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When the Sufi mystic philosopher-poet Mevlâna Celaleddin Rumi died in 1273, he was buried in Konya beside his father and a great shrine was erected above them. As Rumi's mystic teachings of love and tolerance, ecstatic joy, and unity with God spread and his poetry gathered a greater following, his mausoleum drew pilgrims from all parts of the Islamic world. In 1926, three years after the establishment of the Turkish Republic, his shrine was declared a museum, though the Sufi order he founded had been officially banned in 1925 as part of the drastic secularization of Turkish society under Atatürk. Today, the museum is one of the most visited sites in Turkey, attracting more than 2 million people a year, the majority of them Turks. Sufi dervishes have also been assigned special status as "Turkish folk dancers," allowing them to perform their mystic whirling without the state overtly recognizing its undeniable religious basis.
The mausoleum building is a holy site and, to protect
it from wear and tear, visitors are required to put plastic covers over their shoes. The interior resembles that of a mosque, with its intricately painted domes, ornate chandeliers, and Islamic inscriptions on the walls. It is well lighted and there is instrumental ney (reed pipe) music playing—unusual for a Muslim holy place, it is a further hint that Rumi was not a proponent of traditional interpretations of Islam. The main hall contains many dervish tombs, all of them with carved stone turbans wrapped in cloth atop the sarcophagi. Rumi's tomb, located in its own special section on the right, is the largest, covered with an enormous embroidered gray mantle and with two massive green turbans at its head. In what seems like a bit of a contradiction to the simplicity of dervish life, this vaulted section is incredibly ornate—almost every square inch is covered with colorful painted floral patterns and gold-embossed calligraphic inscriptions. The place is usually filled with Muslim pilgrims standing with their palms outward in prayer.
Rumi was famous for his inclusiveness and would have welcomed you here, no matter what your beliefs. He said:
"Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire,
Come even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.
Come, and come yet again.
Ours is not a caravan of despair."
The first of the two ornately decorated rooms on the left contains beautifully preserved holy books; some dervish clothing, including a cloak that belonged to Rumi; and an inlaid mother-of-pearl box containing hair from the prophet Mohammed's beard. The second room has recently been converted into a prayer space; as in a mosque, those wishing to pray should remove their shoes, and women are expected to cover their heads, before stepping onto the platform.
Next to the mausoleum is a courtyard with a large şadırvan, or ablutions fountain, around which are rooms that formerly served as dervish cells. These have been turned into a museum, with each room illustrating a different aspect of life in the dervish brotherhood, through artifacts such as traditional musical instruments, clothing and headgear, manuscripts, and calligraphic tools. A separate structure, the matbah, or kitchen, shows mannequins of dervishes engaged in the preparation and serving of food—activities that took on an almost ritual significance in the dervish hierarchy.
off Mevlâna Meydanı, Konya, Konya, 42030, Turkey
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