Let the whirling begin, in Turkey

In the city of Konya, Turkey, the week-long Commemorative Ceremony for Mevlana is underway. This is the first I’ve heard of it, but by many accounts it is one of the world’s most amazing spectacles. It’s a huge Whirling Dervish festival, attracting more than a million people to Konya.

Mevlana (a.k.a. Rumi) is a very important Sufic saint. He lived in the 13th century and was all about tolerance, positive thinking, and connecting to God through music, poetry and dance. He’s buried in Konya, which is the ancient Seljuk capital and the annual home of the Whirling Dervishes festival that honors him.

Whirling Dervishes you might be familiar with. They are the folks who spin around in a traditional religious dance. As you would expect, the dance is full of symbolism. Each dancer wears a conical hat (which represents a gravestone), a long cloak (representing a coffin) and a flowing skirt (representing a shroud).

The dancers themselves represent somewhat happier images; the leader represents the sun, and the spinning dancers all around represent the orbits of the stars and the moon. Body positioning is also important. The dancers tilt their heads to one side, and they hold one hand upturned (to receive influence from Heaven) and the other hand turned down (to pass that influence down to the world).

If, like me, you aren’t in Konya this week, all is not lost. The Whirling Dervishes do their thing throughout the year all over Turkey and beyond. In Istanbul, which I’d like to visit someday soon, you can see them dancing at various venues and cultural centers.

In the meantime, you can get your fix from YouTube.

Dervish
Photo: pmorgan via Flickr (CC license)

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