While no travelogue of the backpacking trip to Turkey is forthcoming, I’ll try to provide snippets from the journey.
Remember Khwaja Mere Khwaja from Jodhaa Akbar?
Many who saw the movie–me included at that time–found the choreography of the song a bit ridiculous. It came across as unintentionally funny, what with all the clapping and rotating.
While in Goreme (a town in Cappadocia), I attended a show that showed a glimpse of various forms of dance in Turkey. These shows are popular as Turkish Night all over the country. While most tourists attend them for the belly dancing (which is oh-so-mesmerizing), for me the highlight of the show was the Sufi dance. Prior to watching it, I did not know Sufi dancing was a thing. But what a thing it is!
I went back to the video of Khwaja Mere Khwaja and found so much meaning to the choreography that I had missed earlier in my ignorance. The whirling is the climax in the dance where one loses oneself in a trance. It is a form of medication–an active meditation. Wiki has more:
In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, the semazen’s camel’s hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt represents the ego’s shroud. By removing his black cloak, he is spiritually reborn to the truth. At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God’s unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God’s beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The semazen conveys God’s spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the Sema. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the semazen embraces all humanity with love. The human being has been created with love in order to love. Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi says, “All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!”
It is every bit as transcendental to witness as this description.
Here’s a video of authentic Sufi dancers:
You can clearly tell after watching this that the dancers in the Jodhaa Akbar video were not Sufi dancers. I don’t mean to nitpick but now I cannot un-see this fact.
The balance and the poise of Sufi dancers is impeccable. They appear like figurines mounted on a stick, rotating with no friction with everything around them. Their feet move with such grace and tenderness that the feet and its movements become invisible after a while. It’s as if they are whirling on thin air. It’s just .. perfect.
Some day in the not-so-distant future, I want to be a student of Sufi meditation.
(Before the Sufi dance performance, a fair amount of powder was sprinkled on the stage to help the dancers whirl.)
I am a terrible dancer (anyone who knows me will legally attest to this fact). I’ve never danced in my normal life and I likely never will. But there was something about this particular performance I attended that made me jump in when the performers sought a handful of audience members. Dancing is a lot of fun and like any other activity, it can be spiritual. It is such a pity that I don’t understand any of it.
Travelling in strange, distant lands where I’m a nobody allows me to take on any personality I wish to. I don’t have many inhibitions in my normal life–while travelling, they are even fewer. And that is a liberating feeling. This is just one more reason why I earnestly urge everyone to travel alone, at least once in their lifetime. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that it will definitely be a life-altering experience in some way.