Yoga In Gjakova: A Salvage Of The Tradesmanship Spirit Of Kosovo.
Home to the oldest market in Southeast Europe, birthplace of renowned personalities who sustained and preserved the Albanian language and culture, and an inspiration for local artists and musicians, the stone streets of Gjakova hold many untold stories.
While the Çarshija e Madhe (the Grand Bazaar), established in the 16th (XVI century) in Gjakova, is barely known as the most ancient market in Southeast Europe, even fewer know that it housed 525 important shops and facilities five centuries ago.
The one-kilometer-long complex, even nowadays, continues to play a crucial role in the heart of the Gjakovar society, serving as a meeting point for the old and young alike, often echoing the musical performances of local bands, and giving space to tourists hunting for crafts and souvenirs.
The wooden, clay-brick, old roof tiles pave the way to the stories of Çarshija e Madhe, putting even more wonder to the complex, which has persevered throughout numerous wars.
It has managed to be rebuilt on top of ashes, and reclaim its place in the world, like the 75% of the Gjakovar people who were expelled from the town during the 1999 war in Kosovo, and returned home upon the end of clashes.
To symbolize the strength of the Çarshija e Madhe, as part of our project for Shedding light on Kosovo, my sister Rina and I decided to dedicate the Virabhadrasana III pose to this complex, the fierce warrior with a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet, wielding a thousand clubs, the Grand Bazaar has the same strength and thus has persisted throughout centuries.
The role of the Grand Bazaar is deeply ingrained and even reflected in the distinct subculture of Gjakovars, as they are known around other parts of Kosovo as skilled tradesmen and carry the tradesmanship spirit with them all around.
While in the Grand Bazaar, we dedicate the half-moon pose, Ardha Chandrasana, to introduce our next landmark, the Big Tekke.
The moon has a deep meaning in Yoga, symbolizing two polar energies of the human body, and Gjakova, like the rest of Kosovo, regardless of the various religions present, is renowned for being a place where all religions of various branches and sects have survived and flourished tolerantly for centuries, continuing to do so even today, as Kosovo remains a secular state.
We walk through the tunnel and down to the street to Teqja e Madhe, Big Tekke (also known as the Big Autocephalous Balcanic Tekke, one of the dervish temples created during the Ottoman Empire’s rule in Kosovo) the oldest tekke of the Saad Tarikat in the entire Rumelia (the old Balkan territories, under the Ottoman Empire administration).
Teqja e Madhe, in existence since the 16th-17th century (years of establishment vary from sources 1573, 1582 and/or earlier), was established by Sheh Sulejman Axhiza Baba, originally from the Bushati family in Shkoder, Albania (Bushatlinjet).
According to some literature, the Grand Tekke and the Mosque of Hadum mark the initial establishment of the Gjakova town.
As the story goes, after several years in Gjakova, Axhiza Baba continued his road to the city of Prizren, where he built the Saad Tekke in Marash, in the center of the town. For more than 400 years, the heredity has been forwarded to his descendants.
One of his great-great-grandsons, Musa Shehu (Musa Shehzade), aside from continuing the tradition in Prizren, also served as the 1st prefect of the town of Prizren, as well as the Leader of the Second League of Prizren in 1943, created for the purpose of protecting and unifying the ethnic Albanian territories.
While his dedication to preserving the culture and the people led to his murder, and the whereabouts of his ashes are unknown even today, the story continues to be told through his artistically portrayed presence and museum house in Prizren.
The most important part of the tekke is the türbe pictured below, where the saints are buried; then there are the samahanes, where religious ceremonies take place and the residential part, where the family who takes care of the tekke, lives.
We are here at the frontmost part of the Big Tekke in Gjakova, the türbe. I have chosen this specific pose, Reverse Warrior pose, Viparita Virabhadrasana, opening from the heart facing the light, to honor the way of my ancestors, my fourth-removed grandfather, my grandmother’s grandfather, Musa Shehzade.
My fourth-removed grandfather’s descendants today, those of Sheh Sulejman Axhiza Baba, who continue the tradition of helping people to live as peacefully as possible, believe that: “Our way is the way of the spirit. Through learning of the spiritual inspiration, we serve to people and the country.” ~ Sheh Musa Shehu
From this little discovery, thrilled to have mapped this tiny bit of lineage, Rina and I continue our journey around some of the other landmarks of Gjakova and stop to check the time at the Sahat Kulla (clock tower), realizing that the clock is not moving…
Gjakova is one of the six cities/towns in Kosovo that was home to the Sahat Kullas built during the Ottoman Empire’s rule. It was built in response to the growing economic development of Gjakova, to comply with the needs of society to determine local working hours.
Like the majority of the town of Gjakova, Sahat Kulla was burned to the ground in one of the Balkan wars. It was rebuilt following the end of the last war, and now fiercely stands at the center of Gjakova, as a reminder to the people that strength and patience are necessary for the time needed to rebuild and recover.
As we approach the end of our tour in the center of Gjakova, recognizing there are many more precious stories waiting to be uncovered in other parts of the town, we stop at the Teqja e Sheh Eminit (Sheh Emini’s Tekke).
It is said that Sheh Emini, who was a lawyer, and also the leader of the Tekke, was also the architect who, aside from this tekke, constructed a number of other buildings in Gjakova. The Sheh Emini Tekke is home to more than 300 pieces of literature from ancient Ottoman-Turkish.
We dedicate Natarajasana, the Dancer pose, to this landmark, as a symbol of the characteristic dances held by some of the various sects that peacefully coexist in Gjakova.
Annea Hapçiu is a graduate of the University of Dayton, deeply passionate and interested in bettering and beautifying the world, through the creation, leadership and implementation of worthy, impactful, effective and sustainable projects. Through her passions of creativity, music, performance, film and her background in Entrepreneurship and Marketing, she strives to promote and enliven her country, Kosovo, while helping and educating people to live a healthy lifestyle. You can meet her at the first Yoga studio in Kosovo, N’Yoga, or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn. Take a look at my TEDx Prishtina Women talk on a journey of branding through Yoga.