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
Abdolkarim Albasri accompanied his team in the first
international festival of Zurkhaneh sports in Mashhad
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.
Pahlevâni (the Parthian/warrior sport) also known as
Varzesh-e Bâstâni (the ancient sport).
heroes of Varzesh-e Pahlavani. There are several types of
of the Shah's courts/palaces. Many of these were the
official Pahlavans of Iran.
wrestlers/strong men known as Pahlavan-e Zoorgar.
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).
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
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
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.
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.