The history of the whirling dervishes begins with Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi who was born in Balkh, (now Afghanistan) between 1200 and 1207. When he was a young boy, his family left their home because of the religious and political climate, just before the invasion of Ghengis Khan. The family eventually settled in Konya, Turkey, where his father, Baha'uddin Valad, was a revered religious scholar and mystic. After his father's death Rumi took up his father's position as head of a medrasse (religious school).
At the age of 37 Jelaluddin met Shams Tabrisi. Upon meeting they found in each other a unique Friend of Truth (Haq Dost) who could share the depth of the other's spiritual realization. They would retire into seclusion for long periods of time to have sohbet, a spiritual dialogue in the state of intoxication in the love of God. Their spiritual love and the exclusion of all of Rumi's students and friends caused jealousy amongst them. Shams, feeling the animosity, left Konya and went to Damascus, only to be summoned back by Rumi. Finally, Shams disappeared forever, some believing that Rumi's students killed him.
It was Shams who introduced Rumi to music, poetry and turning as a form of mystical absorption in the divine. When Shams disappeared, it opened the gates of Mevlana's heart and a pouring of verse would not cease until his death in 1275. His poetry is as alive and pertinent today as it was over 725 years ago. His six volume Mathnawi is considered a divinely inspired book. His four other books are also examples of moving, passionate and profoundly deep verse.
After Mevlâna’s death, his followers formed the brotherhood called the Mevlevi, or whirling dervishes, with dance as one of its foremost worship semas (ceremonies). Today, the chance to witness this sema draws more than one million people to the Anatolian city of Konya for the Whirling Dervishes Festival, which commemorates Mevlâna’s death on 17 December 1273, the Date: now known as his ‘wedding night’ with Allah… .
The festival is an authentic, indigenous gathering. In the West. In a time of increasing tension in the region the festival is a beacon of hope for culture and freedom. Rumi was a scholar, who taught peace, love and tolerance, and eventually gained a large following.In this festival, Men dressed in white's robes and tall hats spinning in circles doesn’t sound as exciting as running with the bulls or dancing at Rio’s Carnival, but the chance to watch the Whirling Dervishes will change you in a way you’d never expect. Based on the teachings and practices of the 13th-century poet Rumi, this 10-day festival will expose you to the power of devotion and show you that spinning can do more than just make you dizzy.
Only a few hundred miles from the borders of war-torn Syria, the festival in the Anatolian city of Konya brings together over a million people from all over the world to celebrate Rumi’s work, his life and ultimately his death – also known as his union with god. The day of his death is referred to as his wedding night. Sema is the inspiration of Rumi as well as a part of Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture. The Sema ceremony represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to perfection.