Chovqan. Azerbaijan’s thrilling polo game

By Laman Ismayilova

Azerbaijan is a country with a strong equestrian tradition. The country`s traditional sport game known as chovqan, has been played by horsemen for centuries.

Chovqan is a traditional horse-riding game played between two teams mounted on the Karabakh horses. Chovqan is the predecessor of modern polo. The horse racing was held during holiday festivities.

Each team has five riders, with two fullbacks and three forwards. The game starts at the centre of the field and players use wooden mallets to try to drive a small leather or wooden ball into their opponents’ goal. The game lasts 30 minutues.

There is no age limit in this sport game.

Chovqan players traditionally wear large astrakhan hats, long tight-fitting coats with a high waist, and special trousers, socks and shoes.

In 2013, UNESCO decided to include the game of “chovqan” on its Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

There are many historical facts, which prove that this sport game has ancient origins. 

As a result of archaeological excavations conducted in the Oren-Kala area, a vessel with images of fragments of the game Chovgan was found, which indirectly confirms the existence of this game in the 11th century in the city of Beylagan (in south of Azerbaijan).

Moreover, chovqan game is mentioned in Nizami`s  poem “Khosrov and Shirin”, as well as in the epic “Kitabi Dede Gorgud” (the Book of Dede Gorgud).  The 11th century miniatures to the “Khosrov and Shirin” poem and Tabriz miniatures illustrate different scenes of this game. Detailed descriptions of the rules of the game are also found in ancient manuscripts. 

Chovqan tournaments are being held in Azerbaijan. The sport game is still popular in the country`s regions.

Laman Ismayilova  is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova

Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz  

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