Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sweeping across young, Sufi-enamoured India

By Sheela Reddy - Outlook India - New Delhi, India
Magazine, March 12, 2007

All the world romances the 13th century Sufi on his 800th birthday. Not bad at all for a poet who belonged nowhere.

At least 50 countries, including India, are laying claim to him, joining in the celebrations for his 800th birth anniversary this year—the Year of Rumi, as UNESCO has declared it.

Jalaluddin Rumi is an improbable poet laureate of the 21st century: he wrote in Persian, a world language that has long been overtaken by English. And he wrote on themes that modern poets would rather choke than write about—deep stuff like Soul and Union with God.

But still, he's America's Number One bestselling poet today, the best known Sufi poet across the world, and if he's not already the world's most popular poet in any language, he will surely be by the time his birthday celebrations wind up by year-end.

Indians have been among the first to lay claim to the mega-Rumi celebrations this year—a celebrity-studded Rumi Foundation, plans for a feature film on his life, whirling dervishes from the Sufi schools in Konya which Rumi started, Rumi talks, concerts, whirling meditation groups, piggybacking new-age spiritualists, the works.

The Sufi way, according to Rumi, is to make oneself clear like a mirror and reflect the world to itself. And his polished mirror words seem to have done just that, judging by the new wave of enthusiasm for the 13th-century poet that is now sweeping across young, Sufi-enamoured India.

Once the domain of Persian and Urdu poets, like Iqbal, Rumi's poetry has found a response recently in unexpected places. The reason, says Karan Singh, chairman of the recently-formed Rumi Foundation, may be that the poet is the perfect antidote to our times, cutting across the religious divide.

"He is the soft face of Islam, about love, humanism and compassion, in sharp contrast to the jehadis. Besides, Rumi is very compatible with Indian traditions, whether it is the Guru tradition or the Bhakti movement.

(...)

The Amritsar-born, convent-educated Gurumaa Anandamurti, who has collected an impressive flock of hi-tech engineers, chartered accountants, management graduates and bankers to her high-end, resort-like ashram in Sonepat, Haryana, recently demonstrated how Rumi rocks for this generation.

She "rolled out the magic" at a Valentine's Day concert in a Delhi auditorium where a dozen Turkish dervishes performed Rumi's chants and whirling while she sang his poems in Hindi, sending some 500 youthful disciples into an ecstatic trance.

It was the sound of ney, the Turkish reed flute, that drew her to Rumi, she says. Wanting to learn more about the instrument, which Rumi likens to the yearning call of a lover, Anandmurti dropped everything and went to Turkey. The 42-day search of many dargahs and sheikhdoms across Turkey inspired a bestselling music recording, Rumi—Love at its Zenith, and a collection of Rumi's poems translated into Hindi, Rumi aur Mein.

In Turkey, she says with quiet conviction, some of the sheikhs there told her that "Allah has chosen you to take Rumi from here to Hindustan".

But Anandmurti is not the only Indian who considers herself the Chosen One. There's also filmmaker Muzaffar Ali, who already runs the wildly successful Sufi music festival, Jahan-e-Khusrau (the only traditional music festival where touts lurk near the spectacular venue outside Humayun's tomb selling tickets "in black").

His proposed feature film on Rumi, Ali says, will be an opportunity to expose the real Rumi to India, "the true inheritor of Rumi's secular mantle". But while Ali's film has yet to get off the ground, others are jumping on to the Rumi bandwagon.

When Amrit Kent, an Urdu poet and Sufi singer, discovered Rumi three years ago, she decided to write a play on his life, Rumi—Unveil the Sun. Against all expectations, the play has found resonance among the young.

Two groups, one in Delhi and the other in Hyderabad, are planning to stage it in the next two weeks, with performances planned in Pakistan and the UK.

Says one of the play's two directors, Zainee Zaheer, a 28-year-old wedding planner whose passion has been Rumi ever since she read him in English translation a few years ago: "Rumi is not just a poet, he is more than that."

For the neo-Rumi enthusiasts, it's his religion of love they are celebrating this year.

[Picture: Narendra Bisht]

2 comments:

priyadnp said...

where may i subscribe to the hu magazine? i am interested to the one dedicated to amir khusrau. also does any one have the contact detaisl of the rumi foundation of india?
priyadnp@gmail.com

aamir said...

You can buy HU magazine from here..
http://www.oxfordbookstore.com/oxfordonline/asppages/item_final.asp?strSKU=BE04638&strSKUSrl=1&sid=KH5DAGHW5GCQ9NBA9JR6HP3P6VHJ8LN4

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sweeping across young, Sufi-enamoured India
By Sheela Reddy - Outlook India - New Delhi, India
Magazine, March 12, 2007

All the world romances the 13th century Sufi on his 800th birthday. Not bad at all for a poet who belonged nowhere.

At least 50 countries, including India, are laying claim to him, joining in the celebrations for his 800th birth anniversary this year—the Year of Rumi, as UNESCO has declared it.

Jalaluddin Rumi is an improbable poet laureate of the 21st century: he wrote in Persian, a world language that has long been overtaken by English. And he wrote on themes that modern poets would rather choke than write about—deep stuff like Soul and Union with God.

But still, he's America's Number One bestselling poet today, the best known Sufi poet across the world, and if he's not already the world's most popular poet in any language, he will surely be by the time his birthday celebrations wind up by year-end.

Indians have been among the first to lay claim to the mega-Rumi celebrations this year—a celebrity-studded Rumi Foundation, plans for a feature film on his life, whirling dervishes from the Sufi schools in Konya which Rumi started, Rumi talks, concerts, whirling meditation groups, piggybacking new-age spiritualists, the works.

The Sufi way, according to Rumi, is to make oneself clear like a mirror and reflect the world to itself. And his polished mirror words seem to have done just that, judging by the new wave of enthusiasm for the 13th-century poet that is now sweeping across young, Sufi-enamoured India.

Once the domain of Persian and Urdu poets, like Iqbal, Rumi's poetry has found a response recently in unexpected places. The reason, says Karan Singh, chairman of the recently-formed Rumi Foundation, may be that the poet is the perfect antidote to our times, cutting across the religious divide.

"He is the soft face of Islam, about love, humanism and compassion, in sharp contrast to the jehadis. Besides, Rumi is very compatible with Indian traditions, whether it is the Guru tradition or the Bhakti movement.

(...)

The Amritsar-born, convent-educated Gurumaa Anandamurti, who has collected an impressive flock of hi-tech engineers, chartered accountants, management graduates and bankers to her high-end, resort-like ashram in Sonepat, Haryana, recently demonstrated how Rumi rocks for this generation.

She "rolled out the magic" at a Valentine's Day concert in a Delhi auditorium where a dozen Turkish dervishes performed Rumi's chants and whirling while she sang his poems in Hindi, sending some 500 youthful disciples into an ecstatic trance.

It was the sound of ney, the Turkish reed flute, that drew her to Rumi, she says. Wanting to learn more about the instrument, which Rumi likens to the yearning call of a lover, Anandmurti dropped everything and went to Turkey. The 42-day search of many dargahs and sheikhdoms across Turkey inspired a bestselling music recording, Rumi—Love at its Zenith, and a collection of Rumi's poems translated into Hindi, Rumi aur Mein.

In Turkey, she says with quiet conviction, some of the sheikhs there told her that "Allah has chosen you to take Rumi from here to Hindustan".

But Anandmurti is not the only Indian who considers herself the Chosen One. There's also filmmaker Muzaffar Ali, who already runs the wildly successful Sufi music festival, Jahan-e-Khusrau (the only traditional music festival where touts lurk near the spectacular venue outside Humayun's tomb selling tickets "in black").

His proposed feature film on Rumi, Ali says, will be an opportunity to expose the real Rumi to India, "the true inheritor of Rumi's secular mantle". But while Ali's film has yet to get off the ground, others are jumping on to the Rumi bandwagon.

When Amrit Kent, an Urdu poet and Sufi singer, discovered Rumi three years ago, she decided to write a play on his life, Rumi—Unveil the Sun. Against all expectations, the play has found resonance among the young.

Two groups, one in Delhi and the other in Hyderabad, are planning to stage it in the next two weeks, with performances planned in Pakistan and the UK.

Says one of the play's two directors, Zainee Zaheer, a 28-year-old wedding planner whose passion has been Rumi ever since she read him in English translation a few years ago: "Rumi is not just a poet, he is more than that."

For the neo-Rumi enthusiasts, it's his religion of love they are celebrating this year.

[Picture: Narendra Bisht]

2 comments:

priyadnp said...

where may i subscribe to the hu magazine? i am interested to the one dedicated to amir khusrau. also does any one have the contact detaisl of the rumi foundation of india?
priyadnp@gmail.com

aamir said...

You can buy HU magazine from here..
http://www.oxfordbookstore.com/oxfordonline/asppages/item_final.asp?strSKU=BE04638&strSKUSrl=1&sid=KH5DAGHW5GCQ9NBA9JR6HP3P6VHJ8LN4