Kırkpınar Festival and Oil Wrestling
Wrestling, defined as the mental and physical struggle that two people do without using any tools and equipments in a certain area, certain rules and within a certain period of time, is one of the oldest sports of human history. Wrestling, which is popular in every period of history and traditionally applied, is known as ancestor sport in our country.
Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling, which first comes to mind, when wrestling in Turkey is said, is one of the oldest wrestling festivals of the world with its past that is born in Rumeli in the 14th century and coming to the present day. Oil wrestling is a form of wrestling, which wrestlers wear leather pants (kispet) and compete by being oiled with oil.
Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling has many rituals from the invitation stage to the award ceremony. The historic Kırkpınar Wrestling, usually held in late June and early July, takes seven days. The festival starts on Friday by saying prayers for the wrestlers and wrestling is done on the the area in Sarayiçi, one of the important promenade places of Edirne. The winner wrestler takes the head of wrestler and wins a prestigious award, the golden belt, for a year. The wrestler, who has been a champion for three years in a row, become the continuous owner of the golden belt.
The invitation symbol of Kırkpınar is the “Kırmızı Dipli Mum” (Red Bottom Candle). During periods when mass media are not common, red candle made by “Kırkpınar Ağası” was sent to towns and villages, wrestlers and well-known people from March, and these people were invited to Kırkpınar. The same traditional method is used symbolically in Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling which is done here today.
Traditionally, Kırkpınar Ağası, who fulfills the duties of calling wrestlers for wrestling, organizing competitions, providing financial resources for the festival, ensuring wrestling in accordance with customs and giving prizes, Cazgır who is the person who introduces the wrestlers to the spectators and starts the wrestling,Drum clarion team, oiler helping to lubricate wrestlers and Peşkirci holding towels, are the most important actors of Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling.
The wrestler, which is located in the center of the oil wrestling, carries the responsibility of transferring 650 years of tradition. The criterias for being able to be wrestler were determined in a long process in the oil wrestling tradition. Having positive personal characteristics in accordance with the spirit of the wrestling sport is the most important condition to be a good wrestler. The wrestler is expected to act with consciousness of being in the limelight from the his just vicinity to the farthest viewer.
About transferring of the tradition, The Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival is a weekly unique training arena, is the meeting point of 650 years, where all of wrestlers and nominees for the wrestler from all over Turkey gather together.
Kırkpınar wrestling, as a sport branch, contributes to the shaping of social and cultural relations through competition as well as providing the physical and mental of individuals. Wrestling gives the individual the ability to test himself in different directions and gives confidence to the wrestlers who are especially victorious. In Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling, unlike other sports competitions, mutual respect between the competitors stands out. For example; The winning wrestler has to comfort his opponent before the announcement of the winner and pick up him.
A lot of activities have been carried out in line with the action plan for the protection measures that have been composed for the purpose of transferring and continuing the Kırkpınar wrestling that has been going on for centuries. In addition to the action plan drawn up by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Edirne Municipality, Trakya University and relevant NGO representatives, individuals and groups are also striving to keep the oil wrestling tradition alive and raise awareness of this tradition.
Two ex-wristler Ahmed Yenici, Süleyman Kaplan and Başkazgırı Şükrü Kayabaş came together and founded the Pehlivanlar coffee house in Istanbul. All the informations about the activity calendar, participatory wrestlers, cazgırs and Kırkpınar Agas of oil wrestling organizations organized in Turkey are learned in this coffee house. For many people interested in oily wrestling, the Pehlivanlar coffee house has become a frequent destination. Chief wrestlers who brings this ancestor sport to the back of the beyond and encourages people to do this sport, have made important contributions about maintenance and preservation of this tradition.
Kırkpınar School of Physical Education and Sports Academy was founded in Trakya University in order to generalize the tradition among young people and to carry out academic researches about the protection of Kırkpınar wrestling and educate young people. In addition, Kırkpınar wrestling has been the topic of many theses. In these theses, the subject of wrestling was examined in terms of popular knowledge; wrestling musics, training, physical and psychological features of wrestlers are discussed in detail.
The historic building situated in the garden of Edirne Municipality was restored in the week of opening and opened with the name of 640. Historical Kırkpınar Wrestling and Cultural Events and opened as Historical Kırkpınar House and the first steps were taken for Kırkpınar Museum. In Kırkpınar House, there are many articles and photographs specific to Kırkpınar wrestling such as clothes, oil jug, drum-clarion, golden belt which are used by agas and wrestlers.
Kırkpınar Chamber is located in a part of the Museum of Turkish Islamic Works in the garden of the Selimiye Mosque, which is the attraction center for many tourists from home and abroad. Kırkpınar Exhibition Room created in the museum, offers photographs of traditional representations and old famous wrestlers.
Kırkpınar wrestling is introduced to the whole world through media and it reach a colorful festival atmosphere attracting people from every segment of society. Furthermore, within the scope of Kırkpınar Photography Contest, which is held every year by Edirne Municipality, many striking photographs provide this ancestor sport being recalled for in the memory of new generations for years. The book “Pehlivan”, which was published by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2011 as a prestige publication about the Kırkpınar wrestling, aim the tradition to be handed down from generation to generation.
Kispet which wrestlers wear as an important symbol of creativity in the field of handicrafts, are clothes made of the healthy animal tissue clothes that extend from waist to the bottom of the knee. This dress, which is worn exclusively by wrestlers at the festival, displays the delicacy of hand craftsmanship of a few masters. İrfan Şahin, who has a deep knowledge and skill in making Kispet, was declared as “Living Human Treasure” by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in the award ceremony held in 2012.
The Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival was announced to the whole world in 2010 by registering to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.