There are some people and books whose influence spans centuries. Their knowledge and stories, laden with lessons, resemble the freshness of life that renews itself with each sunrise. With their examples, these works help us to think about life's details and to understand the essence of greater things through small events. Intellectuals who have set their hearts on the Mathnawi, the extensive poem written by Mawlana, which keeps up with the passing of time and has counseled people in all ages of history, have made Istanbul livelier since its conquest and influenced its spiritual atmosphere with dervish lodges.
After Kalenderhane Mosque, reserved by Mehmed the Conqueror for Kalenderi dervishes as a zawiya (an Islamic religious school), the first dervish lodges in Istanbul were opened during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II. The first such lodge was the Galata Dervish Lodge. It was built in 1481 on the land donated by Iskender Bey, one of the prominent commanders of Mehmed the Conqueror. Situated within the historic Galata Rampart Walls which used to span from the coastline of Karaköy to Sokullu Mehmed Paşa Mosque on the Golden Horn, the dervish lodge was located in a region mostly dominated by a non-Muslim population. As a house of knowledge, it bore great resposibility due to the high interest and visits by people from various religions. The semahane is one of the parts of the dervish lodge that remains standing today although the complex comprised a vast land during the time of its donation. The lodge’s spiritual atmosphere takes hold of your mind the moment you enter.
The first names that come to mind in connection to the Galata Dervish Lodge are, without a doubt, Sheikh Galip and his student Esrar Dede. This was where Sheikh Galip opened Sufism's doors of affection through the love of Hüsn ü Aşk (Beauty and Love). Ibrahim Muteferrika, the first Ottoman printer, is one of the people buried in the cemetery which hides the precious memories of many soldiers of love within its walls. The Galata Dervish Lodge’s current structure was a result of the repairs during the time of Sultan Abdulmejid I. The lodge can be visited every day except Mondays.
Istanbul has always been as important and precious for Mevleviyeh as Konya. Opened as the biggest lodge in the city in the late 16th century, Yenikapı Dervish Lodge bears a special significance in that regard. The dervish lodge became the center of Mevleviyeh in Istanbul for 350 years, a period during which it remained open and taught many great Mevlevi personalities, including the sheikhs and dedes of other dervish lodges in Istanbul such as Sheikh Galip and Hammamizade Ismail Dede Efendi. I regard myself quite lucky as the author of these lines. I had the chance to listen to many memories at first hand, and visit each room in the dervish lodge in the company of the late Polis Burhan Amca who can be described as the last guardian of this place and was well acquainted with many great Mevlevi personalities of recent times. Hammamizade Ismail Dede Efendi is as important for Yenikapı as Sheikh Galip is for Galata. When you visit Yenikapı Dervish Lodge, make sure to remember the composition “Yine Bir Gülnihâl” by Ismail Dede Efendi, who joined the teachings of Ali Nûtki Dede Efendi and was one of the most important figures of classical Turkish music.
Yenikapı Dervish Lodge currently houses a semahane, a harem and selamlık, a hünkar mahfili (sultan’s loge), and a muvakkithane in addition to the mausoleums and cemetery that shelter in honor of important people who dedicated their lives to this place. Yenikapı Dervish Lodge was also praised as a tranquil place by Ottoman sultans such as Sultan Murad IV, Mahmud II, and Sultan Abdulmejid I, as well as statespeople such as Mihrişah Sultan, Abdurrahman Nafiz, and Zuval Paşa. Its biggest misfortunes were the numerous fires it suffered . Its current architectural style was mostly achieved by architect Kemalettin Bey after the fire of 1903. It occasionally hosts Sema ceremonies.
The district of Eyüp hosts Bahariye-Beşiktaş Dervish Lodge which stood the test of time and is still open. It was situated in Beşiktaş until 1867, then moved to the districts of Maçka and Fındıklı, and relocated to its current location in Eyüp in 1877. Hüseyin Fahreddin Dede Efendi is the first name that comes to mind when discussing Bahariye Dervish Lodge. After studying under Yenişehirli Avni Bey, one of the famous masters, he played the reed flute with a characteristic style. It would not be wrong to describe him as the father of Bahariye Dervish Lodge.
When viewed from the coast of the Golden Horn together with the calm waters, Bahariye Dervish Lodge looks even more beautiful. Built with cut limestone, the lodge's mighty front gate is one of the structure's highlights. The muqarnas ornamentations of the gate represents the eternity of Allah. Another striking feature of Bahariye Dervish Lodge is its separate selamlık building. Situated on the left side of the courtyard upon entrance, the masjid is the only structure that had remained intact before the lodge's restoration. The library continues to offer its services as such. Reserved for dervishes who obtain the title “dede,” dedegan chambers are among the architectural feats that complete Bahariye’s sense of aesthetics. Numbers bear great importance for architecture in Mevleviyah. The 18 cells and 18 wooden columns at Bahariye Dervish Lodge represent the first 18 couplets of the Mathnawi.
The dervish lodges in Istanbul were places of education for calligraphy, music, illumination, and other fields of art. December is a meaningful month to explore these lovely places, which keep the Mevlevi tradition alive that has had a deep influence on our culture.