From the 7th to the 17th of December every year, Turkey celebrates the life of Mevlana with the Mevlana Festival. It runs every year without fail for ten days at a time. The festivities are held in the small Turkish city of Konya where the great Mevlana passed away in 1273.
So who is Mevlana? Most of you will know him as the famous poet and quote writer of the modern world Rumi. Mevlana strove to connect people of all race and religion and believed in achieving the ultimate inner peace and compassion for all. His Persian poetry, 'Spiritual Couplets', greatly influenced spiritual thought and literature throughout the Muslim world. A life of religion, family, teaching, love and great loss led Rumi to discover a great spiritual truth, that all that is resides within us. It is believed some of his poetry to be written in a state of ecstasy brought on by flute, drum or when he was infused with his love of nature, the birds and streams. Often these songs and poems where accompanied by a whirling dance. Rumi's company was sought after by many and his final burial was attended by people of different race and religious faiths.
It was Rumi's second successor that organised his disciples, poems and movements into what is known today as the Whirling Dervishes. The mystic dance symbolises the universe. Chanting and spinning, the Sufi dancers hold up their right hand to the heavens to consume God's wellness and point their left down to the ground to pass it on to the people. In this unique form of worship the dancers spin on one foot continuously, releasing ego and desire until they reach enlightenment. This controlled and continuous spinning is said to target a hyper conscious meditative state.
This dance, Sema, was so popular the Turkish government realised that Rumi's teachings were starting to influence the country's political, economic and social life so banned them in 1925. But lucky for us it survived through the secret teachings of those who believed in it's power and in 1957 it was revived and is now protected culture by UNESCO.
Sufi modern day consists of performances by dancers of the Whirling Dervish order. Performances welcome people from all over the world regardless of race and religion. This coming together of people creates exactly what Rumi strived for - the connection of love, peace and mutual acceptance by all. Performances are still very connected to their spiritual ancestry and some are free to watch and will ban photography. The spectacle of the big twirling skirts is one to keep you mesmerized and in the moment, creating a connection you wont want to interrupt with your smartphone anyway. A whirling dervish will go from anywhere between half an hour and two hours depending on the length of the meditative sema dance. The ceremony also consists of messages through prayer recital.
Festival activities consist of ten days of poetry, many whirling dervish performances and other musical and mystical performances. This celebration of the life of Rumi is partaken by thousands every year and offers everyone that visits the chance to experience their own spiritual journey. The city of Konya comes alive and all of Turkish beliefs, culture and history are displayed and enjoyed.