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Culture

Dervishes on Μystic Rumi’s Path Whirl for God (Photos)

December 21, 2022

KONYA, Turkey — To prepare for the ritual ahead, Omer Kilic and his 14-year-old son dress in white robes, drape black cloaks over them and don cone-shaped hats called “sikke.”

The tennure robes symbolize funeral shrouds, the cloaks a tomb and the hats a tombstone — outfits that are part of a centuries-old tradition performed by the whirling dervishes of Turkey.

The dervishes, a Sufi order of Islam that is rooted in mysticism, are chiefly known for the “sama” ritual in which they spin in unison with prayers and verses from the Quran.

Kilic has belonged to the order for 23 years. Now a tennure tailor, he is teaching his craft to his apprentice and son, Toprak Efe Kilic.

Whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi order perform during a Sheb-i Arus ceremony in Konya, Turkey, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi order perform during a Sheb-i Arus ceremony in Konya, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi order perform during a Sheb-i Arus ceremony in Konya, Turkey, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Kilic says the religious path first appeared to him in a dream. He decided to start training as a dervish a few days later.

Each year, the dervishes of the Mevlevi order perform their unmistakable act of devotion in the Turkish city of Konya, where thousands of people attend a weeklong series of events and ceremonies that mark the death of the 13th-century Islamic poet, scholar and Sufi mystic Jalaladdin Rumi.

Whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi order gather to pray before performing during a Sheb-i Arus ceremony in Konya, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Rumi, who is known as Mevlana in Turkey, was born in 1207 in Balkh, a city that now is part of Afghanistan. He settled in Konya in central Turkey, where he died on Dec. 17, 1273. He is regarded as one of the most important Sufi philosophers, and members of the Mevlevi order follow his teachings.

Instead of mourning his death, the ceremonies in Konya celebrate what his followers believe is Rumi’s union with God. The main feature of the “Sheb-i Arus,” or “night of the union,” is the ritual in which the whirling dervishes revolve with their right hands symbolically turned up toward God and their left hands turned down toward the Earth.

Omer Kilic, member of the dervish Mevlevi order, sews clothes in his workshop in Konya, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Whirling dervish Omer Kilic, left, and his son Toprak Efe Kilic try out costumes ahead of the Sheb-i Arus ceremony in Konya, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Ahmet Sami Kucuk, sheikh of the whirling dervishes Mevlevi order, offers his prayers during a Sheb-i Arus ceremony, in Konya, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Ahmet Sami Kucuk, the head of the dervishes in Konya, described the whirling as an “end” and a state one attains after years of training and discipline.

In 2005, the U.N. cultural agency proclaimed the practice as an example of “the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.”

Whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi order perform during a Sheb-i Arus ceremony in Konya, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The structure holding Rumi’s tomb in Konya is a museum and a pilgrimage site. One pilgrim, Mohammad Mobeen Dervesh, a Kashmiri living in the United Kingdom, said all lovers of God come to the site to honor Rumi.

Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic’s strict lockdowns, tourism official Abdulsettar Yarar said the site attracted more than 3.1 million visitors this year, 10% of them from abroad.

Whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi order perform during a Sheb-i Arus ceremony in Konya, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi order perform during a Sheb-i Arus ceremony in Konya, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

 

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