PERFORMED BY THE SUFI ENSEMBLE OF GALATA MEVLEVI MONASTERY
A UNESCO INTANGIBLE HERITAGE
I would like to share a truly amazing experience with you, a whirling dervish performance which I witnessed in Istanbul recently. It is more of a form of worship rather than an art form, where these whirling dervishes attempt to achieve union with God through dance. A movement which originated from the Sufis, a small Muslim cult, this form of worship easily transcends religious boundaries and goes into the realm of spirituality and mysticism.
As a token of respect to the dervishes, flash photography was discouraged, so capturing minute detail was a bit of a challenge under the low lighting conditions. Being trapped in the second row of seats did not help much in my freedom of movement either! So this was the best that I could do under those limitations.
I have attempted to capture the essence of this most fascinating performance and hope you enjoy it.
In response to some of the questions I've received, these dervishes are the "real thing". They had to go through religious training, which included 1001 nights as an apprentice, doing humble jobs such as cleaning latrines and working in kitchens. During the time of their studies, they were taught music, poetry and religion - in the process, they had to let go of their attachments to worldly possessions.
As for their costumes, the white and black cloaks represent death shrouds, and in dressing this way, these dervishes have confronted and come to terms with their own impending death.
Enough of the trivia!
These photos are presented in sequence, and I suggest that they are best viewed on a slideshow format.