Sema (Whirling dervishes ceremony), is the inspiration of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi (1207 - 1273) as well as part of the Turkish culture, belief and history in Konya. It symbolizes the different meanings of a mystic cycle to perfection (Ascension - Mirac).
Contemporary science definitely confirms that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no object, no being which does not revolve. Every thing whirls and man, a whirling dervish, carries on his life, his very existence by means of the revolution in the atoms, structural elements in his body, by the circulation of his blood, by his coming from the Earth and return to it, by his revolving with the Earth itself.
The Sema (whirling dervishes) ceremony represents all a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through love, finding the truth and arriving to the "Perfect". Then he returns from this spiritual journeys as a man who reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole creation, to all creatures without discriminating in regard to belief, class, or race.
The dervish with his hat (his ego's tombstone), and his white skirt (his ego's shroud) is spiritually born to the truth. When he removes his black cloak, he journeys and advances to the spiritual maturity through the stages of the Sema. At the beginning and each stage of the Sema holding his arms crosswise he represents number one, and testifies to God's unity.
While whirling his arms are open, his right hand directed to the sky ready to receive God's beneficence, gazing his left hand turned toward the earth for giving what he received to poor, he turns from right to left, pivoting around the heart. This is his way of conveying God's spiritual gift to the people upon whom God "looks with a Divine" watchfulness. Revolving around the heart, from right to left, he embraces all of humankind, all the creation with affection and love.
Whirling Dervishes ceremonies are performed in Sarihan Caravanserai everynight, but what is a caravanserai?
Trade across Turkey in medieval Seljuk times was dependent on camel trains (kervan, anglicised as caravan), which stopped by night in inns known as kervansaray (caravanserai), literally 'caravan palaces'. These buildings provided accommodation and other amenities for the merchants and stabling for their animals.
During the reign of the Anatolian Seljuk sultans Kilicarslan II (1155-1192) and Alaaddin Keykubat I (1220-1237), a large number of kervansarays were built and security measures along the Silkroad and other trade roads increased. The state not only built kervansarays but compensated merchants who were attacked or robbed, so providing a kind of insurance system. As a result, both domestic and international trade expanded. Foreign merchants who came to Anatolia enjoyed extensive rights and reductions on customs duties.
All merchants of whatever nationality were provided with food and beverages free of charge for three days. Their shoes were repaired and new shoes were given to the poor. Treatment was available for the sick, animals were cared for and shoed if necessary. Each kervansaray employed a physician, imam (priest), inn keeper, superintendent of provisions, veterinary surgeon, blacksmith and cook to provide these services.
The Silk Road caravanserais of Cappadocia were built of hewn volcanic stone, and their walls were thick and high so that they would be safe from raids by robbers. Decoration was concentrated on the great portals which display the finest examples of Seljuk stone carving. The portal doors were made of iron to repel intruders. Sarihan, situated 15 km from Goreme, on the east of Avanos, is on the banks of the Damsa brook. It faces west, and consists of an indoor area with five naves and a courtyard. Sari Han is considered to have been built in 1249. It had a Turkish bath and a mesjid over the gatehouse and its external area (excluding the towers and portal) is 2,000 square meters. After the restoration process, it represents the best example of Anatolian caravanserais. Please visit our "Caravanserais" page for further information about caravanserais in Cappadocia.