Dale Says

May 26, 2009

Whirling Dervishes

Filed under: Travel — Dale @ 1:56 pm

During our recent trip to Turkey we were fortunate to see the Whirling Dervishes in the old Caravanserai of Sarihan in Cappadocia.  The building itself was built in the 13th century and originally served as a roadside inn where travelers on the Silk Road could rest and recover from the day’s journey.  It is now a cultural center where travelers gather to witness historical reinactments of this fascinating section of Turkey.
 
The Whirling Dervishes are a religious sect of the Islamic faith, called Sema, that have been around for hundreds of years.  They are located throughout the Middle East, and consist of young men who attempt to achieve spiritual connection with God.  They believe that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve, since everything in life revolves – from the planets around the sun, to electrons, protons, and neutrons within the atoms that make-up our basic structure.
 
The Sema ceremony consists of music, recitation of passages from the Qur’an, and a “dance” in which the performers turn in circles, rotating on their own axis and also moving in orbit. The performers are dressed in white, including long white skirts that flair as they twirl.  Their right hands are turned up (toward heaven), and their left hands are down turned (toward earth). One foot remains on the ground, and the other crosses it and propels the dancer around. The rising and falling of the right foot is kept constant by the inner rhythmic repetition of the name of “Allah-Al-lah, Al-lah…” 
 
Participants whirl steadily for around 10 minutes, then stop, rotate to the next position in the orbit, then start again.  Somehow, they do not lose their balance, or their position.    
 
The ceremony ends with a reading from the Qur’an. The dervishes complete their time together with the greeting of peace and then quietly depart.
 
This is a stiring ceremony, and the participants are very sincere.  We felt privileged to have witnessed it. 

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