Tughlaqabad Fort

ughlaqabad Fort

These words,'Ya base gujjar, ya rahe ujjar.' (May [this city] be the abode of nomads or remain in wilderness.) with which the great Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya cursed Ghiyas-ud-din's city, seem to still echo all over the ghostly ruins of Tughlaqabad. The citadel frowns down ominously like some Gothic palace all over the Qutub-Badarpur road and seems to prefer its splendid isolation. Which is of course not exactly what Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq had in mind when he started out building it. It would have broken the old sultan's heart if he had seen just how swiftly the saint's curse went into action; soon after his death in fact.

Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq Raised The City

It seems that even when he was far from being a king Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq had dreamed of raising his city, Tughlaqabad. Earlier, Ghiyas-ud-din had been a general (he rose to being the governor of an important province like Punjab, but that's another story) in Ala-ud-din Khalji's army. Once while on the road with Ala-ud-din, Ghiyas-ud-din, on spotting this area, mentioned to the sultan what an ideal setting it seemed to provide for a new city. Upon this the king indulgently (and, knowing Ala-ud-din, also perhaps patronizingly) replied, 'When you become king, build it.' Knowing full well, as every boss, that while he was around there was not a shadow of a chance of anyone else taking his place. After the death of Ala-ud-din various events conspired to put the general on the throne at last. Then he fulfilled his long-cherished dream.

A Stratigical Layout of The Fort

Romanticism apart, Tughlaqabad also made perfect strategic sense. Those were the times the Mongols were a real menace to society and generally a pain in the neck for all the sultans of the Delhi Sultanate. Almost everything that the sultans built was aimed baffling the Mongols with sheer structural magnificence (read somewhere to duck in and hope for the best).

Tughlaqabad fort, situated as it was on high rocky ground, was ideally located to withstand sieges. Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq helped matters along by putting up formidable walls which, though short on aesthetic value, are excellent examples of solid unimaginative masonry and not the type that any invading army could hope to scale in a hurry. Tughlaq put ramparts towering at heights of anywhere between 9m (30ft) to 15.2m (50ft), and rising up to 29.8m (98ft) around the citadel, between himself and the Mongols.

The fort is half-hexagonal in shape and Ghiyas-ud-din seems to have built defenses around and in it till he was blue in the face. The outer walls are built around the silhouette of the surrounding land and, what with their height and width, add formidably to the natural barriers. They were also well defended. On the north, east and west sides it is protected by trenches that go far down, and in the south a lake acts sentinel.

To Reach The Inner Complex of The Fort

The parapets have small loopholes all over them from where Ghiyas-ud-din's soldiers to spot invaders quickly and start saying it with arrows. The fort has or at least had thirteen portals and the inner citadel has three more. If you could reach them that is, because it was defended in depth by three layers of battlements.

For all the defense, the city of Tughlaqabad hardly saw any warfare. Perhaps that is why it bears such an air of dejection – it could never fulfill the task it was built for. You enter the fortress by a highway, which was set one 27 arches, almost all of them have vanished now. Water being prized commodity (and allegedly one of the reasons why Tughlaqabad was finally abandoned) there was a huge reservoir to store rainwater in the fortress; you can still see it.

When one enters the fort, the first impression is of emptiness; the ruins begin registering later. It is difficult to imagine that if one was somehow transported a few centuries back, these very walls would come alive, with people brushing past you and if things got really lively one could even find oneself in the midst of a full-scale Mongol invasion.

As you enter, to the left, used to be the palaces and to the right still stand the ruins of the a tower (Bijai Mandal, not to be confused with the one in Jahanpanah; also see Bijai Mandal), several halls and a subterraneous passage that led to the Bijai Mandal in Jahanpanah. Just beyond was the city, with its streets (all laid out in a grid), houses, mosques, peoples and bazaars.

An Excellent View

A walk up the walls is well worth the while and, well, one of the main reasons why people come here at all. The vista is glorious; the ruins inside the fort, Ghiyas-ud-din's tomb next door and remains of the Adilabad fort (built by Ghiyas-ud-din's son Muhammad) lay scattered in front of you like petty detail.

Walking along the southern side of the fortress next to the outer wall is a way out of the impregnable fortress which one supposes was reserved for dire emergencies in case of prolonged sieges. This was a standard practise all over India; a secret escape route was part of the building plan in any fortress. Don't feel tempted to try it, if you value your neck. Further towards the west there is an abysmal tank which you don't want to go falling into – it is called the road to hell (Jahannum ka raasta) and for obvious reasons.

For a place of its size, Tughlaqabad was built with surprising speed, just four years. and of course abandoned with equal speed in 1327. Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq, probably being one of those modern free thinking guys who didn't want to be known by his father's laurels, chose to make a city of his own called Jahanpanah. One of his first achievement being to do away with Ghiyasuddin by arranging one of those accidents that were so frequent in medieval ages; a pavillion built to welcome Ghiyas-ud-din fell on him, of all things.Anyway, with the sultan's death, the city's short-lived glory to an abrupt end.