Muhammad Tughlaq: A Proto-Pakistani Sultan?

Muhammad Tughlaq: A Proto-Pakistani Sultan?
Born in Multan in 1290 to Sultan Ghiasuddin Tughlaq, the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty in India, Muhammad Tughlaq grew up to be a highly educated heir apparent. He was fluent in Persian, Hindavi, Arabic, Sanskrit and Turkish. He had a fascination for medicine, which he studied, and a skilled swordsman. But he was best known for his wild mood swings.

Had he lived today, he may have been diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder.

As the eighteenth sultan of the Delhi Sultanate, reigning from February 1325 until he was deposed in 1351, Muhammad Tughlaq gave full reign to his flights of fancy and caused catastrophe.

Muhammad Tughlaq took it into his head that the location of Delhi as India’s capital was unsuitable. He therefore declared that a grand new capital would be built hundreds of miles inland on the Deccan plateau and it would be known as Daulatabad — The Place of Wealth. Far from it, the folly of Daulatabad caused the sultan to bankrupt the treasury. He squandered years and untold treasure in building Daulatabad 1500 south of Delhi in southern India. It took nine years to build the new capital with huge cost in men and materials.

When the new capital was completed, the Sultan ordered the whole population of Delhi to immediately move to Daulatabad. When the populace demurred, he ordered an enforced eviction of Delhi. Thousands of men, women and children died during this ordeal due to extreme heat, and lack of provisions on the long journey.

A few months after the capital and the population had been shifted, the Sultan woke up one morning and realised that the new capital was so far away from the centre that it was impossible to govern India from that far. So he ordered that the entire population and the capital be shifted back to Delhi forthwith!

Muhammad Tughlaq’s other “visionary” scheme was the introduction of copper and brass coins in place of gold sovereigns, and these he decreed would be equal in value to gold. Due to this introduction, thousands of fake coins flooded the market and the currency was devalued. Next, the mercurial sultan assembled an army of 100,000 soldiers to conquer China. The idea was that the army would march through the Himalayas and Tibet and thus enter China.

It was first and last time in the history of India that anyone toyed with this idea! Sultan Muhammad’s entire army of a hundred thousand perished during this march, due to extreme cold, inability to adapt to altitude and lack of supplies. Only three officers made it back to Delhi.

No wonder the Sultan was deposed after an internal coup. Having been born in Multan, he died in Thatta, so we can take poetic license and pronounce that he was a proto-Pakistani.