This Mevlevi Sema Ceremony is such an important cultural heritage for both Turkey and the world that it is listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List››
Held in the spectacular setting of Saruhan, a 13th century Seljuk Caravanserai (motel for camel trains), this Semâ (Whirling Ceremony) is the inspiration of Mevlânâ Celâleddin–i RumÎ (1207 – 1273) as well as being part of Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture.
The ceremony has seven parts which symbolize the different meanings of a mystic cycle to perfection; a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through love, the desertion of the ego, finding the truth and arriving at the "Perfect".
The return from this spiritual journey is as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection; to love and to be of service to the whole creation, to all creatures without discriminating in regard to belief, class, or race.
The clothing has special significance:
• the tall hat represents the ego’s tombstone
• the skirt the ego’s shroud
• the color white the spiritual birth into the truth
• the removal of the black cloak initiates the journeys and advances towards spiritual maturity through the stages of the Semâ.
The position of arms and hands is also significant:
• At the onset of each stage, holding arms crosswise represents number one, and testifies to God's unity
• Whirling with arms open and the right hand directed to the sky signifies readiness to receive God's beneficence
• Gazing at the left hand turned toward the earth, turning from right to left and pivoting around the heart, is a way to embrace all of humankind and all creation with affection and love, thereby conveying God’s spiritual gift to people over whom God looks with a Divine watchfulness.
In season, there is usually a performance at 6pm every night, and sometimes an "overflow" performance at 9pm. Out of season performances are subject to demand, but definitely worth asking for.
The performance lasts for an hour, and at the end of the performance, if it is dark, there may be a light show of scenes from Cappadocian history and culture displayed against one of the walls of the Caravanserai.
Because the performance is held in respectful silence, children under 7 years and the taking of photographs during the performance are not permitted.
Visitors to the performance often feel a great sense of relaxation upon their return.
The Semâ consists of several parts with different meanings.
PART 1: This starts with a eulogy to the Prophet and all Prophets before him, who represent love; to praise them is to praise God who created all of them.
PART 2: The eulogy is followed by a drum sound symbolising the Divine order of the Creator.
PART 3: This is followed by an instrumental music improvisation representing the first breath which gives life to everthing (The Divine Breath).
PART 4: The dervishes greet each other, followed by their thrice repeated circular walk accompanied by music symbolizing the salulation of soul to soul concealed by shapes and bodies.
PART 5: This is the Semâ (whirling) section consisting of four salutes; at the end of each, as in the onset, the dervish testifies by appearance to God's unity.
● The first salute is man’s birth to truth by feeling and mind. It represent his complete conception of the existance of God as Creator and his own state as a creature.
● The second salute expresses the rapture of man witnessing the splendor of creation before God’s greatness and omnipotence.
● The third salute is the rapture of the dissolution into love and thereby the sacrifice of mind to love. It is a complete submission; the annihilation of self in the loved One, a unity.
● The fourth salute shows the whirling dervish’s return to his state of subservience as a servant of God and His prophets and all Creation.
PART 6: This is a reading of the Quaran, especialy of the verse from Surah Al–Baqarah 2, verse 115: "And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you (might) turn, there is the Face of Allah. Indeed, Allah is all–Encompassing and Knowing."
PART 7: The Semâ ceremony ends with a prayer for the peace of the souls of all Prophets and all believers.
After the completion of Semâ ritual all the dervishes return silently to their cells for meditation.