Tughlaqabad was a magnificent fort when built by Ghiasuddin
Tughlaq in 1324. But soon after his death is became a deserted,
haunted place. Why was the third fort of Delhi Abandoned?
As you drive down the road forking left
of the Qutab Minar gate, passing through the line of village markets,
institutional area and vast rocky stretches, you will see the huge
bastions and battlements of Tughlaqabad fort towering over the
landscape. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq of Tughlaq Shah built this fort
within four years between 1321 and 1324. It contained a vast number
of buildings, mosques, palaces, towers, tanks surrounded by mammoth
bastions. In fact Ghiyasuddin had selected this site for the fort
when he was a mere soldier.
Ibn Batuta, the Moroccan
traveler-chronicler, mentions that Ghiyasuddin had said to Mubarak
Shah Khilji, O master of the world, it were fitting that a city
should be built here. The Sultan replied to him ironically,
When you are Sultan, built it. It came to pass by the
decree of God that he became Sultan, so he built it and, called it by
his name- Tughlaqabad. Now in sheer ruins, this fort has
been plundered for free building material for subsequent forts of
Delhi. There aweinspiring runis and enormous stones on the walls
make one wonder if there were giants in those days. Thomas Bacon who
visited the runs more than 150 years ago in 1831 observed: I
met with nothing which so deeply excited my interest, not even the
runis of Futtehpore Sikri
nothing else which I have seen is
half so gigantic, with the exception of Konarak, and that is one
single building, whereas Tughlaqabad presents a small city of such
Tughlaqabad was magnificent when the
first Tughlaq Sultan held court here. Its splendour was incredible.
But too soon it became a deserted, haunted place. No enemy had
attacked the fort. No earthquake destroyed it. Why was the third
fort of Delhi abandoned?
It is believed that Saint
Nizamuddin was building his baoli
at the time when Ghiyasuddin was using all his state power, and
resources on the speedy construction of the fort. Out of reverence,
people worked more agreeably for the saint than for the Sultan who
forbade his men to work at the baoli. So they worked at night in
lamplight. This irked the Sultan who prohibited the sale of oil.
The saint worked a miracle and the baoli water, when used in the
lamps, emitted bright light. This exasperated the Sultan. In a fit
of bitterness, the saint cursed the city of Tughlaqabad-ya
rahe usar, ya base gujar
(either it remains barren, or else be peopled by the Gujjar
tribesmen). The cruse prophesied doom on the city not yet fully
completed. Ghiyasuddin, then out in Bengal, threatened to set the
saint right when the returned to Delhi. The saint then quipped,
Hunuz Dilli dur ast
(Delhi is yet far away).
It so transpired that when Ghiyasuddin
returned after his victorious campaign, his son Muhammad Tughlaq
arranged for him a reception at Afghanpur, a village outside Delhi.
A grand wooden canopy was specially erected on this occasion. When
the grand salute was in progress one of the elephants put its foot on
the wooden contraptions. The whole canopy collapsed over the Sultan
and his infant son, killing them instantly. The prophesy was
fulfilled. The Sultan could not reach Delhi to chastise the saint.
When Muhammad Tughlaq took over as Sultan, he chose to build his own
city and fort-Adilabad. Within a year or two after 1324, the city of
Tughlaqabad was just abandoned by Muhammad Tughlaq. It became a
haunt of jackals, monkeys and the sheep tending Gujjars who roamed
about freely in royal ruins.. The cruse had materialized.
Some suspected the saints hand in
the conspiracy to kill Ghiyasuddin but it has been dismissed as sheer
malice by the historians. Faith in the saints miraculous power
continues to this date, confirmed by the he crowds at the dargah of
Hazrat Nizamuddin. The saint part of living memory; the Sultan
consigned to history and dead stones.