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Istanbul:
Where Nothing Else Matters -
Postcard From Turkey

DYA SINGH

 

 

 





Istanbul.

The name has always conjured the magic of Ali Baba and the Arabian Nights, coupled with Christian crusading knights and Salahuddin the Great and his Muslim warriors.

Of whirling dervishes and Sufism …

Or was I just stuck between American/British made movies about the genie and the lamp, dates, oases and sandy deserts? Was I confusing Baghdad and maybe Cairo with Istanbul?

It did not matter. The magic of this place placed it right there with what my childhood dreams are about: the confluence of the mysterious East and the West.

Then there is this mystery that our Baba (Nanak) might have passed through on his way to visit Italy and the the Pope. All seemingly far-fetched but with a certain romanticism, escapism and … magic. 

My group was on assignment to do a location wedding and I was certainly not going to miss the opportunity. The event was held in the Ciragan Palace, Kempinsky by the Bhosphorus straits and it was GRAND – in itself a highlight of my musical endeavours to date.

Yes, Istanbul had everything I had imagined – balmy Mediterranean days and nights; grand mosques and palaces; the Grand Bazaar – right out of the Arabian Nights; Europe on one half of the sprawling city, Asia on the other.

There are even dolphins in the straits!

I was told not to miss the Hagia Sophia opposite the Blue Mosque which was built as a church and then turned into a mosque. Then the beautiful intricate mosaic was discovered underneath – so some of it is now uncovered giving this building a very interesting layered history. I wonder whether it now qualifies as a ‘chosque’ or a ‘murch’ – a mixture of mosque or church. Anyway, for posterity it is now a museum.

This is my first trip to these parts. I have read a great deal about this region, the gateway to the mysterious East from Europe … Marco Polo and all that. But to be here was itself magical.

Besides the touristy sights, including the impressive Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar, Bhosphorus cruises amongst the dolphins, Turkish coffee and apple tea, it was great listening to the stories of the locals.

As I sat for breakfast at the Radisson Blu on the European side of the Bhosphorus staring out towards the Golden Horn river inlet on one side and the Bhosphorus flowing southwards to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea, I heard some lovely romantic stories. I shall tell you just one.

The Maître-d pointed out a beautiful blue-tinged mosque on the far Asian side of the Bhosphorus. He said that there was a similar mosque on the far southern European side of the majestic Blue Mosque which we could see from our vantage point, and told me that those two mosques are similar and made by the same architect.

The architect had fallen in love with the then sultan’s daughter and he built these two mosques in such a manner, with huge glass sides that on one day of the year at dusk, both lit up with the setting sun in the west and the full moon rising on the east. This was an expression of his love for the sultan’s daughter, since they only met once a year.

Wanting to know more, I asked – “So, did he get his beloved and they lived happily ever after?”

He looked at me quizzically and said quite matter-of-factly, “I don’t know. Does it matter?”

Both of us burst out laughing.

Then, this mysterious monument by a sultan for the Sufi pir from the East. After poring over details on google which gave no clue of its exact location, my daughter and son-in-law blitzed facebook asking for information and we struck lucky.

We were pointed towards the Dolmabahce Palace/Museum.

We hunted for it in the grounds and right up to the mosque of the same name but without success. In frustration we left as one of our team was on his way to the airport. Then, quite by chance we spotted it right beyond a mosque also named Dolmabahce towards the centre of the city.

So, it is situated in the park between the Dolmabahce Mosque and a petrol/gas station along the Bhosphorus – about 15 feet high and about six feet wide. We have taken a clear picture of the words in Arabic and again, put them out on facebook for someone to give us a first-hand translation. All I can gather from google/sikhiwiki is that the first line is legible and says ‘The Lord of the time, resident of India, Nanak the man of God’.

I found that the same words are written on the other side and quite legible.

Anyway, we hope to authenticate the wording and its meaning and we shall approach the Turkish embassy here in Melbourne and see if an English translation can be placed by the monument.

Wonder why some Sikhs have not already done so. Whether it is what we think it is or not, it was quite a moving moment for all the Sikhs in our team to be there and we dutifully paid our respects and took the mandatory pictures. I shall inform readers whatever transpires.

We spent five beautiful and memorable days here, partially because the wedding was choreographed with good taste and was a highly successful event but more so, because of the location, and the confluence of cultures.

I was half hoping to stumble across one of my screen idols, Omar Sharif, who I believe lives here and comes for breakfast on the Bhosphorus, but it was not to be.

By the way Turkish coffee in Turkey tastes just as foul as Turkish coffee in Melbourne!



June 25, 2015
 

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), June 25, 2015, 1:34 PM.

Dya ji, what a lovely write-up. I nearly missed it and then suddenly I saw 'Nanak' and then scrolled up to see who had written it. Lo and behold it was our Dya with his impeccable travelogue worthy of a book. You will never go hungry. You can sing for it. As a back up, you could write with equal aplomb, if not more. Surprisingly no Sikh has written about Guru Nanak's visit to Turkey. But glad you found a reference in the Dolmabahce Palace. I think it should be a subject for your Sikh Youth Camp coming up soon in Australia.

2: Baldev Singh  (Bradford, United Kingdom), June 25, 2015, 6:43 PM.

This is quite extraordinary! On a personal note, I visit several gurdwaras which mark where Guru Nanak had visited, including my favourite in a place called Burdwan in West Bengal, around 70 miles from Calcutta.

3: Dalbir Singh (Seremban, Malaysia), June 25, 2015, 8:21 PM.

It is an eye opener to learn that our Guru Sahib met the Pope so long ago. We need more research and info on this.

4: Ramesh Lal (Bournemouth, United Kingdom), June 26, 2015, 1:45 AM.

Bhai Sahib, your literary skills are laudable. Can almost feel your experience as if we were traveling with you. Keep more coming!

5: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), June 26, 2015, 3:09 AM.

In his third Great Journey (Udaasi), when Guru Nanak was returning to Punjab from Baghdad, he went first to Turkistan (Turkey)and met up with a pir. Guru Nanak and the pir's name are identified the monument in Turkish. Thereafter Guru Sahib returned via Iran and Afghanistan to settle in Punjab permanantly. This Journey was between the years 1518 and 1521.

6: Manjit Singh Bara Pindia (Canada), June 26, 2015, 4:32 AM.

The discovery of this monument was first reported in or about 1994. Since then I read two articles published in a Sikh journal in Ottawa - the first one, "Monument of Guru Nanak in Istanbul, Turkey" in 2006, and another in 2007.

7: Ranjit Singh Sidhu & Sumathy (Taiping, Malaysia), June 26, 2015, 7:01 AM.

Dya Veer ji: Have been following your Turkish trip on Facebook and your travel log. The amazing things you find on your travels don't amaze me. Waheguru has his firm hand on you, dear brother.

8: Hardev Singh Virk (Canada), June 26, 2015, 9:18 AM.

Bhai Dya Singh: I always enjoy your literary skill in writing. However, Dr Davinder Singh Chahal of Montreal had published in his journal about the monument, reading: 'The Lord of the time, resident of India, Nanak the man of God.' I wrote about his discovery in the Punjabi Tribune and Spokesman in 2006 but he later withdrew it. During my visit to Istanbul University in 2001, I also noted this monument but did not bother to verify its authenticity.

9: Bhavdeep Singh (New Jersey, USA), June 28, 2015, 6:41 AM.

Dya Singh ji - what a wonderful write up! While I have never been to Istanbul, you have peaked my curiosity enough that I will now put it on my list of places to visit. I particularly love your story of the dialogue between you and the Maitre d' - priceless!

10: Baljeet Singh (USA), July 07, 2015, 9:22 AM.

I hope things will be researched properly before making these ideas part of our history.

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Where Nothing Else Matters -
Postcard From Turkey"









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