The cursed Fort: Tughlaqabad

Tughlaqabad Fort: A Tale of Curses, Ambition, and the Perils of Destiny

The Tughlaqabad Fort, located in Delhi, India, was constructed in 1321 by Ghiyasuddin Tughluq,the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty during the Delhi Sultanate era. This fortified structure served as the centerpiece of the third historical city of Delhi, but it was eventually abandoned in 1327.

The fort's name is also associated with the surrounding residential-commercial area and the Tughlaqabad Institutional Area.

About Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq

Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq (or Ghazi Malik)  founded the Tughlaq dynasty in India, reigning over the Sultanate of Delhi from 1320 to 1325. He established the city of Tughlaqabad.

  • He established the Tughluq dynasty and ruled the Sultanate of Delhi between 1320 and 1325. 
  • He adopted a harsh policy towards the Mongols, assassinating their envoys and punishing Mongol prisoners severely. He also won battles against them, including the Battle of Amroha in 1305.
  • Tughluq faced a revolt by the Soomro tribe in Thatta while traveling from Multan to Delhi. He appointed governors for various regions, such as Multan, Bhakkar, and Sehwan.
  • Tughluq's son, Fakhruddin Jauna, led a successful expedition to conquer the Kakatiya capital, Warangal, in 1323.
  • Tughluq initiated the construction of Tughlaqabad Fort.
  • He established a stable administration, primarily influenced by Multanis, reflecting his power base in Dipalpur and Punjab.

Domestic and Foreign Policies

  • Ghiyas-ud-din restored order to his empire, focusing on various aspects of governance.
  • He placed emphasis on improving postal arrangements, the judiciary, irrigation systems, agriculture, and law enforcement.
  • Ghiyas-ud-din successfully captured and gained control over Bengal, Utkala (Orissa), and Warangal.
  • He took decisive action by apprehending and imprisoning the Mongol leaders who had invaded North India, thereby neutralizing their threat.

Why was the fort built? 

During a period when Mongol invasions were frequent, Ghiyasuddin Tughluq aimed to construct a fortress that would provide strong defense for the Sultanate of Delhi, ensuring its impenetrability. To achieve this, he employed laborers to erect towering walls, battlements, and semi-circular bastions strategically positioned for enemy identification and counterattacks. 

The fort served as a pivotal component of a larger city, encompassing a palace area designated for royal residence and residential dwellings along one side. Additionally, a dam was constructed to harness water from a nearby stream, creating a lake that served both as a reservoir and as an obstacle to deter potential adversaries.


Tughlaqabad boasts impressive and massive stone fortifications enveloping the irregular layout of the city. The city walls, filled with rubble, slope upwards and stand at a remarkable height of 10 to 15 meters (33 to 49 ft). These walls are crowned with battlemented parapets and reinforced by circular bastions, some reaching a height of two stories. The city was once adorned with 52 gates, although only 13 gates remain standing today. Within the fortified city, there were seven rainwater tanks. The fort itself takes the shape of a half hexagon, with a base spanning 2.4 km (1.5 mi) and a total circumference of about 6.4 km.

Tughluqabad is structured into three distinct sections:

  1. The city area, which encompasses a spacious region with houses constructed in a rectangular grid pattern, situated between the fort's gates.

  2. The citadel, featuring a prominent tower called Bijai-Mandal at its highest point, along with remnants of various halls and an extensive underground passage.

  3. The palace area is located nearby, housing the residences of the royalty. A notable underground passage still exists beneath the tower within this section.

Presently, a significant portion of the city remains inaccessible due to the dense growth of thorny vegetation. Furthermore, modern settlements, particularly around the lakes, have encroached upon a substantial part of the former city area.

To the south of Tughlaqabad, there existed an expansive man-made water reservoir, which was an integral component of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq's Tomb. This well-maintained burial structure continues to be linked to the fort through an elevated causeway that remains intact even in the present times.

The Underground Corridor

The Curse Story

During a leisurely stroll with his Khalji mentor, Ghazi Malik proposed the idea of constructing a fort atop a hill in the southern part of Delhi. Playfully, the king suggested that Ghazi Malik should build the fort himself when he ascended the throne. In 1321, Ghazi Malik successfully expelled the Khaljis and assumed the name Ghias-ud-din Tughlaq, marking the beginning of the Tughlaq dynasty. Without delay, he initiated the construction of his visionary city—a formidable and aesthetically pleasing fortress intended to repel Mongol invaders. However, fate had other plans in store for him. Tughlaq was so deeply passionate about this dream city that he ordered every labourer in the Sultanate of Delhi to construct it.

During the same period, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, a revered Sufi saint, was constructing a step well called a Baoli at his residence, known as a khanqah. The laborers engaged in the construction work tirelessly throughout the day, and even during the night, they worked on the Baoli.

This situation displeased the Sultan, leading him to impose a ban on the supply of oil to Nizamuddin. His intention was to prevent the lighting of lamps at the Baoli construction site. This action greatly angered Nizamuddin Auliya, who utilized his mystical powers to transform the water of the well into oil. Furthermore, he pronounced a curse upon Tughlaqabad, stating, "Ya rahe ujjar ya base gujjar," which translates to "Either it will be left desolate or occupied by the nomadic herdsmen."

According to legend, when Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq embarked on his campaign in Bengal, he discovered that the workers had disregarded his orders and were involved in the construction of Auliya's water tank. This infuriated him to such an extent that he vowed to punish the saint upon his return. Upon hearing this, Nizamuddin Auliya uttered a curse, declaring, "Hunuz Dilli dur ast," which means "Delhi is yet far off."

It is believed that this curse manifested itself in reality. During their return journey, a pavilion erected to commemorate Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq's triumph in the Bengal campaign collapsed, resulting in his death and the demise of his younger son.

About Nizamuddin Auliya 

Nizamuddin Auliya was the founder of the Chisti Nizami order. Many of his disciples became renowned Sufis of the Chisti Nizami order who went on to spread the message of Sufism all over the world.

A revered Sufi dervish, he succeeded Baba Farid as the fourth Spiritual Successor of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. He embodied the principles of Islam and Sufism, living a life of simplicity and profound spirituality. Settling in Ghiyaspur, he established his Khanqah, a spiritual center that welcomed people from all walks of life. Known for his selfless acts, he tirelessly served the needy, feeding thousands daily without discrimination. Despite his own austere lifestyle, he remained compassionate and accepting, with over 600 disciples who carried forward his spiritual lineage across the globe. Among his notable followers were Nasiruddin Chiragh Dehlavi, his spiritual successor, and poet Amir Khusro, who held a special place in his heart.

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