Home > Delhi, Delhi Architecture, Delhi History, General, Travelogue > Tughlaqabad Fort, the third city of Delhi

Tughlaqabad Fort, the third city of Delhi

Tughlaqabad Fort

The third city of Delhi

Tughlakabad is the most uncompromisingly militaristic ruin in Delhi, perhaps in all India. Ring after ring of rough – hewn stone walls thunder their way across the open plain on the deserted south – eastern edge of the city.

City of Djinns, William Dalrymple

Tuglagbad Fort Pano S6

Panoramic views of the bastions of Tughlaqabad Fort, delhi

The citadel of Tughlaqabad stretches over 6.5 km in circumference, the enormous structure complete with battlements and bastions dominate a stretch of the Mehrauli – Badarpur Road.

Tuglagbad 1

Passageway inside Tughlaqabad, Delhi

Block of massive stones are simply piled one above the other forming walls and bastions, some up which rise to a height of 30 meters.

Tughlaqabad was the third citadel of Delhi after Qila Rai Pithora and Siri. It was constructed by Ghiyas ud – Din Tughlaq, the founder of Tughlaq dynasty, during his short four year reign (1321 -25).

Son of a Turkish slave and Hindu lady, Ghiyasuddin started his career as a trooper in the army of Sultan Ala – ud – din Khilji (Reign: 1296 – 1316).

His military skills, coupled with hard work and determination, helped him to raise to the position of “Warden of Marches” in the Sultan Army. He lead military campaigns against the plundering Mongols in Gazni, Kabul and Kandahar.

Tuglagbad Baoli S1

Tughlaqabad Baoli (Step Well), Delhi

Ghiyasuddin rose to the position of one of the foremost general of Alauddin’s army and he maintained the same under his successor and son Sultan Qutb – ud – din Mubarak Shah (Reign: 1316 – 20).

Legends has it that one day Sultan Mubarak Shah and Ghiyasuddin were passing through the area where Tughlaqabad stands today.

The rocky outcrops and natural defenses of the region attracted the attention of Ghiyasuddin and he suggested the Mubarak Shah to construct his new fort at there, but Khilji Sultan rejected the idea. In fact the sultan laughed and suggested Ghiyasuddin to built his own fort in the area, when he becomes the Sultan.

Tuglagbad 5

Covered passageway, Tughlaqabad Fort, Delhi

Probably Mubarak Shah, even in his wildest of dream, never expected Ghiyasuddin to ascend the thorone of Delhi in just a couple of years time. Mubarak Shah, unlike his father was a week ruler.

Tuglagbad 3

A partially collapsed bastion, Tughlaqabad Fort

Soon the governors and nobels started revolting against him and they joined hands with his cousins and relatives. The revolt was spearheaded by his prime minister Hasan.

Hassan was born a shepherd and was raised by the  sultan himself. Sadly the ungrateful Hasan murdered the sultan, who always favoured him. Hasan ascended the throne of Delhi with the title of Nasiruddin Khusru.

Ghiyasuddin, who was out on a military campaign, rushed to Delhi. He overpowered Hasan and murdered him and proclaimed himself the Sultan of Delhi with the title Gazi. He came to be known as Ghiyas-ud-din Ghazi Malik Tughlaq, founder of the Tughlaq Dynasty.

Tuglagbad 6

Scattered ruins of Tuglaqabad Fort, Delhi

Soon after ascending the throne Ghiyasuddin started building his dream fort next to the present day Mehrauli – Badarpur Road.

At the same time the Sufi Saint Hazarat Nizamuddin was building a Baoli or Stepwell (Also see: Stepwells of Delhi) near his residence. The baoli still exist next to the Dargah of Hazarat Nizamuddin.

Ghiyasuddin forced every able body men in his capital to work in the construction of the citadel. But the men out of sheer faith and love continued to work for the saint in the night. The emperor didn’t want his subject to work in a parallel construction project and stopped the sale of oil, forcing the workers to stop the night shift.

Tuglagbad Fort Pano S2

The ruined bastions of Tughlaqabad Fort blends with the modern Delhi skyline

But according to legend the water of the baoli miraculously turned into oil, providing fuel for the night shifts. Nizamuddin cursed the sultan saying “Ya rahe usar, ya base Gujjar” (Either it remains barren or be inhabited by nomads).

Tuglagbad 7

Massive bastions and walls of Tughlaqabad Fort, Delhi

Ghiyasuddin, who was out on a military campaign in Bengal, was furious on hearing this. Hesaid that once back in Delhi he would punish the saint. It was followed by Nizamuddin’s second curse “Hunuz Dilli dur ast”  (Delhi is yet far away).

Tuglagbad 2

Ruins of Tughlaqabad Fort, Delhi

Incidental both the curses came true. Ghiyas ud – Din Tughluq had an unfortunate death. After the annexation of Bengal, on his way to Delhi, he was given a reception in 1325 in Afghanpur (present day Bihar) by his eldest son Muhammad bin Tughlaq.

The stage collapsed killing Ghiyas ud – Din Tughlaq and his second son. Some historian opine that it was a conspiracy hatched by Muhammad bin Tughlaq.

After Muhammad bin Tughlaq ascended the throne abandoned Tughlaqabad probably because of water shortage and may be because of the curse. He built himself a new citadel the fourth city of Delhi, Jahanpanah (meaning in Persian: “Refuge of the World”).

Today 13 of the 52 gates still exist and entrance is through one of these remaining gateways through a causeway. The cause connects the Tughlaqabad Fort with the fortified complex of the Mausoleum of Ghiyas – ud – din Tughluq. Sadly a portion of the causeway has been demolished for the construction of the Mehrauli – Badarpur Road..

Tuglagbad 4

Ruins of Tughlaqabad Fort, Delhi

The fort is divided into three parts, the palace, living quarters and the citadel with massive bastions and walls. Large portions of Tughlaqabad is overgrown with thorny bushes making most of the area inaccessible.

Security guards double up as guide helping people through the scattered rubble of the fort. The palace complex is located on the western side and contains a large baoli (stepwell) but it lacks the ornamentation of the more well known boalis of Delhi like Rajon ki Baoli and Agrasen ki Baoli.

The living quarters in the north is in a totally run down state and large part of it is totally inaccessible. But the star attraction is the citadel with its towering bastions, massive walls and covered passageways. A small mosque and audience hall are also part of this region.

Tuglagbad Fort Pano S3

A panoramic view of the bastion and walls of Tughlaqabad Fort, Delhi

Although a ticketed (Rs 10 ticket covers both the Tughlaqabad Fort and the Mausoleum of Ghiyasuddin) monument the Tughlaqabad for is hardly visited by tourist. Visitors include young couples looking for a place of solitude among the ruins and students from the nearby colleges, who probably finds the place ideal for bunking classes.

Note: I trip to the Tughlaqabad Fort and Mausoleum of Ghiyas – ud – din Tughlaq can be combined with the lesser known nearby forts of Adilabad and Nai Ka Kot.


  1. September 18, 2018 at 2:08 AM

    Wow! The pictures are amazing and the accompanying history makes the ruins come alive! Forts never cease to amaze me and one of such a scale as the Tughlaqabad fort, is surely worth a visit!
    I’ll bookmark this post for my trip to Delhi early next year 🙂

    • September 18, 2018 at 12:16 PM

      No wonder Tughlaqabad is amazing!!!

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: