After the round of lip-smacking Turkish delicacies at Güvenç Konyali, we headed to Hoca Paşa Kultur Merkezi or the Hodjapasha Cultural Center to view a whirling Dervish dance performance.
This dance theater is located in a 550-year old historical building which was home to a Turkish bath called Hocapaşa Hamamı. It was originally built by an Ottoman official, Hoca Sinan Paşa, who was a teacher and vizier (minister) in the court of Fatih Sultan Mehmet during the 1470s. This building served as a Turkish bath till 1988, when it was converted to a dance theatre and a cultural centre.
We were here to witness the Mevlevi Sema ceremony or the Whirling Dervish Dance which is a Sufi tradition of this region, representing the mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to perfection. This unique ritual had been recognised as Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005.
Waiting for the performance to begin...
The whirling is a form of physically active meditation which originated among Sufis, and is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes (ascetics) of the Mevlevi order. The dervishes aim to reach source of all perfection, or literally, God, by performing this dance. They do this by letting go of worldly thoughts, egos or personal desires, listening to the music, focusing on God and spinning their bodies in repetitive circles. This has been interpreted as an imitation of planets orbiting the sun.
The website, The Whirling Dervishes of Rumi explains this as:
In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, the semazen's camel's hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt (tennure) represents the ego's shroud. By removing his black cloak (hırka), he is spiritually reborn to the truth. At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God's unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God's beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The semazen conveys God's spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the Sema. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the semazen embraces all humanity with love. The human being has been created with love in order to love. Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi says, "All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!"
The dance was mesmerising and we were immersed in a feeling of absolute peace...
Witnessing the dance gave us an entirely different perspective to this hectic day.We came out of it was feeling of absolute joy and peace, and this is one of the reasons we shall always remember Istanbul...
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