The National Sport of Iran: Varzesh-e Pahlavani

August 25, 2023


Iran, officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country with a rich cultural heritage. One of the aspects that reflects its deep-rooted traditions is its national sport, Varzesh-e Pahlavani. This traditional Iranian sport embodies physical strength, discipline, and spirituality.

Ancient Origins

Varzesh-e Pahlavani dates back to ancient Persia and has its roots in the ancient sport of Zurkhaneh, meaning "house of strength." Zurkhaneh was practiced during the Achaemenid Empire and has since evolved into the modern form known as Varzesh-e Pahlavani.

Initially, it was practiced by Pahlavans, traditional Iranian warriors who played a crucial role in defending the country. Over time, Varzesh-e Pahlavani became more than just a physical combat training; it also served as a way to train the mind and promote moral values.

Features and Techniques

Varzesh-e Pahlavani combines various elements, including physical exercises, wrestling, and ancient rituals. The sport takes place in a circular arena, called "Zurkhaneh," which is a domed building with an earth floor.

The participants, known as "Pahlavans," wear traditional clothing called "Kushti." The Kushti consists of a loincloth, a leather belt, and a special sleeveless jacket. The clothing symbolizes the simplicity and modesty valued in the sport.

The main training routine involves a series of challenging exercises and movements performed to the rhythmic beats of a large drum, called "Morshed." These exercises include push-ups, lunges, squats, and weightlifting using unique equipment like "Meel" (a wooden club) and "Sang" (a metal bow).

In addition to physical strength, Varzesh-e Pahlavani emphasizes spiritual and ethical aspects. Participants engage in prayers and recite Persian literary works and mystical poetry during training sessions, promoting brotherhood, humility, and self-improvement.

Values and Philosophy

Varzesh-e Pahlavani is underpinned by a set of core values that include integrity, discipline, perseverance, and fairness. It encourages participants to develop strength not only in the body but also in character and spirit.

The sport promotes the importance of self-control and encourages participants to overcome their ego and focus on personal growth. It instills qualities like respect, loyalty, and honor, which are seen as essential virtues in Iranian culture.

Furthermore, Varzesh-e Pahlavani serves as a platform for preserving Iran's traditional values, fostering a sense of national identity, and creating unity among Iranians, both domestically and internationally.

Modern Outlook

In recent years, Varzesh-e Pahlavani has gained global recognition. It has become a source of national pride and heritage, attracting enthusiasts from different parts of the world. The practice of this ancient sport has now expanded beyond Iran, with numerous associations and clubs promoting Varzesh-e Pahlavani internationally.

The popularity of Varzesh-e Pahlavani showcases the enduring appeal of traditional Iranian sports and cultural practices. It not only provides physical fitness but also serves as a connection to the country's glorious past.


Varzesh-e Pahlavani stands as a testament to Iran's rich history, traditions, and values. Its deep-rooted origins, combined with its physical, moral, and spiritual aspects, make it a unique and captivating national sport.

As the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to embrace its cultural heritage, Varzesh-e Pahlavani serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving traditional practices and promoting unity among Iranians worldwide.

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