Pahlevāni and zoorkhāneh rituals is the name inscribed by UNESCO for varzesh-e pahlavāni or varzesh-e bāstāni , a traditional system of athletics originally used to train Persian warriors in Iran (Persia) and adjacent lands since the Achaemenid Empire. Outside Iran, zoorkhānehs can be found in Azerbaijan, and they were introduced into Iraq in the mid-19th century, where they seem to have existed until the 1980s. It combines martial arts, calisthenics, strength training and music. Recognized by UNESCO as among the world’s longest-running forms of such training, it fuses elements of pre-Islamic Persian culture (particularly Zoroastrianism, Mithrāism and Gnosticism) with the spirituality of Shia Islam and Sufism. Practiced in a domed structure called the zurkhāneh, training sessions consist mainly of ritual gymnastic movements and climax with the core of combat practice, a form of submission-grappling called koshti pahlavāni.
Zurkhuneh is one of the oldest sports of the world that was acceded to other countries with Iranian names, sign, formalities, customs, language and characters. The traditional Iranian gym is named Zurkhaneh or the House of Strength which resembles to Roman Mithras temples in Roman Empire (4th-century B.C) in the past and gymnasium now where Varzeshe-Pahlavai or Persian wrestling is performed.
The building of Zurkhaneh has the circled pit or gawd in a centre to exercise championships with several sections. The ground of Zurkhaneh is covered by cement or wood panels. The main section is specialized to audience in addition to the small section is for changing championships clothes. The two other parts are Morshed’s seat, his Zarb and preparing hot drinks for exercising championships. Morshed is a leader of Zurkhaneh who rings the bell, plays drum and sing rhythmic poems of Molana, as well as, couples of poetries to appreciate the first Shia’s Imam in particular, Imam Ali, his brevity in body and the soul. The instruments in Zurkhaneh are Kabadeh-bow, Mil and Seng-stony shield which are representing the battle field armaments.
Zurkhaneh’s Instruments and Activities
1-Sang and Sang Giri (Stone Lifting)
Sang is a symbol of shield in Zurkhaneh. It comprises two rectangular wooden pieces which is semi-circled at the middle hand holds is cut which are used in Sang Giri that is one of the most difficult activities in Zurkhaneh, Press Board and Hand Press.
2- Mill, Mill Varzi or Mill Bazi (Juggling)
Mill is an instrument shaped like mass with wooden and conical with a handle at the top. They usually weigh 10-30 Kilograms which are used in Mill Bazi or Juggling activities and Charkh or Turn and Twist. Heavier Mils in Zurkhaneh denote more powerful sportsmen which bring credit.
3- Kabbadeh or Kabbadeh Gereftan (Workout)
Kabbadeh is a bow made of iron with metal rings and coin-like pieces hanging on its body with different weights which are used in Kabbadeh workouts.
4- Takhteh Shena
Takhteh Shena is a plank which stands on two short lateral pedestals, each about 5cm. high and shoulder-width apart. The Takhteh Shena is used for the different types of push up the exercises of Varzeshe Pahlavani in particular.
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