Raving about Sufism, yoga and dervishes on Goa beach

Ashwem Beach (Goa), Dec 25: For a change there wasn’t a raucous rave thump but calm chants on a Goa beach. And instead of drug and alcohol induced stupor, there was what organisers of India’s first yoga festival preferred to call a healing aura.

Zambhala, India’s first yoga, music and life spirit festival comprising of mystic Sufism, dervishes from Istanbul, Tibetan healers, a Shaolin monk and international yoga teachers, concluded Sunday at the still relatively exclusive Ashwem beach, 50 km from Panaji.

Its organiser Martin Da’Costa, chief operating officer of Seventy Event Media Group, claims the debut was great and Goa’s shores could beckon subsequent editions of the festival too.

“Zambhala is a festival which brought together the best yoga experts, spiritual teachers, practitioners and healers from India and across the world. It was a curated mix of live entertainment, spirituality, music and dance,” Da’Costa told IANS.

Through Dec 21 and 22, Ashwem beach looked like none of the other Goa beaches, which are otherwise known to tourists across India as well as the world as a major narco as well as rave destination.

Men and women with rolled yoga mats tucked into their armpits, light-textured tent flaps flapping in the beach wind, light, soothing music wafting around added a layer of mystique to the beach and its surrounding area.

“Visitors came looking for peace, solace and engage in a multitude of activities which included five kinds of yoga, Sufi whirling, Shamanism, Learning & knowing mind, body & soul and Crystal healing,” Da’Costa said.

He added that the two-day festival also featured workshops on different mediation techniques, chanting, group channelling and astro-gazing.

The retreat also featured famous exponents of the Iyengar school of yoga to some of the world’s best known yoga teachers like Jehangir Palkhivala and Deepika Mehta from India, Eoin Finn from Canada, Janet Stone from California and Duncan Wong, who has previously taught global entertainers like Madonna.

The mix of masters grew even curiouser with the presence of Geshe Lhakdor-la, director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala and a former aide to the Dalai Lama, Zia Nath, a Sufi whirler, and Syed Salman Chishty from the Chishty Foundation in Ajmer Dargah.

“Sufi whirling is like a kind of meditation. It’s an organic process. Many people are unable to meditate or release the negative emotions they carry. But dancing and especially Sufi whirling helps participants to centre themselves, create a balance of sorts and feel a sense of stillness inside,” Nath told IANS after delivering an impassioned talk.

Asked about the future of the event, director (special projects) of the Seventy Event Media Group Darayash Gocal said the attempt was to build the festival as the Indian answer to the Glastonbury festival, a globally popular festival of contemporary art held annually at Somerset, England.

“India is the spiritual home of yoga and the search for personal enlightenment and it’s incredibly exciting to create the Zambhala Festival here,” Gocal said.

“In a sense, we are building India’s Glastonbury Festival, with yoga and spirituality at the heart of it,” he said.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

IANS