Some studies are done about the historical roots and bases of zurkhaneh sports after Mashrutiat revolution, such as:
1- The history of ancient sport of Iran “Zurkhaneh” from: the late Partow Beizai Kashani (1337). This book is printed by Zovvar publisher.
About the motivation of this research, Partow Beizai said: “In the recent years (1337), when the ancient sport was revived, it was observed that interested people were searching about that topic. It was the time encounter to come across the end of 19th and beginnings of 20th century which new sports were introduced to the country.
Ancient sport was named “Zurkhaneh actions”. Probably this name has come from some general appearances such as leather pants and the customs of heroic wrestling, also instruments such as meel2, Kabbade3, Kaman4, Sang5 and Separ6 of Iranian soldiers in old time. Zarb is another instrument like tabl7 to excite the soldiers through the war.”
In the time of appearance of this name, this sport was current in countries which were in a common civilization area in ancient Iranian part from middle Asia to south and west of Asia (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kirghizstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Turkey) In these countries, ethnic groups lived which all of them contained to one race. Later, they divided to two separated groups. One group went to India and the other, whom named themselves Aria or Ariaye (It means loyal friend) went to the lands in western Asia which are named Iran, Afghanistan and Turkistan and Abkhazia, today. Iran means a place related to Arian people.
Ariaye people were divided to some groups:
Median’s lived in west and western north of Iran; Persian lived in south (Fars) and Parts in eastern north. “The land which they chose to live was a flat place with fertile valleys and had a very changeable weather. This factor caused Iranian people to be active, diligent and brave. So far, they could establish one of the most powerful empires from 331 to 558 B.C.
Resemblance of architecture of Zurkhaneh with Mithras temples:
Dr. Mehdi Bahar, in his article “Iranian ancient sport and its historical bases” believes that: “Iranian ancient sport is very old and like all of the ancient traditions, its origins and roots are unknown. Today, we try to find its source via following the signs from here and there.” Zurkhaneh are very similar to Mithras temples. They always arrive to a flat street from an underground place via a long stairs. All of the Zurkhanehs which are made according to the tradition of ancient ancestors, not according to the modern standards, are in undergrounds and usually under other buildings, have a little light. As mentioned before, Mithras temples were made near or besides of water.
The other tradition of Zurkhaneh is ringing a Zang8 which is dangling from the door of Zurkhaneh’s and when a hero comes to Zurkhaneh, Morshed rings it to say everyone that he entered. A similar ring is found in one of the Mithras temples, may be using at the time of showing the sun’s picture in the beginning or at the end of ceremony.
If our consideration about tradition of Zurkhaneh be correct, they have used this ring at the time of entrance of clergymen. Hierarchies which are found in Zurkhaneh, like Kohnesavar, Morshed, Pishkesvat9 , Sahebzang10, Sahebtaj11, Nowche and so on are very similar to the seven hierarchies of Mithraism, as if all of them are derived from a common source.
In rules of Zurkhaneh, when a hero became an Ostad12, who is a complete person, bodily and spiritually, Pishvaye Tarighat13 made him proud by Taje Faghr14. This rule is found in Mithraism traditions, too. Goddess of sun is observable in the most of Roman Mithraism works while is kneeling down in front of the sun, and it holds something like a hat to give her. In Bucharest, a shape remained which shows Mithras is giving a Frigi hat to the sun. Nowche, Pishkhize, Nowkhaste, Sakhte, in Zurkhaneh has the place of a newcomer in Mithraism tradition. In Roman Mithraism tradition, Mithras followers trained to be very brave. Symbolically, In Zurkhaneh men
learned how to battle.
Many of the men’s traditional dances in Iran and other countries are known as battle, which are remaining from one of the same many old traditions. D.r. Mehdi Bahar believes: “If our consideration is correct, according to these relations, it will be considered that in European Mithraism temples there were some traditions similar to Zurkhaneh sports, too. He gets the bellow results from his research:
1- Take into consideration of comparative studies of Mithraism tradition with Zurkhaneh and finding the relationship of it with Javanmardi15 we can result that Zurkhaneh is very old in Iran and its principles are from Ashkanian age. Because in that time, Mithraism was spread to the entire world, such as Europe.
Even Mithras temples which are very similar to Zurkhaneh were built there and Ayyari16 tradition was established in Iran.
2- In this tradition, making up the body is the main condition to obtain the truth and health of soul. This kind of training contains spiritual traditions. In fact, training the body is not separated from training the spirit.
3- Sport and Pahlevani17 actions were one of the main daily activities of Iranian in old ages. In that society, athletes were very honorable because of their powerful bodies and braveness.
4- Heroes in necessary situations defend their families and countries. They did plenty of encouragement because of their sport abilities, braveness and powers. According to religious education of ancient Iranian, Zurkhaneh men first of all praised the beauty of heaven, then asked a powerful body and thought for themselves from God. They firmly believe to have a healthy and powerful body. Ancient Iranian gave a spiritual meaning to their sport activities, which were affected on the model of their armaments. In Mithras crypt, a log remained from Pythagoras, the son of Mnesarchus, one of the biggest philosophies and scientists of old Greek, (born between 580 and 572 BC, died between 500 and 490 BC): “Outside the city, I arrived to a dark cave. I was surprised about the strangeness of that place for holding the most shining stars ceremony. I entered there, accompanying with some of the viewers. I saw so many traditions, customs and praises that my honor memory is not able to talk about them. I saw Vaghefane Asrar18 who washed their bodies in water and asked God to give them cleanliness of the spirit. Zoroaster was doing the responsibility of the leader by putting the immortal symbol on their chests. That people were very proud when received the symbol,
everyone ate a loaf of bread and drank some water.
That was the sign of prophetic mission or the secret of entrance to the new life as the sun opened the door of New Year on the people of the world. They song this topic on their divine praises. (Singing the praises was accompanied with playing and melody) They kneeled down when they prayed. There were some breads and a bowl of water which pioneers prayed on them .“Avesta, the holly religious book of old Persian encouraged and honored the heroes and athletes very much, as if those big men were praying their Gods. Koshti19 has come from kosti that means belt, and Long20 is come from fastening a Sedre21. Specially, kosti was
applied to a part of Long (Sedre) which was fasten on the stomach and wrestler held it at the time of wrestling. This tradition is related to one of the Zoroastrian’s traditions in Old Persian. This fact that there were more than 30 words in Old Persian related to heroic and athletic concepts, shows that Iranian people were very interested to heroes and athletes. In Old Persian, young people (people under 24 years old) trained for Dow22, savarkari23, chowgan, Dart throwing, Koshti, Box, Bowing, shooting, and swordsmanship. These techniques were learned under a hard condition to make men ready for using them in necessary times such as: bearing the problems and difficulties of war, hunger, thirst, bruise, high temperatures and low temperatures.
Were these sports widely known in duration of history?
Edward Brown, one of the biggest people who studied about Eastern civilizations in this century, believes that we should follow the history of Zurkhaneh from Old Persian. The late Gholamreza Ensafpur had believed in his study: “This sport was widely known in last history, having different name, a little different in traditions and using different vehicles which were not as complete as new ones”. He believes that the history of Zurkhaneh, as we know today, is related to 7th century. He points: before that time, we can observe some of the vehicles and traces related to wrestling very irregular, especially at heroic and symbolic stories of Ferdowsi’s Sahname.
Ensafpur step by step enumerates the places of traditional sports, from assailing of Arabs to Safaviye, as: khaneh24, langargah25, Ebadatkhaneh26 and Varzashkhaneh27. The name of Varzashkhaneh exists in “Gol Koshti” by Mirnejat from Safaviye, and Ebadatgah is present in “fiction of Puryaye Vali” before Safaviye. Langargah, from Saljughiye to Moghol age As Sistan history book says, Khaneh is related to the time of Arabs’ attack and after it. Ensafpur says: at the time of Arabs’ attack, the first places of doing sport activities were undergrounds and hidden places which heroes and athletes in secret made themselves powerful and ready to face the enemies.
It should be mentioned that when holly prophet of Islam (P.B.H) passed away Omaviyes’ government, used the treasury for personal works and free-living. They do not pay attention to the Islamic Justice and believed Arabs’ were superior to other ethnics, they even killed the holly prophet’s family, so Moslems were unsatisfied and they performed some revolutions against them. One of the opposition groups, were Baniabbas family. They could overthrow the Moslem’s government by using the help of Iranian heroes with the leadership of Abumosleme Khorasani. But after some times, they changed their way and became an oppressor government, too. Baniabbas jailed and killed people, so people again were unsatisfied and performed revolutions. After that, some independent governments came into existence and some parts of Iran exited from Arabs’ government. One of the local governments was the Samanids dynasty. They have chosen Bokhara as their capital and encouraged the poets and scientists trying to revive Farsi Language. It is undeniable that Iranian people always had some places to do their light sports and heroic activities, from the latest ages of ancient time to the age of Islam and after it. For Example, Xenophon says in his book, Anabasis: “In Achaemenian dynasty, there were special open places for Youth people to train and educate under the attention of special coaches and educators According to some heroic and historical poems of Ferdowsi’s Shahname (14th century) we can observe that even at the beginning of Samanids dynasty, there were some special places for training youth people under the supervision of heroes.
In symbolic and heroic history of Iran Rostam28, the hero of heroes, was one of the coaches and Kawus29, put Siyawosh30 under the care of Rostam to learn different techniques of sport, generosity and honesty. Recommendation of Minooye kherad (a Pahlavi book) In part 43 of Pahlavi book, Minooye Kherad, all people are recommended to cultivate in themselves trust and self confidence and acquire knowledge. It is also recommended to hold trust Separ31 and fight every symbols of evil with the help of the gorz32 of giving thanks to God and the Kaman of readiness. It is completely clear that Sang and meel and kabbadeh are similar to three of war instruments; besides new kind of Koshti is similar to koshti in Zurkhane, also its actions are much related to the recommendation of Minooye kherad from ancient age. There are news and descriptions about koshti and Pahlavani in the symbolic and heroic part of Ferdowsi’s Shahname. They wrestled each other and keep each other’s belts Ancient Sport in Islamic age In Islamic civilizations, because of continuing heroic tradition, new heroic symbols were established about the origin of this tradition and linked it to Islam, weather this relation is not without any historical bases. Apparently, it is considered that in Western Asia there were traditions like generosity from the old ages, but it is clear that even before Islam, between Arabs in ignorance age, there were generous traditions and apparently Imam Ali (P.B.H) was the first Muslim who honored to this title.
In Majma’otavarikh and Alghesas which was published in 5th century, there were some topics about the existence of heroes in capitals and Jahanpahlevan33 and the word “nokhasteh” which is one of the terminologies of heroic Wrestling, and Zurkhaneh. Furthermore, in Hedayatolmoteallemin which was published in 4th century, something about holding the Sang, Kaman and the importance of wrestling is written. Such sources show us the possibility of existence of places which heroic and traditional sports were done in them.
The existence of heroic traditions, generosity school, Ayyari and Shatari34 revolutions, by going through steps and positions of fastening Long or Pishband35 and battling bare, Shelang Andazi36 and having good conditions and fastening Zang, which were mentioned before; all are reasons of existence of Zurkhuneh.
In the introduction of Soltani’s Generosity book, there are some necessary conditions for following the Generosity tradition, after Islam such as: having enough body power and readiness for battle by doing sports. In that time, people who followed this tradition were determined to make themselves powerful and ready for battle as their first duty.
Alnaseredinollah (One of the Abbasis caliphs) followed this tradition, put on the special pants of Kosti or Koshti and did the first secret of Fotovvat37 . I was one of the most important and outstanding event of the history of generosity. He admired heroes and liked Neshane zaden38 and Bazi dar hammam or chale-howz bazi39 which were special events of Zurkhaneh sport, as well as other athletes and heroes’ actions and works.
Clearly, dissemination of following the athletes and groups of generosity by common people; and acceptance of traditions of Fottovvat group by Alnasereddinollah, at about 800 years ago, prove the existence of Zurkhanes and their characteristics. According to Badaye’olvaghaye, wrestling of Pahlavan Darwish Khan with Pahlavan Ali in one of the villages of Herat named Baghe Zaghane, while Soltan Hoseyn Bayghara, the ruler, and common people were watching the battle, is a sign of spreading of Zurkhaneh in 9th century. Wrestling in an empty pool was the sign of heroes’ habits to do athletic activities. Wrestling in Gowd40, Pahlavan Ali’s claim about coming to Herat and winning the best hero of that city (Pahlavane Sartekye neshin ), are signs which confirm that Langargah was a place for heroes, and the opinion that maybe Zurkhaneh was at one of the corners of Langargah or Tekiye. Description of wrestling tradition in part 6 of Fotovvat- nameye Slotani shows that it was not possible to do such a work without having a place and school to teach the traditions of generosity, orders of Kohnesavaran, train the wrestling techniques, and hierarchies of Pahlavani.
Hosseyn Parto Beyzai Kashani wrote about the contemporary history of traditional sport: “Modern sports, with the new culture, came to Iran when some of the Youth tried to learn new sports.” He points that: “Because each new phenomenon will naturally denigrate the old one, youth people who went to Europe and learned European sports, observed new places and instruments, and compared new sports with Zurkhaneh tradition decided to refuse Zurkhaneh. They rejected going to and training in Zurkhaneh; the place which elders and even their fathers made it and were training there yet. Moreover, old athletes did not accept the opinions of youth people. Because of these reasons, from the end of 13th century, (about 40 years ago) Ancient sports lost their success and went to the wrong way. Of course, inclination to the western sports and culture was not only for Iranian athletes but also all the Islamic countries, other Asian, African and Latin American countries were treated similarly. This incident happened to traditional sports of other countries that has been discussed in other parts of the research.
In 1313 (1934), passing off the ceremony of millennium of Ferdowsi Tusi, by luminary society, made traditional sport one of the parts of all the ceremonies in all states and provinces. Ataollah Behmanesh, athletic writer and expert, believes that traditional sport was attended after the year 1313 by establishing the national society of physical education. Two important factors which revived traditional sport were: mixing with religion, Islamic Gnosticism, and Fotovvat traditions in relation with heroic spirit of Ferdowsi’s epic poems. Partow Beyzai points that Zurkhaneh style was reformed by establishing physical education offices which were
new institutes so new athletic instruments such as vazneh41, Fanar42, Dambel43 and Halter44, and some new athletic movements came to Zurkhaneh. They changed the name of Zurkhaneh to the Bashgah45 and Varzashgah46, also some mottoes like “healthy body, healthy thought” and “A powerful man is an honor” was wrote on Zurkhaneh boards.
He says: “In that time, they prepared enough instruments to play gymnastic sport in Zurkhane of Marvy market of Tehran. Before going to Gowd, athletes, made themselves warm, as they called, by a special instrument. Partow Beyzai write: “By establishment of physical education societies and pioneer groups, and stadiums in Tehran and other provinces, those reformers paid enough attention to the traditional symbols of Iran. They introduced new sports, besides the traditional sport to the society. Meanwhile, they invited heroes of Zurkhaneh in all of their ceremonies and entered to the stadiums while putting on the old clothes of traditional sports (such as Tonoke).
Therefore because of these supports, Traditional Sport became popular once again and its name, which was going nearly to be forgotten until that time, was printed in presses all over the country until 1320. After that time, another step was taken: a radio program about Traditional Sport restored the life of this kind of
sport. That program revived athletes of Zurkhaneh and caused physical education office to make some reforms on internal status of Zurkhaneh. In provinces Zurkahanehs were registered formally and one of the heroes or elder champions was elected as its head.
As Partow Beyzai says, choosing the hero of capital which was forbidden for some years became usual once again. Pahlavani armband which was fastened to the arm of heroes every year was so honorable. Meanwhile, common Zurkhane (private) and special ones (for organizations) were established, such as Zurkhane of Banke
Melli and Sha’bane Ja’fari (its name is changed to Shahid Fahmide today). Important people such as politicians of other countries were guests of these two Zurkhaneh those days.
The ceremony of 4th of Aban had two different effects in two levels. In one side, before Islamic revolution the existence of such places was a cause for attending in traditional sport. But in the other side, because it was under the management of persons like Sha’ban Ja’fari, it had an undesirable effect on most of the revolutionists and cultural organizations; this was an obstacle on the way of supporting and spreading traditional sport. On the other hand, one of the plans was extending traditional sport in Asia, Olympic and international competitions while there was not any international structure for it. As a result in comparison with other sports, traditional sport lacks in this section. It should be mentioned that Japanese established an international structure for their national sports like “Jujitso” or “Judo” to be able to spread it out of their countries’ borders. They also tried to spread their sports by working on schools, universities and military centers by focusing on its sport-side and making standards, in other countries. Japanese introduced “Judo” for the first time at 1964 in Olympic and an Asian sport entered to the Olympic Games.
Japanese was successful to gain 15th rank in Olympic of Sidney in year 2000. Then they followed their golden program and achieved 5th rank in Olympic year 2008, but could achieve their goal in the Olympic of Athens in year 2004, while most Japanese medals were related to “Judo”, whereas in Iran there was not any suitable place for our traditional sport in Iranian universities until the establishment of International Federation of Zurkhaneh sport.
In 20th Mehr 1383 (2004) a new way opened in front of Traditional Sport that entered it among the international sports family. After introducing Iranian Ancient sport to the youth of the world as the spiritual heritage of Asian people, they welcomed the Zurkhaneh sports. By planning and celebrating the different continental, international and universal events, Zurkhaneh sport found its real positions much better in the universal sports. I express my appreciation to the late Professor Karl Din, the author of “History of world sports” and president of the celebrating Olympic plays committee in 1936 (Berlin) that discovered the hidden values of traditional sport, especially Zurkhaneh and introduced it as one of the university courses to the University of physical education of Koln in Germany. I must also thank Professor Yurgen Palm, the late chief of TAFISA, “the Universal Federation of Public Sports”, also the chief of the meeting of IZSF from Germany and Dr. GholamAli Haddade Adel.
I offer my greatest appreciation to Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Islamic republic of Iran, who himself is one of the honorable heroes of Zurkhaneh, because of his special support. Meanwhile, I express my appreciation for Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, the former president of Islamic republic of Iran, Mr. Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the president of Islamic republic of Iran, Mr. ImamAli Rahmanof, the president of Tajikistan, Mr. Hamed Karzai, the president of Afghanistan and the organizer members of international Zurkhaneh sports who support International Federation of Zurkhaneh sports to revive the traditional sport and spread it all of the world
1- a kind of Gymnasiums special for training Iranian traditional sports(Zurkhaneh is house of strength, joy of effort ,Generosity &chivalries sprit ,Love of country and combined with Art & Literature
2 -a instrument similar to mace)
3 -bow-shaped iron weight used in gymnasium(Zurkhaneh)
8 -a ring
9 -veteran elder champion/ pioneer
14 -the crown of poverty
18 -mystery knower
20 -a kind of clothes, special for athletes of ancient sport
26 -place of worship
28 -one of the characters of Sahahname
29 -another character of Shahname
30 -another character of Shahname
33 -a universal hero
34 -bravely and agility
36 -to tride
38 -hitting the mark
39 -A kind of play that was done in a hole or apool
44 -Haleter (French)
*. The Mithraic Mysteries or Mysteries of Mithras (also Mithraism) was a mysterious religion which became popular among the military in the Roman
Empire, from the 1st to 4th centuries AD. It is best attested in the cities of Rome and Ostia and in the Roman provinces of Mauretania, Britain, and in the
provinces along the Rhine and Danube frontier
mitra [Hn-In मित्र] (Proto-Indo -Iranian, nominative *mitras) was an important Indo-Iranian divinity. Following the prehistoric cultural split of Indian and
Iranian cultures, names descended from *mitra were used for the following religious entities:
• Mitra (Sanskrit Mitrá-, Mitráḥ), a deity who appears frequently in the ancient Indian text of the Rigveda.
• Mithra (Avestan Miθra-, Miθrō), a yazata mentioned in the Zoroastrian sacred scripture of the Avesta, whose modern Persian equivalent is Mehr.
• Mithras, the principal figure of the Greco-Roman religion of Mithraism