Crossing the Taurus Mountains was gorgeous, and we were especially lucky since Suleyman told us that often on this tour the mountains have snow and sometimes the bus has to chain up. Not a fun thought, and today as we drove through brilliant sunlight I was especially appreciative.
Note to self: always always always bring the extra long lasting batteries from the US for the camera, the ones I pay 10 bucks for 4 usually last at least a few days in my camera. I ran out, and sure enough, the 5 Lira batteries that said they were extra long lasting digital batteries blew out after a couple of photos. Not a good thing. I did know better, but didn’t plan properly. I think I have spent a large part of my petty cash on batteries now!
We drove over the pass at more than 6000 feet elevation and headed down toward the city of Konya and the Konya Plain. Our one stop for this long travel day was the museum in Konya where the famous Sufi mystic, originator, and poet Mavlana Rumi is entombed. As we rode along in the bus, Suleyman treated us to folk stories of Hoagi, a mythical character somewhat like Coyote, and the story of Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes. My friend Shera loved Rumi, and when I first met her, she introduced me to some of the Sufi mystical concepts, but I somehow never quite put it all together, Islam, Sufism, Rumi, and the Dervishes. Now with Suleyman’s help it is all coming together. In fact tonight, a bit later, we will be going to see the whirling ritual, something that means a lot more to me after hearing Suleyman’s explanation of the whole thing.
Mevlana Rumi was a Turk born in Afghanistan in the early 13th century. The poetry of Rumi is considered to be the second most important piece of literature in the Islamic world next to the Koran.
There is a flute made of reeds called the Ney that the Dervishes use in their rituals. According to tradition Reed says “Once I was growing in the marsh. I was alive I was connected with my roots to the earth, but someone came and cut me off so I was separated the way the human beings got separated from the One. This is the reason I am mourning, why my sound is so sad.”
The whirling dervish order is one of hundreds of different orders within Islam. In Islam there a many paths to find the truth, and one has the choice to follow any of the many different paths and still be a good Muslim. Mavlana Rumi was a mystic and a teacher and was the first one who whirled.
The white costume represents the shroud and the tall red fez represents the tombstone, one hand open to the skies and the other hand down, receiving from god, and giving to others. To the question “why do you whirl?” The answer is that many religions have a method to get rid of all distractions, a form of centering or meditation and prayer. The Dervishes know that everything whirls, the world spins, the microcosmos spins, electrons whirl, water whirls in the sink. To them, whirling is being in harmony with the world.
There is no translation in English for the word Dervish, although “monk” is similar, but dervishes can marry and lead normal lives. The closest translation for the Tekke is monestary. Once admitted to the tekke, the task for the initiate was to try to learn the secret. The elders ask tricky questions in order to find out if you have light within you or not. Some people have the light and others don’t. In the first couple of years you are treated very badly, if you make it you move to the second step. You learn the Koran, then the different philosophical approaches to the Koran. Finally, if you have the light and are worthy, you attain the 7th step where you then learn the truth, the secret.
Usually this secret isn’t divulged but Suleyman says he has a Dervish friend who told him that the Secret was to say, “I am God”.
After Attaturk formed the secular state in 1923, all the Tekke’s were outlawed, even the whirling dervishes. Now they are here in the name of cultural associations, and supposedly they are no longer a religious sect or order because of the secular requirements for Turkey. Today we saw the tomb of Mavlana, a holy place that is now just a museum, with many manuscripts and also Mohammed’s beard in a box. Ha.