Tughlaqabad Fort and the Curse of a Sufi Mystic

Tughlaqabad Fort is a medieval stronghold located in Delhi, India. The fort was built during the 14 th century, and once served as a symbol of the might and power of the Tughlaq Dynasty, a Muslim dynasty of Turkic origin that ruled over the Delhi Sultanate. But not long after it was completed, the fort was abandoned and the Sultan killed. According to legend, the ill-fated fort had fallen under the curse of a Sufi mystic.

Building the Fort

In 1321, the Tughlaq Dynasty was founded by Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq, following the demise of the Khilji Dynasty in the previous year. According to one story, Ghiyath al-Din was a slave of Mubarak Khilji, the last sultan of the Khilji Dynasty. One day, the two men were walking by the area where the Tughlaqabad Fort is located, and the slave suggested to his master that a fort be built, as the location seemed ideal for the construction of such a structure. The sultan laughed at Ghiyath al-Din’s proposal, and told him that he could build a fort there when he became sultan.

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In 1320, Mubarak Khilji was killed by Khusro Khan, who in turn was captured and beheaded by Ghiyath al-Din in the following year. The new sultan established his new capital at Tughlaqabad, and proceeded to build his fort. Tughlaqabad Fort is located on a rocky hill part of the Aravalli Range, a mountain range in the western part of India. The walls of this fort have been measured to be 6km in length. Construction of the fort began in 1321, and was completed four years later. According to one legend, the skulls of Ghiyath al-Din’s slain Mongol enemies were used as construction material of the fort.

Apart from serving as the new dynasty’s capital, the fort was also built for the purpose of defending the sultanate against Mongol attacks. The defensive function of Tughlaqabad Fort may be seen in the fact that it stands on a high outcrop of rock. In addition to that, the walls of the fort were built using enormous blocks of stone. In some places, the walls are said to have a thickness of 10 m (32 ft.). Battlements and bastions, some of which rose to a height of 30 m (98 ft.), were also built into the walls. Within the massive walls of this fort were palaces, mosques and audience halls which attested to the grandeur of the new dynasty.

Sultans Death

In spite of Tughlaqabad Fort’s greatness, it was abandoned not long after it was completed. In 1325, Ghiyath al-Din was returning from a military campaign in Bengal. On the way back to Delhi, the sultan attended a reception that was given by his son. An accident occurred, during which a canopy / marquee collapsed on top of Ghiyath al-Din, resulting in his death. According to one source, the accident was plotted by the sultan’s son and successor, Muhammad Tughluq. Whilst the new sultan built the Adilabad Fort on the hill south of Tughlaqabad, the fort itself was abandoned several years into Muhammad’s reign.

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Cursed Fort

According to legend, the death of Ghiyath al-Din, and the abandonment of his capital were the results of a curse / prophesy. The sultan is said to have been involved in a quarrel with a Sufi mystic by the name of Nizam-ud-din. The latter is said to have wanted to build a step well, and the former is said to have forbidden his people from helping the mystic. This angered the mystic, who prophesized that the sultan would die whilst away from Delhi. Additionally, Nizam-ud-din remarked that Tughlaqabad Fort would either remain deserted or be inhabited by people of the Gujjar tribe. It seems that both of the mystic’s curses / prophesies came true.

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In 2014, it was reported that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was beginning to repair the site. Apart from the restoration of the fort, which had fallen into ruins over the centuries, the ASI is reported to have had the development of the fort’s surrounding areas in mind. Measures planned include the setting up of stone benches for visitors, beautifying the surrounding areas with gardens, and improving public amenities.

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