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Wonderful Janissary Forces of Ottoman Empire

A mighty warrior force. Immeasurable courage. There is no fear of death. It came rushing like a storm. Jumps like a lion. All blown away at the moment. As if not human;  the monster in human form. Huge armies with heavy weapons were also harassed by the Janissaries. This Janissary force was proverbial in bravery, heroism, and tactics.

Janissary is a special branch of the Ottoman Infantry or Turkish empire. ‘Janissary’ is the Turkish word; Which means ‘new army’.

Introducing Janissary Force: Purpose, Background and Responsibilities

The original Turkish pronunciation is ‘Yanichari’ – that is what has become ‘Janissary‘ in English. Again, it is called ‘Inquiry’ in Arabic with some distortion. This force was born in 1327 AD during the reign of Osmani Sultan I Orkhan, who was sitting on the power. One day the Sultan’s Wazir Alauddin came with a piece of urgent advice. He suggested that ‘young and adolescents among the prisoners captured by the Turks in various wars should be given combat training. Let the knowledge of Islam be given as well. 

Janissary force
Janissary Force

They will have no contact with their country and family. The Sultan will be the spiritual father of these young people. Their only job and meditation will be war. ‘ According to this plan, Janisari Bahini was established.

At first it started with prisoners, but later Christian boys were regularly recruited into the force. As a rule, one out of every five boys in the family was required to join the force.

In childhood, they were admitted and reared in certain camps. Islam was taught along with martial arts. Other necessary knowledge was also taught.

Although the Ottoman sultans treated the Christians fairly well, giving them freedom of religion and celebration – they were outraged at the way their children were recruited into the army. However, some historians have denied the issue of compulsory admission. 

Meanwhile, the size of Janissary forces continued to increase day by day. In 180 their number stood at 54,222.

Strict Living of Janissary Force

Janissaries had to live under strict rules and regulations. There was no opportunity to communicate with relatives. They had to stay in the camp even if the war was not going on. The kitchen, arsenal, and everything necessary was in the camp. Everyone gets a government allowance. Self-earning was not allowed. 

They were promoted and retired according to certain rules. The head of Janissary was called ‘Janissary Agha‘. As the head of the most powerful infantry force in the kingdom, Janissary Agha was considered a very important person. 

Janissary Agha- the head of Janissary force
Janissary Agha- the head of Janissary force

He lived in Istanbul. He was also responsible for the security and discipline of the kingdom.

Growing up in a war from childhood, the family was not backward and there was a strong interest in martyrdom, so the Janissaries were fearless of death. Thanks to this force, the Ottoman sultans conquered territories that had never been conquered before in the history of Islam.

Their empire extended as far as Vienna, distant Austria. The Janissaries also played a major role in the conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Muhammad Fateh or Mehmed the conqueror in 1453. 

Muhammad al fatih or mehmed the conqueror
Sultan Muhammad al Fatih

They were the Ottomans’ greatest hope in war. The Sultan and other officials used to stand behind them by sending them to the front.

Fall of Constantinople
Fall of Constantinople

Reform Efforts and Processes

But the cruel truth of history is that the history of the beginning of the Janissaries is as glorious as the history of the end.

The sultans relied heavily on this force. Gradually the Janissaries became arrogant. They didn’t just like being soldiers; The king also began to interfere in important matters. During the reign of the great and influential sultans, they did not get many benefits. When the empire weakened somewhat, the power of the Janissaries increased. The situation became such that whether the Sultan was in power or not became dependent on their will.

In 1622, they deposed and killed Sultan Osman II. In 1748, the Sultan hanged Ibrahim I on the pretext that he was at enmity with them. The weak sultans had nothing to do with them. Many Uzair also fell victim to their aggression. They assassinated Prime Minister Hasan Pasha in 1832 during the reign of Sultan Murad IV.

After the weakness of the empire and the defeat of the Ottoman army in various wars, there was a need for reform in the army. The time has come to use cannons like European soldiers. It is also necessary to change the rules of the army. The Ottoman sultans embarked on the reform process, But the Janissaries stopped him. They insisted, ‘Reforms should not be done. They could not be explained in any way. One by one all the sultans continued to fail. 

Finally, in 1808, Mahmud II became the Sultan. He sought to explain to the Janissaries the need for reform in various ways; All failed. Eventually, he made efforts for compulsory reform. He issued some new edicts, including an order to equip the Janissaries with modern weapons. Prime Minister Ismail Pasha was tasked with implementing the directive. But the result is the same, the Prime Minister lost his life!

The Ruthless Consequences of the Janissaries

Consequences of the Janissary force
Consequences of the Janissaries

After the first attempt failed, Sultan Mahmud II endured for eighteen years. Finally, on 26 May 1828, the Sultan convened a meeting attended by senior officers of the army, religious leaders, and other dignitaries. The meeting unanimously decided to reform the Janissaries. Shaikhul Islam (the title of the chief religious leader of the Ottoman period) issued a fatwa declaring reform obligatory. But alas, even then the Janissaries did not give up.

On the contrary, they started protesting in the streets of Istanbul to protest against this decision. Not only that, the houses, shops, and other establishments in the vicinity were attacked and set on fire. This time the Sultan had no other choice. He decided to suppress the Janissaries.

This part of history is very sad. The Sultan summoned various forces of the army. The artillery was also called. On the morning of 15 June 1826, the Sultan’s army marched on the Janissary camp in Istanbul. After a while, the artillery surrounded the camp. Simultaneous shelling started from all directions. The Janissaries did not have the strength to deal with this attack.

Very sad but true, six thousand Janissary soldiers lost their lives in this incident. More sadly, in the context of that time, it was good news.

So this incident has been known as Alwakiatul Khairiya or an auspicious event. Another name for the incident is the killing of Mazbahatul Incisaria or Janissaries.

The army that once brought the message of victory, the innumerable hymns of the Ottomans, the iconic terror of the enemies of Islam, the forces that, five hundred years later, in the irony of fate, became the poison of the eyes.

If the Janissaries had shown foresight, many later histories might have been different had it not been for the unreasonable insistence. As short-sighted as their early immortal feats are, this short-sighted and ignorant stubbornness of the latter is astonishing.


Author: Naeem Abu Bakr

Source: Monthly Natun Dak

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