Sufi Calling: Discovering The Divine

{0 Comments}

0
Zia Nath, Sufi Splendour
Kartik Poornima Festival by Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation
Kartik Poornima Festival by Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation

I was introduced to Sufism many years ago through the strong vocals and mesmerizing music of Abida Parveen. Ever since, I have been fascinated by its depth and beauty. Though it has gained popularity in the last few years, Sufism as a concept, as a way of life, still remains less understood than it was meant to be when it was born hundreds of years ago.

While it may take a lifetime to fully understand and imbibe Sufism, in simple words, it can be described as a means to finding the divine in daily life. Whether it is through music or dance, the realization of God is at the center of this simple yet deep form of devotion and liberation.

Sufism has its roots in Islam and is popularly understood to be the mystical form of the religion, but many scholars debate that Sufism was born even before Islam. Whether or not this is true, it is a fact that Sufism has now traveled across continents and reached out to millions irrespective of their religious beliefs.

It was a pleasure to discover that Temperance, Mumbai’s very own culture hub, is organizing a Sufi workshop, “Sufi Calling”, with well known danseuse Zia Nath of Sufi Splendour. Zia has taken her experience of Sufism and added a new dimension to it by combining three different sacred dances that are performed to Sufi music. Sufi Calling will be exploring one of these dance forms, Sufi Whirling Dervish Dance. I had a chat with Zia to know more about what she plans to share at the workshop this weekend.

Zia at Kartik Poornima Festival by Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation
Zia at Kartik Poornima Festival by Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation

What is Sufism and Sufi Whirling?
Sufism is more than a religion – it’s a way of life. ‘Sufi’ comes from the ancient Arabic word ‘safa’, which means pure. Sufis are not afraid of God, they celebrate God. God being an experience of higher self. Sufi Whirling is synonymous to the phenomena of ‘centre of the cyclone’. There is chaos that is surrounding the periphery of a cyclone. But at the centre, in the eye of the cyclone, there is stillness. This stillness is the most powerful point of the cyclone and from this stillness, the force and movement emerges. And the same for Sufi Whirling. The music and the chaos of the world surround us is like the periphery of the cyclone. But in the centre of our being is a stillness, from which the movement and dance emerges. And this centre is the experience of our higher consciousness.

Zia at Tasneem-e-Ishq Sufi Festival, Mumbai
Zia at Tasneem-e-Ishq Sufi Festival, Mumbai

The fusion of Sufi Whirling and Odissi dance sounds enthralling, how did you discover this wonderful combination and how did you work on making it a specialised form of sacred dancing?
I was involved in the study of 3 diverse sacred dance forms in different times of my life – starting with Gurdjieff sacred dances, being ancient esoteric and Sufi temple dances to Sufi Whirling from the Mevlana Sufi order to Odissi dance, India’s most ancient temple dance form. Then one day I decided to bring this confluence of sacred dances together and created Sufi Splendour. My inspiration also comes from the study of the Hazrat Inayat Khan’s works and his concept of Universal Sufism – that Sufism is not bound to any religion or race – it’s the purity of devotion in one’s life that makes us Sufis. And I found this element in all my 3 dances forms and decided to put them together in 2007.

Zia at Jahan-e-Khusrao World Sufi Music Festival by Muzaffar Ali
Zia at Jahan-e-Khusrao World Sufi Music Festival by Muzaffar Ali

Tell us what you are planning to share in the Sufi Calling workshop this weekend? What can attendees expect to take away?
We will start with centering exercises and movements to support balance and stability, helping students find their inner sense of balance and stillness. After this we proceed to learning turning techniques and whirling. The music accompanying us will be recorded Persian, Turkish music.

Sufi whirling is like a mirror. It mirrors to us what we hold within. Some people will be deeply touched by the experience of a calm silence within. Some appreciate the stillness of mind and body. Some experience a rejuvenation of the whole body, a burst of energy. Some get emotional. So actually, we are whirling for the experience of it. It is a meditation – being present and orienting to our higher self within us. It’s not about going somewhere to achieve something, rather, being ok, with what is, in the NOW.

Kartik Poornima Festival by Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation
Kartik Poornima Festival by Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation

Is it possible for anyone without a prior dancing experience to attend the workshop and gain useful knowledge or only trained dancers would benefit?
Actually it’s the non-dancers who tend to benefit most. They come with no prejudices or programs in their body, they come to learn something new and be open to it – and that’s a wonderful quality to have while learning this beautiful dance form. So most of the participants are normally non dancers and it’s not a pre-requisite to have prior dance experience for this workshop.

Does Sufi Whirling need to be practised as a routine or need further training before one can start practicing?
This is a process oriented experiential workshop. One does not have to have a regular daily routine and yet sometimes if one does that’s great too. They may find their day to be more calm, the mind more clear and a general sense of better organization and energy. It’s also ok to do it irregularly at a class and letting the class be their process and experience until their next class. There are no strong rules to it.

Sufi Calling – A Workshop
Venue: Temperance, Bandra
Date: Sunday, 8th July
Time: 10 am to 3 pm
Cost: Rs 3000, inclusive of lunch that will be served during the workshop
Contact: 98338 33270

So go on and explore something new this weekend. And if you do, I would love to know how was your experience with the divinity within.

Post By Garima Sharma (111 Posts)

Founding Editor at MumbaiMag, graffiti and street art lover, traveller, blogger and amateur photographer, slave to Thor, my Lab.

Connect

Garima Sharma

Garima Sharma
Founding Editor at MumbaiMag, graffiti and street art lover, traveller, blogger and amateur photographer, slave to Thor, my Lab.