By Talha Ozturk
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) - Thousands of Muslims, especially from Turkey, joined the gathering in Bosnia Sunday on the 507th anniversary of Ajvatovica Grandfather Ajvaz event to celebrate a legendary local miracle from a half-millennium ago.
They made the pilgrimage to Prusac, a small, uncommercialized town in central Bosnia and Herzegovina for what is billed as the largest Islamic traditional, religious, and cultural event in Europe.
The Ajvatovica event, named after Sufi dervish Ajvaz Dede (Grandfather Ajvaz), marks the 507th anniversary of the rock-dividing story.
The event featured a display of dozens of flag-festooned horses from all over Bosnia, prayers amid the divided rock, food, and Islamic songs.
Ajvaz is said to have arrived in Bosnia from western Anatolia with the conquering Ottoman armies in 1463.
According to the story, Ajvaz Dede prayed for water for 40 days and 40 nights in the middle of a long drought.
He then found a spring of water on a mountain near the village, but the spring had been blocked by a massive rock, spanning nearly 100 meters long and 30 meters wide.
But Ajvaz Dede kept praying and on the 40th morning, Ajvaz dreamed that two white rams had collided and split the rock.
When he woke from his dream, he saw that the rock had miraculously split in two, releasing the spring.
The event was considered a sign of Allah's blessing.
Since then, every year people go on pilgrimages to the place where the rock split, after a long eight-kilometer walk.
Thousands of people prayed in the place where the rocks were split and water was believed to have come out. There Hafiz Erhan Mete from Istanbul's Eyup Sultan Mosque read the prayer this year at the 507th anniversary.
Later, the crowd watched a show of Ottoman military band of Turkish Armed Forces and a show of whirling dervishes from Karabas-i Veli Dergahi Cultural Center from Bursa, Turkey.
Turkey's Ambassador to Sarajevo, Haldun Koc pointed out that Turkey and Bosnia Herzegovina cross in many areas.
"Ayvaz Dede is one of the intersection points of the two countries," said Koc.
The Turkish Scouting Federation also participated in the festivities and said that this year, there were emotional moments like every year.
During the communist era, the Yugoslav government banned the gathering, until the beginning of the 1990s.
Local observers’ estimates of this year’s attendance varied widely, from 7,000 to as many as 10,000.
The event ended after noon prayers.