History Tughlaqabad Fort

The Tughlaqabad Fort is now–ruined fort in New Delhi built by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty, in 1321 AD. Ghazi Malik was a Governor in Punjab under Alauddin Khilji. Khilji’s successors were not as capable or efficient a ruler as Khilji was. Taking advantage of the decline of the empire, Ghazi Malik staged a coup, overtook Delhi’s throne, and assumed Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq. 

Ghiyasuddin’s dream was to build a beautiful, impregnable fort on top of Delhi’s southern hillock to keep out the Mongol invaders. He started the construction immediately after coming to power. The fortified city took 4 years to build.

However, it was never fully populated and was ultimately abandoned in 1327AD. It didn’t survive beyond 15 years. Some many stories and rumors surround this tragedy – all of them primarily featuring the feud that Ghiyasuddin had with the famous Sufi saint of that period – Nizamuddin Auliya. 

The legend goes that Ghiyasuddin was so passionate about the construction of his fort that he issued a diktat saying all laborers in Delhi must stop work elsewhere and work only on his fortress. As a result, work on a baoli (step-well) that Nizamuddin Auliya was constructing near his dargah stopped.

FTughlaqabad Fort wall
Tughlaqabad Fort wall

However, in an attempt to compromise, the city’s laborers worked on the fort by day and on the baoli by night. When Ghiyasuddin found out, he was enraged and forbade Nizamuddin’s oil so he could not light any lamps at night. It is said that the saint magically turned water into oil and cursed Ghiyasuddin: yahaan base gujar, yahaan rahe ujaar meaning ‘may this land be inhabited by herdsmen and may it remain unoccupied.’

An additional legend goes that when Ghiyasuddin was in Bengal, he heard that the laborers were working on Nizamuddin’s well instead of his fort. He angrily exclaimed that he would severely punish the saint after returning to Delhi. On hearing this, Nizamuddin is believed to have said, “Dilli hanuz dur ast,” meaning “Delhi is still far away.” Mysteriously enough, He was on his way back to Delhi from Bengal when Ghiyasuddin was killed, a pavilion collapsing on him.

People widely believed it was because the saint had cursed him. Many also say his death was plotted by his son Mohammad bin Tughlaq. While Ghiyasuddin’s fort now lies in ruins, Nizamuddin’s dargah in Delhi is popularly visited by believers. At present, the Tughlaqabad Fort remains under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Architecture of The Fort:

The Tughlaqabad fort is an imposing structure made of granite stones and lime mortar. The grand stone fortifications run for 6.5kms, extending even to the nearby residential areas. The walls are tall, sloping and up to 15 ft high, topped by parapets and two-storied bastions. Out of the initial 52 gates, only 13 continue to be in use. Remains of the seven manmade rainwater tanks inside the city are still present.

Tughlaqabad Fort underground market
Tughlaqabad Fort’s Underground Market Complex

Most of the town is not accessible anymore due to heavy vegetation, but a large part of the former city area is now occupied by modern settlements close to the lakes. The highest point of the citadel is known as Biaji Mandal – it is marked by a tower. In addition to this, a long underground passage under the building still remains and can be explored by tourists on foot.

Ghiyasuddin’s tomb also lies here opposite the main entrance– it formerly used to be part of the same complex. It is a well-preserved mausoleum made of red sandstone, slate and marble slats. It is a square structure, surrounded by parapets and topped by a dome. The walls have inscribed marble panels and arch borders.

The mausoleum is connected to the fort by an elevated causeway still today that was cut to build the Mehrauli-Badarpur road. There are three graves inside widely believed to be Ghiyasuddin, his wife and his son, although whether that son is Mohammad Bin Tughlaq or not is unknown. 

How to Reach Tughlaqabad Fort:

The imposing structure is located on the Mehrauli-Badarpur Road and is well connected in terms of transportation. There are bus routes from Gurugram (Gurgaon) and Badarpur (Noida), and the buses that stop near local bus stands are 525, 34, 

874, 511. The Govindpur metro train line lies 5km away, and the fort can be reached from there by availing of a single autorickshaw ride.

Nearby Sightseeing:

Other attractions in the area include the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, the Adilabad Fort and the Karni Singh Shooting Range and Mangar Bani – a sacred grove hill forest. The Adilabad Fort, located southwest of the Tughlaqabad Fort, now in ruins, was built by Mohammad Bin Tughlaq, Ghiyas ud-di Tughlaq’s son. It is a small fort linked to the Tughlaqabad Fort through a causeway and mirrors the more giant fort in both style and materials.

Nai ka Kot, another small fort near the Tughlaqabad Citadel, was rumored to be built by Mohammad Bin Tughlaq for his barber. Other historical attractions in the area are the Damdama Lake – formed in 1919 when the British commissioned a stone and earth dam as a rainwater harvester, the ancient Surajkund reservoir from the 10th century and the Anangpur Dam built during the reign of King Anandpal of the Tomara dynasty.

Tughlaqabad Fort water tank
14th Century Water Tank @ Tughlaqabad Fort

Other Details:

The fort is open to tourists all days of the week from 8am – 6pm. For Indians, the entry fee is Rs.20 and Rs. 250 for foreigners. Entry is free for children up to the age of 15 years. 

The best time of the year to visit is from November to April – it is advisable to avoid the torrid summer and the monsoon. It is suggested to visit the fort while there is daylight to fully appreciate the construction’s majestic expanse. 

Car parking is available outside the complex, and local guides are available for hire. The area is rocky and uneven, and tourists are advised to wear comfortable shoes to walk. 

Nearby eateries include Lazeez restaurant, Peacock restaurant, Om Sai Pizza Joint, Khana Khazana and the Tughlaqabad Industrial Area (TIA).

Author: Mr Subhasis Chatterjee


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