The Binding

I want to talk about all of our beliefs, prayers and wishes. In my hometown of Ahmedabad, the Sidi Saiyyed, built in 1573, is easily the most famous mosque. No visitor to the city should leave without paying a visit. The latticework in the arched window frame is an iconic image of this city. The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad has adopted this engaging work of art as its symbol. The elegantly carved Sidi Syed ni Jaali is of two trees intertwined. Palms and flowering trees make up the landscape. The palm pushes forth proud and straight with its ruffle of leaves on top. The flowering tree, gracefully entwines, more feminine with its bountiful blossoms. They are in perfect bonding, two different species as if interwoven to celebrate the diversity of nature.

Close to the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque, there is a popular vegetarian restaurant. By the restaurant, on one side, there is a tree around which people tie threads and wish – for the better and for the completion of unfulfilled dreams. The tree stands testament to all their wishes. I imagine that some had their prayers granted and they came back to tell others. Else, how can they believe? They tie threads, many pink threads, each one carrying a special request. The tree is a symbol of protection, growth and life and it holds all these bindings on its trunk. As the threads grow in number, somewhere hope increases. The act of binding is common to mankind. We all tie, but we tie in different ways. Sidi Saiyyed was an Abyssinian in the army of the Gujurat Sultanate. He tied two kinds of trees into the image of the jaali. On the tree trunk nearby, Hindus tie scarlet threads and the effect has a random energy. It allows for chance and intervention, for fate or destiny. In Japan, they tie with paper. They make exquisite knots, each one perfectly placed, a graphic designer’s delight.

Sometimes the binds are more complex, like an origami creation. The folds are minimal and the final appearance is all ordered. And when we look at these three expressions of culture, we can see how binding happens; the differences in the way we bind defines where we come from. There is yet another pattern that I see. At the bottom of the tree by the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque, they had once built a parapet around the tree for people to sit in its shade. Later this was broken and removed. Inside, the roots have taken the shape of the parapet. Unlike the web-like appearance of the threads, the roots at the bottom are all perfectly shaped as if they were cast. The jaali of the mosque is of stone, but the quality of stone is transformed to lace by the patient carving of unknown craftsmen. Yet, this was the end of the Gujarat Sultanate.

In Japan, they restrict the growth of trees in pots and make them into bonsai. Those roots too take the shape of pots. Everything seems so ordered as the notes neatly tied. Yet, if you look closely at the neat paper ties, these are letters and notes with prayers or promises. They are possibly lives that are not so ordered. Yet, we wish and pray, with this belief that there is a way to control. We are in this way engaged in the transformation of natural things, binding with nature, challenging her, challenging ourselves, wanting to shape things and form them . These are common threads that bind the universe.

By Anthony Lopez on Aug 12, 2014
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