and every year this day in solar calendar is different from the previous year. Let’s get started to know more about Zoorkhaneh rituals and ancient Iranian sports.
History of Zoorkhaneh
Undoubtedly, various sports have been common in ancient Iran, but there is no exact source for a Zoorkhaneh-like atmosphere. But according to the evidence, pre-Islamic Iranians also had a special place for their sport, but Safavian period was a period of growth and flourishing sports, especially ancient sports.
Some scholars believe that Zoorkhaneh was organized in 7th century AD by Pourya Vali Pahlavan(hero), a well-known man from Khoi. Zoorkhaneh reached its highest level with the rise of Shiite religion at that time, and Zoorkhaneh rituals and sport flourished. The influence of Shiism on Zoorkhaneh sports during the Sufi period was so great. In a way that in the opinion of the believer athlete, Zoorkhaneh was the place of Nikan and Pakan (good people) and the school of chivalry.
During Qajar period, Kings of this dynasty were interested in the sport of wrestling. So Zoorkhaneh rituals and sports were very prosperous, but with the death of Naser al-Din Shah, heroes and champions dispersed from the capital and Zoorkhanehs no longer flourished. Wrestling competitions were held until 1318 SH according to the ancient wrestling ritual, but during the reign of Reza Shah and with the expansion of new sports culture, clubs were formed and new sports principles prevailed.
The architecture of Zoorkhaneh
The shape and appearance of the inside and outside of Zoorkhaneh building in the past was similar to Tekyeh which they were like Khanqah and they are inspired of ancient fire temples. The exterior view of Zoorkhaneh has 4 corners with a dome and minarets that draws air and sunlight from the valves and glass into the Zoorkhaneh.
The building is so sacred and respectful that athletes do not enter it without ablutions, and their first action after enterance is to kiss soil. All the components of these places and the area have a philosophy in behind. The first sign of rich culture behind this ancient sport is obvious from the athlete’s first encounter with Zoorkhaneh, which is the moment of facing door of the place.
The door of Zurkhaneh is short, and the reason for that is to bow down and pay homage to the holy place and to eliminate arrogance.
Sardam is a sacred place among heroes, and keeping it as bright as keeping Saqakhaneh has been a necessary task. In Sardam, Morshed (Master) recites the praises of Imam Ali from time to time. In the festivals, he recites praises, and in deaths, he recites lamentations.
The roof of Zoorkhaneh is one of the parts of Zurkhaneh that is very similar to mosques and Tekyeh.
The wisdom of Zoorkhaneh rituals and building is to be attract the attention of athletes from the bottom of deep pit to the blue sky, an embodiment of the infinite essence of God.
Zoorkhaneh rituals equipment
It is a smooth wood 70 cm long and 7 cm wide which is sometimes made smaller and larger than this size. Under the board and near the two ends, there are two trapezoidal bases nailed with a height of 4 cm.
2. Sports Mil
It is a wooden and sugar-loaf shape with a round and smooth bottom and a flat or round head. A bunch has been inserted with a length of 15 centimeters in the middle of it, and the weight of each Mil is from 5 kg to 40 kg.
3. Open Mil
It is like sport Mil which described above. This Mil is lighter than sport Mil with larger handles. The weight of each one is 4 to 6 kg.
Two large boulders are in the shape of an old shoe plate with a square at the top and a curve at the bottom. In the middle of each stones, there is a hole and a handle. Athletes use felt pieces around the handles to decrease the injury of hand scratch. Zoorkhaneh stones did not have a specific weight. Its weight depended on the size and taste of the person who ordered it. In international competitions, the weight of each stone is 20 kg, its length is 100 and its width is 70 and the thickness of the stone is 5 cm.
Zoorkhaneh stone is the same shield, according to researchers, and was used by athletes to strengthen their arms.
is 14 kg, the length of its bow is 150 cm and its chain length is 200 cm.
Kabbadeh is a form of war bow. This device has been recorded in Persian cultures as a soft and loose bow which is used for bowing exercises. In the culture of Dehkhoda, a kind of exercise bow is called to strengthen the shoulders of archers. It is thought that the original Kabbadeh were not ike the current ones. Kabbadeh is now made of pure iron, and its trunk is not springy.
Kabbadeh in Zoorkhaneh rituals is in two forms for centuries. One has an arched body that is ironic and heavy, and on the other hand, chains and long pegs were hung on both ends to maintain the balance of the string. There were usually two types of Kabbadehs in Zoorkhaneh. One lighter for beginners and the other one heavy for experienced athletes. The normal weight of a Kabbadeh is 14 kg, the length of its bow is 150 cm and its chain length is 200 cm.
It is a pair of shorts that covers the thighs below the knees, and is worn while exercising and wrestling. This Gamosa is sewn from a multi-layered leather or mahogany fabric. The surface is mostly bluish green. The waist and seat and the head are made of leather. Embroidered flowers and large bushes are hung on the thighs.
It is the same Gamosa that is used in the bathroom. Instead of wearing a Tankeh, some athletes put a Gamosa on their underwear. Two ends of the width are tied at the waist on the navel and the bottom which is hanging is taken from the back of the foot and lifted between the two legs.
The Federation of Ancient Sports has now banned the use of Gamosa for this sport, but it is still used in some cities such as Arak and Kermanshah.
Today, Murshed (Master) is said to be someone who has a good voice and sits on Sardam while exercising. In the past, a mentor was someone with whom athletes and wrestlers were trained.
Someone who is in charge of giving rubdown to athletes and wrestlers before exercise, and to punch and rub them after exercise to relieve bruising and fatigue. During holding Zoorkhaneh rituals, they also prepare logestics.
Zoorkhaneh sport is a group sport. Before the ritual begins, any athlete is able to warm up with a stone alone. In this regard, the athlete sleeps on his back and exercises with the stone which is described in Zoorkhaneh equipment. In Zurkhaneh, Morshed is in Sardam, and when the group of athletes are in the pit, his beating begins.
Step 1) Start by swimming moves. During swim moves, Miandar (a person who is in charge of leading the group ) places the board in the middle of pit, and the other athletes around him place their boards on the ground and listen to the instructor. Athletes follow him every time he goes swimming.
Step 2) Now is the time to take the Mil! Miandar who is a wrestler takes the Mil and spins it around the shoulder, and other athletes follow him by repeating what the instructor does.
Step 3) It’s time to step on! No matter how he walks, other athletes follow him! There are different types of footsteps, some of which are as follows: forest foot, cross foot, Shateri foot (like bakers), and so on
Step 4) It’s time to spin! Unlike previous exercises, spinning is a one-man exercise. At this stage, Miandar comes to one corner, and those who are volunteer turn around by Morshed beating. The spinning begins with the youngest athlete and ends with the oldest one.
Step 5) It’s time to pray. Miandar starts praying for the athletes in the pit, he prays for the crowd outside and the absentees and curses the evildoers! His prayers are called “Amen” and his curse is called “Overflow”.
After the prayer, the main ritual of the sport ends, and any athlete can get a Kabbadeh movement. If the person is an important athlete, Morshed will sing for him.
Today, Zoorkhaneh rituals ends after the prayer ceremony, and the wrestling match is held in separate competitions.
* As soon as the athlete enters the pit, he bends over and hits his right hand into the bottom of pit, then he puts his hand on his lips and kisses it with the intention of kissing the soil of Zoorkhaneh.
* Each part of pit has its own position. In the middle of the pit is place for Miandar. The second place is in front of Miandar and under Sardam. The other athletes stand out base on their experience in order.
* Exercise with clothes is disliked and is forbidden according to the Fatian religion.
* Since Zoorkhaneh is considered a clean and young place for men, ugly jokes and rhetoric should be avoided.
* Wealth and social status are not considered in Zoorkhaneh, and only the status of sports and piety determines the level of people.
Golrizan is one of the long-standing traditions of Zoorkhaneh rituals which is held on a special occasions. These occasions can be when two wrestlers start fighting, or when two athletes reconcile, to help someone in need, open a gym, or pay homage to the hero from another city on various holidays. In the past, two novices would take a fabric from both sides and rotate around the present population, and the population would put some money in it.
Zoorkhaneh rituals in today’s society
Today’s Zoorkhaneh sport is very different in terms of appearance and type of sport. As mentioned, the use of Gamuca in ancient sports is currently banned by the federation. Today, ancient sports competitions are held as a team in one of Iranian cities, where each team consists of 10 people, one mentor, 8 athletes and one Miandar who do the sport with great complexity compared to the simple sport of Zoorkhaneh.
Today, there are 50 Zoorkhanehs in Tehran, the most important of which is Shahid Fahmideh Stadium which hosts national competitions of Iranian Wrestling, and Zoorkhaneh Federation. It has been registered nationally.
Zoorkhanehs may not be as prosperous as they used to be, but with the richness and beauty of this place and its heroic rituals, planning to develop these sports venues and encourage young people to turn to ancient Iranian sports is not out of reach.
One of the biggest problems facing ancient sports and Zoorkhaneh rituals is financial problems, and the inability to generate income which must be addressed through government planning and the help of public institutions.