Did Muhammad Tughlaq Kill His Father?

The Tughlaq dynasty in Delhi was founded by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, who ruled from 1321 to 1325.

Towards the end of his reign, Sultan Tughlaq faced rebellions in Lakhnauti, which prompted him to march against Bengal in 1324. In his absence, he appointed his son Ulugh Khan as the regent of Tughlaqabad, who later became the renowned Sultan Muhammad Bin Tughlaq. 

After confirming Nasir-ud-din in the government of Lakhnauti, Sultan Tughlaq returned to Tughlaqabad.


Upon his return, Ulugh Khan erected a temporary wooden pavilion at Afghanpur, near Delhi. The pavilion was built in just three days and was intended to warmly welcome his father and provide a resting place for him. Sultan Tughlaq had brought with him thousands of majestic elephants from Bengal. A grand banquet was arranged to celebrate his return, but fate had other plans.

According to Barani, as the nobles stepped outside to wash their hands after the feast, a sudden and catastrophic event occurred. It was as if a bolt of lightning had struck from the heavens, causing the roof to collapse and killing the Sultan and several others. Haji Mohammed Kandahari, cited by Ferishta, claims that the building was struck by lightning. Haji-ud-Dabir also mentions that lightning struck the pavilion's ceiling, causing it to collapse onto the Sultan and his attendants. 

However, Siyar-ul-'Arifin, a work cited by Haji-ud-Dabir mentions that the Sultan ordered the elephants to run a race in the palace yard, and the ground trembled under their massive feet as they rushed forward, ultimately causing the structure to crumble.

Ferishta states that the banquet was over, and the Sultan ordered his entourage to proceed. They rushed out to accompany him, but suddenly, the roof of the building collapsed, crushing the Sultan and some of his attendants. 

Badauni records that during the banquet, the Sultan ordered a race for the elephants he brought from Bengal. However, the newly constructed palace's unstable foundation could not withstand the elephants' trampling, causing the building to shake and wobble. Upon realizing that the Sultan was in a hurry, the people quickly came out with unwashed hands. However, the Sultan remained behind to wash his hands, inadvertently sealing his fate as the palace collapsed upon him, leading to his tragic demise.

Yahya recounts that the Sultan ordered the elephants to run together. The newly constructed ground shook violently, and by divine intervention, it collapsed. The Sultan and his servant were caught under the rubble and perished.

Nizamuddin Ahmad's account of the event reveals that after the meal, the Sultan's men assumed he would depart immediately, and they came out without washing their hands. However, the Sultan stayed behind to wash his hands. At this moment the roof of the pavilion collapsed, tragically crushing the Sultan beneath it, and was united with the divine mercy.

Did Muhammad kill his father?

Following the death of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq in 1325, Ulugh Khan assumed the throne and adopted the name Muhammad Bin (meaning: Son of) Tughlaq (r: 1325-1350).

Several authors, such as Nizamuddin, and Badauni, suspect Muhammad's involvement in his father's apparent accident, while Ibn Battuta clearly charges Muhammad with the murder of Sultan Tughlaq. 

These authors argue that the construction of the building was unnecessary and that Muhammad deliberately caused its collapse to murder his father by constructing a fragile structure. Barani, in his Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi written during the reign of Firoz Shah, does not mention this incident out of respect for Firoz Shah, who held Muhammad in high esteem

Ferishta, on the other hand, points out that Muhammad was in the building with his father during the entertainment, making it unlikely that he could have caused the collapse at the exact moment he left. However, while praising Muhammad's generosity and wealth, Ferishta suggests that Muhammad may have kept the riches of the Raja of Warangal hidden from his father and used the wealth of the Deccan to fund his acts of benevolence. This raises suspicions that Muhammad may have had a hand in his father's death.

Interestingly, Ferishta also mentions that the author of Tarikh-i Sadr-i Jahan believe Muhammad used magic to raise the palace and that it fell the moment he withdrew his magical art. 

Ibn Battuta's Account:

According to Ibn Battuta, Muhammad's actions, including his purchase of numerous slaves, lavish gift-giving, and attempts to win over the people, had already raised suspicion in the Sultan. Unlike his father, Muhammad held a deep admiration for Saint Nizamuddin Auliya. In a moment of ecstasy, the Saint bestowed upon him the power of sovereignty. Muhammad even carried the Saint's coffin during his funeral procession. When Sultan Tughlaq learned of these acts, he expressed his disapproval and sent threatening messages to Muhammad. Furthermore, the astrologers predicted that the Sultan would not be able to enter Delhi after the Bengal expedition.

Battuta states that Sultan Tughlaq ordered Muhammad to construct a pavilion in Afghanpur as he approached the capital. In just three days, Muhammad managed to build a wooden palace, under the supervision of Malikzada Ahmad Ayaz, who later became the wazir of Muhammad with the title of Khwaja Jahan. 

Following the banquet, Muhammad requested his father's permission to have the elephants paraded in full array before him. The building was ingeniously designed to collapse and crumble upon the elephants stepping on a particular side of it. 

Shaikh Rukn-ud-din, who was near the Sultan at the time, recounted to Battuta that Muhammad requested him to come down and as it was time for afternoon prayer. The Shaikh obliged, and the elephants were brought from a specific direction, as planned. As soon as the elephants stepped over the designated area, the palace collapsed. 

The Shaikh heard the noise and rushed back. He saw the palace in ruins and Muhammad ordering pickaxes and shovels to search for the Sultan. However, Muhammad signaled them not to hurry, and the tools were not brought until after sunset.

When the body of Sultan Tughlaq was dug out from the rubble, he was seen bending over his son Mahmud in a desperate attempt to save him. It is also said that the Sultan was brought out alive and then finished off.

Battuta adds that the wazir Khwaja Jahan's mechanical skill in constructing the pavilion earned him great favor in the eyes of Muhammad. His position became elevated, and he was showered with immense favor.

Legend has it that Sultan Tughlaq sent an order to Nizamuddin Auliya from Bengal, stating that either the Shaikh or he would rule Delhi upon his return. The Saint replied that Delhi was still some way off. When Sultan Tughlaq returned to Afghanpur, he boasted that he had returned victorious. However, the Sheikh persisted, reminding him that Delhi was still distant from him.

Modern historians such as Agha Mahdi Husain have proven that Sultan Tughlaq's death was an accident and Muhammad had no hand in it. 

The story of Muhammad's plot to kill his father was only mentioned in Isami's Futuh-us-Salatin, and Ibn Battuta followed the same narrative. If one were to consider this as a conspiracy, there is no guarantee that the elephants would indeed run, causing the platform to collapse. Even if this were to occur, there is no certainty that the Sultan would perish in the resulting crash. 

According to Battuta, the Sultan's favourite son was not Muhammad, but Mahmud. However, contemporary and later historians have claimed that Muhammad was the most capable of the Sultan's sons and was chosen as his heir apparent. There was no rival claimant to the throne.

Battuta states that Muhammad had made an unsuccessful attempt to rebel against his father in Telangana during the Warangal conquest. However, the army chiefs did not support him, making it highly unlikely that he could have orchestrated the murder of his father at this time. It is worth noting that Muhammad was the commander in two Telangana expeditions. If Sultan Tughlaq had any suspicions about him, he would not have given him command of the second Telangana expedition. Furthermore, he would not have entrusted Muhammad as regent of Tughlaqabad during the Bengal campaign.

Since Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq was popular among his subjects, they would have taken steps to prevent his murder if it was pre-planned. If there had been any such plot, Barani, who was not known to be a supporter of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, would have surely brought it to light.

After analyzing the events, it can be concluded that Muhammad was not responsible for the death of Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq.


Tughluq Dynasty By Agha Mahdi Husain

The Sultanate of Delhi (1206–1526): Polity, Economy, Society and Culture By Aniruddha Ray