During the holy month of Ramazan, a variety of free entertainment takes place in Fethiye and this year was no exception.

On Friday evening people paused from their shopping at the Erasta Shopping Centre for a performance from the Mevlevi Order, or Whirling Dervishes as they are known as in the West.

Whirling Dervishes

The ‘dance’ of the Whirling Dervishes is called Sema (seh-MAH) and is a part of the inspiration of Mevlana and has become part of Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture.

The conical hats the dervishes wear represent a tombstone, the dervish’s jacket symbolizes the grave, and the skirt, a funeral shroud. When the dervishes dance they remove their jackets to show they are shedding earthly ties, and escaping from their graves.

At the beginning of the ceremony the Mevlevi bow to each other honoring the spirit within.

Semazens bow to each other

As they whirl, the dervishes raise their right hands in prayer and extend their left hands toward the floor. The meaning of these gestures is “what we receive from God, we give to man; we ourselves possess nothing.” Their whirling symbolizes the rotation of the universe in the presence of God.

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More about the Mevlevis

The Mevlevis, or whirling dervishes, belong to a Sufi mystical sect inspired by a spiritual poet named Mevlâna Celaleddin Rumi (1207-1273).

The work of Rumi  spoke about every aspect of life but mainly focused on love and inner peace.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Mevlâna Celaleddin Rumi
Mevlâna Celaleddin Rumi

The order was created in 1273 after the death of Mevlana in Konya, which was a center of learning and art in the 13th century under the Seljuk Turk sultans.

The Mevlevis value the idea of relinquishing one’s earthly ties to reach a state of tranquility, love and harmony. They believe that death is meant to be celebrated because a union forms with god.

Rumi Poem

The Sema

The Sema is derived from Rumî’s habit of occasionally whirling in ecstatic joy in the streets of Konya, capital of the Seljuk Turkish Sultanate of Rum. It is perhaps the most familiar aspect of Sufism (Islamic mysticism).

The Sema represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to the “Perfect”.

The dervishes sometimes whirl around for six or seven hours at a time.

The whirling inflates their white skirts and puts them into a hypnotic trance which they say brings them closer to God.

Bliss Personified

Two Mevlevi making Sema in Fethiye’s Erasta shopping centre during Ramazan. from fethiyetimes on Vimeo.

 

In 2008, UNESCO confirmed the “The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony” of Turkey as amongst the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Rumi and the Annual Whirling Dervish Festival in Konya

The festival is ten days of activities that will lead up to the 17th of December, which was the day of Rumi’s death. 2016 will be the 742nd anniversary and the 17th is often referred to as his “wedding night,” the night he departed this earthly life and was finally united in love with the Divine. The dervishes  perform their ceremonial dance and spin around and around in circles until they achieve inner peace.

Be mesmerised as the dervishes whirl…

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