Konya & the whirling Dervishes


Whirling Dervishes performing in Istanbul


The Whirling Dervishes (Derviches Tourneurs)
According to the Dervishes, the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no object, no being which does not revolve. The shared similarity between all created things is revolution of the electrons, protons and neutrons within the atoms that constitute their basic structure. From the smallest cell to the planets and the farthest stars, everything takes part in this revolving. The "semazens", the one who whirl participate consciously in the shared revolution of all existence.




"The Mevlevi worship ceremony is a ritual dance, or sema, representing union with God. The dervishes enter the whirling hall dressed in in long white robes with full skirts which represent their shrouds. The ceremony begins whit a chant from the hafiz, a celebrant who has committed the entire Koran to memory. By holding their right arms up, palms upward, they receive the blessings of heaven which are communicated to earth by holding their left arms down, palms downwards. Pivoting on their left heels, the dervishes whirl ever faster, reaching ecstasy with a blissful expression." (Lonely Planet) At the end of the ceremony part of the public joins the dervishes into a small prayer. As we somehow drifted into the ceremony, we were breath taken by the beauty of it all. The whirling of some of the dervishes is so smooth and linear that it feels soothing. This is by far the most beautiful way of worshipping we have ever witnessed. 



The dervishes originated in the Turkish city of Konya in the 13th century. Mevlana, "Our Guide" to his followers, was so stunned by the loss of Mehmet Tebrizi, a Muslim mystic to whom he was devoted that he withdrew from the world to meditate and to write poetry. "His ecumenical teachings were summed up in this beautiful verse which invited one and all to seek mystical union with God "(LP) :


     Whoever you may be, come 
     Even though you may be
     An infidel, a pagan, or a fire-worshipper, come
     Our brotherhood is not one of despair
     Even though you have broken your vows a hundred time, come


Dervish lodges were founded throughout the Ottoman empire in Turkey, Syria and Egypt. Attatürk, committed to separating state and religion saw the order as an obstacle and had them proscribed. Today the festival of Mevlana in Konya, each year in December, is officially encouraged as a popular rather than as a religious event.


Tombs in the Konya "Museum of Mevlana" (spiritual leadership is signified by the turban) (left), the lodge and its stunning turquoise tiles (centre)


The Mevlana's tomb in Konya


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