Konya

Don’t grieve, for what you lose comes around in another form.

Now this was the first quote that I came across by Rumi, after all I suppose what I was seeking was seeking me, another quote by the master. Rumi found me when I was 26 years old, its astonishing that I had never heard of him considering all the time I spent with books! According to the Times magazine, Rumi is the most published poet in the world, across all ages and all genres. And then upon reading his wise words, I know why, the King of Hearts as he is fondly called deserves all of his titles, while his city Konya where he published most of his works is aptly titled The City of Hearts. As we ventured into Konya, a city on the Silk Route, almost at the end of the great route, the beautiful Caravan Serais offer a welcome even today to the tourists and all along the presence of Jalauddin Rumi is keenly felt. The Caravan Serais today have been restored and are used as art galleries curating both traditional and modern art. In the past they were used as melting pots that merchants and travelers would stay in intermittently during their journeys. All Caravan Serais had a similar orientation with an outer courtyard fringed with rooms on the sides used in Summers and inner halls with arched alleys used in winters, hammams usually were included in the serais as were storage spaces that the merchants would use. The Sultanhani Cravan Serai that we visited had a carpet exhibition in its main arched hall, while the courtyard played canvas to modern art.

As the founder of the Mevlana order of Sufism, Rumi enjoyed great popularity among the locals who would meet him every day, just as much as he enjoys all over the world today, and being on a crucial part of the silk route definitely helped shape his experience and hence expertise. Meeting people from all walks of life is a sure-shot way to know that no one way is absolutely the right way and wisdom is probably the basis of wit in life. His words have inspired many and much credit of that belongs to his son. His tomb was built by his son, who also ensured his legacy continued throughout his life. The Mevlana museum is the centre of the city that radially extends out. While Rumi sits at the confluence of traditional Islam and the Sufi order which with its whirling Dervishes and tangential philosophies embraces the avante-garde. His book Masnavi, also lauded as the Persian Koran, is about 50000 lines long and teaches the Sufis how to find love in God. Mystical and mythical, the reality of Rumi is keenly felt in the museum attached to the tomb. The museum of the Mevlana or the master of scholars as Rumi is referred to houses most daily objects that Rumi used including gargantuan prayer beads, beautiful Persian rugs, his clothes, furniture, and manuscripts giving the visitor an idea of how the great Sufi saint lived. On approaching the tomb we made acquantaince with a Persian dame, who whirls not as a dervish, but for its deeply meditative nature. Many of us, including me were so intrigued, as religion begins to detach from some practices all over the world, the modern seeks to imbibe gestures or actions from various practices, simply to elevate the soul!

The tomb itself is like Mecca, for it is the Mecca for the Rumi-fied people of world. And likely so, there were many people sitting in the tomb, praying, crying or dancing with wild abandon just like Rumi. The music and incense burning in the structure make for a certain mood, pensive or not. But the tomb of Rumi is decorated with all its gaiety. The head gear that Sufi saints wear, including Rumi’s is attached to the tomb stone and is stoically vast, to say the least. Shams was an early influence on Rumi, a great friend and in 4 years that they spent, Rumi is to have learnt a lot from Shams, in the way of living and letting live at a time when religion was meant to control and guide its followers. Though losing his master brought Rumi a lot of grief, like every creative person, he channeled his grief into building something magnificent, through poetry and prose, he had his way with words. Closer home, Imtiaz Ali, a noted filmmaker begins each of his movie with a quote of Rumi, and then the story builds on a premise of a line that Rumi probably recited after much deliberation. Rubbishing philosophies of any kind, here is what the Mevlana had to say about silence.

‘The life of this world is nothing but the harmony of opposites,’ he said. The way to find harmony is not to get bogged down in the chicanery of words or in the hair-splitting of philosophies. The way to achieve it is through the language of silence.

‘When the lips are silent, the heart has a hundred tongues,’ says Rumi, ‘Listen! Clam up your mouth and be silent like an oyster shell, for that tongue of yours is the enemy of the soul, my friend.’

There isnt much to Konya if not for Rumi, but his aura has ensured many madrasas or places of specialised study find their way all across the city. Today the medresses, as they are called, are used as museums but at one time were places of study for specialised scholars who made great progress in their craft. The madrasas themselves showcase a pinnacle in architecture, their most notable features being the beautiful blue glazed Iznik tiles apart from their domes and the octagonal forms. Some madrasas also house the tombs of the masters who ran the schools of study. Unlike today, in the past only learned scholars after a certain age were permitted into madrasas to implore the use of more knowledge. Modernised much, Konya too has grown beyond it’s past, but the lore of the past keeps the beauty of Konya very much alive. Turkey could well be the most instagrammed country on this planet. There are terrace cafes around monuments, even the tomb of Rumi, where one can sit an get selfied with the monument for company! The streets of Konya with pretty houses and colorful elevations do add to the spunk of life, reminding one to walk taller, smile wider and incorporate a spring in the step, bouncing along happily. From one monument to another as we walked, we passed by petty streets, building material stores that called wall paint, home cosmetics! Well what a poetic way to put it!! Nothing seems to be impervious to Rumi’s charm or poetry for that matter.

Other quotes by Rumi can be accessed here.

And then here’s one for the road.

Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.