The Dance of the Whirling Dervishes

Two months back, while I was touring Turkey, I stumbled upon the Whirling Dervishes in a place called Konya. Sounds mysterious right? These dervishes spin, spin and spin, with the equilibrium I have never seen before. The lighting was low and warm, creating a mystic and non-intrusive atmosphere. This sect is so different and unique that I decided to write about it.

Sema Ceremony

The Mevlevi or the whirling dervishes are a Sufi order founded in Konya,Turkey by the followers of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet, Islamic jurist, and theologian. They are also known as the Whirling Dervishes due to their famous practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of God). The Mevlewi believe in performing their dhikr in the form of a “dance” and musical ceremony known as the Sema, which involves the whirling. The participants are called semazen.

The Green Masouleum of Rumi, Konya

The Sema ceremony represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to perfection. The dance indicates turning towards truth, growing through the channel of love, deserting ego, finding truth and then arriving at Perfection. The dervishes are extremely graceful. While whirling, their arms are open, right hand faces the sky which indicates the ready to receive God’s beneficence. The left hand is directed towards the earth. This ceremony is divided into 7 stages, the eulogy to the Prophet, the drum sounds, followed by instrumental music, the greeting of dervishes and lastly the whirling. The 6th part is reading versus from the Quran and ends with a peace prayer.

Close-up of a Whirling Dervish

The Music & Dance - Sema

The description of these Mevlevis is almost impossible. They are not only graceful but immersed in their dance. What astounded me was they spin for so long in one place, at the same pace without going off balance or even bumping into another mevlevi near by. Some members of the audience had travelled across the world to see the ceremony, whilst others may have stumbled across the performance.I have attached a video from Youtube to understand it better!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnunfciSr7k&w=420&h=315]

An Experience in the Fairy Land – Turkey

Cappadocia, central Turkey, has a fairy land, a whole lot similar to what we read in classic tales. This fairy land is so breathtaking and yet so realistic that I did pinch myself a few times to make sure, I am in it and a part of it!

Fairyland

The terrain in Cappadocia is very unique, a place where nature and history have created one of the most spectacular panorama of the world. Due to volcanic eruptions in the region a large tableland of tufa rock was formed. Together with the erosion from the Kizilirmak river and wind over ten thousands of years there appeared the chimney rocks or the fairy chimneys. These chimneys were marked by signs of thousand-years-old civilizations by carving houses and churches within these earth pillars and decorating them with frescoes.

Terrain of Cappadocia

The Dark Church of the Geröme Caves

The first time we actually saw them was on a dark dawn of a Tuesday morning. A bunch of us were all geared up in a hot air balloon for a tour in to the clouds overlooking these beautiful rock formations. We had no idea about its exquisiteness until we floated in to the sky, the sun rose, and we witnessed the vast landscape!

Gearing up to fly

The Fairy Chimneys

The pilot of hot air balloon said that the traditional Cappadocian houses, churches, monasteries, mosques and dovecotes were carved into the stone. The soft quarried rock, which is the only construction material of the region, was easily processed and would harden after contact with air resulting in to this natural fairy land.

Orthisar Castle of Cappadocia

Vivid colours of the Rocks & its strange formations

While flying high and also ducking low in to the crevices of these rocks, we noticed a large number of dovecotes. We were told that these pigeon is a symbol of peace and devotion to family in Islam whereas regarded as a symbol of the “Holy Spirit” in Christianity. The reason behind hollowing out dove-cotes was not to catch and eat pigeons but to use their excrement as fertilizer. Some dovecotes are decorated with rich inscriptions and adornments by regional artists.

In the Fairy Chimneys

Dovecotes and Frescoes

We sailed on in the air for about an hour and a half. It seemed like a dream or something much beyond that because I don’t remember ever visiting a wonderland in my dream as well. It was so awe-inspiring and so colourful to be true that the biting cold didn’t bother us even one bit. We just went up to 800 metres, almost felt like I would touch the rising sun and then ducked as low as a few feet from the earth to see if I could peep into the window of the chimney!

Fairyland part II

Touching the rising Sun

Land of the fairy chimneys, unforgettable, unbelievable and so vivid, tops high on my list. Its a place to experience what a true fairyland might be!

Beauty of little things – Karde

Karde in the monsoons

Monsoons makes Maharashtra heaven on Earth! The pleasing velvet tones of greens, the clear streams, the rush of the tides in the Arabian Sea, the sprinkle of the rains and the wholesome waterfalls…..the list can go on…

View from the rolling green hills

A few weeks back, we set off to this little hamlet called Karde. A place with black sand, rolling hills, partially rocky beaches, and above all, not commercial. The sea was just a minute away from our cottages, hence off we strolled to the beach and into the raging sea. While we walked on beaches and hiked the hills, I came across such beautiful things, made and built by nature. Those things we fail to see in our mundane lives, those things which bring ideas to your mind and things which makes you feel so rich within. So this post is going to be all about those little things I enjoyed being around profoundly.

Collection of beautiful sea shells with spiral patterns & colours

My walk through the fringes of the sea made me notice these beautiful sea shells. The rich colours and patterns on them was so stunning that it I wanted to have with me, in my home, in my memory…always!

Eroded rocks

What nature does and how intricately it carves even the toughest rocks, makes you think about the force and yet the daintiness of the natural world.

The Button Nose Flower

I don’t know what sort of tree this is, it was just a plain beautiful one with the lush colours contrasting each other!

The patterned black Sand

The patterned black sand of Karde garnished the extensive beach. Again, how intricate yet bold!

The splashing sea

From the sandy beach, we hopped on to the rocky raging sea. The energy and vigour of the ocean made my blood rush faster through my veins. I kept thinking, how can such rage carve rocks so delicately, how can the green have so many shades and each pleasing to the eye, how can the silky grain of sand make such long beaches…. Salute to the mother nature is all I concluded…

A perfect clear water pothole

Heaven...it was

Scribble on the black sand

Cinder Cones of Haleakalᾱ & its Spiky Silver Plants

Summit of Haleakala 10 023 ft

Haleakalᾱ volcano rises 10023 ft above the Pacific Ocean and occupies almost half of the Maui Island of Hawaii. The geologic history of Haleakalᾱ is estimated to have begun a million years ago, around the time of woolly mammoth and saber tooth tigers! It comprises of colourful cinder cones scattered throughout the valley floor. The most recent eruption took place in 1802. This volcano is considered to be an active but currently non-erupting volcano.

The Spectacular View of Haleakala

I got a chance to see this place a few years back. It is a matchless heaven weathered and coloured over time. The rains have oxidized the earth and the winds have emphasized the cinder cones! When I actually got to the summit, I wondered what was so good about this volcano. I hardly saw the cinder cones and the lush bright colors of the soil! We were told to hike up a trail to experience it for ourselves. Therefore, we started trudging towards what we really hadn’t anticipated.

Bushy species of Silversword

The tall species of Silversword

For the first half hour, the landscape did not change much. The only thing we noticed was black and brown rubble and some mysterious spiky silver plants. They were strangely eerie and a bit scattered. This species of plant is called Silversword which had leaves covered with silver hairs. Apparently, the skin and hair are strong enough to resist the wind and freezing temperature of this altitude and protect the plant from dehydration and the sun. So basically, this is what got me excited, just observing these silver loners against the mysterious shades of browns.

The first sight of the Cinder Cone

View of 4 Cinder Cones and its extravagant colours

Feeling the cool winds, studying the landscape and walking on rubble suddenly led us to this spectacular sight, another world, with its view of a cinder cone perched in the middle of nowhere with gleaming reds, browns, yellows and blacks!! That was some feeling, a feeling so mystifying that I wanted to salute the mother Earth to hold such beauty! Now our pace progressed enormously. We were told that there are many such cinder cones, and as of now, we only saw one! We couldn’t wait to see the rest. Slowly, one by one, the others started treading in. And then, it was an ocean of big and small cinder cones stretched across the valley. We were bolted from the blue to see the colour and contrast of the changing landscape! We climbed the first one and just sat admiring the mystical view for I don’t know how much time. The clouds came and went, I think it also drizzled a bit, the sun changed the colours once again but each time it looked as magnificent as ever!

Top View of the Cinder Cone

What I am going to quote is often said my the people of Maui that clouds in and around the summit of Haleakalᾱ carry whispers of another time. It is said that the demigod of Maui fished Haleakalᾱ and all the Hawaiin volcanoes from the sea, pulling them up and flinging his fishhook to the heavens. On clear nights, the fishhook of Maui, now the Scorpio, can still be seen in the sky from the summit of Haleakalᾱ.

Panoramic View of the Volcano

A small Slides Show to see the rest of the Haleakala World of Volcanoes

[slideshow]

Daulatabad – City of Fortune, Labyrinth, Moats & Bastions!

In the 12th century, Devgiri was its name. Founded, constructed and ruled by the Yadav dynasty. Later, Sultan Muhammad-bin-Tughluq of Delhi conquered it and made it his capital to be able to establish his reign in the south. And hence the name changed from Devgiri to Daulatabad! Now, what makes this fort so unique and impregnable? This fort had a very unique defense mechanism….which actually made me wonder what was it that they tried to protect. Lets go step by step to know more…

Tablet inscribed with the History of Daulatabad

Fortification

Alley through the Amberkot & Mahakot

The fort has 3 walls. Amberkot an outer wall which covers the Daulatabad town, the Mahakot wall encloses the Daulatabad fort. This wall had spear-like structures slotted into them which could even leave hoards of charging elephant useless. Lastly the Kalakot, the final fortification resembles the shape of a beer bottle and is built around the huge rock hill. Kalakot is surrounded by a deep moat which is said to have been filled with crocodiles and poisonous snakes.

The Mahakot Gate with Spear-like Structures

Underground Tunnel

This fort has many underground tunnels, some as long as 70 kms. They were designed and drilled that helped the Sultans escape. They were said to be connected to the Rajur town and many other places still unknown to us.

The Kalakot Entrance with the Underground Tunnels

Rock-cut Moats

The dangerous Moats

Crocodile and poisonous snake infested moats were made with several drawbridges. As soon as the enemy stepped on these bridges, they were unhooked throwing the rival into the moat.

40ft Deep-cut Moats infested with poisonous snakes & crocodiles

The Dark & Deadly Maze

Entry into the Labyrinth

This maze is a piece of exceptional strategic architecture. Archers would hide themselves in deep cut caves in the ceiling, so if torches were lit by enemies, they would be targeted. The tunnels are so deceptive that if the parties split in two and met head-on to fight amongst themselves due to the darkness. After all the trickery, if they got out alive, boiling oil was poured from above, killing them instantly.

The Eerie Maze

The everlasting trap the fort has crafted is stunning! The labyrinth, moats, bastions and scheme of the whole fortification is splendid! One of the best-preserved medieval forts in the world, it has a saga of numerous tales of splendor, betrayal, blood-shed.

Chand Minar

View of the Chand Minar from the Fort

My Journey into Sikkim

Sikkim - Land of Simplicity & Colour

Our country India is known for its diverse culture, topography, food, people, overall an existence of its own. Sometimes it makes me wonder, how one nation can accommodate so many virtues at the same time. I think we are very fortunate to be in a land which has so much to offer.

Hanuman Tok - Gangtok

In April 2009, I got a chance to visit this beautiful state of Sikkim surrounded by Tibet, now China, Bhutan and Nepal. Amidst the Himalayas, the state is no more than 7110 sq kms with winding hilly roads and beautiful people originating from Nepal & Tibet. I will not go much into the geographical details of the state because that is something we all can find on the internet. I would love to talk more about its people and the experience I had through those few days.

To-be Lamas

Sikkim is heavily influenced by Tibet and its culture. Most of the people in Sikkim have direct origins from Tibet and have migrated to India in the last 100 years and more. The place is so surreal, untouched, spiritual and colourful that I couldn’t help but write about it. What touched me most here, in this little lost paradise is the simplicity, discipline, honestly and modestly of people. On our first day in Gangtok, we realised that people here are very shy and self-conscious. I wanted to know more about them, about their lifestyle and eating habits and everything that I could gather. Even though they seemed withdrawn, I did not stop asking my list of questions. Hence slowly and patiently, I realised and comprehended the life and living of the people of Sikkim.

Traffic regulations due to landslides

It all started with a small incident while we were on our way to Lachen, a little town up north of Sikkim. Since the state is still building up its infrastructure, the road conditions are unpleasant. To add to it, there are frequent landslides which hinder the transport to some extent. Coming back to our journey, we came across a huge landslide due to which there was traffic congestion on both sides and delay in our travel was unavoidable. After a while, the debris was cleared just to allow one car to pass at one time. According to the mountain traffic rules, the cars going uphill get the preference due to steep slopes and hardships of the windy roads. And hence the uphill going cars started their ascend slowly. Since we were descending we were waiting in queue for our turn. What astounded me here was the patience, and respect that was given to all the cars coming up. Not a single car blocked their way, instead made sure they get ample space to drive carefully. We waited till all the uphill cars passed giving them ease and time to clear the damaged section of the road. What kind of a scene would you see in Pune for that matter? People honking, pushing their way, clogging and creating so much nuisance to make the situation shoddier. Dodgy road conditions, delays and inconvenience did not one bit upset its people, they continued to respect what had to be respected in order to support the situation, not worsen it. That got me thinking, isn’t there so much to learn and comprehend?

The home-made Tibetan Dinner

The warm locals who fed us the wonderful homemade Tibetan meal.

One more incident took place which really touched my heart. Throughout our trip, we ate roti and vegetables and the usual food. I really wanted to eat the traditional Sikkimese food which is very hard to find unless it is cooked by the locals. To our surprise, our travel agent invited us to have Tibetan dinner at his place. Now when I say Tibetan, I should make clear that most of the Sikkimese people are Tibetans and share similar culture and food habits. He took us home, a simple home traditionally decorated with local artefacts. On our arrival, we started with a local beer-like drink called Chhang. Barley, Mustard and rice are semi-fermented and stuffed in a bamboo called Dhungro. Then boiling water is poured and sipped through a narrow bore bamboo pipe called the Pipsing. It’s one of the most delicious drinks I have ever had. It is said to be the best remedy to ward off the severe cold of the mountains and reputedly has many healing properties. Followed by the drink, we were served shisnu or nettle soup, Churpi – Yak cheese cooked in red chillies, phing or glass noodles with mushrooms, hot steamed momos, Phagshapha, a pork dish made with radish and dried chilies, dhal and rice which is a staple food and lastly, fish fry and chicken curry of which I do not remember the names. The best surprise was, for desert, they cut open a water melon imported from Maharashtra which seemed like an exotic fruit for the locals. After this huge meal, we were not only over-whelmed with their hospitability but very touched with the effort they put behind making us taste the best of their cuisine. It just showed how lovely and welcoming the people of the eastern Himalayas are, they just need time but when we give that to them, they give us a lot more in return.

Chhang - beer-like drink made with barley, mustard and rice stuffed in Dhungro or bamboo

Hence through my trip, I learnt more and more about their art and culture and lifestyles of the people. As I mentioned earlier, that our country is so fascinating and versatile yet we all are termed under one – Indians!

My Blog Review of 2010

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 9 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 24 posts. There were 123 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 25mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was September 8th with 109 views. The most popular post that day was Bail Pola – Festival of the Bullocks.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, indiblogger.in, lively-wood.com, lively-wood.blogspot.com, and en.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for pawankhind, bail pola, pola festival, bail pola festival, and amsterdam cafe menu.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Bail Pola – Festival of the Bullocks September 2009
4 comments

2

Secrets of Amsterdam! September 2010
6 comments

3

Lush Greens of the Monsoons – Pawankhind – India August 2009

4

10 Incredible Facts about Wild Wild Africa…. July 2010
9 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

5

The Isles of Zanzibar August 2010
7 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,