Urs of Jelaluddin al-Rumi

(redirected from Whirling Dervish Festival)

Urs of Jelaluddin al-Rumi (Whirling Dervish Festival)

Week leading up to December 17
Each year up to a million people flood Konya, Turkey, on the anniversary of the death of the poet and Sufi Islamic mystic Jelaluddin al-Rumi. The prolific and influential poet was born in 1207 in what is now Afghanistan. After spending most of his life in present-day Turkey, he died there in 1273. Rumi's teachings are the basis for the Sufi Muslim order known as Mevlevi in Turkish and Malawi in Arabic. The order uses music and dance to experience spiritual ecstasy, and its members are most commonly known as "whirling dervishes" because of their dance rituals that involve spinning in place for extended periods of time.
During the week leading up to December 17, lights bejewel the town of Konya, shop keepers offer special merchandise, and thousands of visitors arrive to partake of exhibits and lectures related to Rumi and the Mevlevi order. Festival-goers also visit Rumi's tomb, situated in an extensive Mevlevi complex, which comprises one of Turkey's most-visited museums. The climax of the festival week takes place on December 17, when Mevlevis perform their whirling dance wearing costumes that feature white trousers, a full white overskirt, and tall cylindrical hats. Each of these items represents an aspect of the dancer's ego, which is symbolically overcome during the dance by the performer's spirit ascending to love and truth. Before the dance, Rumi's poems are recited and prayers offered. The dance occurs in seven parts, each of which has a particular meaning. The whirling, which is said to mirror the circular movements of creation, from an atom's particles to the planets' orbits, occurs in the fifth section. Muslims and non-Muslims alike attend the striking, world-renowned display. It inspired the Rumi Festival,held annually in North Carolina to honor the beloved poet and his teachings.
Turkish Tourist Office
2525 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-612-6800; fax: 202-319-7446
Turkey Embassy
2525 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 02008
202-612-6700; fax: 202-612-6744
UndIslam-2004, p. 400
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
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