Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi 1207-1273
Mevlana, born in Persia was a poet, jurist, theologian and Sufi mystic. As a young man he travelled to Konya and met the Dervish religious leader, Shams-e Tabrizi. A strong friendship and spiritual understanding linked the two men, and under Shams influence Mevlana became an ascetic. Mysteriously Shams disappeared, leaving Mevlana inconsolable. He expressed his emotions through writing poetry, one of which, 'spiritual couplets' is considered by many to be one of the greatest works of mystical poetry. He also began performing the whirling sema dance.
If you are like me, and do not understand the sema dance, perhaps my explanation, learnt as a result of my visit, will help to clarify it. Like most people I was aware that it was a meditative state with a religious significance.
Mevlana's seven principles
1. In generosity and helping others, be like a river.
2. In compassion and grace, be like the sun.
3. In concealing others faults, be like the night.
4. In anger and fury, be like the dead.
5. In modesty and humility, be like the earth.
6. In tolerance, be like the sea.
7. Either exist as you are, or be as you look.
The beautiful cylindrical drum of the Green Mausoleum, Konya.
Beneath these domes lies the 13th century sanctuary of the Dervishes. It houses the tombs of Mevlana, his family and his disciples.
The above two pictures do offer, in part, an explanation surrounding the sema dance.
Contrary to Islamic orthodoxy, poetry, music, and dance are central to the faith of the Dervishes. Serenely reconciled with the notion of death, the Dervishes cast aside a black cape symbolising the tomb to dance in a long white tunic (the shroud) and wear a camel hair turban representing the tomb's headstone (as photos above). The music is celestial and the dancers spin round and round like heavenly spheres. As they dance the right arm and hand is gradually turned upwards to receive God's grace and the left arm and hand turned down to pass it on immediately to mankind. Musicians chant mystic hymns as the dancers whirl into a trance for almost an hour. There are seven parts to the sema each symbolising a stage on the mystic journey to perfection, called ascension.
Removing the black cape symbolising the tomb and revealing the white gown symbolising the shroud.
We were not allowed to take photos during the sema and in fact it would have been totally inappropriate to do so. However, five minutes after they had finished the seven stages of the ceremony and had left the room, they kindly returned and whirled for us so that we could photograph them.
The dance creates a very moving, mystical, and unforgettable experience for the viewer, which we felt was a great privilege to witness.
When I returned home from Kent, it was so lovely to read all of your very kind comments on the previous post - thank you very much.