A Powerful Sultan ill-Destined to the Ravages of a Saint’s Curse – Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq aka Ghazi Malik

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Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq’s Coins

Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq aka Ghazi Malik was destined to rule, to set up the Tughlaq Dynasty, to be embedded in memory of history of India.

Just for information-“Tughlaq” is a name which originated from “Qutluq”.
The original name of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq was Gazi Malik. His father, Malik Qutluq was a Turkish slave of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban and his mother was a Jat lady of the Punjab.

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Using his wit, brain and brawn, he rose from the status of a ruler, a Sultan after being a mere vassal of Khilji rulers of Delhi.

Even as a vassal he used to dream, not as a dreamer, as a strategist. Once whilst on a walk with his Khilji master, Ghazi Malik suggested that the king should build a fort on a hillock in the southern portion of Delhi. He knew this was necessary to keep away the Mongol marauders. The king laughed and jokingly told Ghazi Malik to build the fort himself when he would become king.

As it so happened, in 1321 AD, Ghazi Malik overpowered the Khiljis and assumed the title of Ghias-ud-din Tughlaq, and commenced the Tughlaq dynasty. To realize his dream, 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.

But little did he realize that he was not in control of destiny, which was laid out otherwise for him.


Tughlaqabad (left), The tomb of the Emperor Ghiyas al-Din Tughlaq (right)

Author: Metcalfe, Sir Thomas Theophilus (1795-1853)

Medium: Ink and colours on paper

Date: 1843

[From ‘Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi]

Tughlaqabad Fort-built by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, the founder of Tughlaq dynasty, of the Delhi Sultanate of India in 1321, was a major component of the fifth historic city of Delhi, established by Ghiyasudin Tughlaq, but was abandoned in 1327!

Its ruins stretching across 6.5 km, are a poignant reminder of a meticulously planned fort rendered into a wasteland. The ruined fort lies on the Qutb-Badarpur Road built by Ghiyasudin, which connected the new city to the Grand Trunk Road. That road is now called Mehrauli Badarpur Road.

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Ruins of Tughlaqabad Fort

Ghias-ud-din in his passion of building his dream fort, invited the curse of a saint-Nizamuddin Auliya. He issued a dictate that all labourers in Delhi must work on his fort. Hence, the on-going work on the baoli (well) of Saint Nizamuddin Auliya, a Sufi mystic, was stopped. This led to a discord between the Sufi saint and the Sultan. The saint uttered a curse, which was to resonate throughout history right until today: “Ya rahey hissar, ya basey gujjar” (may it [the fort] remain unoccupied/infertile, or else the herdsmen may live here). The curse began its effects, as when the Sultan was on his way back from a campaign in Bengal, with an intent to punish Nizamudin Auliya, the Saint when he heard this uttered another curse “Hunuz Dilli dur ast” (Delhi is still far away).


As destiny would have it, the Sultans’s son, Muhammad bin Tughlaq, met him at  Kara in Uttar Pradesh and allegedly at the prince’s orders, a Shamiana (Tent) fell on the Sultan, who was crushed to death (1324 AD).

Thus ended the journey of a Sultan and he was interred in Darul Aman-The ‘Mausoleum of Ghiyasudin Tughluq’.


General view of Ghiyath-ud-Din Tughluq’s Tomb, Delhi.

“Photograph of Ghiyas al-Din Tughluq’s tomb from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections taken by W.Caney in the 1870s. Emperor Ghiyas al-Din Tughluq (r.1320-25) the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty built the third city of Delhi- Tughlaqabad, between 1321-1325.

Originally his tomb was surrounded by a reservoir and was attached to the Tughlaqabad fort by a causeway. The tomb stands at the center of a pentagonal enclosure with high walls. Built in red sandstone, inlaid with white marble, the tomb has a white marble dome rising from a low octagonal drum. The tombs sloping walls pioneered a style that was used in all subsequent Tughlaq architecture.

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Sometime in 20th century portion of causeway was pierced by the Mehrauli Badarpur road. The complex of Ghiyasudin Tughluq’s tomb is entered by a high gateway made up of red sandstone.


Inside the mausoleum are three graves: The central one belongs to Ghiyasudin Tughlaq and the other two are believed to be those of his wife Begum Makhduma Jahan and his second son Mahmud Khan, who died with him under the pavilion.

According to another school of thought the second grave belongs to Ghiyasudin Tughlaq’s successor Muhammad bin Tughluq.

Curiously, in a chamber of the boundary wall the Sultan’s favourite dog also lies buried, in all faithfulness to his master even in death.

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In all faithfulness to his master even in death”

The Grave of Ghiyasudin Tughlaq’s favourite dog

In the north-western bastion of the enclosure wall with its pillared corridors is another octagonal tomb in similar style with a smaller marble dome and inscribed marble and sandstone slabs over its arched doors. According to an inscription over its southern entrance this tomb houses the remains of Zafar Khan.

His grave had been at the site prior to the construction of the outpost and was consciously integrated into the design of the mausoleum by Ghiyasudin himself.


Zafar Khan’s Grave

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Vast emptiness of death-The mausoleum of Ghiyasudin Tughlaq in 1800’s


Hole for dropping down food into the prison cell


Passage at ground level to under ground prison cell

As if to add to the misery, the mausoleum also consists of underground cellars and prisons. Such prisons where prisoners lived in conditions not fit for any living being, with just a hole to drop down food, as the picture shows. They were doomed forever as soon as they were led inside the underground cell, perhaps half dead and cursing. (See picture).

Thus ended the saga of a vain and haughty Sultan and his cursed fort. The crumbling ruins of Tughlaqabad Fort waste away day by day. The mightily designed fort of yore is just a grazing pasture of goats.

It lies abandoned in screaming silence of the curse of a Saint…………………

Ya rahey hissar, ya basey gujjar” .

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