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The housewife and the chickpea

The tale of the housewife and the chickpea in Rumi's Masnawi is redolent with meanings.

india Updated: Jan 15, 2007 17:20 IST

On January 14 and 15 the world commemorates Jalaluddin Rumi’s literary contributions to world peace. UNESCO has designated 2007 as the year of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, in order to promote his ideas of love, peace, tolerance and inter-faith harmony.

The Masnawi by Rumi is a massive poem also referred to as the "Quran in Persian". It consists of mystical tales that are rich in metaphor and meaning and shed light on every aspect of human life and provide spiritual guidance. The images and symbols are taken from everyday life. Interestingly, some tales are remarkably similar to the tales in the Panchatantra.

For instance the meaning behind the tale of the chickpea in the pot is profound. There is a ‘conversation’ between the chickpea that bubbles and boils in the pot and the housewife who smashes it and stirs it.

The housewife tells that the chick pea, which is boiling and breaking, is the preparation of the soul to meet God. But the chick pea has various subtle hidden meanings too, as the housewife talks to it about its journey from the sun, cloud and stars till it has become a soul, act, speech and thought. One cannot help but observe the marked resemblance between these beliefs about the enlightenment of the soul with those in other religions of the world.

All religions are based on a belief in the immortality of the soul and the transience of the human body and Rumi brings to us the essence of Sufism through the housewife - a symbol of an evolved soul talking about her enlightenment thus. "In the inanimate state I used to say ‘you are running to and fro in order to obtain knowledge and spiritual truths. Through this double boiling, I graduated from the strength of the senses to become spirit and finally your teacher’."

Through his writings Rumi tells us that the way to God or spiritual perfection can be gained through perfection of the self and by living in harmony with others because the universe is itself a reflection of God.

First Published: Jan 15, 2007 17:08 IST