Monday, January 02, 2006

Was Nasruddin Hodja for real?

Nasreddin (also commonly spelled Nasrudin, Nasredin, Nasruddin, Nasr Eddin, Nastradhin, Nasreddine, Nastratin, Nusrettin) was a lower Muslim cleric who lived in Central Asia during the Middle Ages. His name is often preceded or followed by the title of a religious scholar, theological teacher, or man of wisdom: "Khwaje", "Hodja", "Hoca", "Hogea", "Hodza", "Chotzas", "Mullah", "Mulla", "Molla", "Maulana".
Nasreddin was a populist philosopher and wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. He often appears as a whimsical character of a large Persian, Arab, and Turkish folk tradition of vignettes, not entirely different from zen koans.
Where and when he was born, and where and when he died, are not known with certainty, but he is usually assumed to have lived in Anatolia or Persia between the 11th and the 14th century. He is well known among various Eastern people. Possibly due to the fact that his stories are shared among pilgrims to Mecca, his humor is familiar, under different names, to people from China, Central Asia, and Morocco. There is a modern tomb dedicated to him in the city of Akşehir in Turkey. He is also the symbol of Akşehir, which hosts several statues of Nasreddin Hoca and an international festival dedicated to him. The city of Bukhara in Uzbekistan also has a statue of him riding his donkey backwards and grasping its tail (as he is traditionally depicted), and journals bear his name in Baku (Azerbaijan) and Tabriz (Iran).

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