From Friday 29 September to 1 October 2017, I attended my first Tattva festival. True to form, I had heard about it from a fellow YIF-er and had immediately signed up, thinking I would figure it out as I went along. On the face of it, Tattva is a three-day immersive festival of dance, meditation, art and radical expression, located on the grounds of Zorba the Buddha. In reality, it is much more than that. All the workshops are conducted free of charge and the only expense is for accommodation and food, which are very reasonably priced. There are different kinds of accommodation available: either a communal dorm, tent or single rooms. We had chosen to stay in a tent and this greatly lent to the community vibes. The Tattvan community trades in gift culture only – so once you enter the Zorba grounds money becomes obsolete. Whatever you need, the Tattvan community will provide.
The premises of Zorba the Buddha are beautiful. Located just beyond Ghirini metro station it is a self-contained eco system/spiritual centre/universe of its own filled with fairy lights, nature and beauty. It is also child-friendly. I kept remarking that had my parents brought me to Tattva as a child, I would have legitimately thought that I had jumped inside one of my fairy tales. I rocked up with a very hazy idea of what I would be doing and was immediately drafted in to painting a welcome home sign and being asked about paint choices and pairings. I tried desperately to explain to the others that I had no authority to be making paint choices but it seemed that people were genuinely interested in hearing what I had to say. Next, I was out to work shredding rose petals to make a mandella. People started to arrive in drips and drabs and assembled for the opening ceremony which involved a lot of drums and dancing. This would be continued in to the night and over the course of the next few days. People would just randomly start jamming together at every twist and turn.
I initially thought that we would be slowly eased in to the Tattvan way of life. At the opening ceremony, all of us stood in a circle, holding hands with us all of the baggage, perceptions and judgement that we carry with us each day. We were asked to turn to the person next to us and to look in to their eyes, silently, for several minutes. It struck me how I haven’t looked properly in to a stranger’s eyes in a very long time. It also struck me how deeply uncomfortable I was with that kind of intimacy. This concept of “stranger” or viewing people as a stranger was later picked up in a workshop. Someone very poignantly made the point that isn’t everyone a stranger until they become a friend? And therefore, why should be treat them so differently, to put up a barrier, to deny them that courtesy or that respect until they have proven themselves to us?
Tattva offers a whole host of workshops from meditation, self-expression, painting, pottery, healing, tarot cards, Bollywood dancing, belly dancing and more.
My discomfort with touching others was again put to the test in a workshop entitled Just Be. In this workshop, we were asked to walk around the room, find a partner and feel their hands, feet and be touched by one another. This raised several objections from some of the participants who were uncomfortable with the process. What I understood is that we were trying to sensitize ourselves again to touch, having been conditioned for so long that touching someone is wrongful. Still, I can’t deny the discomfort I felt – not overwhelmingly so – but enough to make me hyper aware of what I was doing.
At Tattva, everyone is there for a reason and has committed to leaving their inhibitions at the door and entering in to the experience. In a world which relies so heavily on titles and accomplishments, Tattva forces you to redefine how you introduce yourself to others and connect in a more holistic way.
I am still trying to wrap my head around what exactly Tattva is. Many parts of it, including the atmosphere, are near impossible to encapsulate in words and must be experienced to truly understand it. What Tattva does is provide a safe space and conducive atmosphere to really open up to yourself and to others. The theme of this Tattva was “removing the mask” – the mask that we wear in our daily lives which governs how we perceive ourselves and interact with others but which constricts us from being our authentic selves. Really, Tattva is a space for expression – the level of music and dance that I was exposed to was breath-taking.
What I would say is that Tattva is not for the faint-hearted. It is a real whirlwind experience full of the wild, mystic and wonderful. It will rip you out of your comfort zone and by doing do, will force you to consider yourself and your interactions differently.
It was with bitter sweetness that we left the sacred bonfire to take the metro home. We only realized on the metro that Srishti was still wearing her face paint.
In more ways than one, we had taken a bit of Tattva with us.
For more information, please visit the Tattva website.