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Tughluqabad, the earliest surviving town of the Delhi sultanate

  • Mehrdad Shokoohy and Natalie H. Shokoohy


Tughluqabad is the first of many sultanate and Mughul towns which were purposely planned and constructed on previously uninhabited sites. Built early in the fourteenth century, Tughluqabad was to serve as the capital of the newly established Tughluq dynasty. There were, of course, three earlier Muslim capitals in the vicinity, the first the Delhi of Rāi Pithūrā, converted to an Islamic town after the Ghurid conquest in 588/1192–3; the second Jalāl al-dīn Khahīs Shahr-i naw, which was founded by Muՙiẓẓ al-dīn Kai Qubād (685–8/1286–9) at Kīlukharī (or Kīlugharī) but left incomplete at the time of his death, and the third Sīrī, built by Alՙ al-dīn Khaljī between 698/1298–9 and 700/1300–1 in the fields outside the walls of the older Delhi, but nothing has remained from these towns except parts of the fortification walls and some isolated monuments. The ruins of Tughluqabad, on the other hand, are enshrined in a time capsule. Built between 1320 and 1325 by Ghiyāth al-dīn Tughluq, the town had a brief life, and within a generation was abandoned and its population reduced to the size of a small village. As a result, most of its remains are datable to the short period of its duration in the first half of the fourteenth century. The only exception, as we shall see, are the remains of a small settlement which continued to exist around the old town centre, and in the late Mughal period also occupied the citadel.



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1 The present work is a preliminary report of a survey carried out in three seasons in 1986, 1990 and 1992 of the remains which could be seen above ground in Tughluqabad. The field-work has been supported by the British Academy. In the first stage a town plan was produced based on the surviving features on the ground, and with the help of an earlier published aerial photograph. The plan was then checked and amended on site and finally the main structures were surveyed in some detail. The final drawings were made in London with the help of Bahram Leissi, who also made a separate visit to the site.

2 Jauzjānī, Minhāj Sirāj, Ṭabaqāt-i Nāṣirī (Tehran: Dunyā-yi Kitāb, 1984), i, 401, 417.

3 Barnī, Ḍiyā’ al-dīn, Tārīkh-i Fīrūz Shāhī (Calcutta: Bibliotheca Indica, Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1862), 176.

4 ibid., 301–2.

5 Wetzel, Friedrich, Islamische Grabbauten in Indien (Ausgabe, 1918, repr. Osnabrück: Otto Zeller, 1970), 2432; Yamamoto, Tatsuro, Ara, Matsuo and Tsukinowa, Tokifusa, Delhi, architectural remains of the Delhi Sultanate period (Tokyo: Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo, 1968), ii, 3456.

6 Archaeological Survey of India Reports (Cunningham series) (ASIR), I, 1862–5, 212–17, pi. 35; also see Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, xxxm, 1864, lxix–lxxiv; ASIR, iv, 1871-2, 77.

7 Waddington, Hilary, ‘ ‘Ādilābād, a part of the fourth Delhi’, Ancient India, i, 1946, 6076.

8 Yamamoto, T. et al. , I (1967), 100, m (1970), 4654. Yamamoto also reported a number of wells and reservoirs in Tughluqabad, see vol. i, 92–4 nos. W2–7, W15, W23–4, W36–8

9 Some restoration work and clearance has been carried out on the walls of Tughluqabad early in this century. See Archaeological Survey of India, Northern Circle, Annual Progress Report (ASINC), 1914, 40, pi. 27; 1921, 14, 35, pis. 9–17; Archaeological Survey of India Annual Reports (ASIAR), 1904–5, 18–19; 1913–14, i, 3; 1920–1, 3; 1921–2, 4; 1922–3, 7; 1923–4, 141; 1924–5, 5, 9; 1925–6, 199; 1926–7, 254. For general works referring to Tughluqabad and Ghiyāth al-dīn's tomb see Khan, Saiyid Ahmad, Āthār al ṣanādīd (Lucknow, 1876), 11–15 figs. 17; Hearn, Gordon, The seven cities of Delhi, a description and history (2nd ed., revised, Calcutta and Simla), 1928, 3640; Marshall, John, ‘The monuments of Muslim India’, in The Cambridge History of India (Cambridge: CUP, 1928), in, 585–6; Brown, Percy, Indian architecture (Islamic Period) (1942, 7th reprint, Bombay: Taraporevala, 1981), 20–1; Toy, Sidney, The strongholds of India (London, 1957), 116–21; Madan, P. L., ‘Adilabad: a dream of Muhammad bin Tughluq’, Islamic Culture, XXXVII, 1963, 4951; Burton-Page, John, entry under Delhi in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new, ed. (London-Leiden: Brill, 1965), n, 257–8; Yamamoto, T. et al. , I, 52, 64, 102; Nath, R., History of sultanate architecture (New Delhi, 1978), 52–5; Nath, R., Monuments of Delhi: historical study (New Delhi, 1979), 4–5, 35, pis. 2, 22; Sharma, Y. D., Delhi and its neighbourhood (New Delhi: ASI, 1982), 24–5, 101–4; Welch, Anthony and Crane, Howard, ‘The Tughluqs: master builders of the Delhi sultanate’, Muqarnas, i, 1983, 127–8. Rajan, K. V. Soundara, Islam builds in India (Delhi, 1983), 76–7.

10 Barnī, , 442.

11 ibid., 432–3.

12 b, Muhammad. ‘Abd'ullāh called Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, Tuḥfat al-nuẓẓār figharā'ib al-amṣār wa'ajāib al-asfār, ed. Talal, Harb (Beirut, 1987), 437.

13 Barnī, , 449–50.

14 Baṭṭūṭa, Ibn, 432.

15 ibid., 461. This was the general belief of the time and is also recorded by the Arab historian hahāb al-dīn Abū ‘l-‘Abbās Ahmad b. Yahyā known as Ibn Fadl'ullāh al-‘Umarī (697- 49/1297–1348). See a translation of his Masālik al-absār fī mamālik al-amsār in Elliot, H. M. and Dowson, J., The history of India as told by its own historians (London, 1871), m, 610–1.

16 Barnī, , 452-; Shokoohy, M., Haryana I, The column of Fīrū Shāh and other Islamic nscriptions from the district of Hisar (London: Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum, 1988), Part IV, ol. XLVU, 21. The date given above appears in the inscription of the column of Fīrūz Shāh at Fatehabad, and varies slightly from that given by BarnI and other historians; also see b, Yaḥyā. al-Sihrindl, Aḥmad, TāīXkh-i Mubārak Shāhī (Calcutta, 1931), 96.

17 ASIR, 1862-, 213; also see Nath, R., History of sultanate architecture, 52. Nath claims, ithout any evidence, that Tughluqabad was built to enclose an already populated area. This is ot supported by any of the historical accounts.

18 Barnī, , 450.

19 Bauṭṭūṭa, Ibn, 461.

20 Barnī also notes that the treasury was in Tughluqabad, and that when Muhammad b. ughluq decided to reduce the circulation of copper coins and replace them with silver and gold, ounds of copper coins were accumulated at Tughluqabad. See Barnī, , 476.

21 ‘Afīf, Shams Sirāj, Tārīkh-i Fīrūz Shāhī (Calcutta, 1891), 148.

22 ibid., 124–8. For a complete translation of this passage see Shokoohy, M. and Shokoohy, N. H., Hisār-i Fīrūza (London: Monographs on Art Archaeology and Architecture, 1988), 68.

23 Barnī, , 456.

24 BaṬṬūta, Ibn, 493–4; Barnī, , 473–4, 482, 485–6.

25 Tughluq, Fīrūz Shāh, Futūhāt-i Fīrūz Shāhī (Aligarh: Aligarh Muslim University, 1954), 1215; Barnī, , 561–6; Sirāj, Shams, 330–3.

26 Tūs has not yet been surveyed. For aerial photographs see M. Y., Kiani (ed.) A general study on urbanization and urban planning in Iran (Tehran: Ministry of Islamic Guidance Press, 1986), 228, 477.

27 ibid., 214, 229.

28 Gardin, Jean-Claude, Lashkarī Bāzār, Mémoires de la délegation archéologique française en Afghanistan (DAFA), (Paris, 1963), XVIII, Part II, 13; Schlumberger, D., Lashkarī Bāzār, Mémoires de DAFA (Paris, 1978), XVIII, Part IA, 711, 99, pis. 1–2. Our plan of Bust is based on a fresh and unpublished survey carried out in 1977 by M. Shokoohy. For other publications on Bust see Féhervári, G. and Shokoohy, M., ‘Archaeological notes on Lashkarī Bāzār, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, LXXII, 1980, 8395; Ball, Warwick, Archaeological gazetteer of Afghanistan (Paris: Editions Recherche sur les civilizations, ADPF, 1982), I, 63.

29 Yamamoto, T. et al. , I, 111–12, no. O.52

30 Baṭṭūṭa, Ibn, 437–9.

31 ASINC, 1912, 22, pl. 2; 1917, pl. 10b.

32 ASIAR, 1914–15, 140, pl. 70b; Yazdani, G., Bidar, its history and monuments (Oxford, 1947), 30–1, pls. 2, 4.

33 Khan, Saiyid Ahmad, Āthār al-ṣanādīd (Lucknow, 1876), 11; also see Nath, R., Monuments of Delhi, 5. Tīmūr and his historian Muḥammad Sharaf al-dīn Yazdī both record a building with the name of jahān-namā set on the top of the hill and apparently near the east bank of the Jumna river about two parasangs (12 km.) from Delhi. The building and its surrounding area was plundered by Tīmūr 's army on 27 or 28 Rabi’ I, 801/7 or 8 December 1398, and later was used as a garrison. This may not be the same as the Jahān-namā of Tughluqabad, as Tīmūr and Yazdī do not record the name of Tughluqabad and both mention that their jahān-namā was a work of Fīrūz Shāh Tughluq. It is hard to believe that at the time of Tīmūr's attack on Delhi, soon after the death of Fīrūz Shāh, the same generation of people could not remember who was the founder of which building. See translations of Malfūẓāt-i Tīmūrī and Yazdī's Zafar-nāma in Elliot, H. M. and Dowson, John, The history of India as told by its own historians, iii, 434, 495.

34 Shokoohy, M. and Shokoohy, N. H., Ḥiṣār-i Fīrūza, 21, fig. 6.

35 Sirāj, Shams, 126.

36 Shokoohy, M. and Shokoohy, N. H., Nagaur, Sultanate and early Mughal history and architecture of the district of Nagaur, India (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1992, Apx. IV, fig. 69; also see Garrick, H. B. W., ‘Report of a tour in the Punjab and Rajputana in 1833–4’, ASIR, XXIII 1887, 55; Chaghtai, A., ‘Some inscriptions from Jodhpur state, Rajputana’, Epigraphia Indo- Moslemica, 1949–50, 43.

37 Yamamoto, T. et al. , I, 72, fig. 30.

38 Brown, Kenneth, ‘Making of the city-life line I’, Architectural Review, CLIX, 951, 1976, 260–83; Herdeg, Klaus, Formal structure in Islamic architecture of Iran and Turkistan (New York, 1990), 1320.

39 Abbas Rizvi, Saiyid Athar and Adams Flynn, Vincent John, Fathpur Sikri (Bombay, 1975), 115, plan facing p. 7.

40 Shokoohy, M. and Shokoohy, N. H., Nagaur, fig. 3.

41 Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, 465–6.

42 ibid., 482.

43 Ibn Baṭṭūṭa uses the word mashwar (place of audience) for both covered halls and open courts. We know from other sources, for example in the case of Ahmadabad described below, that audiences were also held in open courts, and even in the square in front of the palace. From his description quoted here it seems likely that Ibn Baṭṭūṭa is referring to open areas; also see H. A. R., Gibb, The travels of Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, ed. Defremery, C. and Sanguinetti, B. R. 1971), iii, 685, n. 112.

44 Gibb translates the word kura as mall, presumably referring to the western game of pall mall, a game played on open ground in which a ball is hit by mallets, but of course the royal ball game in Iran and India was polo, as given in our translation. This confirms that mashwar here refers to open ground.

45 Khwāja Niẓām, al-Mulk, Siyar al-mulūk also known as Siyāsat-nāma, ed. Darke, Hubert (revised ed., Tehran: Scientific and Cultural Publications, 1985), 276–7.

46 Mandū, G. Yazdani, the City of Joy (Oxford: OUP, 1929), 70–5.

47 Pope, Arthur Upham, A survey of Persian art (London-Tokyo: OUP, 1977), II, 545.

48 K. A. C. Creswell, Early Muslim architecture (Oxford, 1969), I, Part 2, 578, 584–8, figs. 630, 644, for the Sasanian origin see ibid., 515–18.

49 ibid., H, 1940, 66–7, fig. 64.

50 Scerrato, Umberto, ‘The first two excavation campaigns at Ghazni’, 1957–8, East and West, X, 1959, 25–7; Sourdel-Thomine, Janine and Spuler, Bertold, Die Kunst des Islam (Berlin, 1973), 277–9; also see Ball, Warwick, Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan, I, 105–7, II, 440, pl. 24.

51 Schlumberger, D., Lashkarī Bāzār, Mèmoires de la DAFA, xvm, Part IA, 34–5, pi. 3. For the relationship of the throne room with the smaller person to person audience chamber behind it see ibid., 3 8–41, pis. 13–16.

52 Yazdani, G., Bidar, its history and monuments, 6277, pis. 2 3 - 3 1.

53 Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, 466.

54 Yazdani, G., Bidar, 64.

55 Shokoohy, M. and Shokoohy, N. H., Hisār-i Firūza, 24.

56 The only other Tughluq palace which has survived extensively is Fīrūz Shāh's palace in Hisar, but little remains of the audience halls there, and the general organization of the planning is not as clear as that of Tughluqabad, see ibid., 17–32.

57 Zaid Baihaqī, Abū'l-Hasan Alī b. known as Ibn Funduq, Tārīkh-i Baihaq (Tehran: Furūghī, 1938), 268.

58 Yamamoto, T. et al. , i, 92, no. W.5.

59 ibid., 92–3, nos. W.2–4, W.6–7; in, 101–2.

60 Burgess, James, The Muhammadan architecture of Ahmadabad, Part I, A.D. 1412 to 1520 (London: ASI, 1900), New Imperial Series, xxiv, 25. The royal square of Ahmadabad is partly preserved and is discussed below.

61 Yazdani, G., Bidar, 44.

62 Ibn Baṭṭūṭṭa, 534–5.

63 ibid., 439.

64 Shokoohy, M. and Shokoohy, N. H., ‘The architecture of Baha al-din Tughrul in the region of Bayana, Rajasthan’, Muqarnas, IV, 1987, 120–1, 125.

65 Yazdani, G., Mandu the City of Joy, 56, pis. 6, 10.

66 Survey in ASIR, xv, 1882, 90–3; For a discussion on the function of the gallery see Qadir, Muhammad Abdul, ‘The so-called ladies’’ gallery in the early mosques of Bangladesh’ Journal of Varendra Research Museum, Vii, 1981–2, University of Rajshahi, 1985, 161–72; also see Asher, Catherine B., ‘Inventory of key monuments’, The Islamic heritage of Bengal, Michell, G. (ed.) (Paris: UNESCO, 1984), 109–11.

67 Sirāj, Shams, 80; Sikandar b. Muhammad Manjhū, b. Akbar, Mirāt-i Sikandarī, ed. S. C. Misra, and Rahman, M. L. (Baroda: Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, 1961), 38.

68 Muhammad Jahāngīr, Gūrkānī, Jahāngīr-nāma (Tūzuk-i Jahāngīrī) ed. Hashim, Muhammad (Tehran: Bunyād-i Farhang-i Irān, 1980), 242.

69 M., and Shokoohy, N. H., Hisār-i Firūza, 32–3.

70 ASIR, XI, 1880, 105–6; Ḟṻhrer, A., The Sharqi architecture of Jaunpur (Calcutta: ASI, 1889), New Series, i, 26–7; Z. Desai, A., ‘Inscription from the Jaunpur Fort mosque’, Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1975, 21.

71 ASINC, 1915, 13, pi. 1; 1916, 10, pis. 16–17; Welch, A. and Crane, H. ‘The Tughluqs, master builders of the Delhi sultanate’, 133–8.

72 Shams Sirāj, 305–15; Anon., Sīrat-i Firūz Shāhī, School of Oriental and African Studies, cat. no. MS. 283116, 179–207; Page, J. A., A memoir on Kotla Fīrūz Shāhī, MASI, LII, 1937, 3342, Persian text 3–25. In these works the columns are always referred to as minarets (minār).

73 M., and Shokoohy, N. H., Ḥiṣār-i Fīrūza, 116–18.

74 For the history and few remaining sultanate monuments of Jaunpur see Fūhrer, A., The Shargi architecture of Jaunpur.

75 M., and Shokoohy, N. H., Ḥiṣār-i Fīrūza, 1215.

76 Burgess, James, The Muhammadan architecture of Ahmadabad, Part I, A.D. 1412 to 1520, pi. 2.

77 Yamamoto, T. et al. , i, 111.

78 Theodore Hope, C., Architecture at Ahmadabad the capital of Goozerat, with architectural notes by James Fergusson and photographs by Colonel Biggs (London, 1866), 42; for the seventeenth-century accounts of the Maidān-i Shāh of Ahmadabad see Mandelslo, Johan Albrecht vonJournal und Observation (1637–1640) (Copenhagen, 1942), 48, 58, 65; Voyages de Mr. de Thevenot, in Surendranath, Sen (ed.), Indian travels of Thevenot and Careri (New Delhi, 1949), 1213. The Mir'āt-i Sikandarī also describes the palace and its gardens, but as the description is given in a panegyric (qasīda) it is not easy to define precisely to which parts it is referring, see Muhammad, Sikandar b.Akbar, Manjhū b., Mir'āt-i Sikandarī (Baroda, 1961), 35–6.

79 Elliot, H. M. and Dowson, John, The history of India as told by its own historians, iii, 447–8.

80 Cousens, Henry, Bijapur and its architectural remains (Bombay: ASI, 1916) New Imperial Series, xxxvii, pi. 118, map of the environs of Bijapur.

Tughluqabad, the earliest surviving town of the Delhi sultanate

  • Mehrdad Shokoohy and Natalie H. Shokoohy


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