Wednesday, January 4, 2012

United Colors of Dervishes

Most of you have probably heard of the Sufi Whirling Dervishes. The whirling ceremony of the dervishes have many details and their each move and step throughout the ceremony represents a transition in their spirituality. Because it is such a long and interesting subject we can not explain their every step but have included small footnotes for those who are curious.

The ceremony is usually performed by men only. However, in the city of Bursa, women are also trained in whirling and have gone to the extent in which they have brightened up the usual black and white dervish attire. I wanted to share these wonderful images of female whirling dervishes of different ages who performed to music played by a female sufi band in front of a female audience.

I am absolutely mesmerized by the whole idea of this spiritual performance and hope to be trained in it one day. Untill then, if you see these clothes on the next Marc Jacobs runway, you know where he got them from. :-)

We present to you the United Colors of Whirling Dervishes:

The dervishes enter the semahane, or whirling room, led by the semazenbashi, the dance master, and slowly, with heads bowed, line up on one side of the hall.

The musicians are at the opposite end of the hall on a raised platform, facing the sheikh.

The tennure, or long white skirt, represents the shroud, and the khirqa, or black cloak with long, large sleeves, symbolized the tomb. Beneath the cloak the turner wears a dasta gul, literally a bouquet of roses and a white jacket, the right side of which is tied down, the left hangs open. Around his waist is fastened the alif-lam-and, or girdle of cloth.

The dervishes, now seated on their knees, listen to the piercing sound of a single reed flute, or ney which plays the music prelude. The dervishes slap the floor with their hands indicating the day of the Last Judgment and the bridge Sirat that is crossed to get from this world to Paradise. It is said that this bridge is as thin as a hair and as sharp as a razor.

All the dervishes unfold and whirl as the musicians play and the chorus chants. The turners extend their arms, the right palm faces up and the left down. The energy from above enters through the right palm, passes through the body which is a visible channel, and, as this grace is universal, it passes through the left palm into the earth. With extended arms, the dervish embraces God.

They turn counterclockwise, repeating their inaudible zikr, "Allah, Allah."

"Go sweep out the chamber of your heart. Make it ready to be the dwelling place of the Beloved. When you depart out, He will enter it. In you, void of yourself, will He display His beauties."

 Elif Kavakci for HijabiTopia

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