The Whirling Dervishes Festival is held on 7-17 December 2018 at Konya, Turkey. The festival is held annually to commemorate the death anniversary of the Sufi saint Mevlana, or Rumi as he was known. Rumi believed that communication with God was possible through dance, and so the dance of the whirling dervishes was born with their swirling white flowing robes and black cloaks and conical headgear. In 2008, UNESCO confirmed the “Mevlevi Sama Ceremony” or the whirling dervishes ceremony of Turkey as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
A dervish is someone who claims to approach God rather by virtues and individual experience, than by religious scholarship. Dervishes are often credited with the ability to perform miracles and described with supernatural powers. Dervishes practice Sufism or Tasawwuf, a mysticism in Islam characterized by particular values, ritual practices, doctrines and institutions, and represents the main manifestation and the most important and central crystallization of mystical practice in Islam.
One of the Sufi mystic is Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, and theologian. Rumi believed passionately in the use of music, poetry and dance as a path for reaching God. One day, Rumi was walking through the town marketplace when he heard the rhythmic hammering of the goldbeaters. It is believed that Rumi heard the dhikr, “la ilaha ilallah” or in English, “There is no god but Allah ” in the apprentices beating of the gold. Rumi was so entranced in happiness that he stretched out both of his arms and started spinning in a circle. With that, the practice of Sama (a Sufi ceremony performed as dhikr) in the form of Sufi whirling, and the Mevlevi order were born.
During the Whirling Dervishes Festival, dervishes perform the Sufi whirling. The leader of the whirling dervishes represents the sun and the spinning dancers the orbits of the stars and moon. There are four dances symbolizing the four seasons, the four elements and the four ages of man. The ceremony is split into seven different parts, each of which is set to a distinct musical theme called a selam. Over the course of the night, the music changes from eerie to haunting to beautiful as the dancers continue their amazing whirling movements.
If you are in Turkey on 7-17 December, make sure to head to Konya to watch the Whirling Dervishes Festival!
How about you? Have you watched the Whirling Dervishes Festival? Tell us!