WELCOME, THE SULTAN OF ELEVEN MONTHS; MAHYAS ARE LIT; THE JOY OF RAMADAN IS DOUBLED.
The month of Ramadan has finally arrived accompanied by the joy, dynamism, and happiness of its spiritual atmosphere. Iftar dinners, sahur meals, and tarawih prayers are going to busy our lives for the month long. The tradition of mass tarawih prayers requires some preparations to be done at mosques: cleaning, restoring, reorganizing for women attendees, and embellishing. Our mosques have been embellished with mahyas for centuries. The largest mosques of each city and historical mosques are to be embellished with mahyas that spell out statements, which emphasize the importance and meaning of the Ramadan.
450 years old tradition
Mahyas are devices that spell out messages by small lights –oil-lamps used instead at old times– strung between minarets. Mahyas are lit simultaneously with the recitation of the evening azan. First Ahmet Kefefi practiced mahyas at Sultan Ahmet Mosque during the reign of Sultan Ahmet. Thereafter, each mosque had employed a special mahya master. During the old periods, people used to travel mosque by mosque to see the mahyas.
A living tradition
This 450 years old Ottoman tradition is still in practice today under the surveillance of the General Directorate of Foundations. The last mahya masters within the directorate organize the small lights to spell out the messages on cables and have them strung between minarets. The beauty of mahyas is going to be witnessed by many people regardless of their religious believes during the month of Ramadan.
Master Kahraman prepared the mahyas again this year
Today unfortunately, the number of mahya masters can be counted on the fingers of one hand, although their number used to be higher in the past. Mahya master Kahraman Yıldız who works within the General Directorate of Foundations is one of them. Master Kahraman has begun to work as a mahya artisan in 1975 and has been performing his duty with care for nearly forty years. He had received his training from Hacı Ali Ceyhan, whom was known as the last Ottoman mahya master. Hacı Ali Ceyhan had constructed mahyas during both the last years of the Ottoman reign and the first years of the Republic so, he had the opportunity to create mahyas with oil-lamps as well as electric light bulbs. Master Kahraman had the privilege to learn from such a master.
Master Kahraman starts to prepare the mahyas fifteen days before the Ramadan arrives. The authorized people from the General Directorate of Foundations select the messages, which are going to be spelled out, among the aphorisms received from the Directorate of Religous Affairs. Master Kahraman lets his mastery skills talk and spells out the messages then has the mahyas distributed to the mahya teams of mosques; therefore, ensures to keep the tradition alive.
Sultan Ahmet says, ‘Welcome, the Sultan of eleven months!’
The mosques of Süleymaniye, Eyüp Sultan, Eminönü Yeni Camii, and Sultan Ahmet in İstanbul, Ulu Camii in Bursa have been embellished with mahyas this year. The message of ‘Welcome, the Sultan of eleven months’ has been strung between the minarets of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. For the each mosque, four separate mahyas had been prepared. Four different mahyas are going to ornament the mosques during this Ramadan.