There exist special places in the world, but we may know nothing about them. In my case, the Mevlana Museum was one of them. When I included Konya in my travel itinerary, I only knew that it was an important Ottoman city. Thus, it made sense for me to go there because one of the reasons for my travel across Turkey was to explore the Ottoman heritage. I remember reading about Konya while I was on the beach in Antalya. I wanted to find out in more detail about Konya’s history and historical sites.
That’s when I learnt that it was the capital city of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum and also about the Mevlana Museum. I certainly had no prior knowledge about the Seljuk civilisation and have never heard about Mevlana before.
WHO WAS MEVLANA?
Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi or Mevlana, was the 13th century Persian poet, spiritual leader, philosopher and Sufi mystic. He may not be very well known in the western world, but the Islamic word greatly appreciates and cherishes his spiritual legacy. In terms of poems and his other literary work, he stands equal to Dante and Shakespeare. Rumi’s poetry speaks of love that permeates the world.
He was a transcendental Islamic philosopher that passionately believed in the use of music, poetry and dance as the way to reach the God. Although, the depth of his spiritual vision reached beyond the confines of religion. He was the poet of universal love. His teachings were the base for the Mevlevi order, established by his son Sultan Walad. Additionally, his ideas gave birth to the Whirling Dervishes practice.
There is already a lot of information on Rumi, for whoever wants to learn more about this extraordinary person. However, I had to say a word about him, as an introduction to this post about the Mevlana Musuem.
When I read in the guide book about the Mevlana Museum in Konya, I imagined a modern day building, although I could not envisage what would be inside. In fact, I did not want to know too much in advance. Rather, I wanted to personally discover and explore the museum and its exhibits.
I vividly remember arriving to the big square that you can see in a photo below. There were two mosques in front of me. I immediately identified the building in the front as an Ottoman mosque. It certainly looked like all other Ottoman mosques, although I did not know which one it was exactly.
I was also looking around to see the Mevlana Museum. But, no building that I could see looked like a museum, until I clicked. It was right there, the other mosque in that square, with the green dome. So, you can only imagine my surprise when I realised that the Mevlana Museum was a much more important place than I had originally thought. The same as Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, only very significant and greatly important historical structures can become museums.
The Mevlana Museum is in fact the Rumi’s mausoleum.
Rumi died in December 1273. Hüsamettin Çelebi, Mevlana’s successor, decided to build a mausoleum over his master’s grave. The construction finished in 1274.
It was also a dervish lodge of the Mevlevi order, more popularly known as Whirling Dervishes.
Apparently, this is Turkey’s most visited museum, with over 2.5 million visitors annually. But, what you can’t see in photos in this post are the many people that were there at the same time when I was there.
In fact, there were busloads of tourists in the museum, transported from other destinations in Turkey, most likely on a day excursion. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that they would only visit this museum and the Selimiye Mosque and nothing else. I haven’t seen any tourists at any other of Konya’s equally important historical sites, such as the Aziziye and Alaeddin Mosques. As a matter of fact, I liked the fact that all other sites were quiet. I had them almost privately for myself.
As I have already mentioned, the museum is the Rumi’s mausoleum.
But, there are other people buried there, they where dervishes who accompanied Rumi and his family to Konya.
There are also his family members and high-ranking members of the Mevlevi order.
The most important is the Mevlana’s tomb, it occupies the central part of the mausoleum.
It is located directly beneath the green dome.
A moment of happiness,
you and I sitting on the veranda,
apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.
We feel the flowing water of life here,
you and I, with the garden’s beauty
and the birds singing.
The stars will be watching us,
and we will show them
what it is to be a thin crescent moon.
You and I unselfed, will be together,
indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.
The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar
as we laugh together, you and I.
In one form upon this earth,
and in another form in a timeless sweet land
Kulliyat-e Shams, 2114
O lovers, lovers it is time
to set out from the world.
I hear a drum in my soul’s ear
coming from the depths of the stars.
Our camel driver is at work;
the caravan is being readied.
He asks that we forgive him
for the disturbance he has caused us,
He asks why we travellers are asleep.
Everywhere the murmur of departure;
the stars, like candles thrust at us from behind blue veils,
and as if to make the invisible pain,
a wondrous people have come forth.
The Divani Shamsi Tabriz XXXVI
These were two of Rumi’s love poems.
MEVLEVI ORDER (WHIRLING DERVISHES)
In Mevleviyeh, those who descend from Mevlana are called chelebi, the post representing Mevlana is called chelebilik and the chelebi who serves at that post is called makam chelebisi (chelebi of the post) or chelebi efendi (master chelebi).
But, this word has also been used for noble, kind, elegant, wise people, as well as for Ottoman princes during the early period.
Master chelebis, accepted and approved as Mevlana’s spiritual successors, appointed those who would succeed them.
In Mevleviyeh, a dervish who completes his 1001 days of suffering is granted the title of dede and a cell. The dede is also called hucrenishin, after moving to the cell. Dervishes who are called nevniyaz are informed of being granted a cell after completing 18 different services such as running errands, shopping, lamp-keeping, etc. At that night, nevniyaz performs ablution, takes off his matbah tenure, wears dervish clothes and sits on the matbah skin rug. Having dined in matbah, prayers are performed, eighteen-armed girandola is lit, the nevniyaz is brought to the chamber prepared with gülban made by aschi dede, so he becomes hucrenishin.
The dervish to whom a cell is granted undertakes the cell suffering. He does not leave the room, except for basic needs, for the first 3 days and the lodge for the following 18 days. After that, Meydanci dede leads the new dervish to the sheikh. From now on, nevniyaz will be a Mevlevi Dede.
Dedes who lived in the lodge trained nevniyaz on Masnavi, poetry, music, calligraphy and gilding. They also provided spiritual discipline for their moral development.
ASHCI DEDE CHAMBER
Ashci Dede was the head of the lodge officers. Throughout the Mevleviyeh history, he was the one who educated and trained dervishes and also helped with their spiritual development.
He had the highest rank within the lodge after the Sheikh and was responsible for all activities and the order of the entire lodge. He also controlled the income and expenses of the lodge and determined salaries given to dervishes as niyaz.
Ashci Dede used to tell the djan (soul, spirit) who had set on the saka rug for 3 days: “So, you have witnessed and performed the praying, invocation, service, suffering and challenges that pertain to Mevleviyeh. These things require patience and tolerance. Whoever treats you badly, do not retaliate; never lay a hand on anyone, nor attack or talk against anyone. Accept everything. Be patient and display tolerance for every trouble and suffering sent by the Beloved God. Pray, serve and invocate God. If you accept this order and service by your free will, we will accept you with all your deficiencies and flaws”.
There is also a section within the museum where you can see scenes from dervishes’ daily life, within the lodge.
I am very glad that I visited this museum. It inspired me to learn about Rumi, the Mevlevi Order and Whirling Dervishes. Basically, things that I knew nothing about before I went to Konya.
And, that’s exactly why I travel. Travelling opens the mind and also it teaches us about different people, their customs and distant cultures that otherwise we would perhaps never get in touch with and would never know anything about them.
If the Mevlana Museum was the only thing to see in Konya, it would be worth a visit. It is a magnificent place, especially when you fully understand its history and its symbolic meaning. Or I should rather say, Rumi’s spiritual significance!
I think that anyone who happens to be close to Konya should inevitably make an effort and visit this precious place.