Ever played Polo? What if I told you that the first games resembling polo were played over 2500 years ago in Iran. An exciting team sport played on horseback, Chogān is often hailed as the ancestor to the modern game of Polo. Even with a history dating back to the 5thCentury BC, you can witness the game in play as it is still one of the most popular sports in the Middle East. Originally a game to train cavalry in the King’s Guard, Chogān grew to become a national sport in Iran, played by both men and women. The first international match was played between Persians and Turkmens in the year 600.
If you were to play Chogān, you would be on one of two teams of horse riders which compete to pass the Gooy (the ball) through the opposing team’s goal posts with a Chogān (a wooden stick). Depending on the region you are playing, the size of the Meydan (the open field), the number of Chukkehs (rounds) played and the number of Chogānbazan (players) may all vary.
In modern day Iran you will find that Chogān is a cultural, athletic and artistic element with a strong connection with the history and identity of its bearers and practitioners. Given its reference in the Shahnameh (the Book of Kings) by the famed Iranian poet Ferdowsi, you will find that it has a strong presence in Shahnamekhani (reciting the Shahnameh), storytelling, proverbs, miniature paintings, handicrafts and architectural ornaments which are valuable parts of the worldview and symbolism of its practitioners.
Traditional craftmanship, or Ghalamkar, often utilises motifs from Chogān. Painters will have their own specific motif based on their own style. The design of Chogān templates are originally from the beautiful Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was originally a Chogān field built by King Abbas.
Nicolas Hadjisavvas- Naghsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran
You may find that the Chogān motif has been used in a variety of handicrafts, for example it would be used to carve templates and later on put on textiles. Chogān and the Chogān field, in particular the Nashq-e Jahan, have been suitable subjects for artists because it is a dynamic sport where the movements of the horses and riders allow artists to draw a variety of perspectives.
If you are interested in having Chogān art in your house, Iran Sheen offers Chogān pieces such as our Fine Marble Chogān Wall Décor.
Written by Arya Seif-Nobakht and Elnaz Sedighara