The House of Tughlaq

The fort stands brown and serrated like massive teeth gaping at the ageless sky. Trying, with a missing upper jaw, to bite off a piece of blue eternity. The fort—built sometime in the fourteenth century by Ghias-ud-din, founder of the House of Tughlaq—once contained a city. Tughlaq-Abad. A city settled by the Tughlaqs, if translated.

The fort is now divided by a transporters’ highway. Trucks run through it like ants carrying goods four times their size. The space inside the fort is sheeted in the brilliance of bud-green shrubbery. It’s late monsoon. And there’s plenty to chew on especially if you’re a cow. Or a goat. They graze where soldiers once tied their horses. Monkeys fornicate on former watch-posts. Bats squeal from under basements where a torch hasn’t been lit for centuries. The place has a reputation. It’s known to attract drug addicts, drunks, gamblers, compulsive wankers, thieves, rapists, murderers and other products of big city marginalia.

A small plastic ticket counter set up by the Archeological Survey of India is, like everything else, abandoned. It’s lone ticket-seller is out, somewhere. When he finally comes back he seems happy to find visitors waiting. Written behind the blue tickets he sells is a red-letter plea: THESE MONUMENTS ARE YOUR NATIONAL HERITAGE. PLEASE DO NOT DISFIGURE THEM.

But the fort is already a tableau of decay. Wasted walls and wasted gateways. There’s not much else, except walls and gateways. Rocks that were once chiselled and hammered into walls and gateways by nameless masons and stonelayers, are now slowly returning to rocks. Their cement is also turning into capricious sand. The shifting sand leaves behind boulder-on-boulder formations that even a gale can unseat and tumble. Things have a tendency to return to their natural state. History has a way of being repeated.

The hoofs that once cantered on the stone ramps of the fort are now trapped in the ears of skeletons buried in a nearby tomb. The blood on the ramparts has also evapourated and rained over the fort long ago.

A stone lectern behind the fort’s main arch gives dates, measurements and other interesting details about the fort. But the nowhere does it mention the curse that it has lived for nearly 700 years. Nizamuddin Aulia, Delhi’s patron dervish, had cursed the place while it was still under construction. It would be DESOLATE but for WANDERERS: “Gujjar ya ujjar,” the seer had so predicted in rhyme. Interestingly, it was not entirely a matter of prescience as Aulia favoured the son and hated the father, not without reason though.

Ghias-ud-din’s son Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq, a madman and a genius, had wanted his own city and schemes. So he’d moved out of Tughlaqabad with everybody in tow. Even the beggars and cripples were not left behind. And Tughlaqabad had the strange misfortune of being settled and sacked by the same dynasty.


  1. Monuments are like old people. Battered with time and experience, witness to times and gales, crumpled faces and weathered textures. All of which say one thing to us.


    The magic of ruins are IN THE RUINING. The mis-shapen body, the essence peeling away, carelessly overwritten by young lovers, dogs at work, homeless in search of shelter...all things to all people. But towering far above al that, one great gift they leave behind. A sense of TIME.

  2. Magic of ruins is in the ruining! Wow. So true. Like the magic of builings is in the building and to some extent in being lived in.

  3. Magic of ruins is in the ruining! Wow. So true. Like the magic of buildings is in the building and to some extent in being lived in.

  4. I live close to the fort. Pass it every once in a while, it's tough to NOT look at it, even while I'm driving. It's magnificent. Seen it a million times, still grander than the red fort or the old fort.

    Something interesting: Check google earth, if u havent till now. Locate the fort on google earth, just check the hugeness of it. Both sides.

    There's a new container dump just started up next to it. Brilliant, one side we have ASI restoring it, the next side the truckers are ruining it.

    There's a bunch of Tughlaqabad pics I took. They're on my flickr page:

    Also, there's this Ruins India Flickr Group that you might be interested in.. link:

    Do you have a flckr account? It'll be great if you could contribute your pictures and words over at the ruins group.

  5. Hey u got some great pictures of the fort man! There's one that exactly shows the teeth.


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