Home to the oldest market in Southeast Europe, birthplace of renowned personalities who 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 continues to play a crucial role in Gjakova 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 Virabhadrasana III pose is dedicated to the strength of the Grand Bazaar. Just like the fierce warrior with one thousand heads, one thousand eyes, and one thousand feet, wielding a thousand clubs, the Grand Bazaar has persevered with its resilience throughout centuries.
The role of the Grand Bazaar is deeply ingrained and even reflected in the distinct ‘subculture’ of Gjakovars, who are known throughout Kosovo as skilled tradesmen and art lovers.
We dedicate the half-moon pose, Ardha Chandrasana, to introduce our next landmark, the Teqja e Madhe (Big Tekke). The moon has a special significance in yoga, symbolizing two polar energies of the human body. Gjakova, like the rest of Kosovo, is known for cherishing tolerance between different religions and other smaller religious sects.
A walk through the tunnel and down to the street leads to the Teqja e Madhe (also known as the Big Autocephalous Balcanic Tekke, one of the dervish/Sufi temples built 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, dating back to the 16th century, was established by Sheh Sulejman Axhiza Baba, originally from the Bushati family in Shkoder, Albania (Bushatlinjet). The Grand Tekke and the Mosque of Hadum marked the early dwellings of present-day Gjakova.
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, his successors have lived and in the region.
One of his great-great-grandsons, Musa Shehu (Musa Shehzade), aside from continuing the dervish traditions in Prizren, also served as the first prefect of the town of Prizren and leader of the Second League of Prizren (1943), created to protect and unify the ethnic Albanian territories. While his dedication to preserving the culture led to his murder, Musa Shehzade’s 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. There are also the samahanes, where religious ceremonies take place as well as the residential parts, where the family in charge of the tekke lived.
We are here at the front of the Big Tekke in Gjakova. I have chosen this specific pose, Reverse Warrior pose, Viparita Virabhadrasana, opening from the heart and facing the light, to honor my ancestors, my fourth-removed grandfather, my grandmother’s grandfather, Musa Shehzade.
Thanks to this little discovery and thrilled to have mapped out this tiny bit of our lineage, my sister 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 working.
Gjakova is one of the six cities/towns in Kosovo that was home to the Sahat Kullas built during the Ottoman Empire’s rule. The clock tower was built in response to the growing economic development of Gjakova to comply with society’s needs to show working hours.
After it was burned to the ground during the war, the Sahat Kulla was rebuilt and now stands proudly on the center of Gjakova, as a reminder to the people that strength and patience are necessary for recovery.
As we approach the end of our tour, 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 the head of the tekke, designed his tekke and other buildings in Gjakova.
The Sheh Emini Tekke is home to more than 300 pieces of literature from the Ottoman-Turkish period. Natarajasana, the Dancer pose, is dedicated to this landmark, as a symbol of the characteristic dances performed by some of the various sects that peacefully coexist in Gjakova and other towns.
(Photos by Rina Hapçiu)