The Mevlana Museum,
Whirling Derwishes Konya
The green-domed mausoleum of Sufi mystic and poet
Jalal al-Din Mohammad al-Rumi (1207-1273, known as Rumi or Mevlana)
is at the heart of the convent in Konya that includes a mosque,
ritual hall (semahane), dervish cells and kitchens in addition to
numerous other tombs and cemeteries. The site, a royal rose garden
to the east of the walled city, was a gift in 1228 from the Seljuk
sultan to Mevlana's father, theologian Baha al-Din Walad of Balkh
(d. 1231), who chose to settle in Konya after his long flight from
the Mongol army then approaching his hometown. Born in Balkh,
Mevlana studied in Aleppo and Damascus and continued his father's
teachings in the Seljuk madrasas of Konya. He died in 1273 and was
buried next to his father in the rose garden. His successors, and in
particular his son Sultan Walad (or Veled), established and
developed the Mawlawiyya order of whirling dervishes based on the
philosophy outlined in his masterpiece, the Masnavi.
The earthen graves of Mevlana and his father were
covered soon after with a lavish shrine, and a takiyya was built
around the tombs to house the Mawlawi brotherhood. Rebuilt and
enlarged over the Karamanid and Ottoman periods, the takiyya (dergah
or tekke) in Konya functioned as the center of Mawlawi teaching
until 1927, when it was closed down by a new Turkish law banning the
operation of takiyya and zawiyas. It was re-opened two years later
as the Konya Museum of Antiquities, and renamed Mevlana Museum in
1964 with the introduction of new exhibits conveying the daily life
of dervishes. The historic neighborhood around the complex,
including wooden mansions of the Çelebi (leaders of the convent) to
the north of the convent, was demolished in the mid-twentieth
century to create parklands around the museum and the adjoining
Selimiye Mosque (1566). The complex was extensively restored between
1983 and 1987.
The first tomb built over Mevlana's grave, a
simple domed structure, was commissioned in 1274 by Gürcü Hatun,
wife of Seljuk vizier Süleyman Pervane and built by Tabrizi
architect Badr al-Din. In 1397, Karamanid ruler Ala' al-Din Ali Bey
(1361-1398) replaced the dome with a sixteen-sided conical crown
covered with green tiles, giving the mausoleum its popular name of
Green Dome (Kubbe-i Hadra or Yesil Türbe). The shrine grew with
additions over time and reached its current state with the
enlargements and redecoration during the rule of Ottoman sultan
Bayezid II (1481-1512). His contributions are commemorated with a
thuluth inscription on the southern wall of Mevlana's tomb. His
grandson, Süleyman I (Qanuni, 1520-1566) is often credited with the
construction of the mosque and ritual hall (semahane), which adjoin
the northern wall of the shrine.
Mevlana Museum Photo
The domed bays of the shrine, mosque and semahane
are part of the same stone structure, divided only by archways
blocked by iron grills and wooden partitions. The mosque is entered
from a muqarnas portal through the central bay of a three-bay
portico facing the courtyard, which bears an inscription from
repairs in 1889. The base of the minaret, containing the spiral
steps of the balcony accessed from the interior, is built into the
southern bay of the portico. Inside, the mosque is covered by a
single dome that is carried on pendentives between four grand
arches. The qibla wall opens up into the shrine with a twin archway
containing a marble mihrab on its central column. Another twin arch,
now blocked with iron grills, connects the mosque with the semahane
to its east.
The semahane, like the mosque, is covered with a
dome about ten meters in diameter and opens into the shrine with two
archways. It was enlarged by Abdülhamid II, and contains
double-story galleries on the north and east sides, including a cell
for musicians (mutrib hücresi). The white-plastered interiors of the
mosque and semahane are simply adorned with painted inscriptions
from 1887, signed by Mehmed Mahbub of Konya. A series of casements
topped with arched windows bring daylight inside the two halls;
additional windows pierce the drums of their domes. The mosque
contains an exhibition with manuscripts, prayer rugs and the carved
wooden door of the semahane. Displays of clothing and caps belonging
to Mevlana, his son, and his friend Shams al-Tabriz can be seen
inside the semahane in addition to medieval prayer rugs, Sufi
musical instruments and other precious objects.
The shrine is entered from the room for tilavet,
or the reading of the Quran, which adjoins the east wall of the
shrine, south of the mosque portico. It contains an exhibition of
calligraphic works. Past the silver doors donated in 1599 by Hasan
Pasa (son of Grandvizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasa) is the visitation
corridor (Dahil-i Ussak, Kademat-i Pir, or, Huzur-i Pir). The three
domed bays of the corridor are enveloped by five bays to the north
and east (Kibab-ul Aktab) that contain sixty-five sarcophagi raised
on platforms. The second bay from the east holds the sarcophagus of
Mevlana and Sultan Veled and is richly adorned with painted
arabesques and inscriptions highlighted in gold. It is covered with
a painted star-vault below the Green Dome and bound by a low silver
cage (Gümüs Kafes) added in 1579. The steps to the crypt are covered
with a silver panel (Gümüs Esik) on the floor before the cage. The
bay in front of Mevlana's tomb (Postlar Kubbesi) is crowned with an
elaborate muqarnas vault topped with a lantern. The white-plastered
walls of the remaining bays are adorned simply with large Quranic
calligraphy. Six sarcophagi known as the "soldiers of Khorasan," a
fourteenth century bronze bowl from Damascus (Nisan Tasi, or "April
Bowl") and the oldest surviving copies of Mevlana's works from the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries are displayed along the northern
side of the shrine corridor.
The dervish cells enclosing the takiyya courtyard
to the north and west were rebuilt by Murad III in 1584. There are a
total of eighteen cells with fireplaces, twelve of which are placed
on the west and six on the north, all entered from an arcade facing
the courtyard. The walls separating some of the cells were
demolished and the arcade was englazed to create exhibition halls.
Two of the cells are furnished to illustrate the room of the convent
supervisor (postnisin) and a typical dervish room, while the other
cells contain displays of antique rugs and textiles. A large meeting
room (Meydan-i Serif or Hall of Honor), currently housing the museum
administration, separates the dervish cells from the kitchen (matbah)
at the southwest corner of the courtyard. The kitchen was moved to
its current location in 1584 from the northwest corner of the
complex. It was renovated in the nineteenth century and contains
displays with wax dummies illustrating cooking and meals at the
Enclosed by dervish cells and precinct walls, the
takiyya courtyard is entered from three gates; Dervisan Gate
(between dervish cells to the east), Hamusan Gate (south) and
Çelebiler Gate (leading to the Çelebi mansions to the north).
Hamusan Gate, or Gate of the Sealed Lips, refers to the cemetery
with the same name which occupied the gardens behind the qibla wall
of the shrine. The takiyya courtyard before the dervish cells also
had tombstones in caged clusters and was known as the Hadikat-ül
Ervah, or Garden of Souls. The tombstones removed from these two
cemeteries are now displayed at various locations inside the takiyya
courtyard. The leaders of the convent (çelebi) were buried in a
cemetery to the east of the shrine and semahane, while their female
relatives were buried in a plot north of the mosque (Valideler
There are five tomb towers of Ottoman notables in
the takiyya courtyard, four of which are domed octagonal chambers.
The free-standing tombs of Fatma Hatun (1585) and Sinan Pasha (1574)
are located to the south of the Hamusan cemetery, which contains the
tomb of Hasan Pasa (1573) and a simple canopy tomb belonging to
Mehmed Bey (1539). Adjoining the tomb of Hasan Pasa along the
shrine's qibla wall is the audience hall of the Çelebi, which opens
onto Mevlana's tomb with a window (Niyaz Penceresi). It is now a
library with over five thousand books and manuscripts. The octagonal
tomb of Hürrem Pasa (1527) adjoins the western wall of the kitchens.
Hürrem Pasha, Hasan Pasa and Sinan Pasa served as the governor
general of the Karaman province, while Fatma Hatun was the daughter
of governor general Murad Pasa.
There are two fountains and a pool inside the
takiyya courtyard. The ablution before the mosque was built by
Sultan Selim I (1512-20) and repaired in 1595 and 1868. Its canopy,
demolished in 1929, was rebuilt in 1988-90 based on the original
design. The octagonal pool with its marble spigot was the gathering
place for ceremonies on the anniversaries of Mevlana's death. A
nineteenth century marble salsabil, originally located near the
Hasan Pasa Tomb, is now displayed inside the takiyya courtyard.
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