Tughluq Dynasty (1320-1412 AD)

Aadab. Welcome to ‘Saga In Stone’. It was early fourteenth century. Islam was a powerful component of the mainstream. Islamic rulers were ruling over a major part of the country, and influencing its culture and lifestyle in a major way.

Nasir Ud Din Khusro had just taken over from the Khaljis and was enjoying the fruits of power. But not for long. The governor of Dipalpur, Ghiyas Ud Din Tughlaq defeated him in battle. In fact Nasir Ud Din could not even complete one year in power. All the blindings and killings of Ala Ud Din’s sons went in vain.

Ghiyas Ud Tughlaq declared himself as the Sultan and started building Tughlaqabad, the next city of Delhi.

Tughlaqabad today stands on the highest point of the rock formation on which it was built. It is a huge fort, spread over six square kilometers. In those days, it was equal to if not greater than the London of those times.

Today these once magnificent six sq. kilometers are a picture of ruins and destruction.
Ghiyasuddin was an ambitious Sultan. He led campaigns to Warrangal, Orissa and Bengal and managed to spread his empire far and wide. By 1324 AD, the territories of the Delhi sultanate reached up to Madurai.

It is said that when Tughlaqabad was being built, the great Sufi Nizamuddin Auliya was also building his dargah in Nizamuddin, then known as Ghiyaspur. The emperor had employed all the laborers on his project, leaving none for any other. Work was on night and day. The saint managed to get some workers to work for him during night, under the light of the oil lamp. This enraged the emperor who, a victim of his ego, prohibited the sale of oil.

To counter it, saint performed a miracle. He transformed the water of tank at Ghiyaspur into oil. The construction work continued unhampered.

He also put a curse on Sultan’s dream project, saying,

‘ya basey gujjar,
ya rahe gujaar’

(either it will be the home of gurjars or it will be deserted)

Within five years of the completion of the construction, the dream fort of Ghiyas Ud Din Tughlaq was deserted due to a severe scarcity of water.

Its sloping walls, made of huge irregular stones and rubble masonry and huge circular bastions at close intervals, give an impression of great strength and solidity. But then, appearances can be very deceptive.

The actual construction quality turned out to be quite poor.

The city of Tughlaqabad died an early death but Ghiyas Ud Din Tughlaq didn’t even live that long enough. He had already constructed his tomb which was connected to his beloved city by a causeway.

The tomb is situated in an unusual pentagonal fortified enclosure. This fortress like design was a reflection of political instability of the times.

Sultan Ghiyas Ud Din died in July 1325 at Afghanpur under mysterious circumstances
To celebrate Sultan's successful return from the Tirhut expedition, his son Prince Muhammad constructed a wooden palace.

When Sultan was watching the parade from the balcony, the structure collapsed.
Many accuse the Prince of patricide; the truth was never to be revealed.

According to another story, the curse of the saint took his life. While he was returning from the expedition, he ordered Nizam Ud Din Auliya to present himself at the royal court after he reaches Delhi. When he got the order, the Saint smiled, and then he said-

Dilli Hunuz Dur Ast (Delhi is still distant)

Sultan never reached Delhi.

Ironically, his tomb is known as Dar ul-Aman or the 'Abode of Peace'.

In contrast to the ruined conditions of Tughlaqabad, it is in a surprisingly perfect condition. I wonder, if the name ‘abode of peace has something to do with it? Because the pursuit of peace does leave a lasting impact in the eyes of Allah while building a city and naming it after oneself to keep the name alive does not.

The causeway that connected it to the fort was bisected to build the Mehrauli Badarpur road.
This tomb marked a new phase in Indo-Islamic tomb architecture. It served as a model for later tombs, both in Delhi and elsewhere.

It was originally being built for Zafar khan, a noble in Ghiyas Ud Din’s court. But Ghiyas Ud Din liked the design so much that he chose it as his own final resting place. His wife Mallika -I-Jahan and successor Mohammad Bin Tughlaq are also buried alongside. Zafar Khan is now buried in one of the bastions of the tomb.

The spearhead fringes under its arches and the rectangular panels of white marble in sandstone are derived from the Khalji style.

Influences of Hindu architecture can be seen in this tomb. A pathbreaking feature of the tomb is the heavy stone finial on the apex of the dome that appears like a kalasa of a temple's shikhar. This later became a regular feature in tomb architecture.

The lintel placed across the lower part of the arch supported on beams is another feature inspired by the Hindu architecture.

At the same time, its original setting in a pool of water evoked the Quranic waters of paradise. It referred to the tank in which believers quench their thirst when entering paradise.
Tughlaqabad’s may have failed but that did not deter Tughlaqs from indulging in that favorite pastime of kings- building fortress cities.

Ghiyas Ud Din Tughlaq’s successor, Mohammad Bin Tughlaq built his fort in close proximity to Tughlaqabad, following the style established by his father.

This was Adilabad, a much smaller version of Tughlaqabad. Mohammad bin Tughlaq built this fortress as a part of his ambitious dream of making Delhi a bigger and more beautiful city than Cairo and Baghdad.

Though it was made after Tughlaqabad, it is in worse shape than the original fort. Not even the people living nearby know its name and it is generally passed off as a part of Tughlaqabad.

After Adilabad, Mohammad Bin Tughlaq is believed to have built another city called Jahanpanah.

This new city was little more than a fortification wall connecting the old cities of Mehrauli and Siri. This was done primarily as a protection against the criminal tribes of the Mewat area.
The wall itself was never completed.

The king decided to shift his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad in order to control the Deccan and extend the empire into the south.

Mohammad Bin Tughlaq’s move to Daulatabad ended in failure because of discontent amongst those who had been forced to move. He also found that he could not keep a watch on the northern frontier. After ruling for twenty-six years and making some disastrous decisions which in retrospect proved to be much ahead of their times, Muhammad Tughlaq died in 1351 AD. He was succeeded by his cousin Firoz Shah. Firoz Shah ruled for the next thirty-seven years. He was a great builder, the greatest that Delhi had seen so far. He said in his writings that ‘among the many gifts, which God bestowed upon me – His humble servant, was a desire to erect public buildings.’

According to Muhammad Qasim Firishta, a medieval historian, Firoz Shah constructed, hold your breath, two hundred towns, forty mosques, thirty schools, twenty palaces, one hundred caravan sarais, thirty reservoirs, fifty dams, one hundred hospitals, one hundred public baths, ten monumental pillars, ten public wells and one hundred and fifty bridges. Nobody believes him though.

With Firozabad, Firoz Shah Tughlaq set up a precedent that was to be followed for centuries. Every new city in Delhi from Firozabad onwards was built north of its predecessor.
One major reason was that these were comparatively less turbulent times. Building huge fortresses over the hills of Aravali ranges was going out of fashion, as far as Delhi sultanate was concerned. Also, by building on the banks of the Yamuna north of the earlier cities of Delhi, the builder of a new city would receive fresh air, and also the waters of the Yamuna, uncontaminated by the dying remains of an old city.

This city, massive for its times, extended from Hauz Khas in south Delhi to Pir Ghalib, near Hindu Rao hospital in north Delhi. However, majority of the still surviving structures are situated at Firoz Shah Kotla.

He chose his projects in accordance with the Islamic theory of a good ruler. His building efforts were extensive, but they didn’t have the lavishness of other rulers. In Firoz Shah’s architecture, richly carved stone facades and interiors were replaced with simplicity. Quranic inscriptions rarely embellished any structure.

No other Sultan had built public works so extensively.

The Jami Mosque seems to have been an imposing building of two storeys. Mongol invader Timur was so impressed by the craftsmanship of this mosque that he wanted to build a similar one at Samarqand.

Another impressive structure is the pyramidal structure on which the Ashokan pillar stands. This building consists of three storeys of square terraces with each terrace becoming smaller as it goes up.

This pillar was brought with great care from Meerut. Silk cotton wrapped around it, it was encased in reeds and raw skin. When it reached Yamuna, Sultan personally checked the transportation. From here it was carried in huge boats to Firozabad.

Today, Firoz Shah Kotla is fast becoming a pilgrimage. Devotees turn up in large numbers at various sites in this medieval city, praying to nameless peers and hoping to be depossessed of malevolent effects of evil spirits.

It may well seen that the history of Islamic architecture is one of kings and their largesse, but it was not so. Individuals were doing their own bit. But, since they lacked the same kind of financial back up, their results hardly ever matched to the glory of their royal counterparts.
However, one interesting mosque was constructed by Khan-I-Jahan Telangani, the prime minister of Firoz Shah Tughlaq.

This was the Khirki mosque, so called due to the arched windows on its three sides.
Khirki mosque has an unusual design. Instead of conforming to the usual open courtyard-and-cloisters style, its courtyard is divided into four small courts.

A part of the verandah or sahn is covered by a combination of a domed and flat roof, which leaves four symmetrically arranged open-to-sky courtyards for light and ventilation.
This cuts out the hot sun and more comfortable praying conditions are created. A pretty useful innovation for Delhi’s weather, it failed to catch on. Many experts say that it did not catch on, because of the egalitarian principles of Islam where congregating was very important. And the idea of courtyard being divided apparently did not conform to the original idea.

Khane Jahan Telangani’s own tomb was an important monument. It was the forerunner of all the octagonal tombs.

Today the building hardly exists, except for the dome. Rest have been covered by private residences. Even the grave of Telangani, known locally as Telangi Badshah ka Maqbara, is now a part of this house. Heritage lost, maybe forever.

Firoz Shah Tughlaq died in 1388 at the age of seventy eight. His tomb, though nowhere near a masterpiece, has its own charm and dignity.

Firoz Shah Tughlaq was buried by the side of the madarasa and the mosque built by him at Hauz Khas. His tomb faces this once glorious reservoir, which has now been filled up. Though in a dilapidated condition, Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s tomb along with the adjoining mosque and madrasa still retains the charm of simplicity.

It has all the trademarks of Firoz Shah Tughlaq school of architecture. Walls, built of rubble with a coating of plaster, thicker at the base, tapering bastion-like round towers at the corners to create an impression of strength. It has the vigour and straightforwardness of purpose and practical style.

With Firoz Shah’s death the glorious chapter of the Tughlaq dynasty ended. But his gift of simplicity to Indian architecture still remains alive. As is the wont of history, he was succeeded by seven weak and incompetent rulers. During the reign of the last Tughlaq– Nasir ud Din Mahmud, Delhi was brutally ravaged by the Mongol invader Timur.

Timur left Delhi after a stay of about a month, carrying with him a large number of artisans, masons, stonecutters and craftsman and also the spirit and glory of Delhi. Despite a successful coup, Nasir Ud Din Mahmud held on to the throne of Delhi. He died in 1412 and another Delhi Dynasty came to an end.

The rock bottom was reached. And then, a new dynasty took over. The spirit of Delhi, the people of Delhi, the power of Delhi, all looked towards this new dynasty for a revival. Were the Sayyids capable enough, and what did these tortured times meant for Indo Islamic architecture? Milte hain next week same day, same time. Shabba Khair

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