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Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei Rituals

Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei Rituals

Zoorkhaneh or Humorous sport is an epic art indicating the Islamic, mythic and ancient Iranian beliefs. This traditional sport is done by 10 to 20 men and it is considered a kind of dramatic sport like Gymnastics. The place of performing this sport is traditionally called Zoorkhaneh (the house of power) which is an enclosed club similar to the shrines in ancient Iran, based on some beliefs.

The establishment of the first Zoorkhaneh has been attributed to Pouria Vali, the Iranian best-known athlete, in 722 HJ; it is, however, goes back to the ancient times. The entrance of Zoorkhaneh is intentionally built smaller and shorter than the other buildings’ doors, because an athlete has to bend for entering, as the symbol of his humility. The roof of the club has a high dome shape similar to other religious and historical buildings.

The field of playing movements placed in an octagonal hollow with about 70 cm depth where the followers and equipment situated around. Wearing the special athlete clothes, a group of men present in the hollow during the performance, and they play some epic movements individually or collectively. A person named Morshed directs the rhythm of performance through playing Zarb-the main musical instrument in this ritual- and singing the humorous, epic or religious poems. He is considered to be the symbol of Master and Sheikh in the Iranian mysticism who reminisces and readouts the moral and social teachings.

There exist different and special equipment in Zoorkhaneh; interesting in this respect are kabbāde- a bow-shaped iron instrument-, push-up-board, Mill- a large wooden sport weight used exclusively in Zoorkhaneh- and stone- two flat stones in form of a shield used as a sport weight in Zoorkhaneh competitions. with this regard, some believes on Zoorkhaneh Sport as the oldest form of bodybuilding in the world.

What is, however, remarkable is that those who come to Zoorkhaneh for learning these sport practices in the past had to learn the spirit of chivalry, generosity, charity and other heroic traits. Today, there exist 500 Zoorkhanehes in Iran 50 of them are active in Tehran city.

In 2010, Zoorkhaneh Sport was inscribed on List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in UNESCO.  

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