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Tughlaqabad Fort

The Tughlaqabad Fort reflects the unique and grim style of the Tughlaq dynasty that reigned in Delhi for almost hundred years. This architectural marvel is a symbol of the bolstering defence and dynastic pride. It is one out of the two forts left behind by the Tughlaqs. The other fort named Jahanpanah is only 5.5 km away from this formidable structure and is arguably as magnificent as Tughlaqabad. The Tughlaqabad Fort is a testimony to the city’s grandeur and gives an interesting peek into Delhi’s glorious past. Established as the fifth historic city, the fort was later abandoned in 1327. It is a gigantic stone structure with walls that are 10-15 metres high. Crowning the walls are battlement parapets and bastions. The richness, strength, grandeur, and greatness of the medieval city of Delhi can be easily understood from what we see even today.

History of Tughlaqabad Fort

Ghazi Malik was a feudatory of the Khilji rulers of Delhi, India, ruling the vast and rich province of Punjab. Once while on a walk with his Khilji master, Mubarak Shah Khilji, the son of the legendary Emperor Alauddin Khilji, 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 the king. In 1321, Ghazi Malik drove away the last of the Khiljis and assumed the title of Ghias-ud-din Tughlaq, starting the Tughlaq dynasty. He immediately started the construction of his fabled city, which he imagined as an impregnable yet beautiful fort that would keep away the Mongol marauders. However, the legend says that destiny was not be as he would have liked it to be.

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 his baoli, or well, for the use of the common people coming to his hospice, 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. (more in the History section)

The Fort as one sees it today

From underground passages and tombs to sloping walls and archaic wells, each and every corner of Tughlaqabad Fort deserves to be explored. Tughluqabad still 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.

Tughluqabad is divided into three parts, namely, 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, and the adjacent palace area containing the royal residences. A long underground passage below the tower has been preserved to this day. 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. South of Tughlaqabad 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. The Tughlaqabad Fort lures visitors, especially locals, with its beautiful remnants of a bygone era. Nestled in tranquil surroundings away from the hustle-bustle of the metro city, it offers spectacular views which are best seen at sunset. If one is feeling adventurous, a climb over the fort can give an excellent view over the plains. It may not strike one as a well-maintained structure, but it still holds a charm of its own. Another attraction that a tourist must visit at all costs is Nai ka Kot. It is a fourteenth century building said to be built by Muhammad bin Tughlaq for his favourite barber. Wildlife photographers and enthusiasts can head to the adjoining Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary.

Tourist Information

The Tughlaqabad Fort is open from 7 AM to 6:30 PM. The entry fee is INR 5 for Indian nationals and INR 100/- for foreign tourists.

Text by Sammik C Basuu