Transfer of Capital to Daulatabad by Muhammad Bin Tughluq


A very important experiment was made by the Sultan in shifting his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad. Barani points out that Dualatabad had a central situation and were nearly equidistant (700 miles) from Delhi. Gujarat, Lakhnauti, Telingana and other important places.

The new capital had its strategic value. It was safe from Mongolian invasions which constantly threatened Delhi. The Sultan also did his best to make Daulatabad a suitable place for his officers and the people.

All facilities were provided for those who were required to migrate to Daulatabad. A broad road was constructed for their convenience. Shady trees were planted on both sides of the road. A regular postal service was established between Delhi and Daulatabad.


However, when the people of Delhi hesitated to shift to Daulatabad, the Sultan got annoyed and he ordered all people of Delhi to proceed to Daulatabad with their belongings. Ibn Batuta says that a blind man was dragged from Delhi to Daulatabad and a bed-ridden cripple was projected there by a ballista.

Regarding the transfer of capital to Daulatabad, Barani observes: “Without consultation or weighting the pros and cons, he brought run on Delhi which for 170 to 180 years had grown in prosperity and rivaled Baghdad and Cairo. The city with its Sarais and suburbs and villages spread over tour or five leagues, all was destroyed (i.e., deserted). Not a cat or a dog was left.

Troops of the inhabitants with their families were forced to move broken-hearted; many perished on the road and those who reached Deogiri, unable to endure their exile, pined to death. All round Deogiri, an infidel land, spread graveyards of Muslims. The Sultan was bounteous to the emigrants both on the journey and arrival; but they were tender and could not suffer exile.

They laid down their heads in that heathen land and of the multitudes; few lived to return to their native home.”


The Sultan realised the folly of his experiment and ordered a return march of the people. The result was that those few who had survived from journey to Daulatabad also died on their return journey. The net result of this experiment was that Delhi lost its former prosperity and grandeur.

It is true that the Sultan “brought learned men and gentlemen, tradesmen and land-owners into the city of Delhi from certain towns in his territory and made them reside there”, but when Ibn Batuta came to Delhi in 1334 he found certain parts of Delhi still deserted According to Lane- Poole, “Daulatabad was a monument of misdirected energy.” According to Dr. Ishwari Prasad, it is doubtful if the transfer of capital to Daulatabad would have helped the Sultan to keep a firm hold upon the different parts of the empire.

The Sultan did not see that Daulatabad was situated at a long distance from the northern frontiers of the empire and those required to be constantly watched. He disregarded the warning that the Hindu revolts and the Mongol invasions might imperil his empire at any time. If such a contingency had arisen, the Sultan would have failed to meet the same.

Dr. Syed Moinul Haq refers to the various statements of Barani and points out that the Sultan had ordered the emigration of the upper classes only who were comprised of the Ulema, the Mashaikh courtiers, commanders of the army and the civilians of rank.


It is beyond doubt that Delhi was not evacuated in entirety. The frequent reference of Barani and other writers to the destruction of Delhi simply mean the loss of its prosperity which according to them, was mainly due to the presence of those distinguished families.

When Barani says that not even a dog or cat was left in the city and its suburbs, he merely emphasises the point that emigration was on a large scale and affluence and prosperity had disappeared to a great extent. If his phrases were to be understood literally, he would be guilty of making contradictory statements.

There was no meaning in the Sultan bringing the nobles and Xllemas from provincial towns if Delhi had been converted into a wilderness where neither a cat nor a dog could be seen.

Moreover, the statement of Barani that it was a calamity for the selected few and not the masses is borne out by documentary and circumstantial evidence. Two Sanskrit inscriptions dated 1327 and 1328 A.D. confirm this view and establish the prosperity of the Hindus of Delhi and its vicinity at that time.


One of them “records the foundation of a well by a Brahman of the name of Srindhara at the village ofNadayana, the modern Naraina, near Delhi.” The verses of this inscription speak of Muhammad bin Tughluq as “the mighty Saka Lord” and throw light on the favorable conditions in which the Hindu families of Delhi lived.

The second inscription found at the village of Sarbar, five miles from Delhi, also refers to the prosperity of a Hindu family. These inscriptions, read with Barani’s remarks about the “misery of the selected people”, lead to the inference that Sultan Muhammad’s orders for migration applied to the leading Mussalman families only. This is also supported by Barani’s references to heavy casualties in these words: “And on all sides of the old infidel land of Deogiri, there sprang up graveyards of the Mussalmans.”

This view is also supported by the stray references made by the editors and compilers of the Malfuzat of the Sufi saints. Their study reveals the incontestable fact that the Sultan wanted only the Mussalman nobles, the Ulema and the Mashaikh to go to Deogir because his scheme was to have a large population of his co-religionists in the Deccan and thus eliminate the possibility of the success of frequent rebellions of the Hindus.

That could be achieved through migration and conversion and those appear to be the motives of the Sultan in sending the distinguished Ulema, the leading Mashaikh and other influential Muslim families to Deogir and raising that city to the status of a capital. He knew that his stay there, for some time at least, was as essential as that of the Shaikhs and Ulema.


His scheme of planting a strong colony of the Mussalmans at Deogir and making it the centre of his political activities as well as the missionary work of the Ulema is clearly referred to by the author of the Seirul Aulia who was a contemporary of the Sultan and whose family had migrated to Delhi.

In his chapter on Sultan’s interview with Maulana Fakhr-ud- Din Zarradi, Amir Khurd says: “At the time when Sultan Mohammad Tughluq had sent the people of Delhi to Deogir and wanted to conquer Khorasan and Turkistan and overthrow the descendants of Changiz Khan, he convened a meeting of all the Sadrs and leading persons of Delhi and its suburbs who had assembled in the city, under a huge tent. He had ordered the setting up of a dias so that he might stand on it and address them in order to induce them to be ready for Jahad.” Amir Khurd also says that both his father and Maulana Fakhr-ud-Din were sent to Deogir.

Maulana Fakhr-ud-Din wanted to go to Mecca. He consulted his friend Qazi Kamaluddin of Deogir. The latter warned him that it would be impolitic to go there without the permission of the Sultan because the Sultan was anxious to populate Deogir and enhance its glory and reputation by the presence of the Ulema, the Mashaikh and the Sadrs.

Besides these, other Shaikhs are also stated to have migrated to the Deccan. Shaikh Burhan-ud-Din, a Khalifa of Shaikh Nizam-ud-Din Aulia and the famous poet Amir Hassan can be mentioned as examples. Makhdoom-i-Jahan, the mother of the Sultan, also migrated to Deogir.

Dr. Sayed Moinul Haq further points out that the greatest misconception in regard to the scheme arisen from the error in interpreting in too literal a sense the phrase.

“Destruction of Delhi” which Barani and other contemporaries seem to have used only as a metaphor in order to impress upon their readers the magnitude of calamity. Ibn Batuta who visited Delhi six years after the emigration testifies to the greatness and prosperity of Delhi.

He tells us that Delhi was the biggest town of the East, had beautiful massive buildings, was surrounded by a wall, the like of which could not be found anywhere in the world and covered an extensive area which was all populated. It consisted of four different towns, viz., Old Delhi of the Hindus, Siri of Ala-ud-Din, Tughluqabad and Jahanpanah.

The view of Dr. Haq is that the population of Delhi was not evacuated in entirety and the Sultan never intended to make Deogir its substitute. What he seems to have in his mind to make Deogir a stronghold of his power by converting it into a large colony of the Mussalmans.

It would have been unwise on his part to have openly proclaimed that he could not depend upon the people of the Deccan and wanted a large Muslim population to support his Government. Hence he tried to justify his scheme by seemingly harmless arguments and gave out that he wanted to set up his capital at Daulatabad because it was situated in the centre of his dominions.

It was not a case of mere transfer of the capital as is proved by his anxiety not to let Delhi fall into obscurity. His efforts to bring Ulema and Shaikhs from provincial towns and make them settle down in that city gave a clue to his true intentions in spite of the official version which Barani seems to have stated, Barani complains that the Sultan did not consult his adviser on this question, but consultation could result in the leaking out of the true purpose of the scheme and might have hampered its success.

Dr. Haq points out that for two decades, the Deccan Kingdoms had been under the suzerainty of Delhi, but their submission did not go beyond their sending presents and tributes occasionally. They could throw off their allegiance with the appearance of the slightest symptom of weakness in the Central Government.

Ala-ud-Din Khalji had remained contented with these unsatisfactory arrangements because his hands were full with the problems of the North. Muhammad Tughluq found himself in a better position and therefore, decided to bring the Deccan within the orbit of his direct rule. For that, he required a tolerably large population of Mussalmans upon whose support he could rely at any difficult time.

He was fully conscious of the fact that in crushing the supremacy of the Hindu States in the Deccan, he would have to face tremendous opposition and nothing would be more foolish than to rely upon sheer force for the permanent subjugation of those territories. By making Daulatabad the centre of a vast Mussalman colony in the South. Muhammad Tughluq was trying to achieve what can be called in Modern Phraseology “a peaceful penetration”.

Dr. Haq concludes thus: “Sultan Muhammad’s project of the so called transference of the capital was in reality a novel experiment in the administrative history of India and was a peculiar invention of his ingenious mind. It has been generally held that it was a disastrous failure, but we cannot ignore the fact that the foundation and maintenance of independent Mussalman Kingdom in the Deccan would not have been possible of he had not planted a strong Muslim colony there.’

Similar views have been expressed by Prof. Mohd. Habib and Prof. K. A. Nizami, Prof. Mohd. Habib says that the Mongol invasions of Central Asia and Persia had driven a large number of refugees to India who settled in the country for good.

At the same time, the Chishti and Subrawardi mystic orders carried on an extensive religious propaganda in every village and town of Hindustan and their efforts brought a considerable minority of poor Indians within the fold of Islam.

This minority of gardeners, cooks, barbers etc., converted to Islam gave to the Empire of Delhi the strength it needed. The view of Muhammad Tughluq was that something like the above had to be done in the Deccan to strengthen the Muslim position in that area.

Hence was the necessity of deporting a large number of Muslims to the Deccan. Muhammad Tughluq made up his mind to accomplish the task. The population of Delhi was a fine social and economic unit for a southern capital and he would like to take it there. That alone was not considered enough and it was necessary to set up in the Deccan centers of Muslim social and religious culture. Hence was the necessity to transport a large number of mystics for the purpose of preaching and propaganda. That explains why a large number of mystics were forced to migrate to Dualatabad at the time of the transfer of the capital.

The view of Prof. Nizami is that it was in all probability during or immediately after his campaign against Bahauddin Gurshasp in the Deccan that Muhammad Tughluq realised the urgent need of having a strong administrative centre in the south to cope effectively and instantaneously with all situations that arose in that region. His councilors suggested Ujjain for that purpose but his decision was in favour of Devagiri.

To the beauties of Devagiri and its claim to a pride of cities in the world, his attention had been drawn by the poet Amir Khusrau. Muhammad Tughluq embarked upon his Deccan project after considerable thought and attention. It was neither a haphazard plunge in administrative experimentation nor an eccentric craze for novelty, but a well-thought-out solution of a problem by one who of all the Sultans of Delhi had the most intimate experience of the difficulties in the administrative control and the military operations in the South.

Prof. K. A. Nizami points out that the general impression that Muhammad Tughluq transferred his capital to Daulatabad is not correct. What Muhammad Tughluq did was that he made Daulatabad the second administrative city of the Empire. Al-Qalqa-shandi says that the Empire of Delhi had two capitals: Delhi and Devagiri or Qubbatul Islam. In two separate coins, Delhi is described as Takhtgah-i-Delhi and Daulatabad as Takhtgah-i-Daulatabad.

Prof. Nizami says that when all contemporary and modern interpretations are taken into consideration, it appears that the Deccan experiment was basically dictated by political exigencies. In an Empire in which simultaneous insurrections were operating in areas so far off as Maabar and Bengal, there was no other alternative to deal with the situation except in the manner attempted by Muhammad Tughluq.

Prof. K. A. Nizami further states that the impression of mass exodus given by contemporary historians is not correct. In fact only the upper classes consisting of nobles, ulamas, Shaikhs and the elite of the city were shifted to Daulatabad. The general Hindu public was not affected by this project.

The elite of Delhi constituted a fine social and economic unit for a Southern Capital and the Sultan forced it alone to change its habitat and settle in a new region and amidst new surroundings. The exodus took place during the hot summer months and that considerably added to the miseries of the people. Isami says, “The people had to tread over the soil which the burning sun had made hot like iron.”

Prof. K. A. Nizami refers to the immediate and remote effects of the Deccan experiment of Muhammad Tughluq. According to him, its immediate effect was widespread resentment against the Sultan who forfeited the confidence of the people. The bitterness created by their sufferings continued to rankle in their hearts for decades.

As regards its remote effects, the Deccan experiment of Muhammad Tughluq was a remarkable success. The boundaries which had separated the North from the South broke down. It is true that the extension of administrative power of the Delhi Sultanate into the Deccan failed, but so far as the extension of the cultural institutions was concerned, it was successful.

Barani tells us that “on all the four sides of Daulatabad there appeared graveyards of Mussalmans.” The view of Prof. Nizami is that these graveyards connected the hearts of the people of the North with the soil of the South and the rise of Bahamani Kingdom was made possible by this influx of population.

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