Whirling with the Mevlevi — Celebrating Turkish culture


This past Sunday, the Embassy of Turkey hosted a concert at The George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium featuring Ahmet Özhan, a Turkish classical/Sufi music singer followed by a Mevlevi Sema Ceremony. The Mevlevi are a fraternity of Sufis (Muslim mystics) founded in 1273 by the Sufi poet Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi. The Mevlevi Sema is a devotional ceremony involving music and prayer. It is a structured ritual that represents a trust in the fraternal order, a person’s spiritual journey toward the discovery of Truth, and his ascent toward perfection and deeper understanding of God.

The captivating Mevlevi Sema Ceremony as well as the concert performed on Sunday presented a rare opportunity to experience such cultural aspects of Turkish life and culture here in Washington, D.C. The power, elegance, and intense devotion of the Semazen (whirling dervishes) was matched by the music played by the Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble which, founded in 1991 by the Turkish Ministry of Culture, aims to perform classical Turkish music. The night’s performance moved some audience members to ecstatic tears, many of whom were Turkish expatriates who had never witnessed such a ceremony before.

All images © Tapan Bhargava. You can see more of his work on Instagram at @tapan_bhargava.


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Tapan Bhargava is an aspiring photojournalist, originally from India. In addition to photography and reporting stories, his interests include fishing, cooking, and geo-politics. He is a strong advocate for climate justice and humanitarian issues. A section of his work can be found on Instagram at @tapan_bhargava