Who is Nasreddin Hodja

PLease click here for a bigger viewNasreddin Hodja picture.
Original is in the Topkapi Palace Museum.
XVIIth. century hand written book
(Topkapi Palace Museum Library Cat. No. 2142).

(Please click on the picture to see a larger image)

We, the people in Turkey are all familiar with the jokes and stories of Nasreddin Hodja. Since our childhood, we have been hearing these jokes all along. These funny stories are part of our culture. The whole thing dates back to the man, Nasreddin Hodja who has lived in central Turkey, in the small town called Aksheir. The jokes were part of his daily life and they became accepted and welcomed by the public since his time.

The tomb of Nasreddin Hodja in Aksehir, TurkeyHe was a man with great humor, he was very clever and had an answer to almost all the problems and the dilemmas of his time. Even today, about 600 years after he has lived and passed away, we still laugh and think about his tricks, common sense, ridicule, anecdotes, wit, leg pulling, practicality and ingeniousness. Every person and every institution of the Turkish society has received a criticism or remark from his philosophical mind. He did not spare his satire for the state, religion, culture or habits. All of the human psychology and social weaknesses received their part of laugh from him. He has seen the human element in each aspect of the everyday life and has used his wit to make everybody aware of the other side of the reality. That is why his jokes are still alive today.

Statue of Nasreddin HodjaHe has lived in 13th century, he still lives among us with his jokes. According to the historical documents we have, we are not very sure of his exact birth date or exactly how he has lived. According to some stories, he was in life when Tamerlane invaded Anatolia in 15th century. Some says he lived before or after Tamerlane. Some findings indicate that he has died between 1284-1285. On the wall of his tomb in Aksheir, the date of his death is inscribed as 1383. There is a town called Sivrihisar near the city of Eskisehir in Anatolia where he was born. The tomb of his sister Fatima is there who has died in 1327, 43 years after his death. According to a book called "Saltukname" which dates back to 1480, he was born in Sivrihisar and the people from this town have been well known for their ridicule and uniqueness. Another handwritten book from Biblioteque National in Paris also mentions the mentality of the people living in Sivrihisar. We can say that he was born in Sivrihisar of Eskisehir and has died in Aksheir in 1284, near the city of Konya.

Stop in AksehirNasr-ed-Din means "Victory of Faith", Hodja means the "Master" or "Teacher". He has received this honorable title later in his life. His father was a religious leader called imam. He was schooled in the Hanafiya school near Konya where he learned the Islamic religious essentials and legal teachings. After this education, he became "Imam" which is the leader of the public prayers in the mosque. He also qualified to become "Kadi" which is the person who distributes the religious law. He was a man of humor and was very clever. There are many anecdotes and remarks describing his humor. He was also a well accepted public figure. Not all of his stories was humorous. Since his time, other stories and jokes were also thought to be said by him. Actually, we can consider that his jokes and stories were started to be created by his time by himself and by the people of Anatolia and this process has continued over the centuries. Today these jokes belong to Turkish people. His stories reflect not only his life as a native of Anatolia but also his time and the life of the Turkish people living at that time in Anatolia.

His stories can be catagorised as reflecting the following main themes of life:

His jokes and stories are told today by the people of different countries and his jokes have been translated to many languages.
Between July 5-10 of each year, International Nasreddin Hodja Festival takes place in Aksheir, where his tomb is. Turkish artists have used Nasreddin Hodja in theater pieces, in music, in movies, in cartoons and in paintings.
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