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58), a development that reached its peak under Nāṣer-al-Din Shah (r.1848-96), when a number of statesmen built themselves private zur-ḵānas (Partow Bayżāʾi, pp. With the advent of the Constitutional Revolution in 1905-06, royal patronage ceased.Traditionally, athletes were divided into a number of grades.These were, in ascending order of seniority, was wrapped somewhat differently.This included poems by Saʿdi, Ḥāfeẓ, Rumi, Ferdowsi, and other great classic poets, as well as a type of (guide or director), a title previously reserved for the most senior member of the group (Partow Bayzāʾi, p. In the gowd athletes had to be bare-chested and barefoot, symbolizing the irrelevance of outside hierarchies and distinctions (Partow Bayżāʾi, pp. Their standard attire was the ) were worn; these were sometimes embroidered (Baker).
By the 1920s the introduction of modern Western sports and physical education further diminished the appeal of zur-ḵāna exercises among athletically inclined men, while cinemas drew spectators away.Traditionally, a man had to be ritually clean to enter the gowd, and admittance to the premises was forbidden to women, non-Muslims, and prepubescent boys. Its vocabulary, rituals, ethos, and grades recall those of (see JAVĀNMARDI) and Sufism, but a direct affiliation cannot be established at the present stage of knowledge.In spite of the institution’s Twelver Shiʿite affinities, zur-ḵānas spread to Sunnite Kurdistan in the 18th century (Kamandi), and in the mid-20th century there were even a few Jewish zur-ḵānas in Tehran and Shiraz and a Zoroastrian one in Yazd; their rituals were adapted accordingly (Chehabi, pp. Since wrestling has an old tradition in west, central, and south Asia, it is possible that sometime in the 14th or 15th centuries wrestlers formed guilds and adopted rituals borrowed from and Sufism. This would seem to indicate the existence in the past of an agonistic tradition common to the ethnically diverse populations of a wide region stretching from the Balkans to Bengal.Descriptions of the zur-ḵāna often imply a timeless essence, while in fact the institution has constantly evolved and continues to do so.
At the same time the growing penetration of society by the state, which resulted in better security, diminished the role of the strongmen who used to maintain law and order in neighborhoods and who trained in the zur-ḵāna. Secondly, zur-ḵānas were castigated for harboring uncouth ruffians, a reference to the marginal luṭis and their frequent brawling.