An Old Turkish Tradition in the Ottoman State: Dish Plunder


MILLI FOLKLOR, vol.2020, no.125, pp.150-162, 2020 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 2020 Issue: 125
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Journal Name: MILLI FOLKLOR
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Sociological abstracts, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.150-162
  • Keywords: Ottoman State, Turkish traditions, dish plunder, palace, symbol
  • Gazi University Affiliated: Yes


The fact that the main element of the Ottoman Empire, which reigned on three continents, consisted of Turks, enabled many of the state and palace traditions to be the old Turkish traditions. One of the old Turkish traditions that took place in the state, palace and social traditions of the Ottoman Empire in this way was the dish plunder which continues its existence in different ways in Anatolia today. The dish plunder is based on potlach which is seen in the Central Asian Turks. Potlach is the name given to the plundering of the food by the people in the big festivities of the khans or on the occasion of the feasts. Although the word plunder means forced seizure, volunteering is essential in the plunder which is one of the old Turkish traditions. The fact that the person who allows the plundering is volunteer rather than plunderers use force made this event a tradition in the ancient Turks. This tradition has been continued in the Ottomans due to both its stated characteristics and other meanings it imposes. In large-scale festivals such as weddings and circumcision feasts belonging to Otto-man dynasty members, it was also called dish plunder to the grabbing of the bowls filled with food by the people or janissaries. The dish plunder seen in the Ottoman palace festivals was carried out at the Horse Square, where the Blue Mosque is located today; in these festivals, large bowls filled with meat and rice were placed in suitable places in the square and then opened to plunder with the sign given. Dish plunders were the most important event of the festivities held on the occasion of palace weddings, which were devoted directly to the people. As a result of this activity, it was ensured that the people would witness the generosity of the sultan. The dish plunder was applied not only at the festivities, but also during the payment of the three-month salaries of the janissaries which was called Wine. This form of dish plunder was carried out in a certain section in the second courtyard of the Topkapi Palace, where the dishes containing traditional meals such as rice and zerde were grabbed by the janissaries. The fact that it was exhibited in festivals and palace ceremonies ensured that the dish plunder was both state and palace tradition. Dish plunders are described in detail in local and foreign sources as they create unforgettable scenes. The fact that tradition is based on voluntarism shows that its aim is not plunder but the meanings attributed to it. Although essentially it is based on generosity, the fact that it has been applied to different classes such as people, janissary and ulama allows this tradition to have different meanings. There-fore, the dish plunder as one of the state and palace traditions of the Ottoman Empire was a symbol with multi-faceted meanings. Regardless of how it was applied, the dish plunder which was a beneficence of the sultan, increased the respect and loyalty of the people to the administration. At this point, dish plunders for the people in the Ottoman Empire focused on the "beneficence" dimension of this tradition, whereas dish plunders for the janissaries focused on the "obedience" dimension rather than the beneficence.