Mevlâna Celaleddin-i Rumî was the first great mystical thinker, scientist and artist of 13th century Selcuk Anatolia. He was born in 1207 in the ancient Turkish territory of Khorasan.
The Mevlevi doctrine was based on music, dance and poetry. With its stress on the value of love and ecstasy, it was considered superior to other schools on account of the aesthetic pleasures it afforded.
At first the order gained supporters among the mass of the people and in the villages, but after the 16th century its main support was among the upper classes in the towns including the Sultans themselves. Because of this the Mevlevi order had a very considerable influence on Turkish literature, music and art, as well as on everyday life. It played a large part in maintaining the existing social and political structure.
Mevlâna’s death, which took place at Konya after a short illness, was seen as one of the most important events of the period. Men of all countries, classes and religions followed his funeral cortege and watched day and night over his tomb. The event is described in Ahmed Eflaki’s Menakib in these words: ‘In him the Christians mourned their Jesus, the Jews their Moses.’ A priest expressed the need all men felt for him: ‘Mevlâna is like bread: what man shall think of turning away from him?’ Konya is still the centre of the sect and the Mevlâna lies there in his tomb in a beautiful museum.
Mevlâna’s true greatness lay in the fact that, whereas the various religions and sects have a force within them making for separation, he brought all religions and sects together in the melting pot of love.
Semâ is the name of the whirling dance performed by the disciples of the Mevlâna. Semâ means to whirl round, to dance, to attain ecstasy by means of music. Many mystics, according to the needs of their soul, practised the Semâ as a source of ecstasy. Mevlâna regarded it as a kind of prayer, a form of worship, comparing a man who sang during the Semâ to the Imam officiating at the namaz (prayer). In his poems he calls the Semâ the nourishment of lovers’ souls; it was an activity permitted to lovers and mystics but forbidden to bigots. Mevlâna attaches great importance to Semâ because the pleasure and enthusiasm obtained from Semâ, morally exalted and purely aesthetic, take man away from the material world. Semâ is the unitary soul which dances round the integral soul as the moth flutters round the candle, singeing its wings. The dancers hold one hand towards the sky and the other towards the earth in another symbol of Unity.
The Mevlâna says that the universe emanates from a single Being, who is God. All forces and all things are merely manifestations of God in diverse forms. In this Being there is Union, and Mevlâna believes that all religions are basically one.
The full greatness of Mevlâna Celaleddin-i Rumî is revealed in his works and in the doctrines of the Mevlevi order, which so profoundly influenced the artistic and intellectual life of the Turkish people. He was a sage, a mystical philosopher, a thinker and a poet, whose achievement forms part of the spiritual heritage of all humankind.
Through ShoeString Cave House we can arrange for you to see the Dervish ceremony at the restored Sarıhan caravansaray (pictured) near Avanos. . Your transport leaves ShoeString at 9pm, the performance starts at 9.30 and lasts about an hour. During the ceremony, out of respect, there is no eating, drinking, smoking or taking photos. After the ceremony you will be given a cup of cinnamon tea and there will be an opportunity to ask questions and take photos. The cost, including two way transport and the entrance fee, is 30 Euro.
Alternatively some people prefer to go to the Turkish Night where a short demonstration of the Semâ precedes the main programme of folk and belly dancing.
The most famous quotation from the Mevlâna is:
‘Come, come, whoever you are;
Be you infidel, idolater or pagan, come.
Our convent is not a place of despair.
Even if you have gone back on your oath a hundred times, still come