“ Museums International „
Mausoleum of Mevlana, Konya.
I visited the mausoleum of the philosopher and founder of the Sufi sect Mevlana Celaleddin - Rumi, some may know this sect as that of the whirling dervishes. It can be found in the city of Konya, central Turkey.
Who was Mevlana Celaleddin?
Mevlana is a 13th century Muslim Saint and mystic whose teachings are the foundation of the Muslim sect of Sufism. You may well know about the Turkish whirling dervishes these people belong to the Mevlevi sect and I was particularly interested in finding out about these people prior to my visit to Konya.
Mevlana was born on the 30th September 1207 in the city of Balkh which was actually in Afghanistan. His mother was the daughter of the Emir and his father was a chief scholar. They left Afghanistan following disagreements with his father's teachings and migrated via Persia, Mecca, Medina, Damascus and several other places finally moving to Konya 1228 following an invitation from the Emperor.
Mevlana wrote many poems and ideology which preaches peace, tolerance charity and love. He believed that all religions were the truth. His teachings are peaceful. Mevlana died on the 17th December 1273 and was buried beside his father in the Mevlana Mausoleum.
The Museum and Mausoleum.
To enter the museum and Mausoleum you have to pay a nominal entrance fee of approximately £2. The grounds of the monastery are beautifully kept. Above the Mausoleum there is the monolithic tower covered in Turquoise tiles that glint in the sunshine. His tomb is underneath this tower.
The entrance to the actual mausoleum compound is through an ornate gate which brings you into a very peaceful garden area. In front of the Mausoleum is a large square in the centre is a beautiful ablution fountain which is highly decorated and with taps around the base for ritual washing.
Around the perimeter of the courtyard are the cells of the monks, the dining room, and two smaller mausoleums.
Entering the tomb you have to put on plastic overshoes to cover your shoes or you can enter the tomb with no shoes on. The main doorway of the mausoleum is very ornately carved out of wood with Islamic verses over the entrance. Entering through the doorway you come into an ante chamber which is also decorated beautifully.
Entering the mausoleum proper you are taken aback by the ornate decoration. The walls are covered in gold and Islamic verses. There are many decorative tiles on the walls and to the right are several tombs each covered in cloths some plain and some highly embroidered. Down the aisle are elaborate and ornate chandeliers. Placed on each of the tombs are turban like hats to indicate that these were dervishes. Six of these tombs are of the so called Soldiers of Horasan who accompanied Mevlana to Konya and stayed loyal to him.
Mevlana is buried inside the Mausoleum beside his father, and one of his wives, a son and his daughter are also buried inside. His tomb is the largest tomb inside the mausoleum and resting on top of his tomb which is covered in cloth there is a very large turban type hat. The inside of the turquoise domed area above his tomb is highly decorated with a massive chandelier hanging over his tomb.
After passing his tomb you then come into the dance chamber where they hold the whirling dervish ceremony. The next room contains many valuable relics and antiques, valuable Turkish carpets and some of his writings and in one case a hair reputed to be from the beard of Mohammed which is inside a silver box.
There are security guards all around the mausoleum and will prevent you from taking photos. You are warned not to do so before entering and there are notices at the entrance but still people try to take them and are swiftly remonstrated with by the guards.
Once you exit the Mausoleum you can wander around the courtyard looking into the cells of the monks through the windows. They are set up with life sized models showing how they used to spend their time in the cells either reading music, playing instruments, reading verses of the Koran or Mevlana's teachings.
You can enter the dining area and see how minimalist it is and the point where they leave the shoes of the novices. Down the side of the mausoleum are the graves of whirling dervish monks with the familiar hat on the top indicating that they were whirling dervishes.
The Whirling Dervish.
To become a monk of the Whirling dervish sect the incumbent follows a strict regime of severance from worldly goods, charity, subservience, self discipline and to follow and learn the teachings of Mevlana. This lasts for exactly 1001 days and there are strict guidelines in how he can enter the order. He must first have the permission of his parents and be unmarried. He has to be approved by the sect and has to sit for three days watching the rituals of the Mevlana order. He is not allowed to speak to anyone and no one speaks to him apart from being given food and water. He may at any time leave without speaking to anyone. His shoes are placed near the door facing inwards. If at any time the members of the order thought that he was not worthy his shoes would be turned facing the door giving him an unspoken command that he is not suitable.
If he was allowed to stay he would have to run 18 different errands and complete chores including menial tasks which were checked by a fully fledge monk. These included such menial tasks such as bed making, house cleaning, shopping, washing laundry, table service and bathroom hygiene. These were to prepare him for self discipline and soul training. He was also permitted to either learn to play an instrument or to sing in the rituals.
Once the 1001 days were completed he was granted Can which means fellow soul and became a Dede during a special ceremony. He was then permitted to wear the hat of the whirling dervish. He would then spend his day alone in his cell reading and reciting verses from the Koran and Mevlana's teachings. He attends preaching's and may take part in Sema ceremonies which is where you might see the whirling dervishes perform their ritual.
The whirling dervish ceremony.
The whirling dervish ceremony is in fact a religious ritual. Most people I have spoken to thought that it was just a form of entertainment and did not realise its significance that it was part of a religious ritual.
It consists of five parts.
The musicians enter the room and one of them begins to sing prayers. The way these prayers are sung is quite unusual in as much as it is difficult to describe except the way it is sung it sounds as if it is coming from deep inside the throat almost as if it is difficult for the sounds to come out.
During the singing the Dervishes enter slowly and solemnly into the room. They are dressed in the white dervish dress covered by a black cloak. One of the monks who is the lead and master of the ceremony takes his place and one by one the monks enter and once the singing ends they sit.
The musicians strike up the music and the drummer starts his drumming as the monks sit in prayer and contemplation preparing themselves for the dancing.
They stand and remove their cloaks and the first dervish sets off whirling around followed by the other monks.
While whirling their head is slightly tilted to one side and there are special steps they seem to take during the spinning. They spin around for about ten minutes or so and seem to be in a trance like state.
The pace of the music changes and eventually one by one they stop and stand still. It is amazing to see that they are absolutely straight and not wobbling at all. They do not appear to be breathless or show any signs of discomfort or distress.
They are then grouped into different formations and continue to spin and turn each member taking his turn in leading.
Finally the ceremony is over they return to their places put on their cloaks and after a final prayer lead out silently followed by the musicians.
This ceremony was absolutely amazing to watch and is conducted in such a beautiful and serene way. I was really taken aback how solemn and moving it was and was really impressed by this. I had read a little about the ceremony itself so was in some way prepared for what we were about to see but some of the people I went with had not read anything about it and were quite taken with it too.
This is not an entertainment show it is part of a religious ceremony and should be regarded as such and you have to keep absolutely quiet and you are not allowed to take any photos at all. I would definitely recommend if you get a chance you should attend one.
There is a mosque attached to the mausoleum compound. There is also a large gift shop selling books on Sufism, Mevlana's teachings and poems, guidebooks and post cards plus the usual knick knacks. There are also toilets and a cafeteria area.
I would definitely recommend a visit to Mevlana's Mausoleum if you are in or around Konya it certainly is a beautiful place. There are many pilgrims who make a pilgrimage to his mausoleum from all over Turkey.
Highly recommended not only for its beauty but also for what it represents and to find out about the true meanings of the Whirling dervishes but do remember it is not just a form of entertainment it is a way of life for the monks with deep religious meaning.
The mausoleum and museum of Mevlana founder of the Whirling Dervish sect.