The Tughlaqs

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The Tughlaqs

 The Tughlaq dynasty, also referred to as Tughluq or Tughluk dynasty, was a Muslim dynasty of Turkic origin which ruled over the Delhi sultanate in medieval India. Its reign started in 1320 in Delhi when Ghazi Malik assumed the throne under the title of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq. The dynasty ended in 1413.

The dynasty expanded its territorial reach through a military campaign led by Muhammad ibn Tughluq, and reached its zenith between 1330 and 1335. Its rule was marked with torture, cruelty and rebellions, resulting in the rapid disintegration of the dynasty’s territorial reach after 1335 AD.

 

Deccan and South India

Prataprudra Deva, ruler of Warangal had reasserted independence and not paid the annual tribute. In 1321 A.D. he sent his son Prince Jauna to Warangal to suppress Prataprudra Deva.

He moved swiftly and besieged the fort. After a period of six months, Prataprudra Deva surrendered and agreed to pay the annual tribute. The name of Warangal was changed to Sultanpur. Telangana was annexed into the territories of Delhi Sultanate. Jauna Khan next attacked Orissa (Jajnagar). The expedition in the eastern part was a consequence of the wars in the south.

East India   

Bhanudeva II the ruler of Jajnagar in Orissa had supported the ruler of Warangal at the offensive by the Sultans. Ulugh Khan in 1324 marched against Jajnagar. After plundering it the region was annexed to the Delhi Sultanate.

In 1323-24 as a response to the request by nobles of Firuz Shah, the independent ruler of Lakhnauti, Ghiyasuddin marched into Bengal. In the ensuing battle, Bengal ruler was defeated. On his way back from Bengal, Ghiyas-ud-din also defeated the Raja of Tirhut in north Bihar.

 

Transfer of Capital

A ruler whose real expertise shone in the times of war, Tughlaq took some very bold and strong measures to reform the administration during his chequered reign as the Sultan of Delhi.

In 1329 AD, he shifted his capital from Delhi to the more centrally located Devagiri in Maharashtra, which was renamed Daulatabad.

He had many motives for doing so – other than saving his capital from recurring Mongol raids, the move would cement his control over the rich fertile lands of the Deccan and ensure access to the busy ports on the Gujarat and the Coromandel coast.

While there was nothing fundamentally wrong with Tughlaq’s pragmatic decision, his blunder lay in ordering the entire population of Delhi to move to the new capital (instead of just shifting his official court). Despite the many arrangements that were made for the convenience of the travellers, the suffering of the people was terrible and many people died on the way.

However, no sooner had the Sultan reached Daulatabad when trouble broke out in Bengal as well as on the northwestern frontier. Tughlaq realized that while his new capital was distant enough to be safe from Mongol invasions, it was also too far away to protect northern India.

So, the mercurial ruler re-ordered his people to return to Delhi. Thousands died in the punishing 1500 km return march to Delhi. While Tughlaq did try to make amends by abolishing multiple taxes and organising relief measures, the financial loss was immense and the consequences for Delhi grave.

Not only had the imperial city lost many of its people, it had also lost its former prosperity and grandeur.

The widespread public resentment against the Sultan also led to revolts and bitterness that rankled the Sultanate for years to come. Though Tughlaq invited many scholars and artistes to settle in the city, the impact of this incident had far-reaching consequences; Ibn Batuta, the famous traveller who came to Delhi in 1334 (during Tughlaq’s reign), wrote in his memoirs that he found certain parts of the city still deserted.

 

Token Currency

During his reign, Tughlaq had demonetised gold and silver coins and replaced them with copper and brass ones.

Tughlaq was a ruler who delighted in administrative experiments. When famine-like conditions and frequent revolts began straining his coffers, Tughlaq found it difficult to maintain the supply of gold (dinars) and silver (adlis) coins on a large scale.

So, he introduced a token currency system and minted vast quantities of new copper and brass coins (tankas) that could be exchanged for fixed amounts of gold and silver.

While this decision helped the Sultanate’s finances initially, it also proved to be lucrative to forgers who began issuing a large number of fake coins. Loopholes like a simple design (the coins just had some inscriptions) and no royal seals made the task easier for forgers.

Every house became a mint for copper coins while gold and silver coins were zealously hoarded. Soon, the market was awash with fake coins. As good money was driven out of circulation, the token coins became practically valueless, leading to hyperinflation.

Foreign traders also refused to accept them, paralysing trade. Realising that his scheme had failed, Tughlaq withdrew the currency in an attempt to stem the economic chaos.

However, the number of fakes was so large that for many years, mounds of worthless copper and brass coins, rejected by the government, remained piled outside the royal fort. This economic chaos and public resentment were also one of the major reasons why, by the time Tughlaq died, his kingdom had diminished to a small region around Delhi.

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq had the best of intentions and his moves were bold for his time but were poorly implemented. Also, in his hurry to realise his dreams, he severely punished anyone who opposed his hasty moves.

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