Located in New Delhi, this massive fort stretches over 6 km. On either side of Mehrauli-Badarpur road, this fort was built in 1321 AD along with the road, which was then known as Qutub-Badarpur road. This large fort has a very interesting story behind it:
Ghazi Malik was a feudatory of the Khalji rulers of Delhi, India. Once while on a walk with his Khilji master, Ghazi Malik suggested that the king build a fort on a hillock in the southern portion of Delhi. The king jokingly told Ghazi Malik to build the fort himself when he would become king.
In 1321 AD, Ghazi Malik drove away the Khaljis and assumed the title of Ghias-ud-din Tughlaq, starting the Tughlaq dynasty. He immediately started the construction of his fabled city, which he dreamt of as an impregnable, yet beautiful fort to keep away the Mongol marauders. However, destiny would not be as he would have liked.
This majestic fort also bears two curses:
Ghias-ud-din is usually perceived as a liberal ruler. However, he was so passionate about his dream fort that he issued a dictate that all labourers in Delhi must work on his fort. Saint Nizamuddin Auliya, a Sufi mystic, got incensed as the work on hisbaoli (well) was stopped. The confrontation between the Sufi saint and the royal emperor has become a legend in India. The saint uttered a curse, which was to resonate throughout history right until today: “Ya rahey ujjar, ya basey Gujjar”, which can roughly be translated to “Either remain inhabited, or will dwell Gujjars”. After the fall of sultanate, Gujjars of the area captured the Qila (fort) and till date village ‘Tughlakabad’ is situated in it.
Another of the saint’s curses was “Hunuz Dilli dur ast” (Roughly – Delhi is but far away). This curse came true as well. The Emperor had gone for a campaign in Bengal. He was successful and was on his way to Delhi. However, his son, Muhammad bin Tughlaq, met him at Kara in Uttar Pradesh. Allegedly, at the prince’s orders, a Shamiana (Tent) fell on the Emperor, who was crushed to death, in 1324 AD.
The fort now exists in ruins and is mostly ignored by Delhiites who pass by it daily, when travelling by Mehrauli-Badarpur road. It is only one of the thousands of historical structures in India, but is filled with mystery.
Tughluqabad consists of remarkable, massive stone fortifications that surround the irregular ground plan of the city. The sloping rubble-filled city walls, a typical feature of monuments of the Tughluq dynasty, are between 10 and 15 meters high, topped by battlemented parapets and strengthened by circular bastions of up to two stories height. The city is supposed to once have had as many as 52 gates of which only 13 remain today. The fortified city contained seven rainwater tanks. Also, Tughluqabad is divided into three parts:
- The wider city area with houses built along a rectangular grid between its gates
- The citadel with a tower at its highest point known as Bijai-Mandal and the remains of several halls and a long underground passage
- The adjacent palace area containing the royal residences.
A long underground passage below the tower still remains. It is assumed to have been a marketplace. On each side in the tunnels are areas for stalls. The tunnels somehow remain cool throughout the year. This is probably because of the fact that they are underground. The cool conditions may have been required to avoid fruits and vegetables from rotting. Also, being underground, the chances of cows and dogs eating the goods off the stalls were less.
Today most of the city is inaccessible due to dense thorny vegetation. An ever increasing part of the former city area is occupied by modern settlement, especially in the vicinity of its lakes.
Well visible in the southeast are the remains of the Fortress of ‘Adilabad, built years later by Ghiyathu’d-Din’s successor, Muhammad Tughluq (1325–51) which shares the main characteristics of construction with Tughlaqabad fort.
South of Tughluqabad was a vast artificial water reservoir within the fortified outpost of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq’s Tomb. This well preserved mausoleum remains connected to the fort by an elevated causeway that still stands today.
Hidden in plain sight, this tomb inspires visitors and leaves them in awe. India is full of such ignored sites that have so much to teach us.