The Whirling Dervishes Show in Istanbul: Understanding the Mevlevi Sema Tradition
Istanbul is known throughout the world as a vibrant and lively city, one that is rich with culture and history. But few may be aware of the remarkable Mevlevi Sema ceremony, or “Whirling Dervishes” Show, that takes place here. This Sufi phenomenon is a celebration of music and self-expression that has its roots in the 13th century, and continues to intrigue visitors to Istanbul to this day.
What is the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony?
The Mevlevi Sema, also known as the “Sema ceremony” or “Whirling Dervishes Show”, is a religious ritual that dates back to the 13th century. The ritual involves a form of dance and music which is performed by members of the Sufi order, also known as the Mevlevi Order. The ritual is intended as a form of worship and divine realization, with Sufis whirling in a trance-like state while they sing and recite verses from their sacred texts.
The History of the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony
The Mevlevi Order, also known as the Mewlewi Order, was founded in 1273 by the great Sufi poet, spiritual leader and mystic, Rumi. The Mevlevi Order is also sometimes referred to as the “Whirling Dervishes”, in reference to the trance-like state achieved by some of its members during the performance of their Sema ceremonies.
The original purpose of the Mevlevi Order was to serve as an educational institution for those who wished to understand Sufi beliefs and experiences. The Mevlevi Order believed in helping people come closer to God through prayer and devotion. The Sema ceremony was designed as a way for disciples to enter into a state of spiritual ecstasy, as they whirled around while chanting verses from their sacred texts.
The Practice of the Whirling Dervishes Show
The Mevlevi Order’s practice involves a multi-step ritual which begins with an invocation of Allah’s name. After the invocation comes the march, which is when the dervishes begin whirling around in a circle. The duration of this whirling varies depending on the circumstances, but it typically lasts between 5 and 10 minutes. During this time, the members are expected to reach a state of spiritual ecstasy.
The ritual then culminates with a chant of Rumi’s “Al-fatiha” that dispels any remaining negative energy from the ritual and purifies all participants. When this is completed, the dervishes return to their places and sit down for a final moment of peace and reflection.
Viewing the Whirling Dervishes Show in Istanbul
Today, the Mevlevi Sema ceremony is still practiced in many places around the world. But for those who wish to experience the tradition in its full glory, there is no better place than Istanbul. There are several venues that offer live performances of the ceremony throughout the city. Many tourists enjoy attending these performances and experiencing this unique form of worship firsthand.
Visitors to Istanbul can view a live Mevlevi Sema ceremony at various venues around the city. Most performances are held at traditional Turkish restaurants such as Sultanahmet Meyhane or Hanende Portakal Ağacı. Tourists should be aware of the fact that these performances may be interrupted by announcements and other interruptions at any time, so it is important to pay attention when attending a show.
In addition to live performances, it is also possible for tourists to purchase tickets for organized tours and events devoted exclusively to the Mevlevi Sema ceremony. These tours often involve an experienced guide who will provide an insight into the rich history and culture behind this unique form of traditional dance and music. Additionally, there are many private venues around Istanbul offering private showings for tourist groups interested in experiencing this amazing performance up close and personal.
An Unforgettable Experience
To witness a live Whirling Dervishes performance in Istanbul is an unforgettable experience that transports visitors back in time to a period when this ritual was heavily practiced. Spectators often find themselves mesmerised by the grace and beauty of these incredible performances and leave with a newfound appreciation for this unique aspect of Turkish culture.
The Mevlevi Sema ceremony is a testimony to centuries of Sufi mysticism and provides a unique window into Turkey’s long and fascinating heritage. We highly recommend taking time out to view this remarkable performance while in Istanbul – it will leave you with an unforgettable experience that will likely stay with you long after you head home!
If you would like to experience the Whirling Dervishes show for yourself, we recommend booking a tour on GetYourGuide. With GetYourGuide, you can book tickets for one-off shows or special events devoted exclusively to this remarkable performance!
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