A Tale of Seven Cities of Delhi: Tughlaqabad
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
In one expression all I could say is that truly madly and deeply, I Love my City. In the city of Djinns a ghost story is better than any other story and at the same time enlightening too. What could qualify more so than a massive fort cursed by a saint?
The medieval city of Tughlaqabad which now lies in utter ruins monument is one such ghost town cursed by none other than Nizamudin Auliya. In Delhi’s southern quarter, a ruined fort rises alongside the road as you take the Badarpur Mehrauli Road and past Tughlaqabad Metro Station; how apt Shelley’s Ozymandais wisdom sound when you do visit this massive fortress.
Tughlaqabad is the third historical city of Delhi and there are a total of seven cities of Delhi. This colossal fortress city which was to be the capital of newly found Tughlaq Dynasty of Delhi Sultanate has 6.5km of walls and 13 gates.
Built by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq to thwart and protect citizens from marauding Mongol Raiders is believed to have irked the celebrated Sufi saint Nizam-ud-din. This massive fortress town was constructed in record 4 years and it is said that the Sultan had the entire laborers in Delhi ordered with task of building his impregnable fort which peeved the Saint whose Baoli (Gandhak ki Baoli in Nizamuddin I believe) was under construction.
The curse proved to be for real as the fort was abandoned soon after its completion when Ghiyas-ud-Din was allegedly murdered by his own son Fakhr Malik (Later Muhammad Bin Tughlaq)
Nestled atop a hillock in Aravali Mountain Range, Tughlaqabad Fort was built by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty in the year 1324. Tughlaqabad is considered to be the third city of Delhi, after Lal Kot (built in mid eleventh century by the Tomars) and Siri (built by the second ruler of the Khalji Dynasty, Alauddin Khalji) and followed bu Purana Qila built by Sher Shah Suri and later Humayun.
Serving the twin purposes of a defensive structure against the relentless Mongol raids as well as the capital of Ghiyas-ud-din, the fort once contained of a number of palaces, mosques, Bazars, audience halls and a city complex.
On top of Bijay Mandal
A cool breeze stirred my hair at that moment, as the zephyr began to come down from the sky and blew across by face, it felt like a breath from another world, so soothing, comforting and entrancing. I could have sat atop the Bijay Mandal for ages comteplating, reflecting and soaking up in the surrounding of the relics of past which lay scattered and crumbling beneath my gaze.
For that few moments of bliss I could feel what it would have been like. To be the builder and ruler; to have erected something of this magnitude, the power; of creation and ownership, Ghiyas-ud-Din would have been really proud of what he had managed to achieve.
The gentle breeze blew across my face like the whispering winds sway the trees. It was like stepping out of time and into the perspective, a reverie from which you don’t want to wake up but alas!
History of Tughlaqabad
Coming back to the fort amd the person who dreamed of undertaking this colossal construction, Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq known previously (before being crowned) as Ghazi Malik was the founder of the Tughluq Dynasty after the death of his master Alaudin Khilji, Sultanate fell into disarray.
This dynasty also came to be known as Qaraunah Turks after Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq’s father who was a Qaraunah Turk. According to Ibn Batuta writings “Sultan Tughluq was of the stock of Qaraunah, Turks who lived in the mountainous region between Sindh and Turkistan, a name given because they were the sons of Indian Mothers by Tartar fathers according to Marco Polo accounts.
Ghazi Malik’s mother was a Jat woman and his father was a slave of Balban. On account of his parentage, “Ghazi Malik typified in his character the salient features of the two races: the modesty and mildness of the Hindus and the virility and vigour of the Turks.”
Starting his life as an ordinary trooper, Ghazi Malik rose to prominence through his skill and diligence. During the reign of AlaudDin Khilji, he was appointed the Warden of the Marches and Governor of Dipalpur. He fought against the Mongols on 29 occasions and chased them out of India.
When his master died, Khilji’s son Mubarak Shah ascended the trone of Delhi who was later removed from by Khusro Khan. Ghazi Malik’s who was on a campaign in Sindh was secretly joined by Fakhr Malik who collected the forces of Sindh and Multan and arrived in Delhi with 3,000 veteran soldiers, and defeated Khusro Khan.
It is believed that Malik also ordered for a search of any survivor of his master Alaudin Khilji’s son and couldn’t find any. Thus in 1320 Ghazi Malik was crowned as the Sultan of Delhi with the title of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq and his son Fakhr Malik was given the title of Muhammad Shah Tughluq.
When Ghazi Malik was in Bengal, he received information about the activities of his son Juna Khan. The latter was increasing the number of his followers in order to have a powerful party of his own. He became a disciple of Shaikh Nizam-ud-Din Auliya who was on bad terms with his father.
The Shaikh is said to have made a prophecy that Prince Juna Khan would become king of Delhi very soon. From the book of celebrated Indian Writer Girish Karnad famous play we also know that the astrologers proclaimed that Ghazi Malik would not come back to Delhi.
It is believed that the pavilion build to welcome Ghiyas-ud-Din who was coming back to Delhi from Bengal by his son Muhammad Bin was made to crash thereby killing the Sultan. There are different views regarding the circumstance leading to the death of Ghazi Malik.
Some account say that a thunderbolt of a calamity from heaven fell upon the Sultan and he was with five or six others crushed under the debris whereas some say that it was a planned assassination by Juna Khan (Muhhamed Bin Tughlaq) including Ibn Batuta’s account.
Entry to the Tughlaqabad Fort is from Southern side on Mehrauli Badarpur Road. The causeway which once linked the fort and the tomb of Ghiyas-ud-Din has now given way to the main road. In the time when the fort was constructed the causeway stood in a vast water reservoir created by erecting bunds between the hills.
No sign of water remain today except for a small patch mear Adilabad Fort nearby where kids cool off to beat Delhi’s scorching heat. Walking ahead towards the east, past a few steps and a raised walkway, you enter into this cursed city. It is believed that once this city had fifty-two gates of which only 13 remain till today.
Once you enter the complex, you could see a number of crumbling structures inside. The first sightings are of the mosque and remains of residences on either side. There are storage space for construction materials, a market street underground extending along a straight line, and massive yet crumbling citadels offering panoramic views are some of the most outstanding things to visit inside the fort complex.
The market street remains in very good shape even today with partitions on either side. The street has opening at regular intervals along the passage which allows for ample light and access from above. As typical in Indo-Islamic Architecture, the arched niches inside display a concern for artificial lighting.
As you step outside of the market street you’d see the most resplendent structure which still stands over 70 feet and offers panoramic view of the entire fortress complex; the Bijay Mandal towards the east. Bijai Mandal is a must visit point inside the fort.
The undressed walls, arched gateways, and remains of the intersecting framework of the palaces, houses, audience halls along with the intersecting courtyards does tell a lot about the grandeur of a bygone era.
Ghiasuddin Tughlaq’s Tomb
As was the tradition of Muslim rulers in India; Ghiasuddin Tughlaq also designed and oversaw the construction of his own tomb. Construction was strated by Sultan Ghiasuddin but was possibly completed during the reign of his son and successor Muhammad bin Tughlaq in the year 1328.
This unbelievably well maintained and well manicured tomb nestled amidst lush garden is approached through the same causeway which one takes to enter the fort but in opposite direction. As you approach the mausoleum In front, you come across a massive gateway, made of finely cut red sandstone with some details in marble.
The tomb complex look more like a fortress which was characteristic of tombs and mosques built during those days (You could find similarities in Khirki Masjid and Kalan Mosque similar to this tomb). This could be attributed to the fact that there were frequent Mongol raids during Sultanate and every isolated structure was built with fortification. You could notice the outer wall battered and strengthened at regular intervals with bastions.
The tomb is nestled in the centre of a lush courtyard, with arched openings and battered walls. Made up entirely of white marble, the mausoleum has a huge dome and negligible decoration inside. There are three cenotaphs inside the tomb and the one in the centre belong to Gyiath ud Din Tughlaq. His son Muhammad bin Tughluq lays interred next to him with the grave of her mother on the other side.
There is another octagonal tomb belonging to Zafar Khan inside the mausoleum complex with a marble dome. There are arched openings allowing the light inside with a corridor separating the inner tomb and the complex.
According to the plaque of ASI, this tomb was the first structure to be built inside the mausoleum. This location is believed to have given Sultan the idea of setting up the enclosure and constructing his own tomb. Zafar Khan was the General of Delhi Sultanate and had won many victories for his masters.
Following the tradition of his predecessors, Juna Khan who was entitled Muhammad Bin Tughlaq after he ascended the throne of Delhi built his own fort before he went on to shifting his capital to Aurangabad and later returned to found his own city Jahanpanah (Refuge of the World); a symbol of his own power.
This fort was built in ad 1327–28 after the alleged murder of Ghiasuddin Tughlaq by his son Muhammad bin Tughlaq. Nestled over a hillock, Adilabad is Tuglaqabad Fort built in miniature. It is constructed in similar style and materials albeit on a moderate scale.
Today nothing remain inside the fort complex and the only idea of its grandeur could be discerned from its massive ramparts. This is one of the most unexplored / hidden for years and with the kind of signage and security it deserves to be so.
This fort is smaller in scale than Tughlaqabad but has a similar layout. There are no standing structures inside the complex except for crumbling walls and gardens which must be a recent addition. It is hard to believe that once people lived here. The day when I was here exploring the ruins, two more visitors arrived. One was a lady from Brazil and the other one was local.
While I was exploring there were no other soul except for a few children but as soon as they arrived locals who were playing cricket or were there as spectators followed them into the fort. Now it doesn’t matter if there are visitors in a fort but the fact that they followed the female tourist was worrisome.
It was disgusting to hear their conversation and it’s no wonder India’s impression as an unsafe country for women is making news. It was not just the youngsters in 20-30 but kids in 10-14 whose conversation really shocked me. I wonder where our youth and kids are headed. After I had a lengthy conversation with her on my way back I did get to know that she got nervous by sudden attention and gathering of so many (I believe) hooligans. Why do they do that? Don’t even news and media and new laws being enacted discourage them? I mean what’s the meaning of all those protest if this is the ground reality and who’s gonna educate them? I would not recommend this place if you are planning it with a female friend.
Now for the Facts:
Timings: 7.00 am – 6:30 pm
Entry: Indian Citizens – Rs 5, Foreign Nationals – Rs 100, free for children up to 15 years, free entry to Adilabad Fort
Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) – Rs. 5 per head.
US $ 2 or Indian Rs. 100/- per head
(Free entry to children up to 15 years
Nearest Bus Stops
(i) M.B. Road: 34, 34 extra, 414, 511, 525, 544, 714, 717, 874
(ii) Tuglaqabad: 34, 34 extra, 414, 511, 525, 544, 714, 717, 874
Here’s a bonus hidden gem of Delhi. Do check out Agrasen ki Baoli if you are near Connaught Place.
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