Galata Mevlevihanesi (est. 1491) Müzesi
The Mevleviye is an ascetic Sufi order founded in 1273 in Konya, gradually spread throughout the Ottoman Empire. Today, the Mevleviye can be found in many Turkish communities throughout the world, but the most active and famous centres of the order’s activity are in Konya and Istanbul.
On the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, UNESCO (originally proclaimed in 2005).
The Mevleviye are renowned for their whirling dances. Following a recommended fast of several hours, the whirlers begin to rotate on their left feet in short twists, using the right foot to drive their bodies around the left foot. The body of the whirler is meant to be supple, with eyes open but unfocused so that images become blurred and flowing. At their dancing ceremonies, or Sema, a particular musical repertoire called ayin is played. Based on four sections of both vocal and instrumental compositions, it is performed by at least one singer, a flute-player, called neyzen, a kettledrummer and a cymbal player. Dancers used to receive 1,001 days of reclusive training within the mevlevi-houses (mevlevihane), where they learned about ethics, codes of behaviour and beliefs by practising prayer, religious music, poetry and dance. After this training, they remained members of the order but returned to their work and families.
Whirling Dervish ceremony at Sirkeci, Istanbul
In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, the semazen’s camel’s hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt (tennure) represents the ego’s shroud. By removing his black cloak (hırka), he is spiritually reborn to the truth. At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God’s unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God’s beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The semazen conveys God’s spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the Sema. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the semazen embraces the humanity with love.