Hacibektas, is 40 minutes drive from Goreme, located in northern Cappadocia. It is the center of Bektasi sect of Islam founded by the great philosopher Haci Bektas-i Veli in 13th century. You can visit the dervis dergah (lodge) which is a museum today, cilehane (suffering house), bestaslar (five stones) and a cemevi (an alevi temple) in Hacibektas. If your visit is timed for August, you will be able to watch the international commemoration ceremonies, and get an idea of the living traditions of the order’s followers. Hacibektas is the sacred center of Alevi Islam, and every year on 16, 17 and 18 August, tens of thousands of people flock here, not just from Turkey, but from Bulgaria, Albania and other Balkan countries.
" How glad for those who shed light into the darkness of thought. "
These words, written by Haci Bektas-i Veli, the famous Turkish-Islamic mystic, philosopher, and dervish from Khorasan, echo delicately in our ears as we enter the dervishes' convent. The lines, fraught with meaning, impart peace and love to our souls and transport us to the worlds completely different from our own. The stamp of Haci Bektas-i Veli's imprint upon Turkish, Islamic, and world history is deep and unmatched. Let us, therefore, attempt to become acquainted with and develop a sense for his world, filled as it is with love for humanity and for the universe, never forgetting that this is the path of love, the path of peace, the path of knowledge, the path of belief.
In Khorasan's city of Nishabur, most likely in the years between 1243 and 1248, a son was born to Seyyid Ibrahim Sani and his wife Hatern Hatun, the daughter of Sheik Ahmet. His mother's compassion and his father's love for equality and humanity were the foundations upon which his upbringing was based and such sentiments informed and enriched his boyhood years. His studies under the tutelage of Hoca Ahmet Yesevi of Turkestan equipped him with a knowledge of positive scielices and in the school of his illustrious philosopher-mentor, he studied mathematics and physics along with literature and philosophy. Under Sheik Lokman Perende, one of Ahmet Yesevi's successors, he studied mysticism. From the works of the poet Omar Khayyam, Feridettin Attar, and Sheik Numan he took his inspiration. Khorasan possessed a vast cultural heritage that had nourished many a scholar and philosopher. Haci Bektas-i Veli completed his studies in Khorasan, acquiring from them a broad and genial view of the world. His education encouraged this young Islamic mystic to become better acquainted with humanity, and Haci Bektas-i Veli began to seek the fire of infinite love within himself. Becoming a well-known Sufi, he set out from Khorasan to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Leaving Mecca, he traveled to Syria and then continued his journeys in Persia, Iraq, and Arabia. During these years, Anatolia was in a state of severe political and economic disarray. Haci Bektas-i Veli was affected by this situation and came to Anatolia with the idea of restoring fragmented Turkish unity, and took part in the effort to make the peninsula a Turkish and Muslim homeland.
The principles and elements of Haci Bektas-i Veli's philosophy and life became the foundation on which the Bektashi dervish order developed. Bektashism was based on four tenets or "doors":
When you visit the Dervish Dergah (lodge) in the center of the town, you will be introduced to the Alevi order, one of the biggest heterodox branches of Islam. The Dergah or Dervish lodge of Hacibektas became a museum in 1964. The entrance leads into a large courtyard, to the right of which once stood buildings accommodating the dervishes who worked the land and farm laborers employed by the lodge. These buildings were demolished when the lodge was being converted into a museum, and a wall was built here. At the far end of this wall is the Ucler Fountain symbolizing the Creator, Muhammed and Ali, a fundamental concept of the Alevi faith. An open space on the left is like a small park, and originally there were stables for the horses of guests, barns and other outbuildings here. At the end of the courtyard a gate leads into a second courtyard, where there is a pool with a border of flowers. You can drink from the holy water of the Lion Fountain. The inscription over this fountain explains that the lion statue was brought from Egypt as a gift to the lodge in 1853. The second courtyard was the busiest part of the lodge, with the asevi (refectory), pantry, hamam (baths), guest house, hall where the sacred services known as cem were held, and the pavilion where the lodge's leader, the Dedebaba, received guests. The final gateway leads into the third courtyard where the tomb of Haci Bektas Veli stands. On the right are the graves of dervishes belonging to the lodge, and in the small mausoleum just beyond lie Balim Sultan and Kalender Sah, two great figures of the order. The ancient wishing tree in front of the mausoleum is one of the places where visitors stop. Before entering the mausoleum it is customary for visitors to embrace the cylindrical marble stone in the right-hand corner. If you can embrace it with two arms, then it is regarded as proof that your heart is clean and your intentions are pure. The tomb was built by Seyhsuvar Ali, lord of the Dulkadirogullari principality, in 1519 following the death of Balim Sultan.
The walls of the mausoleum are decorated with painted kalem isi, and there are examples of Bektasi calligrapher. The door is original. The mausoleum of Haci Bektas Veli himself is known as Pir Evi, and at the entrance are the graves of the baba's of the order, dervishes who attained the highest degree. As you walk towards the Kirklar Meydani hall, on the right you pass the cilehane, a cell where the dervishes spent time alone in the presence of God. If you wish to see inside you must bend almost double, and a few minutes alone in that dark cell gives you an impression at least of what it must have been like for the dervishes who came here. On the raised platform to the left of the Kirklar Meydani are buried the descendants of Haci Bektas who sat on the ceremonial fleece of office and were known as celebi or bel evlatlari. In this hall where the dervishes performed the ceremonial dance known as the kirklar semahi, are now exhibited the twelve sided stones known as teslim tasi which the dervishes hung around their necks as symbols of the Bektasi order, earrings worn by unmarried dervishes who devoted their lives to serving their lodge, handwriting of the Caliph Ali on gazelle skin, beautiful examples of calligraphy, torches, censers, and the Kirkbudak Candelabra which according to the Velayetname came from India. Finally a small door on the right leads into the tomb chamber of Haci Bektas Veli, where visitors perambulate three times around the sarcophagus before offering up a supplication to Haci Bektas Veli. Near the lodge is Dedebagi, an open park scattered with trees, where visitors who have come for the commemoration ceremonies gather to picnic and drink the ice cold spring water from a fountain known as Sekerpinar.