Tughlaq Dynasty in Indian History

history of Tughlaq dynasty

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The Tughlaq dynasty were a dynasty of Indo-Turkic origin that ruled for 93 years in the Indian subcontinent. The influential rulers of this dynasty were only a handful few who were able to build a strong empire. However, some of them were quite aggressive and strict in their ways of rule and can even be deemed “insane”.

In this article, we will talk about such rulers, and explore the history of the Tughlaq dynasty. We will also discuss their policies, political and social aspects and explore reasons that contributed to the downfall of the Tughlaq dynasty.

So, let’s get started without any further delay! 

The Emergence of the Tughlaq Dynasty Under Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq 

  • The foundations of the Tughlaq dynasty were laid by Ghazi Malik, later named Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq. He ruled over the Delhi Sultanate from 1320 A.D to 1325 A.D. The Tughlaq dynasty ruled for 93 years before collapsing in 1413 A.D.
  • Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq was a man with a humble background who gradually rose to power. Different sources claim different origins of the founder. As per the description in Tughluq Nama, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq mentions himself as “awara mard” that translates to a man of no importance.
  • On the other hand, Ibn Battuta depicts him a member of the “Qarauna tribe of the Turks”. He is said to be of mixed lineage, Turkic from his father’s side and Jat from his mothers’s. 
  • He constructed a strong fort in the city east of Delhi that would protect them against Mongolian invasion. The fort came to be referred to as the Tughlaqabad fort.
  • His administration was stable and secure, which was dominated by Multanis. The areas that he occupied include Bengal, Utkala or Orissa, and Warangal.
  • The Tughlaqs were the rivals to the Mongols and ill-treated them. He killed the Mongolian envoys of Ilkhan Oljeitu and treated the prisoners in a rough manner.
  • Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq received an invitation from the Muslim aristocracy of Lukhnauti in Bengal to extend his rule further up east and attack Shamsuddin Firoz Shah. The emperor made the conquest during 1324-1325 and gained victory in his campaign. 


  • As per the 14th century historian Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s death resulted from a conspiracy led by his eldest son, Ulugh Khan. His son presumed that his father would remove him from power following his return from a conquest. To stop him from doing so, the son had him murdered. The emperor’s youngest son Mahmud Khan died along with him after the kushk (pavillion) collapsed over them. The pavillion was built to honour the emperor. The patricide is said to have been committed in 1325 A.D.
  • Following Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s death, Ulugh Juna Khan ascended the throne as Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1325 AD. 

Subsequent Rulers of The Tughlaq Dynasty 

The main rulers of the Tughlaq dynasty after Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq are mainly two: 

  • Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq 
  • Firoz Tughlaq 

Let us know about them in detail: 

Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq (1325-1361A.D.) 

  • Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq was the son of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq who ruled for a period of 26 years. 
  • The Tughlaq dynasty under Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq expanded its territories to a larger extent covering most of the Indian subcontinent. The territorial expansion outreached its limits between 1330 and 1335. Some of the regions plundered by him include Malwa, Mabar, Gujarat, Kampila, Mahratta, Tilang etc. After 1335, the extent of the empire relapsed to its original state. 
  • He extracted large amount of taxes from non-Muslims and demanded them to give up half of their harvested crops to him. As a result, many farmers quit farming and escaped into the jungles. Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq was annoyed to see this outcome, that he decided to arrest, torture and kill the mass population include some sects of Muslims. He was seen to be a ruthless emperor who took non-compliance as rebellion and had the rebels executed.
  • Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq was an intellectual who had a deep interest in Muslim scriptures and texts like the Quran, Fiqh and poetry. Apart from annexing territories, his conquests also involved the destruction and the desecration of the Hindu temples like Swayambhu Shiva Temple and the Thousand Pillar Temple.
  • Gradually, mass rebellion cropped up against the emperor and it became increasingly difficult to retain the territories annexed under the Tughlaq dynasty.
  • Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq’s treasury became empty due to his ambition of extending his empire beyond the limits. This led to widespread famine that killed some parts of the population. Moreover, counterfeit copper coins were minted by the Hindus to pay off the jizya, taxes and tribute which led to the collapse of the Tughlaq economy. Also, to meet out other state expenses, Muhammad-bin-Tuglaq emptied his treasury that also contributed to the decline in economy.
  • There was widespread rebellion by the nobility against the emperor. Naibs were appointed to force collect taxes from dhimmis (“protected non-Muslims) and other local population. The collection was distributed in the ratio of 20:80 between the naib and the Sultan. Any extra tax or confiscated property were retained by the emperor himself. 
  • The income so collected were further divided by the naibs to the amirs or other commanders. These methods of extracting huge amounts of money from peasants or the local population resulted in arrests, rebellion and execution.
  • Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq advanced towards the regions of Khurasan and Irak for conquering them. At Khurasan, he employed 300,000 soldiers and before starting out for Persian invasion, the state treasury was empty. Unable to pay his soldiers resulted in rebellion.
  • Regarding China, the emperor sent over 100,000 soldiers but they were blocked by the Hindus in the Himalayas. Their retreat was closed for which many soldiers perished. Those who survived the war were eventually executed.
  • Muhammad bin Tughlaq committed massacres and was cruel and vile in his manners. His actions are supposed to be the result of either enforcing orthodox Islam and Sharia or insanity. 

Firoz Tughlaq (1351-1 388 A.D.) 

  • Following Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq’s death, a close relative, Mahmud Ibn Muhammad claimed the throne for less than a month. After that, the position for the new king was claimed by Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq’s 45-year-old nephew, Firuz Shah Tughlaq.
  • Similar to Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, Firuz Shah had a Turkic father, Sipah Rajab and a Hndu mother named Naila. Their marriage alliance was not agreed upon mutually. Sipah Rajab forced the princess Naila to marry him otherwise pay one-year advance taxes. He also demanded the seizure of all the properties of Dipalpur people. As a result, Naila married him to save themselves from fulfilling the unrealistic demands.
  • There was less warfare and soldiers were allowed to enjoy the taxes they collected from Hindu villages.
  • Firuz Shah was comparatively lenient in his terms of rule as per his memoir. He did not support brutal torture committed to humans like amputations, gouging eyes, sawing through skin etc. As a Sunni Muslim, he did not believe in proselytizing people by other sects of Muslims. Firuz Shah lavished gifts on those who converted to Sunni Muslim and punished Shias, Mahdi and Hindus by putting them to death.
  • The Hindu population had to pay high taxes and jizya which they were exempted from earlier times. Thus, he stopped favors to a certain group of people. 
  • He collected four types of taxes which are:  
  • Kharaj- The 1/10 produce of the land was to be handed over to the Sultan 
  • Khams- The 1/5 of the war booty must be distributed 
  • Jizya-Poll Tax 
  • Zakat-Tax was levied on the Muslim population for specific religious purposes. 
  • He even put in place the Diwan-i-lstibqaq to help the downtrodden.
  • He is also credited with restoring the economy that suffered at the hands of his predecessor, Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq. At his behest, many infrastructure projects were carried out to benefit people and the empire as a whole.
  • Irrigation channels were constructed to connect the Yamuna-Ghaggar and Yamuna-Sutlej rivers. Apart from that, to benefit the Muslim population largely, mosques and madrasas were built. The architecture of that time was Indo-Islamic like ancient Hindu and Buddhist pillars were erected near mosques.
  • Similar to the times of Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq, Firuz Shah also appointed naibs to collect taxes from non-Muslim peasants and the local economy. The ratio of the collectibles was kept 80:20 between the naib and the emperor.
  • An appointed noble named Shamsaldin Damghani was unable to collect taxes from the population even by adopting coercive methods. He violated the contract with the Sultan by keeping the taxes in his possession. 
  • Shamsaldin Damghani tried to lead a rebellion but the soldiers and the peasants refused to participate. Eventually, he was killed for his unrelenting ways and his demands to not conform with the rules laid out by Firuz Shah Tughlaq. 

Other Tughlaq Rulers 

The other minor Tughlaq rulers after Firuz Tughlaq are as follows: 

  • Tughluq Khan 
  • Abu Bakr Shah 
  • Sultan Muhammad Shah 
  • Muhammad Tughlaq 
  • Nusrat Shah/Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah 

After Firuz Tughlaq, many heirs crowned themselves as rulers to the throne. However, no one could manage the affairs of the state skillfully. They even failed to win popular favor of the nobility and the majority of the population. 

Civil Wars During The Tughlaq Rule 

  • Two civil wars took place in 1384 A.D and 1394 A.D. During the first civil war, Firuz Shah Tughlaq was present. However, by the time the second Civil war took place, other successive rulers of Firuz Shah had taken over.
  • During Firuz Shah’s rule, a wazir named Khan Jahan II grew his influence by appointing amirs and fulfilling favors. Khan Jahan was rivals with Muhammad Tughlaq, the son of the emperor. The former tried to convince the ruler to make his great grandson the heir to the throne.
  • He also appealed to have his son dismissed from power but the king dismissed the wazir instead. A crisis ensued following this which culminated in the first civil war that took place near Delhi.
  • The Hindus of the Doab region refused to pay the jizya and other taxes and rebelled in 1390. Muhammad Shah crushed the rebellion during that term. However, the Indian subcontinent was already divided and ruled by independent Muslim rulers. 

The Fall of The Tughlaq Dynasty 

  • After Firuz Shah’s death in 1388, the empire of the Tughlaq disintegrated as minor rulers proved inefficient in their rule. There was widespread anarchy and continuous strife that plagued the empire and brought about the downfall of the Tughlaq dynasty.
  • In 1394 when the Hindus in Lahore demanded independent rule, Muhammad Shah made preparations with his son Humayun to defeat the rising rebellion. In 1394 the emperor died which was followed by his son’s assassination. As a result, Humayun Khan’s brother Nasir-al-din Mahmud Shah crowned himself and became the last ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.
  • In the end Tatar Khan appointed Nasir-al-din Nusrat Shah as the second Sultanate who ruled the majority of regions that included Firozabad. Nasir-al-din Mahmud and Shah Nasir-al-din Nusrat Shah ruled the empire together but there were several factions within that led to the disintegration of the empire. Nasir-al-din Mahmud’s period of reign was from 1394 A.D that lasted till 1413 A.D.
  • Further, the collapse of the Tughlaq dynasty further exacerbated with Timur’s invasion in 1398. Sultan Mahmud Khan, who was the emperor during that time, fled from Delhi. The city was plundered for several days and the residents were massacred and the rest were taken away as prisoners.
  • The revolt of the population against the Turco-Mongols (or Tartars) were vanquished by mass killings by Timur. Streets were strewn with dead bodies that reeked of blood and filth. Such actions caused a massive blow to Delhi who found it hard to recuperate for almost a century. 

Points to Remember 

  • The founder of the Tughlaq dynasty was Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq (1320-1325 A.D), a man of humble origins who rose to higher ranks.
  • The Tughlaqabad fort was constructed by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq to protect against Mongolian invasion.
  • Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq ascended the throne after the death of his father Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq in 1325 A.D and ruled till 1361 A.D.
  • The emptying of the state treasury during Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq’s rule led to widespread corruption and consequent famine. 
  • Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq carried out massacres in large numbers for those who were not able to pay the taxes.
  • Firoz Shah Tughlaq claimed the throne after Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq in 1351 A.D and ruled till 1388 A.D.
  • Firoz Shah Tughlaq collected mainly four important taxes which were- Kharaj, Khams, Jizya-Poll Tax and Zakat-Tax.
  • The last ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty was Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughluq who ruled for nineteen years from 1394-1413 A.D. 

The Final Thought! 

Hopefully, the history of the Tughlaq dynasty seemed fascinating to you. The most interesting aspect of history in general is to know about the way people lived in the past. The facts and figures can turn our minds a little messy. To avoid getting lost in the sea of information we have included the “points to remember”, a section where you can find useful facts laid out in a simplistic manner. If you just want to curate the details, the main article have you covered. If you anything to add, share it via comments. We will be happy to hear from you!

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