It was Sultan Walad, the son of Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi, who gave the Mawlawi Sufi Order its initial organization in the thirteenth century following the death of his father. Eventually, in parallel to the development of the Ottoman State, the Mawlawi Sufi Order spread throughout three continents.

This institutionalization process began after the conquest of Constantinople, with certain sites being allocated to the Mawlawi dervishes as the earliest sites of the İstanbul based Mawlawiyya. These were the Kalenderhane Lodge (Zawiya) and another one established by Âbid Çelebi (d. 1497) on Otlukçu Yokuşu in Fatih. These were followed by the founding of Mawlawi lodges (zaviyes) in Galata (Kulekapısı) (1491), Yenikapı (1598), Beşiktaş (Bahariye) (1622), Kasımpaşa (1623-1631) and Üsküdar (1870). In this way, a number of lodges significant for Ottoman Sufism were established, and eventually these became sites where Ottoman culture, art, literature and sociology-cultural and religious life were shaped.1

The Mawlawi Order in Istanbul

From the time of the conquest to the abolition of Sufi brotherhoods in 1925 five Mawlawi lodges (tekkes) operated in the city. Sources mention three other tekkes in the city, but these were neither well-known nor stayed open for long.2

1- Galata Mawlawi Lodge

The Kalenderhane Lodge, established with the allocation of the Hristos Akataleptos Church to the Mawlawi dervishes on the order of Sultan Mehmed II, is possibly the earliest Mawlawi lodge in Istanbul.3 Another significant lodge is the one founded by Âbid Çelebi on Otlukçu Yokuşu in Fatih. Mentioned in the sources as “Fatih Mevlevihanesi,” this lodge later became a place where both Naqshi and Mawlawi rituals were practiced due to the fact that the founder of the lodge Âbid Çelebi took hand from Molla Ilahi who was a Naqshibandi. Similarly, sources mention the Eyüp Mawlawi-khana which was established in the Eyüp district, but was levelled in an earthquake before it opened. Thus, it never went beyond a project. Another mawlawi-khana mentioned in Istanbul is the one that was established in 1814 by Dolapçı Mehmed Dede (d. 1824) in a district known as İdris Köşkü in the vicinity of Eyüp/Gümüşsuyu. This lodge went out of service with its founder’s death.

Istanbul mawlawi-khanas have a distinguished role as institutions which influenced, and even gave direction to, Ottoman culture and civilization, as well as its social and political life. Literature, music, calligraphy, gilding, engraving and many other branches of the arts were practiced in mawlawi-khanas, and painters, gilders and miniature artists were often trained here.

Many Mawlawi composers and musicians, such as Mustafa Itrî Dede, Hammamîzade İsmail Dede Efendi, Nâyî Osman Dede, Ali Nutkî Dede, Zekâî Dede, Hüseyin Fahreddin Dede, Hacı Arif Bey, Abdülbaki Nâsır Dede, Ataullah Dede, Dellalzade Hafız İsmail Efendi, Mehmed Celaleddin Dede, Ahmed Avni Konuk, and several others were trained in the mawlawi-khanas of Istanbul.

Literature, and in particular, poetry was highly popular in the Mawlawi tradition. Many famous poets were raised in the mawlawi-khanas of Istanbul. Most of the distinguished figures of the Ottoman poetry are Mawlawis such as Şeyhülislam Bahaî, Cevrî, Şeyhülislam Yahya, Fasîh Ahmed Dede, Neşatî Ahmed Dede, Müneccimbaşı Ahmed Dede, Nâyî Osman Dede, Receb Enis Dede, Nef‘î, Nailî, Nedim, Sakıb Mustafa Dede, Selim III and Sheikh Galib. Many other important, non-literary figures in society such as Esrar Dede, Hasan Nazif Dede, Hâlet Efendi, Şeref Hanım, Leyla Hanım, Ziver Pasha and Nazım Pasha got a refined taste and inspiration for poetry within the Mawlawi cirlces. In short, Mawlawi tekkes operated as centers of fine arts, where people from art, literature and music circles of Istanbul received education and training.

The Galata Mawlawi Tekke

The Galata Mawlawikhana, which has also been known as the Beyoğlu Dergâhı, Galata Âsitanesi, Galata Hankâhı, Hankâh-ı Bâb-ı Kule, Kulekapısı Mevlevîhanesi, İskender Paşa Zaviyesi, and Tekye-i İskenderî,4 was established in 1491 by İskender Pasha. İskender Pasha was a statesman during the period of Sultan Mehmed II and Sultan Bayezid II; he had the tekke built on his private hunting grounds.5 The tekke has the distinction of being central lodge of the first Mawlawis in Istanbul. The dhikr ceremony of the lodge was performed on Tuesdays and Fridays (mukabele günü) in the tekke. Over time, the Galata Mawlawi Tekke became a productive center where the Mawlawi culture thrived and important intellectuals who shaped the Ottoman society were trained.

2- The inscription above the entrance of Galata Mawlawi Lodge

The foundations of the Galata Mawlawi-khana were laid in 1491, and it quickly became a symbol of the Mawlawiyya’s transformation into an imperial institution once it opted to Ottomanize. With the political support of this new and powerful political center, the Mawlawi Order found the opportunity to spread first into Kütahya, Edirne, Afyon and Istanbul and then into the Balkans and the Mediterranean.6

In the silsile (chain/sequence of leaders) of the Galata Mawlawi-khana, Divâne Mehmed Çelebi (d. 1544) is listed as the first postnişin (sheikh/master). It is known that when Divâne Mehmed Çelebi left Istanbul after staying at İskender Pasha’s farm as a guest, he left his position to Ali Safaî Dede (d. 1533), one of his khalifas (caliph/successor).7 Following the tenure of its first three sheikhs, the Galata Mawlawi-khana was neglected for a period, and it was completely abandoned and fell into ruins after the death of its fourth postnişin, Mesnevîhan Mahmud Dede (d. 1548). For a period of time, it also served as a Khalwati lodge (zawiya).

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Sırrî Abdi Dede appealed to Konya and stated that the lodge (dergah) had originally been a Mawlawi lodge. Thus, he was able to take back control of the tekke from the Khalwatiyya, and he himself served as the sheikh of the lodge briefly. Following his time in charge, the head of the Konya central lodge (asitana), Bostan Çelebi (d. 1630), took the position from him and appointed the Masnawi commentator İsmail Rusûhî Ankaravî as the sheikh of the tekke.8 İsmail Ankaravî’s appointment to this position was significant for two reasons.

First of all, even though Ankaravî was criticized by scholars of appearance (zahir uleması), for his Ibn Arabi based comments in his commentary of the Masnawi, he managed to rid the lodge of its batini (esoteric) tendencies. He accomplished this by establishing a basis for the rules and methods of the Mawlawi Order in his works, in particular in Minhâcü’l-Fukarâ, and through his deeds.9 In this way, he ensured that the Mawlawi Order became quickly spread among the Ottoman administrative, scholarly, and intellectual classes. Secondly, İsmail Ankaravî’s appointment to the lodge had ramifications of the organization of the Mawlawi Order in Istanbul. After the establishment of Mawlawi lodges in Yenikapı, Beşiktaş and Kasımpaşa, dervishes trained in these lodges and powerful sheikh families located in them transformed the central structure of the order into one with multiple centers.10 Throughout the 430 year-long history of the Galata Mawlawi-khana, the list of shaykhs appointed by the Konya Central Lodge (Âsitane) is as follows:11

  1. Divâne Mehmed Çelebi (d. 1544)
  2. Ali Safaî Dede (d. 1533)
  3. Mesnevîhan Mahmud Dede (d. 1602)
  4. İsmail Rusûhî Ankaravî (d. 1631)
  5. Sırrî Abdi Dede (d. 1631)
  6. Âdem Dede (d. 1652)
  7. Arzî Mehmed Dede (d. 1664)
  8. Derviş Çelebi (d. 1664)
  9. Naci Ahmed Dede (d. 1710)
  10. Derviş Çelebi (d. 1664, second time)
  11. Mesnevîhan Gavsî Ahmed Dede (d. 1696 or 1698)
  12. Kutbü’n-Nâyî Osman Dede (d. 1729)
  13. Sırrı Abdülbaki Dede (d. 1750)
  14. Mehmed Şemseddin Dede (d. 1760)
  15. İsa Dede (d. 1771)
  16. Selim Dede (d. 1777)
  17. Mehmed Sadık Dede (d. 1778)
  18. Abdülkadir Dede (dismissed, 1780)
  19. Hüseyin Dede (d. 1782)
  20. Bakkalzade Ali Dede (dismissed, 1786)
  21. Sultanzade Halil Numan Dede (dismissed, 1790)
  22. Bakkalzade Ali Dede (second time)
  23. Şemsî Dede (d. 1790)
  24. Mehmed Esad Dede (Şeyh Galib) (d. 1799)
  25. Mehmed Ruhî Dede (d. 1810)
  26. Mahmud Ümid Dede of Trablusşam (d. 1818)
  27. Mehmed Kudretullah Dede (d. 1871)
  28. Mehmed Ataullah Dede (d. 1910)
  29. Ahmed Celaleddin Dede (d. 1946)

From the time of İsmail Rasuhi Ankaravî’s appointment until the abolition of Sufi lodges, many poets and knowledgable shaykhs - Galip Dede being the most prominent among them - acted as the head of the Galata Mawlawi Tekke, and many talented musicians got attached to this lodge and were buried in its cemetery.12 The Galata Mawlawi-khana became the resting place for several significant scholars, men of wisdom, statesmen, and literary figures, and also for its sheikhs. Among the latter the Masnawi commentator İsmail Rasuhi Ankaravî and the author of Hüsn ü Aşk Sheikh Galip Dede should be especially mentioned as figures distinguished for their works and views. Similarly, famous poets such as Esrar Dede and Fasîh Ahmed Dede, in addition to leading statesmen such as Halet Efendi, were among the adherents of this tekke. The Mawlawi Order raised people with high moral values thanks to the Sufi education it provided as well as contributing to the development of intellectual life and one’s world view by establishing libraries with rich collections. For example, throughout its 430-year history, the Galata Mawlawi-khana alone produced seventy poets who compiled divans, Sheikh Galip Dede being the most prominent among them.13 İsmail Rusûhî Ankaravî became a guide for Masnawi commentators and Masnawi reciters as well. Ataullah Dede (d. 1910) was a master of Arabic, Persian, German, and French, an accomplished scholar of algebra and geography, and a master calligrapher in the ta‘liq style; in addition he was a skilled musician.14 In short, the Mawlawi dervish order established a firm relationship with many different classes over a period seven hundred years, from palaces to the furthest reaches of the Ottoman State. Through a strict education in religion, language, literature, music, culture, and art, the Mawlawi lodges became centers of culture and schools of knowledge, wisdom, and manners. They were a type of academy or conservatory, and trained great men of literature, poets, Masnawi reciters, thinkers, musicians, painters, calligraphers, gilders and artisans.15

3-Yenikapı Mawlawi Lodge, the Whirling Hall

Sheikh Sırrî Abdi Dede (d. 1631), who was appointed as shaykh by the office of Çelebi in Konya at the beginning of seventeenth century, oversaw great restorations to the Mawlawi-khana in 1608; this included turning the building into a Mawlawi lodge once again. The lodge was destroyed in the Tophane Fire in 1765 and repaired by Sultan Mustafa III. Sources state that the tekke was repaired again by Sultan Selim III in 1791 upon the request of Sheikh Galip. The destroyed semahane section of the lodge was repaired by Sultan Mahmud II in 1834. The Galata Mawlawi-khana, which had seen many repairs and renovations over the years since the beginning of seventeenth century, came to resemble a small külliye with the addition of various buildings. The lodge found the main outlines of its present structure as a result of the renovations carried out by Sultan Selim III in 1791, and the buildings acquired their final state in nineteenth century. There were many renovations made during the nineteenth century. The first of these renovations was carried out in 1819 by Hâlet Efendi, a famous figure from the reign of Sultan Mahmud II. The lodge was destroyed again in a fire in 1824. As a result of a petition sent to the office of the grand vizier by Sheikh Seyyid Kudretullah Dede in 1828, it was reconstructed by Sultan Mahmud II in 1835. Sultan Abdülmecid rebuilt the lodge two more times, in 1851 and 1859; its current form was realized with these reconstructions. The Mawlawi-khana underwent small repairs during the reigns of Sultan Abdülhamid II and Sultan Mehmed Rashad V.16

After the abolition of the Sufi lodges in 1925, the main building of the Mawlawi-khana was used as a public house (halkevi) and a police station for some time. In the years between 1945 and 1947 the eastern section of its cemetery was removed by the municipality and the Beyoğlu Marriage Registration Office was constructed in its place. During this process, the wooden shrine buildings (türbe) at the entrance of the sama-khana section, harem section, kitchen, and a number of other annexes were demolished as well. Despite official neglect, the Galata Mawlawi-khana was able to survive in part until the present day thanks to the efforts of Reşit Saffet Atabinen, the head of the Turing ve Otomobil Kurumu, and Hamdullah Suphi Tanrıöver. As a result of a series of initiatives, it was decided in 1946 to turn the Mawlawi-khana into a museum of Mawlawi culture, and its ownership was transferred from the Directorate General of Foundations to the Ministry of National Education. This change was finally realized after a twenty-year delay; four years of comprehensive renovations followed and the museum opened its gates to visitors on 27 December 1975 under the name of Divan Edebiyatı Müzesi (Museum of Classical Literature). The museum, which was restored by contributions from the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency, functions as a museum to this day.


1 Sezai Küçük, İstanbul Mevlevîhâneleri I, Istanbul: İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi, 2007, p. 36.

2 See Küçük, İstanbul Mevlevîhâneleri I, p. 34.

3 Baha Tanman, “İstanbul Mevlevîhâneleri”, Osm. Ar., 1994, no. 14, p. 178.

4 İsmâil Ünver, “Galata Mevlevîhânesi Şeyhleri”, Osm. Ar., 1994, no. 14, pp. 195-196.

5 For detailed information see Can Kerâmetli, Galata Mevlevîhânesi: Divan Edebiyatı Müzesi, Istanbul: Türkiye Turing ve Otomobil Kurumu, 1977, pp. 15-19.

6 Ekrem Işın, “Anadolu’da Mevlevîliğin Üç Dönemi”, Bursa’da Dünden Bugüne Tasavvuf Kültürü, ed. Nahit Kayabaşı, Bursa Bursa Kültür Sanat ve Turizm Vakfı, 2003, pp. 151-155.

7 Baha Tanman, “Galata Mevlevîhânesi”, DİA, vol. 13, p. 318.

8 Esrâr Dede, Sefîne-i Nefîse-i Mevleviyân, al-Qahirah: Maktabat Wahba, 1283/1866, vol. 2, pp. 54-55.

9 İsmail Rusûhî Ankaravî, Minhâcü’l-fukarâ, ed. Safi Arpaguş, Istanbul: Vefa Yayınları, 2008.

10 Ekrem Işın, “İstanbul’un Mistik Tarihinde Mevlevîhâneler”, İstanbul, 1993, no. 4, pp. 121-125.

11 Küçük, İstanbul Mevlevîhâneleri, pp. 48-94; Ünver, “Galata Mevlevîhânesi Şeyhleri”, pp. 195-219.

12 Abdülbâki Gölpınarlı, Mevlânâ’dan Sonra Mevlevîlik, Istanbul: İnkılap ve Aka Kitabevleri, 1983, p. 337.

13 Safi Arpaguş, Mevlevîlik’te Mânevî Eğitim, Istanbul: Vefa Yayınları, 2009, p. 307.

14 About Atâullah Dede see Thierry Zarcone, “Şeyh Mehmed Ataullah Dede ve Galata Mawlawihanesi, -Doğu-Batı Arasında Entelektüel ve Tinsel Bir Köprü-” Saltanatın Dervişleri Dervişlerin Saltanatı: İstanbul’da Mevlevîlik, prepared by Ekrem Işın, Istanbul: Suna ve İnan Kıraç Vakfı İstanbul Araştırmaları Enstitüsü, 2007, pp. 58-75.

15 Bârihüdâ Tanrıkorur, “Türk Kültür ve Mimarlık Tarihinde ‘Mevlevîhâne’nin Yeri ve Önemi”, III. Millî Mevlânâ Kongresi (Tebliğler), Konya: Selçuk Üniversitesi Selçuklu Araştırmaları Merkezi, 1989, p. 62.

16 Tanman, “Galata Mevlevîhânesi”, DİA, vol. 13, 317-321.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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