The Tughlaqs (1320–1412)


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The founder of the Tughlaq dynasty was Ghazi Malik who ascended the throne as Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq in AD 1320 and this dynasty ruled till AD 1412. Ghiyasuddin rose to an important position in the reign of Alauddin Khalji. After a brief rule Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq died in AD 1325 and his son Muhammad Tughlaq ascended the throne.

Under the Tughlaqs the Delhi Sultanate was further consolidated. Many outlying territories were brought under the direct control of the Sultanate.

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The Deccan and South

The regions of the Deccan which were conquered by the Khaljis had stopped paying tribute and were proclaiming independent status.

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Muhammad Tughlaq while a prince (called Juna Khan) led the early expeditions against Rai Rudra Dev who was defeated after a prolonged conflict and Warangal was now annexed under direct control of the Sultanate. Ma’bar was also defeated. Now the whole region of Telangana was divided into administrative units and made part of the Sultanate.

In contrast to Allauddin Khalji’s policy the Tughlaqs annexed the Deccan region. Muhammad Tughlaq even decided to transfer his capital from Delhi to Deogir and renamed it as Daultabad. In fact he wanted to control the northern region from this place. Substantial number of nobles, religious men and craftsmen shifted to the new capital. It seems that the idea was to treat it as the second capital and not abandon Delhi. Later the whole scheme was given up. However, the plan improved ties between the north and south. Apart from territorial expansion the social, cultural and economic interactions also grew.

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East India

Bhanudeva II, the ruler of Jajnagar in Orissa had helped Rai Rudra Dev of Warangal in his battle against Delhi Sultans. Ulug Khan led an army against him in AD 1324; Bhanudeva II was defeated and his territory annexed. In Bengal there was discontent of nobles against their Sultan. The dissatisfied nobles invited the Tughlaq prince to invade their ruler. The army of Bengal was defeated and a noble Nasiruddin was installed on the throne.

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North West

The Mongol invasions from the North-West region were rocking the Sultanate on regular intervals. In AD 1326–27 a big Mongol assault under Tarmashirin Khan took place.

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Transfer of Capital

One of the controversial measures of Muhammad bin Tughlaq was that he transferred his capital from Delhi to Deogir (Daultabad).

  • According to Dr. Mahdi Hussain, the Sultan wanted to maintain both Delhi and Daultabad as his capitals.
  • As per Barani, in AD 1326–27, Sultan decided to shift his capital from Delhi to Deogir (Daultabad) in the Deccan because it was more centrally located.
  • According to Ibn Batuta, the people of Delhi used to write letters containing abuses to the Sultan, therefore, in order to punish them Sultan decided to shift the capital.
  • Isami say that it was a place at a safer distance from the North West frontier and thus-safe from the Mongols.

In view of different versions it is difficult to assign one definite reason for this shift.

The entire population was not asked to leave; only the upper classes consisting of shaikhs, nobles, ulema were shifted to Daultabad. No attempt was made to shift the rest of the population. Though Muhammad bin Tughlaq built a road from Delhi to Deogir and set up rest houses but the journey was extremely harsh for the people. Large number of people died because of rigorous travelling and the heat. Due to growing discontent and the fact that north could not be controlled from south, Muhammad decided to abandon Daultabad.

Muhammad Tughlaq decided to secure the frontier. The region from Lahore to Kalanur including Peshawar was conquered and new administrative control was established. Besides, the Sultan also planned invasions of Qarachil region (in present day Himachal) and Qandhar but did not succeed. In fact these schemes resulted in heavy loss.

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Innovations

Muhammad Tughlaq was very innovative in adopting new policies. He started a new department for the development of Agriculture. It was called Diwan-i-Kohi. Peasants were given financial support to help in arranging seeds for cultivation. This loan was also given in case of crop failures. Another important measure was to introduce token currency to tide over the shortage of Silver. However, this scheme failed causing great financial loss to the sultanate.

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Token Currency

Another controversial project undertaken by Muhammad bin Tughlaq was the introduction of “Token Currency”.

  • According to Barani, the Sultan introduced token currency because the treasury was empty due to the Sultan’s schemes of conquest as well as his boundless generosity.
  • Some historians are of the opinion that there was a shortage of silver world wide at that time and India too faced the crisis therefore, the Sultan was forced to issue copper coins in place of silver.

Muhammad introduced a copper coin (Jittal) in place of silver coin (tanka) and ordered that it should be accepted as equivalent to the tanka. However, the idea of token currency was new in India and it was difficult for traders and common people to accept it. The State also did not take proper precautions to check the imitation of coins issued by the mints. Government could not prevent people from forging the new coins and soon the new coins flooded the markets.

According to Barani the people began to mint token currency in their houses. However the common man failed to distinguish between copper coin issued by the royal treasury and those which were locally made. Thus the Sultan was forced to withdraw the token currency.

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Muhammad Tughlaq was succeeded by his cousin Firuz Tughlaq. Under him no new territories could be added to the Sultanate. He managed to keep large areas intact with great efforts. However, the political control of Delhi gradually weakened during the rule of Firuz’s successors.

The invasion of Timur in AD 1398 left the sultanate desolate.

By the end of Tughlaq rule (AD 1412) the Sultanate was confined to a small territory in north India. A number of regions proclaimed independent status.

  • In the east Bengal and Orissa enjoyed complete autonomy.
  • In eastern UP and large parts of Bihar a new independent kingdom of Sharqis emerged.
  • In the Deccan and South Vijaynagar empire and Bahmani kingdom became political powers.
  • Large parts of Punjab were occupied by independent nobles.
  • Gujarat and Malwa became fully independent.
  • Rajput states in Rajasthan no longer treated Delhi Sultans as their overlords.

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Bibliography : NIOS – Medieval India

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