The Mevlevî Semâ ceremony is one of the important and widespread elements of traditional culture in Turkey. If you have an opportunity to spend time in İstanbul or Konya during your Turkey trip and if you are interested in authentic dances, you must definitely visit one of these ceremonies.
The ceremony, known as Semâ or Semâ Mukabelesi, performed by Mevlevi dervishes whirling with music, is subject to rules and rituals that have been strictly implemented for hundreds of years and receives appreciation of millions from different cultures. The Mevlevi order is a Sufi tariqa founded by Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi in Konya in the 13th century; the ceremony of the Mevlevi order involves quite symbolic rituals. Each and every step of the ceremony and the dance represent different stages of the human beings’ spiritual journey to Allah. Semâ ceremonies are frequently performed in Mevlevihanes (the dervish lodges) of Konya and Istanbul and tickets are sold on Internet. The dervish lodges of Mevlevis (Mevlevîhaneler), that host the ceremonies, are hundreds of years old and today they serve as museums and foundations.
The cultural significance of Mevlevi order is internationally recognized as well; for example, UNESCO declared 2007 as “800th Anniversary of the Birth of Mevlâna Celaleddin-i Rumî.” In this context, a great number of events were organized in Turkey and in the world throughout 2007; Mevlevî Semâ ceremonies were performed and this fascinating culture was introduced all around the world.
Those who perform semâ in Semâ ceremony are called Semazen, the music group that plays the enchanting tunes is called Mutriban and the ceremony is held in halls that are called Mutrıphane and Semahane. In Semahane, directly across the door a red sheep or deer skin is laid, it is called post (or postniş) and represents “Tecelli,” or the manifestation of Allah. The sheikh that leads the ceremony represents Mevlana. Although the Semâ dance is performed by Semazens whirling around their hearts, Mevlevîs never use the term, “dönmek-revolving.” In Mevlevi order Semâ means “hearing” or “listening” and it represents man’s comprehension of the universe, that all beings are created, and semazen’s mystical revolution towards the Truth, Allah.
Movements during Semâ ceremony are extremely symbolic and each has deep meanings in the Mevlevi thought. For example, during Semâ, Semazen’s right hand is opened to the sky, while his left hand is turned toward the earth, conveying his readiness “to receive God’s beneficence and giving to the people.” Here, what is received and given to the people is not material but spiritual, representing the knowledge of the universe. The ceremony involves seven stages; every stage has a separate name and meaning.
If you want to watch a Mevlevî Semâ Ceremony while you are in Istanbul, you can find tickets for ceremonies performed in Galata Mevlevihanesi located near Taksim, Yenikapı Mevlevihanesi, Sultanahmet Cankurtaran Tarihi İsmail Dede Efendi Mevlevî House or Sirkeci Train Station Events Hall. If you happen to be in the Central Anatolia region during your Turkey trip, for example, if you visit Cappadocia, you can include Konya in your program and have an opportunity to witness a Semâ ceremony where it was born.