Turkish Odyssey
Turkey Central Anatolia Region

Contents
of this Page

Konya (Iconium)

The Mevlevis

. Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi

. His Views

. The Sema

Mevlana Museum

Sultanhan Caravansary

. Caravansaries

Central Anatolia Region of Turkey Part 1
Konya - Sultanhan

   

KONYA (ICONIUM)

The entire Konya basin was a lake 18 thousand years ago. Over 10 thousand years, it had drained to form a rich alluvial plain with fertile grazing land in the east and thick forest to the west and south.
Size 5th largest city
Altitude 1,028 m / 3,372 ft
Industry Aluminum, chrome, textiles, sugar, cement, animal foods, salt
Agriculture Grain (90%), chickpeas, sugar beets, apples, grapes
Animal husbandry Sheep
History Chalcolithic, Hittite, Phrygian, Cimmerian, Lydian, Persian, Alexander the Great, Pergamum, Roman, Seljuk, Ottoman, Turkish Republic

In the days of the Roman Empire, Konya was called Iconium, "the city of icons". Konya has become a place of pilgrimage for Moslems because the leader of the Mevlevis, Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi was buried there.

 
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The Mevlevis

 
   
   
 

The Mevlevi order of whirling dervishes is a mystic group whose members are followers of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, a great Turkish poet and mystic. The brotherhood is based in Konya, where its founder is buried.

Mevlana was never the head of an order, and the brotherhood was not established by himself but by his followers and devoted companions. The order derived its essence, rites, moral code and discipline from the mystical path first shown by Mevlana. It was a synthesis of spiritual love attained by a combination of music and dance which was considered to be the basic requirement for the spiritual ecstasy and devotion.

 

 

Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi (1207-1273)

Mevlana was born in 1207 in Balkh, Afghanistan. His father, Bahaeddin Veled, was a distinguished teacher who, because of his great learning, had been honored with the title of Lord of Scholars.

Possibly because of the threat imposed by the approaching Mongolian armies, Bahaeddin decided to take his family away from Balkh. They went to several places and after staying here and there, Bahaeddin felt drawn to Anatolia and came to Karaman in 1221. There they stayed for 7 years and Mevlana was married in 1225.

Alaattin Keykubat, the ruler of Konya, implored him to come to Konya. Bahaeddin finally acceded to the sultan's request in 1228 and he taught in Konya until his death in 1231. Mevlana took his father's place and quickly established a reputation for scholarship. He had an extensive understanding of all aspects of philosophy and was an avid reader of the works of classical authors.

One day in 1244, he met a ragged dervish who asked him a number of searching questions. This was the man known as Shams Tabrizi. Shams and Mevlana quickly became close friends and spent days and weeks closeted together in philosophical discussion. Mevlana left his teaching and appeared rarely in public. This caused jealousy and anger among his students and friends who believed that he had been bewitched by an evil sorcerer. In 1246 Shams disappeared as suddenly and as mysteriously as he had appeared. Mevlana became crazy and wrote poems about the separation of Shams. After long inquiries he finally learned that Shams was in Damascus. He wrote him letters begging him to return. Shams returned and their friendship and discussions resumed. In order to draw him more into his family, Mevlana offered his adopted daughter to Shams in marriage. However, one night in 1247, Shams disappeared for good. He was most probably murdered by his enemies.

Mevlana could not be comforted. He gave himself again to writing poetry about Shams. This time it was Husameddin Celebi who helped him to continue his philosophical speculations. He inspired him to write his greatest work, the "Mesnevi". It was a collection of 25,600 poems in 6 volumes.

In 1273, Mevlana became sick and people around him knew that he was dying and they cried in sorrow. He told his friends that death was union with God and he was longing for this union. Finally he died on December 17, 1273, was buried in Konya, and a tomb was built upon his sarcophagus.

His views

Mevlana was not a man of reason, he was on the contrary a man of love and affection. His aim was unification with God. According to him God could not fit into the universe but fit into the heart. Therefore we have to tend to the heart and not to reason.

"Come, come again, whoever, whatever you may be, come:

Heathen, fire-worshipper, sinful of idolatry, come.

Come even if you have broken your penitence a hundred times,

Ours is not the portal of despair and misery, come."

Instead of dealing with scholars of the time, Mevlana tended towards simple people like Husameddin Celebi who was regarded as ignorant by others. According to Mevlana, a scholar was like a person carrying a big sack of bread on his shoulder. But, he asked, what was the maximum number of loaves they could eat?

The Sema

The Sema, rite of communal recitation practiced by the Mevlevis was traditionally performed in the semahane. It symbolized the attainment of the various levels of mystical union with God and of absolute perfection through spiritual fervor and controlled ecstasy.

The sheik is the representative of Mevlana on earth. From the sheik's animal skin garment extends an imaginary line across the floor of the chamber which is regarded as the cosmic guide to the ultimate truth.

The dervish wears a white coat over a long white skirt, which represents his burial garment. These are covered by a black cloak, which represents his tomb. The conical brown or white felt hat represents his tombstone. The only difference in the sheik's clothing is that his hat is encircled by a dark band. The ceremony starts with a communal recitation followed by a recital of the flute. Wailing of the flute expresses longing for the ultimate.

Before beginning their dance the dervishes bow to the sheik and kiss his hand. Then they let fall their black cloaks to symbolize their escape from the tomb and readiness to dance for God, they begin to turn slowly. Right arms are above the body palm facing upward whereas left hands face downward. This symbolizes that what they get from God's grace and blessing, they pass on to the world.

The dancers begin to move faster and faster. According to Mevlana, with the Sema, dervishes can reach out and touch the "ultimate".

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A dervish bowing to the sheik and kissing his hand
 
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Sema Dance of Mevlevi dervishes
 
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Mevlana Museum

 
   
   
This place has been used as a museum since 1926. Inside the courtyard after the main portal, on both sides the cells of dervishes, kitchens and other buildings are located. The pool on the right is symbolically the Night of Union around which Sema dance performances took place each year on December 17. The ante-room before entering into the main tomb building was used as a place to read from the Koran by dervishes. Today fine examples of famous calligraphy artists are on display.

Inside the building on the right hand side of the hall, which is roofed by three domes, there are 55 graves belonging to Mevlana's male relatives and dignitaries. Right under the center of the green dome lies a sarcophagus of blue marble made for Mevlana and his son Sultan Veled, made as a present by Suleyman the Magnificent. The blue marble sarcophagus is covered with a fine cloth with verses of the Koran embroidered in gold thread, a gift of Sultan Abdulhamit II in 1894.

The semahane is the hall where the Sema dance ceremonies took place. The lodges for men and women and partitions for musicians are also in this section. There is a selection of the instruments used to accompany the Sema dance-the ney, rebab, tef and tambur- and some of Mevlana's garments which have been preserved.

The small mosque section which is entered through a small door, was built during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent. Valuable samples of calligraphy, illuminated manuscripts and book bindings as well as fine examples of Turkish carpets are on display. There is one silk carpet in the collection with 144 knots per square centimeter (924 knots per square inch) which is considered to be the most expensive carpet in the world.

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A fine example of Calligraphy, Mevlana Museum, Konya
 
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SULTANHAN CARAVANSARY

 
   
   
 

A caravansary on the way from Konya to Aksaray 40 km / 25 mi before the city. It was built by Sultan Alaattin Keykubat I during the Seljuk period, in 1229. It has two sections, one open with a courtyard and another covered. It is the largest of all Seljuk caravansaries in Anatolia with an area of 4,800 sq m / 1.2 acres.

Sultanhan is a monumental caravansary which looks like a fortress. The entrance is through a huge, geometrically decorated portal. The courtyard is surrounded by an arcade of rooms on the left and covered places on the right. In the middle is a small mosque. The entrance to the second part is through another portal which is located on the fourth wall. The center of this second part is barrel-vaulted, containing cathedral-like aisles covered with a dome and capped by an octagonal conical roof.

 

Caravansaries

These are public buildings built on the caravan routes for trade in normal times and for military use in times of emergencies. Because they were made to be utilized by the caravans, the distances between them were arranged according to the usual distance a camel could walk. A caravan could walk for about a day, and would not want to continue at night time. This meant that caravansaries were needed every 25-40 km / 15-26 mi.

The Anatolian Seljuks particularly understood the importance of trade and did a lot to encourage it. In these buildings they provided the caravans with every possible service such as places to sleep, hamams, mosques, doctors and veterinarians, kitchens, coffeehouses, libraries, etc. There were times in which any service was free of charge for the sake of active trade. For example, they even gave animals without charge to people who may have lost them.

The rulers of caravansaries were responsible for security. As a general rule they closed the gates at sunset and did not open them until sunrise unless they were sure that no belongings of people had been lost. According to the weather conditions, people sometimes had to share the covered section with animals. In such cases the smell of animals was lessened by using a variety of incenses.

Today there are approximately 120 caravansaries still standing in Anatolia.

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Portal of Sultanhan Caravansary, 13C AD, Seljuk period,Sultanhan
 
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Contents
of this Page

Konya (Iconium)

The Mevlevis

. Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi

. His Views

. The Sema

Mevlana Museum

Sultanhan Caravansary

. Caravansaries

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