The Mevlevi Order was founded by the followers of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi (popularly referred to as Rumi) in 1273. Rumi was a 13th century Islamic spiritual leader who was born in 1207 in Balkh in present day Afghanistan. With the onset of the Mongol invasion of Central Asia between 1215 and 1220, Rumi’s family journeyed westwards, eventually settling down in Konya, Anatolia, in present day Turkey.
One of Rumi’s most fruitful friendships was with Shams-e Tabrizi, whom he met at the age of 37. Among other things, Shams had introduced Rumi to music, poetry and dance as a mystical way of connecting with the divine. It is these artistic expressions that are the characteristic features of the whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi Order, which was founded after Rumi’s death by his son, Sultan Veled, his disciple Çelebi Hüsamettin, and his grandson Ulu Arif Çelebi.
The Mevlevi Sema ceremony is arguably the Order’s most distinct practice, and is said to have been created by Rumi himself. Its form, however, was only finalized sometime in the 15th century by one of Rumi’s great-grandsons, Pir Adil Çelebi. The Mevlevi Order became a respected school of Sufism (the esoteric dimension of Islam). Moreover, a blood relation was formed between the Order and the Ottoman imperial dynasty when one of Rumi’s descendants, Devlet Hatun, married Sultan Bayezid I.