The Rumi Festival takes place annually from December 10-17th at the Mevlana Museum in Konya; the birthplace of the Mevlevi Order and Sufism.
Whether you’re a passionate admirer of Rumi’s philosophy or just want to witness a whirling Dervish ceremony in a truly authentic and memorable environment, this is the place you need to be.
Konya is the place where Rumi lived wrote his world famous poems and spread the message of Sufism. It’s also where the ceremony of whirling dervishes was devised , including the Ritual of Sema.
The Mevlevi Order
The Mevlevi Order order was formed in Konya by the son of Rumi, to cherish and spread his father’s teachings.
No matter if you’re a passionate follower of Rumi’s philosophy or a curious soul, Konya welcomes all who wish to learn more about the dervish philosophy, culture, and lifestyle.
The large tekke (lodge) along with its mausoleum and the conical green dome that rests above the tomb of Rumi have all become iconic representations of Konya.
Overall, the place looks truly stunning. Starting from the impressive architecture, with the green dome on top of it, to the gracious garden – filled with tombstones, trees, roses, and beautiful fountains. The whole complex contains many different buildings, including a mausoleum, a museum, and even a library.
You can also see the cells where Rumi’s students lived and studied. Currently, these cells contain artifacts of dervish life, ranging from musical instruments and calligraphy to textiles and traditional clothing.
While the Mevlana Museum looks truly astonishing, only the Rumi’s mausoleum has stayed the same as it was, when he was present. The rest of the lodge’s layout was developed in the 16th century, hundreds of years after Rumi’s death.
The lodge also contains the Mevlana Museum which includes a large collection of Mevlana Order’s cultural artifacts: wooden and metal art, precious carpets and books.
Part of the museum serves as a library with more than 500 books and almost 2000 manuscripts, including a collection of invaluable Qurans.
While the museum is worth visiting on its own, the main reason for such a high amount of visitors, coming to Konya, are the whirling dervish ceremonies. There couldn’t be a better place to attend an authentic ceremony, than the place where they started.
The best time to visit the ceremony is in December – from 10th till 16th. For 6 days, each evening, the whirling dervishes will perform their ceremony and will be open for visitors.
Recently, the ceremonies started to be held also in the summertime, every Thursday night (approximately from June to September). And to enhance the experience, it’s held in the rose garden – making the ceremony even more beautiful and experience more memorable.
This is a wonderful place for seeing the ceremony, as it’s performed by authentic Sufi dervishes, opposing to many other places with professional dancers instead.
On top of that, the ceremony is free.
Introduction to Symbolism
The dervishes start the ceremony in dark cloaks, accompanied by the unique sounds of Sufi music. Then they remove the dark cloaks, which symbolizes – the start of their spiritual journey and submission to the truth.
After removing the dark cloaks, their headdress (symbolizing the tombstone of ego) and the white skirts (symbolizing the shroud of the ego) are uncovered, meaning the journey has begun.
At the beginning and at each step of the Sema ritual the Dervishes hold arms over their chest, testifying the unity to god.
When the right arm turns upward to the sky and the left arm downwards to the earth – dervishes are receiving the spiritual gift from the god and bringing it to humanity.
Ritual of Sema
The ritual ceremony consists of seven parts, each having its own meaning.
The ceremony is started with a eulogy to God’s Prophet, and all the other Prophets before him. For dervishes, praising prophets is praising God, as God created them.
Part two continues with the eulogy, but now it’s accompanied with a special dervish drum (kudum), which symbolizes God’s order of Creation: “Be.”
Now, when the eulogies are finished, the third part is started with a sound of reed flute (ney). The instrument represents the Divine Breath, the breath, that gives life to everything.
Accompanied by music called “peshrev” and led by the master (Seyh), dervishes greet each other three times, repeating a circular walk (Devr-i-Veled). The greetings symbolize the salutation from one soul to another.
- The first salute presents the human perception of God and his own self.
- The second salute is an expression of the amazement in the presence of God’s power and greatness.
- The third salute is the sacrifice of the mind to Love. This is a submissive state of sacrificing the mind and surrendering to love, as to become part of God – to reach Unity.
The Sema (whirling) is divided into four salutes (Selams). At the beginning, as well as the end of each salute – dervishes testify to the unity to God.
In Buddhism this state is known as “Nirvana”, in Islam it’s known as “Fenafillah”. In this stage, dervishes are not trying to lose conscious thought and reach the “Fenafillah”.
They end the salute with crossing their arms over their chest again, symbolizing unity with God – consciously and feeling.
The forth salute is the completion of the dervish spiritual ceremony. They return back to their mission on earth, which is to serve God, his books and everything he has created. At this state, dervishes are full of joy and deepened faith in their mission.
Now, when the Sema is over, it’s proceeded with a reading from the Quran, to salute the God and the dervish philosophy.
The last part is ended with a prayer. The prayer is done for the release of the souls of all followers and prophets, with the intention: for them to find the truth and reach the unity with God.