Qajar (Kadjar) Era Zoorkhaneh
One of the images we most associate with classical Persian athletic competition is that of the Zoorkhaaneh, the Persian Gymnasium, where its strong men trained in the art of wrestling, which in the Persian tradition was both a moral and physical training ground.
The notion of pahlevaan, or strong man, has always had an ethical connotation in Iran. The ethical connotation was the same as that associated with the medieval knight, or better, with that of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. Utmost moral purity, strict self-discipline in body and mind, a code of honour directed towards the succour of the helpless and the punishment of the wicked, and above all a code of service, so that the pahlevaan becomes a hero of mythical proportion in the Persian/Iranian psyche, harking back all the way to the archetypal heroes of the great Iranian epics, Jamshid, Zaal, Rostam, Sohraab but also to the Shi' i religious figures of equal mythical stature of Emaam Hosseyn and above all Hazrat-e Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.).
The essence of this beautiful and quintessentially Iranian and Persian tradition has been captured in this extended essay by the people at Sportestaan. They point out how strongly the tradition of the Zoorkhaaneh is rooted in Iranian tradition, but also how much of it harks back to the Qajar (Kadjar) era, of which we still have an immediate and sometimes still living memory.
To view their amazing site, please click here.
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