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Mevlana :: Dervishhood

After his 1001 days of duty, the newly ordained neophyte remained in his cell, to which he had been led with ceremony and amidst the recitation of litany and prayers for three days, praying and meditating. But during those three days he would be visited by other members of the order, who would attend to his needs, and congratulate him bringing gifts, known as 'niyaz'- or gifts of supplication. If nothing else, a dervish would bring three leaves or petals from a flower, which he would silently attach to the edge of the kilim or a cushion in the new dervish's cell.

He left his cell only to relieve himself or to perform ritual ablutions during those first three days, even his meals being brought to him.

Three days later, the Chief Steward entered the dervish's cell exclaiming "Destur" (a standard request for permission to enter a room) and telling him that his cell was opened indicated that he may leave it if he wished. Then the dervish was brought before the sheyh to take the oath of allegiance, both to the sheyh and the order, in the 'biat' ceremony. After prayers and recitation of the litany, the sheyh invested the dervish with the mantle of the order, and sent him to his cell once more to undergo castigatory retreat of 18 days. After the completion of this retreat, in accordance with the rites and practices of the order, the dervish was brought before the sheyh once again, who invested him with the headgear of a fully-fledged dervish -sikke -and blessed him. The dervish was now an initiate. If he wished, he could remain in his cell for the rest of his life, or he was free to go to another convent. Some initiates left the convent to take up a career or marry at that stage, but they were expected to remain celibate as long as they remained resident at the convent.

Dervishes remaining at the convent were generally given specific duties. During their period of service, their skills and inclinations were carefully screened, and those who had the potential were trained as performers of the ritual dance -semazen. Others with talent were trained as musicians by master dervishes, and in particular as flute -players -neyzen, and tympanists- kudumzen (kudum: a double drum). Some were trained as chanters of the litany- na'athan or hanende.Among the other skills taught at the convent were languages, Arabic and Persian in particular. Some dervishes became experts on the interpretation and recitation of the Mesnevi- Mesnevihan. Others became poets and authors. Many of the leading exponents of classical poetic- Divan -literature have been Mevlevi. A great number of the most famous calligraphers were trained in Mevlevi schools attached to the order. Almost all the great Turkish classical composers were Mevlevi, and were trained in Mevlevi convents much as they would have been in an academy of music.


Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Mevlana and the Mevlana Museum".

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