Tughluqabad is one of the most popular heritage trails on our calendar & we conducted it twice this winter on popular demand. The massive fortifications of the city of Tughluqabad are visible from the Mehrauli Badarpur Road, but nothing prepares you for the sight inside. The Tughluqs built like giants-& this is evident in the remains of this city. As far as the eye goes, it is a landscape of bare, crumbling ruins, still looking magnificent in their decay. Our heritage walk covers 3 parts of the city: the palace area, the citadel and the tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughluq. The palace, citadel & the town were enclosed in a wall with a perimeter of about 4 miles. The fortifications along the MB Road at still standing, mostly owing to the consistent conservation work on them, but rest of the walls are mostly gone, overtaken by the modern settlement of Tughluqabad. Many buildings are also lost as their masonry was used to create homes in the village. Recently the ASI had ordered them to vacate this area but the residents have claimed to have inhabited this land for years & claim traditional rights over it. The matter now rests, both literally & figuratively in the courts. And the only regular visitors to the fort complex are the residents of this village: children playing hide & seek, young men playing cricket, women collecting firewood, people grazing their cattle & more often than not, boisterous parties, which would have made the former rulers proud!
The city of Tughluqabad has many a tales associated with it; many which are part of folklore now. Chisti Sufi saint, Nizamuddin Auliya had been particularly busy cursing the city & its founder. It was his prophecy which ensured that Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughluq never reached Delhi. Those famous words ‘Hanoz Dilli door ast’ or ‘Delhi is yet far’ are part of everyday Hindi now. He also cursed the capital city to remain desolate or inhabited by gujjars (‘ya rahe usar, ya base gujar’). Both prophecies were well on their mark J, the moral of the story being that we should never mess with a Sufi.
The palace area includes a massive baoli which is restored & we could go down to its bottom; a reservoir near the citadel which was a quarry from which construction material was taken; a series of underground granaries; a sequence of courtyards which were probably used for holding court; stables; the hathi gate which probably never had elephants anywhere around it; and a ceremonial ground perhaps for parades or for playing polo. The citadel has another line of defensive fortification & it is located at a height, above the rest of the palace & town. The most interesting feature here is the secret escape route. Visit any fort & you will be informed of the existence of a tunnel leading to a city few hundred miles away. There are incredible accounts for tunnels from Agra to Lahore, Delhi to Agra & Delhi to Lahore & to any other place imaginable, but the one at Tughluqabad is the only one I know for sure, is a secret escape route. Or at least one in which we can go down & get a sense of its intent. Nearby is a maasive reservoir which is bigger than the one in palace area, however, most of it has collapsed. There are underground rooms, which some say were used as prison, the others prefer them housing dragons! And then there are remains of the Jahan numa, which offers a ‘view of the world’. It was a pavilion which offered the highest view of the surroundings. Now completely ruined, the view still remains breathtaking. One can see the extent of the entire fortifications of the city of Tughluqabad, the tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughluq & the causeway connecting it to the fort. At a short distance is Adilabad, built almost as an outhouse by Mohd Tughluq, who was perhaps uneasy staying at Tughluqabad after murdering his father. The areas between the fort, the tomb & Adilabad was a huge artificial lake, now long gone. The last stop on our walking tour was the tomb of Ghiyasuddin which looks as good as new. The stones look clean & fresh & the contrast between red sandstone & white marble is striking. The laws around the tomb are impeccably manicured which is most inviting. After a mini trek in Tughluqabad it is hard to resist an urge to lie down here. The tomb complex is like a mini fortress, with rooms, wells, a granary, a smaller tomb of Zafar Khan & a tiny grave stone along the fortifications which some say belongs to Tughluq’s dog!
(posted by Kanika Singh & Awadhesh Tripathi, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)