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Asian Junior Zurkhaneh Sports Championships Start in Tajikistan

Sunday 18 December 2011

DUSHANBE (Tehran Times) – The first edition of the Asian Junior Zurkhaneh Sports Championships and Parazurkhaneh Sports Championships kicked off in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Friday.

The events, which are underway at the Ferdowsi Hall, will run until Monday. Some 70 athletes from nine countries namely, Tajikistan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Chinese Taipei and South Korea are participating in the competitions.

In the opening ceremony held at the hall, Amir Hosseini, secretary general of the International Zurkhaneh Sports Federation (IZSF) said the ancient Zurkhaneh (زورخانه) sports are the ancestors’ legacy, which has been confirmed by UNESCO.

The head of Iran’s National Olympic Committee, M. Aliabadi, also attended the ceremony.

A. Sajjadi, head of the IZSF technical committee, said: “Our objective is to introduce Zurkhaneh sports as an Olympic event. Everyone can enjoy it anywhere and anytime. We have worked to develop the sport around the world during the past years. At the moments, as you see in the Asian Junior Championship, the athletes from Nepal and India have improved their skills and become an integral part of the federation.”

Zurkhaneh (Zorkhana or Zourkhaneh, literally “house of force”) is a traditional gymnasium of urban Greater Iran (including Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Caucasus and Central Asia). The Iranian national sport, called Varzesh-e Pahlavani (ورزش پهلوانی) or Varzesh-e Bastani (ورزش باستانی), is practiced in Zurkhaneh. The arena of the Zurkhaneh is an octagonal pit about 1 m deep with a floor of clay soil in which athletes train for Pahlevan (پهلوان). In contrast to gymnastics practiced in the West, the exercises consist of team sports that combine tests of physical strength and flexibility, specific rituals, and respect for traditional moral and ethical rules. The game of Pahlevan changes to keep pace with the sound of a drum played by the morshed (“guide”), who is typically seated in an elevated position within the hall.

The zurkhaneh is more than just a place dedicated to physical exercise. The zurkhaneh and Varzesh-e Pahlavani have their roots in pre-Islamic Iranian culture. After the Arab conquest, its practice became illegal for a time, and was seen as representing a form of cultural resistance. There has been renewed interest in the Zurkhaneh starting in the early 20th century, and it is now associated with nationalism.

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