The great Sufi poet Rumi is revered by some Muslims as a saint. Every December on the anniversary of his death, his life and his union with God are commemorated at the Whirling Dervishes Festival in Konya. If you have never experienced the powerful and moving beauty of the Dervishes, this event is a must. The festival is held at the Museum of Mevlana, (Rumi is known as Mevlana in Turkey), at the site of the poet’s mausoleum, and draws more than a million pilgrims and visitors each year.
Rumi’s message was one of peace, complete tolerance, and total love. Though he was a devoted Muslim, he looked upon Christians and Jews as spiritual equals, who showed great respect for the Sufi in return. Pope John XXIII is quoted as saying, “In the name of the Catholic World, I bow with respect before the memory of Rumi.” Mevlana’s message lives on today through his teachings, poetry, the beautiful music of the Iranian and Afghan people, and of course, through Sema.
Sufis believe that dance can achieve union with God, and the dance of the Dervishes celebrates and honors these teachings. The dance, called Sema, represents a mystical and spiritual journey. The main dancer symbolizing the sun and the spinning dancers represent the stars and the moon. There are four dances, one for each season, element and age of man. As the dancers twirl, they are turning toward the truth on a journey to find God.
“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.” Rumi
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