Демир баба

Demir Baba


Useful Information

Location: Between the villages Malak Porovetz and Sveshtari.
42 km northeast of Razgrad. From Sveshtari follow narrow road
(43.738093, 26.750204)
Open: Cave: no restrictions.
Chapel: All year daily during daylight hours.
[2021]
Fee: free.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension:  
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address:  
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1970 declared a monument of culture of local importance.
1991–1994 mausoleum renovated.

Description

photography
Demir Baba Teke as seen by Austrian traveller Felix Philipp Kanitz in the 19th century. See the cave in the background. Public Domain.

This small cave is actually a hermitage of the Saint Sheikh Hassan Demir Baba Pechlivan. He lived in the cave in the 16th century, healed people and spread his wisdom, and was buried in a small chapel below. The cave is rarely mentioned and mostly ignored by the visitors and pilgrims. It is a natural cave with some traces of human habitation. On the engraving from the Austrian traveller and naturalist Felix Philipp Kanitz (*1829-✝1904) you can actually see the cave entrance in the background to the right. It seems in the 19th century the hillside was treeless and the cave visible, though the cave is definitely not so far away. Today the chapel is surrounded by a forest and the cave not visible from the valley, probably one of the reasons why it is ignored by most visitors. Kanitz also retells the legends he was told by the caretaker, and which he actually found ridiculous. Below are the German original and a translation.

The heptagonal chapel with the grave of the Saint is called Демир Баба Теке (Demir Baba Teke, the tomb of Demir Baba) and a famous pilgrimage destination. Most pilgrims are Turkish, as Demir Baba was a Turkish spiritual leader, a 16th-century Alevi saint. Alevism is a mystical branch of Islam, which doesn’t require it’s followers to visit a mosque or observe many rituals. The focus is on the inner belief and pilgrimage. There are nevertheless numerous rituals but two of the most important are drinking from the holy spring and “pricking out the eyes of the witch”. This means to walk with closed eyes and extended arms to a special place where the fingers should fit into two openings on the wall.

The site is also a destination for tourists who visit the nearby Thrakian tombs, as the chapel was built in the 16th century on top of a Thracian tomb from the 4th century. The whole area is of great archaeological interest and has a necropolis and the remains of the Thrakian city Хелис (Helis). It is protected by the Националeн историко-археологически резерват „Сборяново” (National Historical and Archaeological Reserve "Sboryanovo"). Also a Thrakian tomb 1.5 km to the northeast is open to the public.

„Hassan Demir Boba Peliwan" erblickte vor 390 Jahren das Licht dieser Welt. Er war ein grosser Derwisch, der mit der Hand Wasser aus den Felsen schlug. So that er zu Kralbunar, wo er eine Zeit lang wohnte, so auch in der früher wasserlosen Schlucht, in welcher er selbst sein Teke und sein Grab erbaute. Er war der Vater von 72 Nationen, und so viele giebt es auf der Welt. Vom Kaiser der Moskovs, der mit Sultan Mahmud verbündet war, erhielt Demir Boba durch viele Jahre 18,000 Oka Salz, als Dankgeschenk, weil er dessen Armee vom Tod errettet. Ein furchtbarer Riese hatte ihr alles Wasser abgeschnitten, Demir Boba tödtete ihn und erhielt den Titel „Peliwan". Sie litt auch Hunger, die Vorräthe gingen zur Neige, da brachte Demir Boba in einem Tuche Brot, Heu, Gerste und siehe, es reichte für alle Soldaten und Pferde aus. Dies geschah mit des Sultan Mahmud's Erlaubniss. Als aber die Derwische insgesammt gegen den Sultan Parthei für die rechtgläubigen Janitscharen nahmen, stellte Demir Boba seine Sendungen an des Moskovs Armee ein. In Folge dessen wurde das Teke von des Sultans Statthaltern arg bedrückt. Ibrahim Pascha ging sogar so weit ihm seine Heuvorräthe zu nehmen; da stieg Demir Boba aber vor des ketzerischen Ibrahim's Augen an der senkrechten Felswand hinauf. Bekehrt durch dieses Wunder, befahl der Allah's Zorn fürchtende Pascha seinen Soldaten ihre Pferde mit Eicheln zu füttern und des Teke's Eigenthum fortan unberührt zu lassen. Nichtsdestoweniger litt es noch viel unter des Reformsultans Mahmud irreligiöser Regierung. Unter Abdul Medschid stand es verödet und seine Quellen versiegten sogar durch dreissig Jahre. Der fromme Sultan Abdul Aziz stellte aber den alten Ferman des Teke wieder her und seit vier Jahren, seitdem Achmed ben Ali, sein gegenwärtiger glaubenstreuer Schech aus Razgrad dasselbe bezogen, rinnen auch seine Wasser wieder zum Segen der Anwohner, so stark wie einst bis zur fernen Donau.
...
Weiter neben einer kleinen Moschee steht ein Fels, welcher gleichfalls Demir Boba's Handspuren trägt, und oben, auf jener hohen senkrechten Felswand, die er vor Ibrahim Pascha's Augen hinangestiegen war, erblickt man die Höhle, von welcher der Boba mit einem Schritte herabsprang, um seinem Baumeister genau den Punkt zu bezeichnen, an dem sein Teke errichtet werden sollte.
Felix Philipp Kanitz (1879): Donau-bulgarien und der Balkan: Historisch-geographisch-ethnographische Reisestudien aus den, Fries 1879. archive.org.

"Hassan Demir Boba Peliwan" saw the light of this world 390 years ago. He was a great dervish who struck water from the rocks with his hand. He did so in Kralbunar, where he lived for some time, and also in the formerly waterless gorge in which he himself built his teke and his tomb. He was the father of 72 nations, and there are so many in the world. From the emperor of the Moskovs, who was allied with Sultan Mahmud, Demir Boba received 18,000 oka of salt over many years as a thank-you gift for saving his army from death. A terrible giant had cut off all her water, Demir Boba killed him and received the title "Peliwan". She was also suffering from hunger, the supplies were running out, so Demir Boba brought bread, hay and barley in a cloth, and behold, there was enough for all the soldiers and horses. This was done with Sultan Mahmud's permission. But when the dervishes as a whole took parthei against the sultan for the orthodox Janissaries, Demir Boba stopped his shipments to the Moskov's army. As a result, the Teke was badly oppressed by the Sultan's governors. Ibrahim Pasha even went so far as to deprive him of his hay supplies; but Demir Boba climbed up the vertical rock face before the heretic Ibrahim's eyes. Converted by this miracle, the pasha, who feared Allah's wrath, ordered his soldiers to feed their horses with acorns and henceforth to leave the Teke's property untouched. Nevertheless, it still suffered much under the irreligious government of the reformist Sultan Mahmud. Under Abdul Medshid it stood desolate and its springs dried up for thirty years. The pious Sultan Abdul Aziz, however, restored the old ferman of the Teke, and for four years since Achmed ben Ali, his present faithful sheikh from Razgrad, moved into it, its waters have again flowed to the blessing of the local inhabitants, as strongly as they once did to the distant Danube.
...
Further on, next to a small mosque, stands a rock which also bears Demir Boba's handprints, and at the top, on that high vertical rock face which he had climbed before Ibrahim Pasha's eyes, one can see the cave from which Boba jumped down with a single step to indicate to his master builder exactly the point at which his teke was to be erected.
Felix Philipp Kanitz (1879): Donau-bulgarien und der Balkan: Historisch-geographisch-ethnographische Reisestudien aus den, Fries 1879. archive.org.