May 31, 2017

3073 TURKEY (Central Anatolia Region) - Mevlevi Sema ceremony (UNESCO ICH)

The Mevlevi is an ascetic Sufi order founded in 1273 by the followers of the Persian poet and Islamic theologian Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi in Konya (capital of the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate), from where it gradually spread throughout the Ottoman Empire. Today, they can be found in many Turkish communities throughout the world, but the most famous centres are in Konya and Istanbul. The Mevlevi are also known as the Whirling Dervishes due to their famous practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of God).

A dervish is an initiate of the Sufi path; the whirling is part of the formal Sema ceremony and the participants are known as semazen-s. The Sema (which means "listening") was practised in the samahane (ritual hall) according to a precisely prescribed symbolic ritual with the dervishes whirling in a circle around their sheikh. It represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to the "Perfect". Turning towards the truth, the follower grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth, and arrives at the "Perfect". He then returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, able to love and to be of service to the whole of creation.

The dervishes wear a white gown (tennure) (symbol of death), a wide black cloak (hırka) (symbol of the grave) and a tall brown hat (kûlah or sikke) (symbol of the tombstone). Following a fast of several hours, the whirlers begin to rotate on their left feet in short twists. The body of the whirler is meant to be supple, with eyes open but unfocused so that images become blurred and flowing. A musical repertoire called ay›n is played. Based on four sections of both vocal and instrumental compositions, it is performed by at least one singer, a flute-player, called neyzen, a kettledrummer and a cymbal player.

Dancers used to receive 1,001 days of reclusive training, where they learned about ethics, codes of behaviour and beliefs by practising prayer, religious music, poetry and dance. After this training, they remained members of the order but returned to their work and families. As a result of secularization policies, all mevlevihane were closed in 1925.The Turkish government began to allow performances again, though only in public, in the 1950s, restrictions were eased in the 1990s.

About the stamp

The souvenir sheet, depicting Beylerbeyi Palace, was issued on April 21, 2017.

Mevlevi Sema ceremony - UNESCO official website
Mevlevi Order - Wikipedia

Sender: Burak Inceyer (direct swap)
Sent from Konya (Central Anatolia Region / Turkey), on 18.05.2017 

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