Pakistan, Turkey some cultural Spotlights

Pakistan, Turkey some cultural Spotlights

Written By : Prof Nilofer sultana

The cultural affinity and the strong emotional bonds that we share with Turkey cannot be over-emphasized. We pray that these bonds keep on strengthening with time. Those who have visited Turkey must be familiar with something called Boncuk. It is an ornamental stone available
       . We all know that the people of the wonderland called Turkey exude an aura of cordiality, warmth and graciousness. Those who have visited Turkey must have experienced the pleasurable taste of Turkish hospitality. It is with their congenital friendliness that the visitors are unconditionally invited for a simmering cup of tea and even dinner. For them the guests are like a blessing from God and should be solicitously greeted with sunny smiles. We from Pakistan genuinely share such glorious traditions with the people of Turkey. Despite the modern day hectic schedules we welcome the guests with a cheerful Salam, Marhaba. Xenophobia is alien to both our cultures.
        The cultural affinity and the strong emotional bonds that we share with Turkey cannot be over-emphasized. We pray that these bonds keep on strengthening with time. Those who have visited Turkey must be familiar with something called Boncuk. It is an ornamental stone available everywhere even in the Egyptian Street in Istanbul . Bancuk is a magic stone that believably wards off an evil eye or ‘Nazar’ that like Turkey, we in Pakistan also believe, can crack even the hardest of rocks. In Turkey Bancuk is affixed to the crib or clothes of the new-born baby to dispel the effects of Nazar. In Pakistan, the mothers and grandmothers put a black mark on a baby’s roseate cheeks to protect him/her from the dire effects of an evil eye.
          Change, evolution, progress are the quintessential elements of time. With the lapse of time the elements of heterogeneity, urbanization, modernization, have made palpable changes in the social and cultural milieu of Turkey. Tracing the journey of civilization from the days of Ottoman Empire, to the modern Secular State, there are visible blends of tradition and modernization in its societal set up. Same is the case with Pakistan. Certain traditions are, however, deeply and indelibly rooted in the historical backdrops and such traditions continue to enrich the culture as if timelessly. Turkish Hamam is an institutionalized tradition in Turkey that to this day speaks of the Turkish emphasis on cleanliness, egalitarianism, and societal interaction. Traditionally it is not acceptable in Turkey that visitors should enter a house with the shoes on—a practice that many people in Pakistan also follow to this day.
        The Dervesh Dance in Turkey is a vivid reflection of Sufi-ism that commonly characterizes the religious and cultural backgrounds of the two countries. The whirling Dervishes rekindle the memories of Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi, the mystic philosopher who migrated to the Anatolian City of Konya and his shrine is still thronged by the pilgrims. As we know, Sufi-ism or Tassawaf, is a science whose objective is the repatriation and cleansing of heart, turning it away from all else but God—it is a continuous and consistent process of purifying the inner self , purging it from all things negative and connecting the heart with the supremacy of God. Shah Shams Tabrez, Rumi’s mentor says,
                       Lover’s nationality is separate from all other religions
                       The lover’s religion and nationality is the beloved God.
In a similar vein Malana Rumi says,
                            Each atom of my body cries out separately,
                                    Glory be to God.
        Sufi-ism is related to a number of devotional practices like Murraqaba (meditation) Dhikr , the verbal remembrance of God, Dhikr-e-Qalb (Remembrance of Allah by heartbeats) Sama, ecstasy, trance or Wajd. This trance, a state of ecstasy is reflected in the Sufi ritual of Dervesh Dancing. Qawwali is a form of Dhikr (zikar)   or the remembrance of God that often echoes in the precincts of shrines and darbars both in Pakistan and Turkey. The Sama sessions or Mahafil Sema are akin to qawallis , a devotional mode of dhikr or remembrance of God. Dhamals or the dances in a state of trance and rapturous self-forgetfulness, are performed at various shrines and tekiyas in Pakistan. Qawwalis are a regular feature of the famous shrine in Lahore, the darbar of Data Ganj Baksh. Data Sahib or Abu-al-Hassan Ali Hajweri, the author of ‘Kashful Mahjoob’ (Unveiling the Veiled) was the revered sufi saint of the 11th Century. His shrine symbolizes charity and egalitarianism and is thronged by the devotees. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan often recited his melodious and soul-stirring qawwalis at the shrine of Data Sahib. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a renowned Classical singer ( who had mastery over all genres of music) was featured in the list of Asian heroes by the Times magazine. He also worked with Peter Gabriel for the soundtrack of some Hollywood movies. Allan Faqir and Sain Zahoor are the leading Sufi musicians of Pakistan. Sain Zahoor has spent his life , singing at the Sufi shrines.  He won the BBC award in 2006. The shrines of Sachal Sarmast (Sachal sarmast literally means the truthful mystic) and Baba Bulleh Shah’s shrine in Kasur are also thronged by the devotees. Abida Parween is one one of the foremost exponents of Sufi music in Pakistan. Sabri brothers and the offspring Amjad Sabri are world famous singers of Qawwali. Latif Bolat of Turkey is famous for his folk songs and his devotional Sufi songs. His fame has assumed global dimensions. The San Francisco Weekly offers tributes to Latif Bolat in these words.
“ His walnut voice rolls without effect from his body and wafts into highest reaches of the balcony, causing many in the crowd to bow their heads in supplication. .”
   The California Art Council rewarded Bolat with a grant for his contribution to the preservation of Turkish traditional music and his ecstatic devotional songs. Similarly Omer Faruk born in Adana Turkey, who mastered many musical instruments and was a student of Sufi-ism, has sung a number of devotional songs. Mysticism, folklore, romance and imagination are said to be the cornerstones of his music.
              Classical music is said be basis of all genres of music. Both in Pakistan and Turkey Classical music has played its dominant role in grooming and polishing the musical abilities of singers and composers. In Pakistan various ‘Gharanas’ or families of singers have upheld the classical music with all its vital and subtle nuances. Ustad Salamat Ali, Ammanat Ali and others are the pillars of Classical music. Necdet Yasar is the living master of Turkish Classical music. It is heartening to say that both in Pakistan and Turkey, the Sufi music and pure Classical music is held in high esteem.  Similarly folk songs that generally vivify and mirror the cultural norms, the daily events the routine customs and social practices have been and are still popular in both the countries.
                    The world is said to be a small global village and no country can or should barricade its frontiers to the changes, trends and developments in any field of Art including music. The light music, pop and rock music has made palpable impacts on the arena of music both in Turkey and Pakistan. There is a long list of popular modern singers in Pakistan who have won distinction and acclaim far beyond the borders of our country like Ali Azmat, Rahat Fateh Ali khan, Ali Zafar, Adnan Sami, to name just a few. Their lilting tuneful and melodic voices have won the hearts of music lovers, throughout the world and their music albums are sold in millions. Sertab Ereven of Turkey has also swept the markets with his albums and he is loved for his really sweet voice. In 2006, he released the album of his English songs too. TARKAN is a successful award winning pop singer in Tirkey and his platinum selling albums are a craze for the aficionados of music. Sezan Aksa  is said to be the queen of modern pop music. Suna Koradi is a very gifted singer who has touched millions of hearts with her powerful voice. . A number of women singers in Pakistan have made a laudable contribution to the modern trends in music like Hadiqa Kiyani. There are many rock bands in both the countries. Military bands too have been popular. Patriotic songs to embolden the soldiers are also a part of the music world. One cannot forget the heart-warming patriotic songs, sung by Noor Jehan and Mehdi Hassan in Pakistan.
         Like music, the field of Literature has also undergone a perceptible change from the Classical to the modern genres of literary expressions. All the genres of Literature, poetry, novel, short story have been the modes of dominant literary expressions in the two countries. The novel writers of Pakistan have won world wide fame and acclaim along with many covetous awards. Novelists like Nasim Hijazi, Bano Qudsia, Bapsi Sidhwa and others have a vast readership. Some writers of Pakistani origin settled abroad are creating waves as novelists. Orhan Pamuk of Turkey has a world-wide fame as a novelist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. His novels have been sold in millions in more than 50 languages, across the world. Pamuk was one among the jury members at the Carnes Film Festival in 2007. Women writers have created their own enviable place as novelists in both the countries. In Pakistan the women novelists like Bano Qudsia, Razia Fasih Ahmed and others have won awards for their epoch-making works as novelists. Halida Edip Adivari of Turkey is renowned as an analytical novelist and she often weaves her storylines around the indomitable courage of women.
                           In the Ottoman Divan poetry, we find many poetic expressions like similes (Similitude or Tashbih) metaphors or symbolic references or the Istiara, Mirat-un Nazir, and opposite or Tazzad that are marked features of Urdu poetry in our country widely used by many eminent poets like Faiz, Ahmed Faraz and others. There are many poetic references like ‘Gulshan’ (Rose garden) Gul (Rose), Bulbul (nightingale) Zahid (Ascetic that we find in Persian, Urdu and Turkish poetry. Witticism, humour and irony are a famous part of literary expressions. In Pakistan many writers have won name and acclaim for the element of humour in their narrations like Shafique-ur-Rehman, Col. Muhammad Khan and the late Sadiq Salik We are all familiar with the name of Nasreddin Hodja, of Turkey  whose witty jokes apparently foolish embodied a world of wisdom. Romantic poetry has been and is popular in Turkey and Pakistan as it is almost all over the world. People in Pakistan worshipfully love Ghalib, Ahmed Faraz etc, for the unmistakable element of romance in their poetry. Ghazal is the prominent form of poetry in which we find subtle touches and pulsating under-currents of romance and we in Pakistan and Turkey have been strong proponents of Ghazal. Bahcet Necca was famous for his allegorical poems, in Turkey. Nazim Hikmet wrote beautiful love poems. He says,
                               “Thinking of you is pretty hopeful,
                              It is like listening to the most beautiful song.”
The metaphorical allusion, with all its subtle nuances touches the heart in couplets like this.
        There is so much in Turkey that fascinates, mesmerizes and enthralls the visitors. We have heard so much about the colourful wedding ceremonies here. The henna night (Kina Gecesi) or ‘mehndi in Pakistan are important prelude to the weddings both in Turkey and Pakistan. In this ceremony, henna is applied to the bride only by the women who are happily married- a superstition that is common to both the countries.
      The hubble-bubble or the nargileh, the coffee shops across the streets of Turkey seem to remind one of the congenital Turkish penchant, for friendly social gatherings and togetherness in an ambience of calm and relaxation. We find these in Pakistan too. In both these countries, despite the multifarious daily pre-occupations we try to spare quality time for our friends, relatives, guests and neighbours as a Turkish saying goes, “A cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship.” The samovar in the tea gardens and kehve shops reminds one of these undying and beautiful traditions. Giving gifts is a symbol of closeness and cordiality and exchange of gifts definitely strengthens the bonds of love and harmony. In both the countries lavish gifts are doled out to the bride and bridegroom on the occasion of their marriage.When we are invited to a dinner or lunch, it is customary to take a gift of cooked dish, sweets or chocolates etc. If we take a cooked home-made dish, the bowl is never returned empty by the host. On deaths it is important for the relatives, friends or neighbours to provide the bereaved family members and their guests with meals. Such gestures are reflective of mutual care, concern and love.  One of the rather old customs that I love about Turkey particularly Anatolia is that of planting trees, maple, apple or any, in the name of the new-bon babies. In Pakistan too various rites are performed on the birth of a child.
              One of the common and a propitious features that we share with each other is the gradual expansion in the role of women in various walks of life A number of professions are open to women and the women entrepreneurs are not an exceptional phenomenon. Women got the right to vote in Turkey in 1930 whereas in France women were entitled to this right in the 1940s.In Pakistan women have their specified seats in the National and Provincial assemblies. Tansu Panba Ciller was the first woman Prime Minister of Turkey and in Pakistan Benazir Bhutto was twice elected as the Prime Minister. Both the countries still believe in extended families though the trend of nuclear families is growing with time.
              A diversity of games are popular both in Turkey and Pakistan. Grease or oil wrestling is one of the traditional national sports of Turkey. In Pakistan there have been many renowned families of traditional ‘pahlawans’ or wrestlers. Ciril Oyunu, a game similar to polo is also played in Turkey. In Pakistan the Shindoor Polo Festival is a gala sport event, loved and looked forward to by the polo lovers. Basket ball, Soccer and Volley ball are popular games in Turkey. In Pakistan, the hockey, cricket and squash players have won laurels in international matches. The sports and athletes of Turkey have also won a world-wide recognition. Women participation in sports is also increasing in both the countries. Women are winning medals in international sport events. Nasim Hamid of Pakistan is a gold medalist in a marathon event. Ayhan Surraya is a very famous Turkish woman athlete, a world champion runner and a winner of gold medal in Munich.
               Turkey is a land of festivities and festivals. We celebrate two Eids the religious festivals in a year in Pakistan and Turkey. After Ramadhan, we celebrate the festival that is called Seker Bayram or the festival of sugar in Turkey. In Pakistan we call it the ‘Methi (Sweet ) Eid usually celebrated with sweet meats particularly vermicelli. The other is Kurban Bayram in Turkey called Eid ul Azha or Eid ul Qurban in Pakistan. This brings me to the unparalleled Turkish cuisine and the Turkish Sweet delights that are famous the world over. The mouth watering ‘Baklawa is one of the most delectable desserts in the world. The Turkish cuisine is as variegated as its exotic cultural mosaic a fusion of Central Asian Middle Eastern and Turkish Cuisines. The Star of the kitchen is the variety of cooked rice Pullav, quite similar to the Pullao in Pakistan that is considered be the choicest dish of various feasts. Most of us are familiar with or have heard about Turkish dishes like Dolma (stuffed vegetables) Dona Kebabs, Sikander Kebabas Koftas and off course yougurt mixed with fried eggplants and pepper that we in Pakistan relish as a widely consumed summer dish called ‘Burhani’ We have many eateries in Pakistan offering the tasty ‘Shorma’ similar to the kebabs here. As the tourists and visitors gourmandize in Turkey, the friendly Turkish people surely say ‘Afiyet Olsin’ ( Bon appetite) ..
         We are  truly and genuinely happy to be in the land of enchanting Bosphorus, the land of majestic mosques and towering minarets. The Mosques and buildings here seem to speak volumes about the architectural perfection attained in Turkey. Every peace of architecture is a miracle of rare device. We as visitors are definitely overwhelmed with emotions of profound gratitude and friendship whenever we go to Turkey
Prof. Nilofer Sultana