The whirling dance or Sufi whirling is part of a formal ceremony known as Sema. It has its origin in the inspiration of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi (1207 - 1273) who was a Dervish himself. The ceremony is performed to try to reach religious ecstasy and it symbolizes the different meanings of a mystic cycle to perfection (from Ascension to Mirac).
Come, come, whoever you are;
Be you infidel, idolator or pagan, come.
Our convent is not a place of despair.
Even if you have gone back on your oath a hundred times, still come!
The Whirling Dervishes ceremonies are performed in Sarihan Caravanserai every night starting at 21:00. The whole ceremony takes about one hour and after the ceremony you are offered 'Şerbet', a religious drink. You are picked up from the hotel half an hour earlier, which should give you enough time to look around in the old caravanserai before the ceremony starts.
Contemporary science definitely confirms that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no object, no being which does not revolve. Everything whirls and man, a whirling dervish, carries on his life, his very existence by means of the revolution in the atoms, structural elements in his body, by the circulation of his blood, by his coming from the Earth and returning to it, by his revolving with the Earth itself.
The Sema (Whirling Dervishes) ceremony represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through love, finding the truth and arriving to perfection. Then he returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole creation, to all creatures without discriminating about belief, class, or race.
The Dervish with his hat (his ego's tombstone), and his white skirt (his ego's shroud) is spiritually born to the truth. When he removes his black cloak, he travels and reaches spiritual maturity through the stages of the Sema. At the beginning of each stage of the Sema when holding his arms crosswise, he represents number one, and testifies to God's unity.
While whirling his arms are open, his right hand directed to the sky ready to receive God's beneficence, his left hand turned toward the earth for giving what he has received to the poor, he turns from right to left, turning around the heart. This is his way of conveying God's spiritual gift to the people upon whom God looks with a divine watchfulness. Revolving around the heart, from right to left, he embraces all humankind, all the creation with affection and love.