Zourkhaneh Pahlvans, Iran


Centuries before the Islamic Republic or even Islam itself, Persian athletes called Pahlvans fused spirituality and strength training in wrestling and weightlifting practice called Varzesh-e-Bastani which simply translates as “ancient sport”  . Iranians are regular winners at international wrestling and weight-lifting events including  the Olympic games.

Grappling for combat or Varzesh-e-Bastani is traditionally practiced even to this day in buildings called   Zourkhaneh, which means “home of strength”. The original purpose of these institutions was to train men as warriors and instil them with a sense of national pride in anticipation for the coming battles. The Mithrāic design and rituals of these academies bear testament to its Parthian origin ( ting testament to its Parthian origin (132 BCE – 226 CE)  in honour of the Persian God Mithras. The zourkhaneh system of training is what is now known as varzesh-e bastani, and its particular form of wrestling was called koshti pahlevani, after the Parthian word pahlevan meaning hero. Traditional Iranian wrestling (koshti) dates back to ancient Persia and was said to have been practiced by Rustam, mythological Iranian hero of the  Shahnameh epic

The cult of Mithras, in fact, was adopted by the Romans  before being displaced by Christianity. Some of the pre-exercise rituals and chants of the Pahlwans have been traced to Mithraic roots.


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