(Last Updated on : 24/05/2012)
Muhammad Bin Tughlaq is an interesting figure of medieval Indian history. He ascended the throne of Delhi
three days after the death of his father in 1325 A.D. He was the most educated of all Muslim rulers who ruled Delhi. The character and achievements of Muhammad Tughlaq have evoked a large scale controversy among historians. His ambitious schemes, and their successes and failures have been regarded creative and surprising. He inherited a vast empire from his father and extended it further so much so that no other Sultan of Delhi ruled over such vast territories as he did.
Muhammad Tughlaq was an ambitious ruler and he had a fancy for new policies or innovations both in foreign and domestic affairs. In Foreign affairs, he desired to conquer not only the entire Indian but also outside its boundary. In domestic policy, he tried certain innovations in diverse fields of administration which, though attempted with best intentions, affected unfavourably the fortunes of the state and his subjects.
Religious Policy of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq
Muhammad Bin Tughlaq believed in the absolute power of the Sultan and did not allow anyone to interfere in his administration. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq took his own decision regarding the matters of religious policy. The Sultan did not even consent the Ulema class to get in the way of his administration. During his reign the Ulema class enjoyed domination over administration of justice. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq broke up that monopoly and appointed Qazis outside this class of people. He used to modify the decisions of Qazis whenever he found them unfair and discriminating. If a religious man was found accountable of dishonesty or revolt, he was punished like any other common person. Thus nobody was above the laws of the land.
Revenue Reforms of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq
Muhammad Bin Tughlaq carried out many measures for the improvement of the administration of revenue. One of his measures was preparation of a register in which income and expenditure of all the princes were recorded. All provincial governors were asked to submit the reports of income and expenditure of their concerning provinces to the centre for this purpose. Nothing advantageous came out of the scheme.
Taxation in Doab
Taxation in the Doab
was increased during the initial years of the reign of the Sultan. The taxes were increased at the time when there was a famine in the Doab owing to the failures of the rain. The peasants instead of paying taxes abandoned their lands and adopted highway robbery. The tax collectors continued to collect taxes by oppression which resulted in widespread revolts. Thus this scheme of the Sultan failed severely.
Agricultural Policy of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq
Muhammad Bin Tughlaq had set up a separate department of agriculture and appointed a minister to look after it. The main object of the department was to increase the land under cultivation. Though the government spent an exorbitant sum of money but this experiment failed and the scheme was abandoned after three years. The corruption of the officer, inferior quality of land chosen for farming and lack of interest of cultivators who were assigned land under government administration were accountable for the failure of the scheme.
Transfer of the Capital by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq
Muhammad Tughlaq attempted to transfer the capital from Delhi to Devagiri which was renamed Daultabad. Several reasons have been citied for such a measure to be adopted, such as the desire of safeguarding the capital from the Mongol invasions from the north-west, the necessity of consolidating the empire in the south and the temptation to utilise the rich resources of the south were primary considerations for the transfer of the capital. The entire population of Delhi was ordered to leave and it was laid waste. Every thing was destroyed and the journey from Delhi to Daultabad was an extremely tormenting experience for the people of Delhi. This scheme of the Sultan failed massively.
Introduction of Token Currency by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq
Muhammad Bin Tughlaq introduced beautiful and various types of coins during his reign and fixed up their relative values. . The remarkable feature of the coinage system was the introduction of token currency and issue of copper
and brass coins. The Sultan made these token coins legal tenders and kept their value at par with gold
and silver coins. He established mints in the cities like Delhi, Lakhnauti, Salgaun, Darul-I-Islam, Sultanpur, Tughluqpur, Daulatabad, etc. He launched the coins without taking any precaution against forgery. The market was flooded with fake coins. In this situation Sultan withdraw all the copper coins, which caused a huge loss to the royal treasury. This scheme of the Sultan also failed miserably.
Extension of Empire by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq
Muhammad Bin Tughlaq like his father pursued the policy of annexation. Whatever territories he conquered, he annexed them to the Delhi Sultanate and, thus extended its territories to the extent which no other Sultan of Delhi had even attempted. The Sultan conquered Peshawar and Kalanor after the return of the Mongols. The fort of Nagarkot was in Kangra district in Punjab
. No Muslim ruler had conquered it by then and it was in the hands of a Hindu king. Muhammad Tughlaq conquered it though he restored it back to its ruler after his acceptance of suzerainty of Delhi. His plan to conquer Khurasan and Iraq failed miserably. His greatest achievement was in the south. He set out to end Hindu rule in south. He tried to enlist the service of `Ulema`, the Muslim clerics. Muhammad Tughlaq captured Kondhana or Singharh from Nag Nayak. It was in the vicinity of Devagiri. Therefore, its conquest was necessary for the Sultan. Muhammad Tughlaq, thus, conquered greater part of south India and annexed it to the Delhi Sultanate
. Muhammad failed to get any success in Rajasthan
. He largely succeeded in carrying out his series of conquests. Of course, he failed at few places, yet his Empire was more extensive than any other Sultan of Delhi. The authority of the Sultan was acknowledged all over India, save Kashmir, Orissa
, Rajasthan and a strip of Malabar Coast, and he established an effective system of administration over this vast empire.
Revolts and Downfall of Tughlaq Empire
Though Muhammad Tughlaq succeeded in extending his empire he failed to keep it intact for long. A large part of it was lost by him during the later years of his reign. There were several reasons which led to the downfall of the Tughlaq Empire. One of the major reasons is the occurrence of quite a few revolts during the reign of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq. A few of them were attempted by his ambitious nobles. But, most of them were either the outcome of his tyrannical policy or because of his failure to keep state affairs under his power. A few of the revolts succeeded and, thus, led to the disintegration of his empire. In 1327-28 A.D. Bahram Aiba alias Kishlu Khan, governor Uch, Sindh and Multan, revolted against the Sultan. There was a revolt in Bengal in 1327-1328 A.D. Revolts occurred in Sunam, Samana, Kara, Bidar
and Multan as well.
No ruler in medieval India has aroused so much controversy concerning his character and policy as Muhammad Tughlaq. He was a well educated man and there was hardly any branch learning in which he had not achieved excellence such as literature, history, philosophy, poetry, logic, mathematics, medicine, astrology and calligraphy. He knew both Persian and Arabic languages, and was interested in fine arts particularly music and patronised arts. Muhammad Tughlaq was extremely generous and distributed rewards, gifts and presents with open heart to deserving individuals. He was a capable commander and a daring soldier. He proved his military talents when he fought against the Mongols. Even when he became the Sultan, he himself participated in important battles of his reign and thus spent his life mostly in battle-fields. Muhammad Tughlaq himself was primarily responsible for the conquest of the south. He faced many rebellions at the time of his reign but wherever he went he largely succeeded in suppressing them.
As a ruler, Muhammad Tughlaq was devoted and extremely laborious. But, he proved a failure. He gained no success in any field of administration during twenty-six years of his rule. All his policies of internal reform failed and each of them taxed the resources of the empire, brought misery to his subjects and ruined his reputation among them. The failure of the Sultan as an able administrator is not only because of his own weaknesses but also because of certain circumstances and non-cooperation of his subjects who were backward and prejudiced against him.
Muhammad died when campaigning in Sindh. He was succeeded by his cousin Firoz Shah Tughlaq.