More Historical Records on Transfer of Capital from Delhi to Devagiri

One of the most significant events during the reign of Muhammad bin Tughlaq (r: 1325-1351) was the transfer of the capital from Delhi to Devagiri in the Deccan. In our previous post, we explored the perspectives of Barani, Battuta, and Isami. In this post, we will delve into additional historical records regarding this controversial subject.

According to Barani, Devagiri held a central position in Muhammad's dominions. The cities of Delhi, Gujarat, Lakhnauti (Gour), Satgaon, Sonargaon, Tilang, Ma'bar (Madurai), Dwarasamudra, and Kampila were all equidistant from Devagiri. Similarly, Badauni notes that considering Devagiri as the center of his dominions, the Sultan made it the metropolis.


The Sultan was greatly impressed by the strategic position and formidable defenses of Devagiri. He deemed it to be more centrally located than Delhi and decided to make it his capital. However, his council disagreed and suggested Ujjain as a more suitable location. Despite their objections, the Sultan was resolute in his decision. He ordered the evacuation of Delhi, a city that was the envy of the world, and commanded its inhabitants, along with their possessions and livestock, to migrate to Devagiri, as documented by Ferishta.

To ensure the safety and comfort of the emigrants, the Sultan stationed a chain of dhawa (guards) at one-mile (kroh) intervals along the route from Delhi to Devagiri. Couriers were received and directed to the next dhawah post on the route, with rest houses and monasteries established at each post. The management of these establishments was overseen by venerable prelates, and arrangements were made for the proper supply of food, water, betel-leaf, and lodging. On both sides of the road, continuous rows of trees were planted, as observed by Yahya. 

According to Ferishta, the Sultan uprooted trees and planted them in regular rows along the road. He even mandated that those who couldn't afford to undertake the journey should be provided with necessary provisions at the expense of the state. He erected noble buildings and fortified the city walls with a deep moat. Moreover, he constructed large water reservoirs and beautiful gardens atop the hill where the citadel stood.

Zafar-ul-Wali mentions that the Sultan initiated his plan to establish Devagiri as the new capital by constructing caravanserais and villages at every stop along the route from Delhi. He then directed the prominent residents and nobles of Delhi to relocate to the new city, compensating them handsomely for their possessions, supplies, and mode of transportation. The Sultan himself led the way to Devagiri and built a new city called Daulatabad at the foot of the fort, which he prospered as the new capital. The people constructed new buildings, and Delhi was left empty.

The transfer of capital to Daulatabad took place in two phases. The first shifting occurred in the year 727 AH (1326-27 AD).

Yahya recorded that the queen-mother Makhduma-i-Jahan, accompanied by the entire royal household, as well as the maliks and amirs, notable and renowned persons, attendants, slaves, elephants, horses, and the Sultan's treasury and hidden wealth, were carried over to Devagiri. Afterwards, all the Saiyyids, Shaikhs, Ulama and chiefs of Delhi were ordered to follow suit.

Meanwhile, trouble arose when a messenger was sent to Multan to bring Bahram Abiya Kishlu Khan, the adopted brother of Muhammad's father and governor of Multan and Sindh, to Devagiri. Kishlu Khan hesitated, and the envoy resorted to force to bring Bahram's household to Devagiri. A conversation between the envoy and Kishlu Khan's son-in-law led to Kishlu Khan's revolt, resulting in the envoy's beheading.

Upon learning of the envoy's murder, Muhammad proceeded to Delhi, and gathering an army, set out for Multan. Kishlu Khan was defeated and beheaded, and Muhammad returned to Delhi, where he stayed for two years.

Ferishta says that upon seeing their native country, those who had been forced to Devagiri deserted the Sultan's army and scattered into the woods. To prevent this, the Sultan took up residence in the city and invited them to join him, staying there for two years. 

It appears that two years later, in 1329, the second shifting occurred. Ferishta recounts that the Sultan, once again, resolved to make Devagiri his capital and ordered his family and the nobles to move there. He also carried off the entire population a second time to the Deccan. As a result, Delhi was left desolate, with only owls and wild beasts roaming its streets.

Yahya provides further details, stating that the Sultan instructed the remaining inhabitants of Delhi and nearby towns to migrate to Devagiri, caravan by caravan. He purchased their homes and compensated them with cash from the treasury, along with generous rewards. By these means Devagiri was populated, and Delhi became so deserted that not even a dog or cat remained in the city. The doors remained shut for days, and the city was eerily silent. The riff-raffs and ruffians remained to loot the abandoned homes. Eventually, the Sultan ordered the theologians, prelates, chiefs of cities, and leaders of villages to settle in Devagiri, rewarding them with gifts and presents. The whole of Devagiri was thus populated with the inhabitants of Delhi.

Chachnama mentions that, in the year 727 AH, the Sultan himself relocated to Daulatabad and established it as his capital for the foreseeable future.
In this article, we have provided a translation of the relevant sections from several historical texts, including Tarikh-i-Ferishta, Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh by Abd al-Qadir Badayuni, Tarikh-i-Mubarakshahi by Yahya bin Sarhindi and Zafar-ul-Walih by Haji-ud-Dabir. This is Part 2 of the series.