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The Mevlevi Sama ceremony in Konya, Turkey – Beatriz’s GoosebumpMoment

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Beatriz: “Hello, I’m from Uruguay and my GoosebumpMoment was in Konya, Turkey during the Mevlevi Sama ceremony. This is a religious ceremony from Sufism. Is a way of – according to them – reaching God, a way of meditation through the movement and through the music they achieve this sort of state like ecstasy. They are able to vanish all the doubts from their hearts, that’s what they say, and just experimenting God’s pure love, the vanishing of the ego. If they feel all those things I do not know, but when I was there, and I was just observing, it was something really wonderful, extremely hypnotic and peaceful, it’s like you are doing this ceremony with them. It was a really special thing. I am not a religious person, but it took me so much effort to reach Konya and it was freezing, but then I finally made it to the ceremonial hall and then the music started and then it was something really incredible.”

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The beauty of the Sema dance

The Mevlevî Semâ ceremony is one of the important and widespread elements of traditional culture in Turkey. Described as one of the most exquisite spiritual rites, the whirlwind of the dervishes is a highly structured act of love and faith. The dance focuses on the inner spirit; a way to connect with God or feel His presence everywhere.

Every year Sema is performed in Konya, Turkey, which is known to be the place of whirling dervishes and where Rumi is buried. The ritual, proclaimed a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity by the United Nations, is admired by foreign visitors.

The spiritual journey

The spinning dance in Turkey is part of the Mevlevi Order’s “Sema” religious ceremony. Originating in the 13th century in the city of Konya, the order is a sect of Sufism, which pursues spiritual perfection and worship of God.

Before the whirlwind begins, the dervishes have their arms crossed in front of them, a gesture that represents the unity of God. During the turn, they open their arms, the right hand towards the sky and the left hand towards the earth, symbolizing the beneficence of God from heaven and the delivery of love to all people.

The twist is based on the dervish’s left foot, while the right foot drives the rotation in 360-degree steps. The whirlpool is a form of meditation for dervishes. It is believed that in this way, people can abandon their personal desires and egos, come closer to God and achieve spiritual perfection.

The bandages of the dervishes also have their own meanings. The tall brown hat represents a tombstone of the body, while the long white skirt represents the shroud of the ego.

Along with whirlers there is usually a group of musicians, including singers, flutists, timpani, and cymbals. Traditionally, dancers must train for 1,001 days in Mevlevi houses to learn not only dance skills, but also ethical and behavioral norms.

The “Mevlevi Sema ceremony” was inscribed on the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008.

Rumi’s legacy

Every year, the anniversary of the death of the poet and jurist Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi is commemorated with a ceremony in his hometown of Konya, central Turkey, which takes place over 10 days in December.

His followers fondly remember Rumi as Mevlana, which means scholar, and he was buried in Konya. Following his death in 1273, Rumi’s followers founded the Mevlevi Order, also known as the Order of Whirling Dervishes, famous for the Sufi ritual known as the Sema ceremony.

Since 1937, an international commemoration ceremony marking the anniversary of Rumi’s union with God, also known as “The Wedding Day” (“Şeb-i Arus”), has been held in Konya every year.

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