ZURKHANEH POLAD, SHIRAZ, IRAN
Zurkhaneh Polad is one of the oldest in Iran. Zurkhaneh comes from khaneh which refers to a building and zur which means strength. Imagine a place where you are training yourself with live music and praying.
Alireza is cleaning the place before the arrivals of the eldest. Per tradition, the youngest and the beginners perform domestic tasks.
Historians seem to agree on the creation of wrestlers’ guilds between the XIIIth and XVth centuries. To get some respect from the nobility, they have integrated rituals which could be seen as sufi and adopted strict community rules.
« The exercises are not simply a question of strength. It is about learning how to control and master your body and breathing. »
Under Ali’s watchful eye and former wrestlers’ portraits, exercices come one after another, interspersed with prayers to God and Ali.
At morshed‘s signal, everybody takes a pair of bowlings, presents them and carries them on their shoulders. The most agile begin juggling. This exercise relates to luti-bâshi who was the chief of acrobats and jesters in old times.
The songs accompanying the training sessions are directly inspired by the poems written by the greatest Persian writers as Saadi, Hafez, Ferdowsi and Rumi. The legend of Rostam who is the main character of Shah Nameh is particularly employed.
The morshed heads the training by rythming it, playing percussions and singing.
« If you dominate your lustful soul, you will be a man,
And if you do not critic others, you will be a man.
You will not be a man if you tramble the fallen man,
But if you give him the hand, you will be a man. »
– Puryâ-ye Vali
More than a sport, being part of a zurkhaneh is a philosophy, a place of solidarity and sharing, a perfect reflection of Iranian society. A collective before the individual, a transmission of knowledge by the elders and a respect for traditions.