Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei Rituals: Ancient Persian Martial Arts
Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei, also known as Varzesh-e Bastani, are traditional Persian martial arts that have been practiced for centuries in Iran. These rituals originated in the ancient Persian Empire and were originally used by warriors to train for combat.
Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei are not only about physical training but also have spiritual and moral dimensions. These martial arts are a combination of strength, agility, and endurance training, accompanied by traditional music and chanting. Participants are also expected to follow strict moral and ethical codes that emphasize respect, humility, and self-discipline.
The Zoorkhanei, which means “house of strength,” is a unique circular arena where the rituals take place. The arena has a sunken floor, and the walls are lined with mirrors and pictures of Persian heroes and mythical creatures. The center of the arena features a pit filled with sand and weights.
The rituals begin with a warm-up session, followed by a series of exercises using traditional Iranian weapons such as the mace, sword, and bow. The participants then perform a series of challenging physical feats such as push-ups, squats, and jumps. The highlight of the ritual is the “peik,” a choreographed routine that combines strength, flexibility, and agility, performed to the beat of the drum.
Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei have gained popularity around the world in recent years, with enthusiasts in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia. The practice of Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei was even inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
If you’re interested in trying Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei, look for a local Zoorkhanei club or gym that offers classes. This ancient Persian martial art is an excellent way to improve your physical fitness, while also learning about the rich cultural heritage of Iran.
In conclusion, Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei are ancient Persian martial arts that have stood the test of time. These rituals not only provide excellent physical training but also promote moral and ethical values such as respect, humility, and self-discipline. Whether you’re looking to improve your fitness or learn more about Iranian culture, Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei are definitely worth exploring.
There are several famous Zoorkhanei (houses of strength) in Iran, each with its own unique history and traditions. Some of the most well-known Zoorkhanei in Iran include:
1. Tehran Zoorkhanei: Located in the capital city of Tehran, this Zoorkhanei is one of the most famous in Iran. It was established in the 19th century and has produced many renowned Pahlevans (champions) over the years.
2. Isfahan Zoorkhanei: This Zoorkhanei is located in the historic city of Isfahan and is known for its beautiful architecture and intricate tile work. It has a long history and has been in operation for several centuries.
3. Yazd Zoorkhanei: This Zoorkhanei is located in the desert city of Yazd and is known for its unique style of Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei. It is also one of the oldest Zoorkhanei in Iran, dating back to the Safavid era in the 16th century.
4. Shiraz Zoorkhanei: Located in the southern city of Shiraz, this Zoorkhanei is known for its skilled Pahlevans and beautiful setting. It is located in a historic building with traditional Persian architecture.
5. Kerman Zoorkhanei: This Zoorkhanei is located in the eastern city of Kerman and is known for its traditional style of Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei. It is also one of the oldest Zoorkhanei in Iran, dating back to the Qajar era in the 19th century.
These are just a few of the many famous Zoorkhanei in Iran. Each Zoorkhanei has its own unique history and traditions, making them all worth visiting and experiencing.
The equipment needed to practice Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei is relatively simple and can be broken down into three main categories: clothing, weapons, and accessories.
1. Clothing: The traditional clothing worn by Pahlevans includes a pair of tight-fitting shorts called “payab” and a sleeveless shirt called “kamarband”. The shirt is typically made of cotton or silk and is designed to allow for freedom of movement. Pahlevans also wear a special hat called a “kolah” and a pair of shoes with flat soles for better grip on the ground.
2. Weapons: The traditional weapons used in Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei include the “mil,” a wooden club with a metal head, the “shena,” a wooden shield, the “kabbadeh,” a pair of metal calipers used for grip strength training, and the “sang,” a pair of heavy stones used for weightlifting.
3. Accessories: In addition to clothing and weapons, Pahlevans also use accessories such as a “meel” or wooden dumbbell, which is used for strength training, and a “charkh” or Persian wheel, which is used for cardiovascular training.
It is important to note that many Pahlevans may also use modern gym equipment such as dumbbells and barbells, in addition to traditional equipment, to supplement their training. However, the traditional equipment remains an integral part of Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei and is often used in competitions and demonstrations.
Uraman Takht had been a rural region, in the past, with an extraordinary and astonishing nature along with a particular architectural style in which a house’s roof is the other house’s courtyard. Holding many various rituals in this region led Uraman Takht to be considered a main part of Ancient Iranian culture which has been inscribed as one of the main tourism poles of Iran. The old ceremony of Pir-e Shaliyar, known also as “Pir-e Shaliyar Wedding” among locals, is a spiritual event of several thousands years history which is held two times in a year during three consecutive days.
The Urami Pir-e Shaliyar (OR Pir-e Shahriar), the saint of Sufis, is a highly respectable character among the Naqshbandy darvishes. According to a native legend, he was a physician with supernatural wonders (keramat) who cured the Bokhara King’s daughter, Shah Bahaar Khatoon, and they got married after her healing. With this regard, the 45th day of spring, in the first half of the Ordibehesht, is celebrated with some special rituals on the occasion of Pir-e Shaliyar and the Princess wedding anniversary. The 45th day of the winter, i.e., the close Wednesday to the half of Bahman) is also celebrated for their son’s birthday.
The proper day for holding the event is determined by its certain trustee. The ceremony begins in Tuesday with distribution of walnuts of waqf trees by children among Uraman locals and surrounding villages and then receiving some fruits and sweets instead of the given walnuts, all of which are known to be the “Kelav Rochneh” rite, the ceremony may continue to the next morning after the Adan. The participants’ duty is in the Wednesday morning to sacrifice animals like cow, sheep and goat. The victim meats are distributed among locals and they cook a symbolic food named “vloshin”. Darvishes and men dressed in their local cloths start to dance in a circle in front of the Shaliyar house; some plays daf and some others sing the traditional Kurdish songs and the group repeats some certain spiritual hymns.
The number of dancers is continuously increased in each turn. When excitement reached its peak, darvishes are separated from the main group, start their own particular faster dance, i.e., Sama’, at the center of the main circle and their faces are obviously recognizable by their long hairs. The ceremony continues in Thursday morning in the form of a more private rite than in the previous days in which darvishes gather around the Pir-e Shalyar tomb and they perform dance, Sama’, and play daf; the event will be more public in the afternoon after the beginning of dance.
The Sufism beliefs say that the women are neither permitted to be present and watch the Sama’ performing event, nor they do not have to attract the darvishes’ attentions and consequently distract them. People gather again around the tomb for worship and prayer in the Friday morning. In addition to dance and Sama’, the final stage of the ceremony include the evening party in Pir-e Shaliyar house, circulating his leather shoes, eating a local golden bread known as “Kolireh Mozhge” with yogurt, installing some cloths on the walls, doors and trees. In spite of the fact that Pir-e Shalyar is an extremely olden ceremony, people still comes to Kurdistan from the surrounding cities to see the ritual in person. Locals are highly believed in him and bring their patients to the event in order them to be cured by Pir.
Iran is an Islamic country owes its Islamic dimensions to the great revolution, known as the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1977 (1357 SH), which done by huge crowd participation of the public, Islamic characters, clerics, students, merchants, opposing political parties, intellectuals and etc., who expressed their dissatisfaction with the situation of the Imperial regime in many different ways as clashes, general strikes, street demonstrations and protests, from a long time ago.
The main root of Islamic Republic of Iran can be found in the 1953 coup (known in Iran as 28 Mordad coup) and its concurrent events; the cause of developing the Islamic movement can be counted as follows: absolute attachment to the West, specially to US, kings not authorized to make important decisions, corrupt and irreligious kings who tried to deceive the young, ignorance of the people’s vote, confrontation with liberalism, pervasiveness of oppression and injustice supported by the government, scientific, industrial undeveloped and the lack of amenities.
Following this anti-royal revolution on February 11th (22nd of Bahman), the struggle of the Muslim people finally worked to the fore and the kingdom of Iran was overthrown and the setting for the coming of the Islamic Republic under the leadership of the Shiite cleric, Seyyed Rouhollah Khomeini, was provided.
The 10 days between February 1st (Bahman 12th) and February 11th (Bahman 22nd) of 1977 (1357) are called Fajr Decade; which Imam Khomeini entered to Iran after the fifteenth years of exile, and the greatest welcome in history took place from him in Tehran, and eventually the Pahlavi regime was extinct after more than 50 years of oppression and tyranny on February 23rd. After the triumph of revolution, a referendum was held on creating Islamic Republic in 28 July 1979; it was approved by 98.2% of eligible citizens.
On the occasion of this great victory, Iranian nation decorates the cities, streets and different areas with different decorative objects, flowers, the picture of Imam Khomeini and Sayyed Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, and the flag of Islamic Republic of Iran during the Fajr decade every year. Iranians also celebrate this decade with performing revolutionary songs, holding various festivals as Fajr (the most extensive film, theatre and music festival in Iran), holding different ceremonies in governmental organizations and centers across the country. Schools start at 9:33 in 1 February, on the occasion of entering Imam Khomeini to Iran. Moreover, in February 11th, an official holiday, people hold a glorious rally in different cities, to celebrate this triumph.
Yalda Night (Chelleh night) is one of the most beautiful and longest nights of the year in Iran where the ceremonies and celebrations are held with different ways based on the special traditions of each region.
The word Yalda means birth, and the Yalda Night is one of the traditional ceremonies in Iran, which is held by Iranian coming together the family members and relatives in different parts of Iran.
The Iranians are celebrated the Yalda Night (the first day of winter), the time between the sunset of the last day of the autumn and the sunrise of the first day of winter which is coincided to the longest and the darkest night of the year in the northern hemisphere of the earth.
Various ceremonies are common in different regions and cities of Iran in this night such as eating special fruits i watermelon and pomegranates, nuts and sweets, cooking local food, reading Hafiz, horoscope, reading poetry, reading the Shahnameh, reading stories, etc., each of which has a symbolic aspect and they are the signs of Blessing, health, abundance and happiness.
The 13th day of Farvardin has been named as Sizdah-Be-Dar or Nature Day in Iranian culture that is an ancient ritual and also it is one of the most important common and shared customs among Iranian tribes. This day is an official holiday in Iran. Iranians annually celebrate this day by coming the new year and spring season; spending 12 days of Nowruz holidays with picnicking outdoors in nature; Sizdah- Be-Dar ceremony is hold with many various methods and customs in different regions of the country. The 13 days of Nowruz holidays will end after this day and everything will return to routine form.
There are various analysis on the different reasons of Sizdah-Be-Dar genesis. The number of 13 was an unlucky number in mythological culture of ancient Iranian and many other nations; therefore, they believed that an unpleasant thing occurs in this day and because of that, they spend it outdoors, even for a short time and celebrate this day to save themselves from disasters caused by 13.
Today, no one accepts 13 as an unlucky number and people mostly believe that it is just a superstition. According to another belief, the 13th day of each month in ancient Iranian thirty-day calendar was related to the Tir or Tishtar angel (Rain Star) and it is a blessed and happy day.
Different ceremonies based on each region’s culture are common in Sizdah-Be-Dar such as game, sport, local match, wearing traditional clothes, playing music, local and group dance, eating the lettuce with Sekanjebin (one of the oldest Iranian drink), cooking local foods, different types of Ash and the other customs of Iranian tribes. The other part of Sizdah-Be-Dar rituals are originated from some mythological beliefs and cultures like “eavesdrop on conversations”, Fortune-telling, the humorous custom of “Sizdah-Be-Dar’s lie” or knotting the green and throwing away the green which are common customs among Iranian in this day. Today, the ancient and original form of Sizdah –Be –Dar has been changed like many other Iranian rituals.