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Iran’s Neighbours to Revive Iran's Varzesh-e Pahlevani


News Category: Cultural

 24 November 2005



Iranian Zurkhanehs (Power House - t the traditional Iranian martial art of Varzesh-e Pahlevani, are being opened in Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan.

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, once again the ancient Varzesh-e Pahlavani are opening in Karbala, Kazemein, and Basra cities.

“About 15 months ago, Iraqis’ Zurkhanehs reopened and those who are interested in the traditional sport have been attracted to them,” Abdolkarim Albasri, Iraq’s sport director and head of Zurkhaneh federation in Iraq told CHN.

Abdolkarim Albasri accompanied his team in the first international festival of Zurkhaneh sports in Mashhad city, Iran.

The sport was initiated in Iraq since1920 when about 50 gymnasiums were built by Iranians during the Qajar era. But with former Iraqi regime coming to power, the sport was forbidden, because of its Iranian connection.

“With coordination’s with the International Federation of Zurkhaneh Sports, arrangements have been made for construction of three Zurkhanehs in Karbala, Kazemein and Basra in a near future,” said Albasri.

The 22-member Iraqi team expressed their joy of attending the Mashhad festival and the Iranians’ hospitality towards them during their stay in Iran.

Holding the fifth specialized congress of Zurkhaneh sports was discussed in Mashhad; the conference is to be attended by members of the International Zurkhaneh Sport Federation, and based on the decisions made, Afghanistan was chosen as the host in either Kabul or Harat cities.

Presentation and introduction of Zurkhaneh sports in Qatar Asian Games was another decision taken in the meeting at the sidelines of Mashhad festival. The athletes will be symbolically performing moves of the ancient Iranian sport to introduce it to participants of the games.

It has also been determined that Zurkhanehs be opened in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan until the end of 2006.

“The construction project of a Zurkhaneh in Afghanistan was initiated and Ferdowsi Zurkhaneh was opened in Tajikistan, as the main projects of the Federation last year,” announced Mehr Alizadeh, director of Iran’s International Federation of Zurkhaneh Sports.

Yourgen Palm as the honored member of the Federation described the ancient sport not only as a sport but as a cultural activity. He believes that establishing training centers for this sport throughout the world will attract people to this sport.

The first International Zurkhaneh Sports Festival of the world was held in Mashhad from 11-16 November 2005 with the attendance of 33 countries.

Alongside the Festival, the forth scientific-sport symposium of Zurkhaneh sports was held entitled “zurkhaneh, the intangible heritage”. The opening ceremony was attended by officials and intellectuals from different countries, including those of Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, India, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Germany, Malawi, Pakistan, and students of sports and social science of Ferdowsi University of Mashhad.

Ali Abadi, the vice president of Iran and director of the country’s sport organization, emphasized the sport being part of Iranian culture and heritage, being in need of preservation, introduction, and revival. “We are just at the beginning of the road and should take great steps to help our Zurkhanehs find their old status,” he added.

“Zurkhaneh is an important heritage of the great Iranian civilization, and athletes have throughout this civilization have always worked hard to serve their people and now we are trying to keep it alive and turn it into a worldwide sport,” said Soleiman Abdolvahdaf, minister of sport and youth affairs of Tajikistan with his sweet Persian accent in the congress.

According to one of the speakers of the Symposium, Cyrus Javid, Zurkhaneh sports have a history of their own in Iran. In the ancient times, the moves were to prepare athletes for horse riding, polo, and boxing. Historical Evidence, like Herodotus, documents from the Achaemenid era, and Master Ferdowsi, the epic poet of Iran, confirm the long history of the sports.

The exercise is very formal, and the moves are carried out to the rhythm of the drum and a singer reciting traditional verses, usually form Shahnameh. The long history of the sport is recorded on the walls of the gymnasium in the form of historic photographs.

Varzesh-e Pahlevâni (the Parthian/warrior sport) also known as Varzesh-e Bâstâni (the ancient sport).


The heroes of Varzesh-e Pahlavani. There are several types of Phalavans:

Pahlavans of the Shah's courts/palaces. Many of these were the official Pahlavans of Iran.

Master wrestlers/strong men known as Pahlavan-e Zoorgar.

Our modern wrestlers, many of them World and Olympic Champions as well as the winners of the Pahlavani Bazoo-band or Armlet (the national Pahlavan of Iran).

Pahlevan-e Bozorg (The GRand Warrior): It literally means Grand Pahlavan. The most equivalent title in the oriental martial arts could be the Grand Master. It is only given to two or three Pahlavans such as Pouriyay-e Vali and Hassan Razaz, also known as Pahlavan-e Bozorg Shoja'at.

Finally, Jahan Pahlevan (the World Warrior): highest rank of Pahlavani in the Iranian army before the Arab invasion. A title given to Rostam, the legendary Pahlavan of Ferdowsi's Shah-nameh. The contemporary Gholamreza Takhti is another Pahlavan who is given this title.

These Pahlavans were masters of the Pahlavani tradition. They observed all the ancient Iranian moral and ethical values which, and at the same time they were probably among the best wrestlers in the world.

This group of Pahlavans is considered by many historians to include true Pahlavans who represent this rich tradition. There are probably about twenty Pahlavans in the history of Iran that fall into this special category.

In the Indian literature, it is written as Pahalwan, and it refers to strong men and wrestlers.



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Source: CHN




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