Childhood & Early Life
Muhammad bin Tughluq was born in 1300 in Kotla Tolay Khan in Multan as the eldest son of Turk Ghiyas-ud-din, the founder of the Tughluq dynasty. Not much is known about his childhood or early life.
Being a prince it is believed that he received a good education and was also trained in military administration and martial arts. It is known that he possessed an in-depth knowledge of the Quran, Muslim jurisprudence, astronomy, logic, philosophy, and medicine.
He grew up to be a courageous young man. His father sent him to quell the revolts by Hindu rajas in the city of Warangal in the Deccan in 1321-22. The prince bravely marched on and was successful in subduing the rebellion.
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Accession & Reign
His father Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq returned from a successful military campaign in 1325 and was watching the parade of the elephants he got as war booty. All of a sudden, the stage he was seated on collapsed and he died in the freak accident. Some sources state that the sultan’s killing was planned by Prince Muhammad bin Tughluq though modern historians do not support this claim.
After the death of his father Muhammad bin Tughluq ascended to the throne as the second sultan of the Tughluq dynasty. Throughout his reign, he had to constantly contend with revolts and rebellions. He had to face and quell 22 rebellions, the most serious of which took place in the Deccan (1326, 1347), Maʿbar (tip of the Indian peninsula, 1334), Bengal (1338), Gujarat (1345), and Sindh (1350).
As sultan, he tried to enlist the support and services of the ulemas, the Muslim divines, and the sufis, the ascetic mystics. He planned to use the mystics’ prestigious position to help him in asserting his authority as a ruler. However the sufis and the ulemas declined to have any association with the government. On failing to get their support he started humiliating them and eventually drove them away from the towns of northern India.
A major step he took after claiming the crown was to transfer the capital from Delhi to Devagiri (now Daulatabad) in 1327. He believed that the move would aid him in consolidating the conquests in southern India and also protect the capital from Mogol invasions.
He ordered a large-scale migration of people from Delhi to Devagiri in 1328–29. The subjects were forced to travel a distance of 1,500 km to reach Devagiri. Contemporary historians like Barani, Ibn Battuta and Islamic gave a detailed and disturbing account of the events surrounding the shifting of the capital from Delhi to Devagiri.
The people of Delhi were coerced and forced to move all their belongings to the faraway Devagiri, leaving behind Delhi a devastated city. However, the sultan ensured that the journey of his subjects was made as comfortable as possible by providing them with transport and free accommodation at Devagiri. But the plan proved to be a failure and the people were allowed to return to Delhi in 1335-37.
The negative consequences of this failed plan ran very deep. Not only was Delhi now almost deserted, the city had also lost its past glory and grandeur. The sultan desperately tried to restore the city but could achieve only limited success.
In 1328-29, he increased the land tax. Already embittered with his rule, the peasants in the Doab region revolted. Enraged the sultan ordered his revenue and military officials that the country be plundered in retaliation. More miseries followed when the region was hit by a famine in 1334-35 and lasted seven years.
In the 1330s he also ordered another large-scale expedition, the Qarachil expedition of 1333 into Kangra Hills. This quest too proved to be a failure and resulted in the deaths of around 10,000 citizens.
Over the course of his reign he was able to bring several territories under his rule, but the kingdom started declining during the later years of his reign. He also attempted to implement several reforms in the monetary sector, but his system of new coinage failed miserably.
An enigmatic figure, he is considered to be one of the most controversial rulers of the Indian subcontinent in the 14th century. On one hand, he was reputed to be a brave warrior and a religiously tolerant ruler who cared genuinely for his subjects, while on the other he was known to be a brutal, ruthless and authoritarian sultan.