In 1327 AD, India’s Capital was Daulatabad, not Delhi. Here’s Why It Got Changed.
Muhammed Bin Tughlaq was one of the most interesting sultans in the Indian History. He was no doubt a great king, with a great expertise in wars. He was a knowledgeable man, who was well-versed in poetry, astronomy, religion and philosophy.
Despite a great background, ever since he ascended the throne in 1325, he was known only for his decision-blunders that made insane loss, and again un-implementing them back. To discuss, there are many examples of his foolish decisions, but here, we discuss the one that was the most disastrous.
He was a powerful emperor in his contemporary. But the only pressure he had was from the Mongols. He wanted to resist himself and his capital from easy attacks. So, he shifted the capital to South i.e., from Delhi to Daulatabad (in present-day Maharashtra) in 1327 and ordered all his people in the kingdom to migrate there.
The only transport the people could afford were their legs. He was a bit concerned for them too, so he constructed a broad road and planted shady trees on the both sides for their convenience. Availability of food and water was made sure at regular intervals. All the people of his court, soldiers, slaves, servants too were ordered to leave the former-capital Delhi, without a question.
In his Kannada play ‘Tughlaq’, the famous writer Girish Karnad depicted Tughlaq standing at his fort and saying:
“Every living soul in Delhi will leave for Daulatabad within a fortnight. Everyone must leave. Not a single light must be seen in the windows of Delhi, not a wisp of smoke must rise from its chimneys. Nothing but an empty graveyard of Delhi will satisfy me now.”
The reason behind Tughlaq choosing only Daulatabad as his new capital was its equidistance from the two extreme points of his kingdom, so ruling the whole kingdom would be easier. And he could establish control over the fertile lands of the Deccan plateau more easily.
Though there were different opinions on the Emperor’s decision, the people had no other go. They started migrating. The distance was about 760 miles. In the process of their migration, there were different types of people. Pregnant, senior citizens, handicapped… But Tughlaq made no effort to assist them specially. They were treated at par with others. He could have just moved his court to Daulatabad instead of moving the whole population of the city there. Because of this simple idea not popping up for him, a disaster happened.
All of them lost the comfort of their homeplace and their own hard-earned lands. Many people died on the roads due to hunger and exhaustion. Days passed on, and all the way from Delhi to Daulatabad:
There were skeletons here and there lying around.
And blood that printed human foot on the ground.
As famously mentioned by a Medieval historian Barani about Delhi, “Not a dog or cat was left”.
Tughlaq took a sigh of breath when he somehow succeeded in shifting his court and citizens to Daulatabad. No less than he took a second breath, there arised troubles in Kolkata and the North-western regions. While the new capital was distant enough to be safe from Mongol threats, it was difficult for him to protect the integrity of the northern part of India. Realising his folly, he again ordered all the citizens and court to return to Delhi again.
And the story began again. People started walking back to Delhi, praying to God that they shouldn’t become the skeletons they were stumbling upon.
Ibn Battuta, a famous traveller and medieval historian of North Africa, visited Tughlaq in Delhi in 1334 and wrote in his memoirs that he found certain parts of the former-capital still deserted.
This is one of the examples of foolish decisions by Tughlaq that costed him his respect, Delhi’s prestige and prosperity for a while. But it was a fact that this added to the prestige and tourism of Daulatabad in the present day because Tughlaq built great forts there too.
This is the reason why in India, even today, when someone takes mindless decisions, he’s named ‘Tughlaq’!