Rumi's Adopted Turkish Hometown, Konya

Konya, Turkey

Situated at an altitude of 1016 meters in the south central region of the vast Anatolian steppe, the city of Konya is famous far beyond the borders of Turkey. The city's renown derives from the nearby ruins of Catal Huyuk and, more so, from the shrine of Rumi, the great Sufi poet (1207-1273). Fifty kilometers southeast of Konya, the Neolithic settlement of Catal Huyuk has been dated to 7500 BC, making it one of the oldest known human communities. Though only partially excavated and restored, the hilltop settlement covers 15 acres and reveals sophisticated town planning, religious art and ceremonial buildings. Remains of numerous other ancient settlements have been discovered on the Konya plain, giving evidence that humans have long favored this region.

The city of Konya has been known by different names through the ages. Nearly 4000 years ago the Hittites called it Kuwanna, to the Phrygians it was Kowania, to the Romans Iconium and to the Turks, Konya. During Roman times, the city was visited by St. Paul and because of its location on ancient trade routes, it continued to thrive during the Byzantine era. Konyas golden age was in the 12th and 13th centuries when it was the capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. The Seljuk Turks had ruled a great state encompassing Iran, Iraq and Anatolia. With the decline of the Seljuk state in the early 12th century, different parts of the empire became independent, including the Sultanate of Rum. Between 1150 and 1300, the Sultans of Rum beautified Konya, erecting many lovely buildings and mosques. It was during this period that Rumi came to live in Konya. Mevlana Rumi is generally known in the west simply by the epithet Rumi (which means Anatolian) or in the east as Maulana Rumi. In Turkey he is universally referred to as Mevlana(the Turkish spelling of Maulana - which means 'Our Master').

Rumi passed away on the evening of December 17, 1273, a time traditionally known as his 'wedding night,' for he was now completely united with god. In the centuries following Rumi's death, many hundreds of dervish lodges were established throughout the Ottoman domains in Turkey, Syria and Egypt, and several Ottoman Sultans were Sufis of the Mevlevi order. During the later Ottoman period, the dervishes acquired considerable power in the sultan's court. With the secularization of Turkey following World War I, the Mevlevi Brotherhood (and many others) were seen as reactionary and dangerous to the new republic, and were therefore banned in 1925. While their properties were confiscated, members of the Mevlevi Brotherhood continued their religious practices in secret until their ecstatic dance were again allowed in 1953.
The former monastery of the whirling dervishes of Konya was converted into a museum in 1927. While the dervishes have been banned from using this facility, it functions as both museum and shrine. In its main room (Mevlana Turbesi) may be seen the tomb of Mevlana covered with a large velvet cloth embroidered in gold. Adjacent to Rumi's burial is that of his father, Baha al-Din Valed, whose sarcophagus stands upright, for legends tell that when Rumi was buried, his father's tomb "rose and bowed in reverence." The tombs of Rumi's son and other Sufi sheikhs are clustered about the shrine. The burials of Rumi, his father and several others are capped with huge turbans, these being symbolic of the spiritual authority of Sufi teachers. The Mevlana Turbesi dates from Seljuk times while the adjoining mosque and the rooms surrounding the shrine were added by Ottoman sultans. Formerly used as quarters for the dervishes, these rooms are now furnished as they would have been during the time of Rumi, with mannequins dressed in period costumes.

Each year on December 17th a religious celebration is held at the site of Rumi's tomb, to which tens of thousands of pilgrims come. In the shrine there is a silver plated step on which the followers of Mevlana rub their foreheads and place kisses. This area is usually cordoned off but is opened for these devotional actions during the December pilgrimage festivities. In addition to the shrine of Rumi, pilgrims to Konya will visit the shrine of Hazrat Shemsuddin of Tabriz (traditionally visited before the shrine of Rumi), the shrine of Sadreduddin Konevi (a disciple of Hazrat ibn Arabi and a contemporary of Mevlana), the shrine of Yusuf Atesh-Baz Veli, and the shrine of Tavus Baba (who may in fact have been a women and therefore Tavus Ana). Within the museum of Rumi there is a map that shows the location of these various holy sites.

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