Hacibektas The Islamic Bektaşi sect, which has its spiritual center here, was founded by Hacibektas Veli in the 13th century, an epoch of much political confusion in Anatolia where several cultures clashed: Greek, Arabic, Persian, Seljuk and Ottoman interests, to name a few. In this turbulent period, some devoted Moslems began to search for a true spiritual leader with uncorrupted moral and religious values whom they found in the person of Hacibektas Veli. He had settled in the village at the age of thirty and founded his monastery to educate missionaries, who would travel in the country and teach the credo of the Bektaşi sect that is different from both Shiite and Sunnite beliefs. Hacibektas Veli himself had been traveling far and wide in the war-torn regions of Southern Europe gathering the orphaned children, many of them still sucklings, and providing them with food, shelter and education. When the orphans turned into young men, some chose the missionary life, while others, especially the able-bodied ones, would opt for a martial career and eventually formed the core of the famous and much dreaded Janissary Corps, the elite troops of the later sultans. The Turkish “Yeni Ceri” transaltes into New Troops.
“If you wish to have a long life, then watch your hand, your tongue and your waist,” Hacibektas Veli used to remind his disciples. By saying watch your waist, he probably implied that one should remain physically fit and never become overweight—a rather advanced view for his age.
The monastery was abolished in 1926 under the new Republican Constitution fostered by the first president, Kemal Atatürk, who rightly asserted that the numerous sects were striving to preserve archaic customs and hinder modernization. In 1964, the sancturary was opened again as a museum.
It still remains a revered shrine where pilgrims of the Bektaşi sect converge annually in August to pray and hold colorful festivities wearing the ancient clothes.
The monastery has three principal sections.
The Entrance Court is accessible through a massive archway with gate built in the Ottoman style. The court contains the Fountain of Fevzi Baba (another Bektaşi saint), the one-time laundry and the Garden Gate.
The Inner Court is accessible through the Üçler Gate (Triple Gate) and features a vaulted loggia with a marble lion, the jaws of which are the outlet of a sacred fountain. The water is venered much the same way Christian pilgrims regard the fountain of Lourdes. Arslanli Cesme (Lions’s Fountain) had been taken from Egypt by the local pacha, but the pool in front of the Triple Gate is a modern addition, constructed in 1910. Near the fountain is the entrance of the old bakery shop with the kitchen above it displaying the historical Kara Kazan (Black Cauldron) of the famous Janissary Corps. In the past, the cauldron would be carried by the soldiers in every procession, or when they marched into combat, but when they carried it, reversed it signified discontent and foreboded armed rebellion.
Mihman Evi: Formerly a guest house with a large hall for religious gatherings.
Meydan Evi: The site of one-time religious ceremonies. Members of the Bektaşi sect never pray in masques, nor do they observe the fasting of Ramadan. The annual Bektaşi fasting lasts for ten day during which the believers would neither wash or comb themselves, nor would they look into a mirror.
Kiler Evi: The building of the administrative offices; a library and the Köşk of Dede Baba.
The inner gate facilitates entry into the third court where the tombs of Bektaşi Dede Babas (teachers, priors and dervishes) are located.
Türbeh (Mausoleum): The mausoleum of Hacıbektaş Veli was built in Seljuk style and contains the tombs of the prominent religious leaders and administrative officials of the sect. The lobby, Ak Cennet (White Paradise), has a small abside, the Room of Torments, where Hacibektas Veli had once undergone forty days of fasting and meditating.
A richly ornamented door opens into the main section, called Kirklar Meydani (Square of the Forty) accommodating the tombs of the forty most distinguished members of the sect. The walls and doors of this inner sanctuary are likewise decorated in the Seljuk art. A small gilded door leads into the burial chamber of Hacibektas Veli whose symbolic sarcophagus is covered with a gold-worked, green shroud.
The actual grave of the Islamic saint is beneath this sarcophagus at a depth of eleven meters (33 feet).
An adjacent chamber preserves the mumified remains of Rasul Bali, another leader of the monastery. The tomb of Bektas Efendi contains only his skull, interred in 1603,. He had been assassinated in Istanbul while doing missionary work there, and his body was thrown into the sea.
The Fountain of Cilehane and the cave Delikli Tas (Holed Stone) are located on a hill east of the village where according to local sage, Hacibektas Veli used to spend many days in quiet meditating.
There are picturesque festivities held annually at Hacibektas in August with the participants wearing ancient Turkish costumes. Folk dances, music and mock-combats between “Janissaries” and “Byzantines” provide a fine spectacle for the large number of visitors from Turkey and abroad.