Zurkhaneh sports or Pahlavani sport is the name of a group of sports and martial arts that have been popular since the distant past. Zurkhaneh sports and rituals are held in a place named “Zurkhaneh”, with singing, music and beating of a person named “Murshid”. Also, in Zuorkhaneh, in addition to zurkhaneh rituals and sports, men do wrestling too.
On November 16, 2010, Pahlavani and Zurkhaneh rituals were included in the UNESCO list of spiritual heritage by Iran. The German Brookhouse encyclopedia, has recognized Zurkhaneh sport “The oldest wrestling sport in the world.” in the main book and special cover of “Sport”.
Zurkhane is a place where athletes gather and perform martial arts and practice ancient sports of Zurkhaneh. Zurkhaneh has a unique building with a dome-shaped roof. There is a polygonal area under the dome of Zurkhaneh. This place is the main place for practicing and performing Zurkhaneh rituals and ceremonies. This area, which is often hexagonal, is a few meters below the surface of the ground; and because of this they call it a pit.
Zurkhaneh has a short door. And this shows the philosophy of humility of the wrestlers in such a way that the short door causes people to enter the place with a bent posture and head down, which is a sign of politeness and humility in Persian culture. Since Zurkhanehs are not only a place for training and performing ancient sports; but because of the spiritual teachings they have for their athletes, they have become a sacred and special place and have great respect. In terms of the appearance of the Zurkhaneh building, it has a surprising similarity with the Mithraic temples.
Zurkhaneh sports is a powerhouse of Iranian traditional wrestling rituals and sports; and “Zurkhaneh” is a place where they practice this sport. Historians believe that 700 years ago, Pahlavan Mahmud, who was known as Puriya Vali and lived in Khwarezm, made Zurkhaneh in it’s present form.
From the distant past, Zurkhane sport refers to valor and chivalry, and most of those who participated in this place had qualities such as bravery, chivalry, and valor. Also, the master of Zurkhaneh (Murshid) sings poems (mostly Iranian mythologies) and stories with music during Zurkhaneh sports to excite the athletes. He sings a poems, mostly from “Shahnameh” (the great Iranian mythology); and especially mentions the pains of chivalry and valor which are very valuable, because it’s important in Zurkhaneh culture.
The wrestler, Mahmoud Kharazmi, nicknamed Qattali, also known as Poriya Vali, is one of the most famous and popular wrestlers in the history of Iran. He was from the land of Khwarazm and was very skilled in Zurkhaneh sports and wrestling. He traveled in Islamic lands and wrestled with various rivals and no one was could win him!
Puriya Vali used to wrestle in his youth and was also a shoe and hat maker. During his youth, he traveled to various cities in Central Asia, Iran, and India and wrestled everywhere. In general, Puria Vali is a name myth. He is an example of morality, steadfastness and chivalry among Iranian athletes; and not only as a wrestler, but also as a saint! He has a high and legendary position among the people.
Entering the pit in Zurkhaneh sport has a special etiquette. In this way, first the athletes enter the Zurkhaneh in the order of rank and in the competitions according to the opinion of the coach; they do the following steps in order:
We mentioned that in addition to Zurkhaneh rituals and sports, men also wrestle. But this wrestling is different form freestyle wrestling, so that they call it “Pahlavani wrestling”. Pahlavani wrestling is one of the methods of wrestling, whose roots go back to ancient Iran. This wrestling was done by legendary Iranian wrestlers. In Pahlavani wrestling, wrestlers wear special pants that cover from the waist to the knees and have special belt. Wrestlers have the right to take the opponent’s pants or belt to perform special wrestling technique. Also, the execution of those types of freestyle wrestling, in which the attacker does not go to the bridge first, is allowed in Pahlavani wrestling. In addition to Zurkhaneh rituals, UNESCO recognized Pahlavani wrestling as one of the oldest sports in the world.