Tuesday 28 November 2017

Tughlaq Dynasty - Delhi Sultanate

The Delhi Sultanate was a Muslim kingdom based mostly in Delhi that stretched over large parts of the Indian subcontinent for 320 years (1206–1526). Five Dynasties ruled over Delhi over this period starting from Mamluk(Slave) Dynasty. Four of these dynasties were of Turkic Origin and the last one was of Afghan Origin. The sultanate is noted for being one of the few states to repel an attack by the Mongol Empire.

Tughlaqabad Fort

The Tughlaq dynasty, was the third Muslim dynasty of Turko-Indian origin which ruled over the Delhi sultanate in medieval India. Its reign started in 1320 in Delhi when Ghazi Malik assumed the throne under the title of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq. The dynasty ended in 1413. The dynasty came after the  Khilji Dynasty and preceded the Sayyid dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.

Tughlaqabad Fort

Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq(died c. 1325) was the founder of the Tughluq dynasty, who ruled from 1320 to 1325. He built a city six kilometers east of Delhi, with a fort considered more defensible against the Mongol attacks, and called it Tughlakabad. In 1323 he appointed his son Muhammad Shah as his heir and successor and took a written promise or agreement to the arrangement from the ministers and nobles of the state. His reign was cut short after 5 years when he died under mysterious circumstances in 1325.

Tomb of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq

Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq was succeed by his son, Muhammad bin Tughluq who ruled from from 1325 to 1351 CE. He was interested in medicine and was skilled in several languages — Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Sanskrit. In his reign, he conquered Warangal (in present-day Telangana, IndiaMalabar and Madurai, (Tamil Nadu, India), and areas up to the modern day southern tip of the Indian state of Karnataka.

Tughlaq Dynsaty at it's height

In 1327, Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq passed an order to shift the capital from Delhi to Deogiri in present day Indian state of Maharashtra (renaming it to Daulatabad) in the Deccan region of south India. However, in 1334 there was a rebellion in Mabar. While he retreated back to Daulatabad, Mabar and Dwarsamudra broke away from Tughluq control. This was followed by a revolt in Bengal. Fearing that the sultanate's northern borders were exposed to attacks, in 1335, he decided to shift the capital back to Delhi.

Daukatabad Fort

Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq raised an army of possibly up to three million and seven hundred thousand soldiers in 1329 with the help of nobles and leaders of Transoxiana. In 1333, Tughluq led the Qarachil expedition to the Kullu-Kangra region of modern-day Himachal Pradesh in India. His army was not able to fight in the hills and was defeated by the Katoch clan of Kangra.


Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq died in 1351 on his way to Thatta, Sindh in order to intervene in a war between members of the Gujjar tribe. He had lived to see his empire fall apart. It was during his reign that Turkish empire of Delhi collapsed by two fold resistance. One was from Rana Hammeer Singh Sisodia of Mewar and other from Harihara and Bukka of South India. All these three warriors were able to inflict humiliating defeats on the Sultanate army and crush the empire. At the time of Tughlaq's death, the geographic control of Delhi Sultanate had shrunk to Vindhya range (now in central India).

Vindhya Range

After Muhammad bin Tughluq died, a collateral relative, Mahmud Ibn Muhammad, ruled for less than a month. Thereafter, Muhammad bin Tughluq's 45-year-old nephew Firuz Shah Tughlaq replaced him and assumed the throne. His rule lasted 37 years from 1351 CE till 1388 CE. Due to widespread unrest, his realm was much smaller than Muhammad's. Tughlaq was forced by rebellions to concede virtual independence to Bengal and other provinces.

Golden Tanka of Muhammad bin Tughluq

Firoz Shah Tughlaq tried to regain the old kingdom boundary by waging a war with Bengal for 11 months in 1359. However, Bengal did not fall, and remained outside of Delhi Sultanate. Firuz Shah Tughlaq was somewhat weak militarily, mainly because of inept leadership in the army. He banned torture in practice in Delhi Sultanate by his predecessors. After the death of his heir in 1376 AD, Firoz Shah started strict implementation of Sharia throughout his dominions.

Remains of buildings at Firoz Shah Kotla, Delhi, 1795

Firuz Shah Tughlaq is credited with patronizing Indo-Islamic architecture, including the installation of lats (ancient Hindu and Buddhist pillars) near mosques. Hindu religious works were translated from Sanskrit to Persian and Arabic. He had a large personal library of manuscripts in PersianArabic and other languages.

Wazirabad mosque

When the Qutb Minar struck by lightning in 1368 AD, knocking off its top storey, Firuz Shah Tughlaq replaced them with the existing two floors, faced with red sandstone and white marble. After Feroz died in 1388, the Tughlaq dynasty's power continued to fade, and no more able leaders came to the throne. His death created anarchy and disintegration of kingdom.

Top two stories of Qutb Minar

The first civil war broke out in 1384 AD four years before the death of aging Firoz Shah Tughlaq, while the second civil war started in 1394 AD six years after Firoz Shah was dead. Tughluq Khan, the then wazir assumed power, but died in conflict. In 1389, Abu Bakr Shah assumed power, but he too died within a year. The civil war continued under Sultan Muhammad Shah, and by 1390 AD, it had led to the seizure and execution of all Muslim nobility who were aligned, or suspected to be aligned to Khan Jahan II.

In 1394, Hindus in Lahore region and northwest South Asia (now Pakistan) had re-asserted self-rule. While preparations were in progress in Delhi in January 1394, Sultan Muhammad Shah died. His son, Humayun Khan assumed power, but was murdered within two months. The brother of Humayun Khan, Nasir-al-din Mahmud Shah assumed power - but he enjoyed little support from Muslim nobility, the wazirs and amirs. The Sultanate had lost command over almost all eastern and western provinces of already shrunken Sultanate.


The lowest point for the dynasty came in 1398, when Turco-Mongol invader, Timur (Tamerlane) defeated four armies of the Sultanate. During the invasion, Sultan Mahmud Khan fled before Tamerlane entered Delhi. For eight days Delhi was plundered, its population massacred, and over 100,000 prisoners were killed as well.

Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi, Nasir Al-Din Mahmud Tughluq

After his invasion of Delhi, Timur collected and carried the wealth, captured women and slaves (particularly skilled artisans), and returned to Samarkand. The people and lands within the Delhi Sultanate were left in a state of anarchy, chaos, and pestilence. Nasir ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughlaq, who had fled to Gujarat during Timur's invasion, returned and nominally ruled as the last ruler of Tughlaq dynasty, as a puppet of various factions at the court until 145 CE.


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