Chogan or polo is arguably one of the most complex games in the world. Its precise origin is obscure and undocumented, but there is ample evidence of the game’s regal place in the history of Asia.
No one knows where or when a stick first met a ball, though it must have been some time after the horse was domesticated by the ancient Iranian tribes of Central Asia and probably before their migration to the Iranian plateau, Cais-soas.com reported.
It seems likely that, as the use of light cavalry spread from Iran to the rest of Asia, so did this rugged horseback game.
Many scholars believe polo originated among the Iranian tribes before the reign of Darius the Great (521-485 BCE) and that his polo-honed cavalry then forged the Second Iranian dynastic empire, the Achaemenids (550-300 BCE).
The great Ferdowsi, the most famous of Iran’s epic poets, gives several accounts of royal polo tournaments in his 10th century epic, Shahnameh (The Grand Book).
Many of the Persian manuscripts in which these references appear are beautifully illustrated with miniatures depicting sovereigns and their best horsemen playing polo .
Polo became popular among other nations, too. To the west, the Crusaders’ emphasis on heavy cavalry may have been the reason why they did not take the game back to Europe with them.
However, polo certainly reached Constantinople under the Byzantines. The 12th-century ruler, Manuel I Commenos, is known to have been a polo patron and it is recorded that one of his successors, Emperor Hohannes Chinnasus, played until his leg and arm were crushed in a bad fall during a match.
The game spread further with the Arab Muslim conquests, including as far as Egypt and to the Indian subcontinent.
Polo quickly occupied an exalted place in Islamic court life, Haroun Al-Rashid being the first of the Abbasid caliphs to play.
The polo stick was an important motif in Islamic heraldry and the Jukandar Polo Master was a well-known official in the caliphs’ entourage.
On the Indian subcontinent, the game was adopted by the local kings and princes as well as Muslim rulers.
For the Chinese, polo was their royal pastime for many centuries. The polo stick appears on Chinese royal coats of arms and the game was a part of court life in the golden age of Chinese classical culture under Ming Hung, the radiant emperor who was an enthusiastic patron of equestrian activities.
The Chinese were probably taught the game by the Iranian nobility who sought refuge in Chinese courts after the Arab invasion of the Iranian Empire during the 7th century, or perhaps learnt via Indian tribes who had themselves studied under the Iranians. The Japanese learnt polo from the Chinese.
It is not clear if Genghis Khan (1162-1227) knew about polo before his armies swept down from the North to conquer the entire Iranian realm and the rest of Asia Minor.
However, if the hordes were not already familiar with the game, they certainly learnt it then from the Iranians.
Magnificent Polo Ground
The most spectacular tribute to polo is an imperial city laid out around a royal polo ground. Isfahan was the constructed capital of Shah Abbas, the Safavid emperor (1571-1629).
Shah Abbas planned his city to be the most beautiful in the world and centered it on his polo ground--the Maydan-e Shah also known as Naqsh-e Jahan.
This vast central square--around 560 meters long and 160 meters wide--was the largest in the world.
At each end are stone goalposts 7.3 meters apart, and this is today the regulation width of a polo goal.
Beyond the northern goal is the elaborately decorated Qaysariya Gateway leading to the Royal Bazaar. The polo ground was therefore very definitely at the centre of public life in the city.
Shah Abbas’ stone goalposts, as well as the palace, the mosque and the bazaar can still be seen today, although ornamental pools and gardens have replaced the field where ponies galloped and mallets flayed centuries ago.
The main bazaar in Isfahan offers, in addition to the normal wares of an Eastern market, an astonishing variety of souvenirs decorated with old polo scenes copied from Persian miniatures.
For more than 2000 years, polo remained a favorite of the rulers of Asia. Queens played alongside kings, as did the nobility and other mounted warriors.
Even outside Iran, polo was the nearest equivalent to a national sport in those times: from Japan to Egypt, and from India to Byzantium.
As the great Eastern Empires collapsed, however, so did the glittering court life of which polo had been so important a part, and the game itself was preserved only in remote villages.
Iranians established a polo federation in 2004 and participate in international competitions held every three or four years. The last international polo competition was held in Saint Louis, Argentina, in 2011.
Spring Event Aimed at Creating Joy
The National Voice of Spring Festival will be held in 31 Iranian provinces during March 18-25.
Announcing this, the deputy of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, said creating joy among people in the society is among the objectives of the festival.
Malekzadeh said that due to the coincidence of the martyrdom anniversary of Hazrat Fatemeh Zahra (SA) with a part of the Norouz (Iranian New Year) holidays starting on March 21, some programs, including performance of traditional music, will not be held on March 25.
He noted that other programs, including handicraft exhibitions, will last till the end of Norouz (April 2).
The official said ICHHTO will strengthen supervision over the performance of tour and travel agencies from next week.
Malekzadeh went on to say that the Third Conference on Investment Opportunities will be held at Tehran’s Permanent International Fairground from March 6-8.
The chambers of commerce, Industry and mines, and professors of economy and tourism from various domestic universities will attend the conference.
Workgroup to Solve Problems of Tourism Spots
A joint workgroup has been established by Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) and the Agricultural Jihad Ministry to review the problems facing tourism sites that can be handed over to investors in exemplary tourism spots.
Amir Amini, the deputy head of ICHHTO for investment and financial resources, said the workgroup has been formed based on the ratification made by the Cabinet.
He said that establishing and developing infrastructures for tourism industry, drawing plans for implementing the Cabinet ratifications and providing adequate services to tourists are among plans pursued by the workgroup.
The official said related officials of various provinces have been invited to discuss their problems in the workgroup.
“About 270 exemplary tourism spots across the country have been ceded to private sector investors for improving tourism facilities,” he said.
Amini said the number of villages identified as exemplary tourism sites will increase to 1,000 by the end of the current Iranian year (started on March 20, 2012).
Currently there are 465 target tourism villages across Iran.
By Bijan Jalali
I want to die,
Not that my heart should fail,
And my body grow cold,
And be leveled with earth.
I want to die
Not that I should not hear any voice,
Or the sun will fail to shine on me,
Or I grow blind
To the moon and stars.
I seek a quite extraordinary death,
Like the water turning into vapor,
Like the blossoming of the seed,
Like the setting of the sun,
Like a sky which is clouded.
I want to be annihilated,
To be born again in another world,
A world which I have not yet named,
A world which I have not completely tried.
A world resembling the world of imagination
In which everything is ordinary,
Except the fear of annihilation,
Rice, 1 1/3 cups (cooked)
Fresh coriander, 170 grams (finely chopped)
Leek, 70 grams (finely chopped)
Onion, 1 medium (finely chopped)
Lentils, 1/2 cup (rinsed and washed)
Water, 6 cups
Tomatoes, 5 tablespoons (crushed)
Ground beef, 350 grams
Lemon juice, 4 tablespoons
Cooking oil, 6 tablespoons
Turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat cooking oil in a pot over medium heat, add chopped onions and fry until slightly golden.
Add ground beef and turmeric powder; cook until no longer pink (stirring occasionally). Add crushed tomatoes and cook for eight minutes (stirring often).
Then add cooked rice, lentils, coriander, leek, water, salt and pepper to taste.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until desired thickness, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice.
Serve with bread.
Health Benefits of Rice
Rice provides fast and instant energy and good bowel movement, stabilizing blood sugar levels and providing vitamin B1 to the body.
Other benefits include skin care and resistance to high blood pressure, dysentery and heart diseases.
Rice is the staple food in most countries and it is an important cereal crop that feeds more than half of the world’s population.
There are more than 40,000 varieties of this cereal available in the world. The two main categories include whole grain rice and white rice.
Whole grain rice is not processed much, therefore it is high in nutritional value, whereas white rice is processed so that the bran or outer covering is removed and it has less nutritional value.
Some of the other health benefits of rice are as follows:
Great Energy Source: As rice is rich in carbohydrates, it acts as fuel for the body and aids in normal functioning of the brain.
Cholesterol Free: Eating rice is extremely beneficial for health, just for the fact that it does not contain harmful fats, cholesterol or sodium. It forms an integral part of a balanced diet.
Rich in Vitamins: Rice is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like niacin, vitamin D, calcium, fiber, iron, thiamine and riboflavin.
Starch Resistant: Rice abounds in resistant starch, which reaches the bowel in undigested form. It aids the growth of useful bacteria for normal bowel movements.
High Blood Pressure: As rice is low in sodium, it is considered the best food for those suffering from high blood pressure and hypertension.
Cancer Prevention: Whole grain rice like brown rice is rich in insoluble fiber that can protect against many types of cancers. Many scientists believe that such insoluble fibers are vital for protecting the body against cancerous cells.
Over 50 historical relics of Semnan province were registered on Iran’s National Heritage List last month.