The Dynasty of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq

"I fought twenty-nine battles with the Mongols and defeated them. Thus I gained the title of Malik-ul-Ghazi."

In a previous post, we explored the historic battle at Lahrawat, where Ghazi Malik Tughlaq emerged victorious over Sultan Nasir-ud-din Khusru Shah. The news of his triumph spread like wildfire, and the people of the city flocked to welcome him with open arms.

The Beginning of the Third Turkish Dynasty of Delhi:


The very next day, on September 6th, 1320, Tughlaq proceeded to Siri, the capital. He arrived at the gateway of the Hazar Sutun (the palace of thousand pillars) and assembled the nobles by his side.

Tughlaq was hesitant to take over the throne and recounted his humble beginnings to the nobles. However, they acknowledged his bravery in withstanding the Mongol attacks and establishing himself as the protector of the people of Hindustan. They also recognized his great deed in avenging his benefactors Sultan Ala-ud-din and Sultan Qutb-ud-din on their enemies, and declared him the most fitting for sovereignty.

Tughlaq addressed the nobles, outlining his three objectives: to revive Islam, grant the empire of Delhi to a surviving prince of the Alai house, and punish those who had murdered the princes. He then requested that if any member of the royal family had survived, they should be proclaimed. However, if no survivor was found, he urged the nobles to consider the many capable maliks present.

The nobles responded with an unanimous voice that there was none left as heir.  After much discussion, they presented a compelling argument to Tughlaq, warning him of the potential consequences should another ruler take the throne. Given Tughlaq's formidable reputation for courage and skill in battle, any future ruler would undoubtedly view him as a threat and seek to eliminate him. The nobles' argument carried convincing weight, prompting Tughluq to acquiesce to their wishes. 

On September 7th, Tughlaq ascended the throne with the title of Sultan-ul Ghazi Ghiyas-ud-dunya Wa-ud-din Tughlaq Shah.

According to Ibn Battuta, Tughlaq initially proposed the throne to his adopted brother, Malik Bahram Abiya Kishlu Khan. However, Bahram Abiya declined the offer and threatened to make Tughlaq's son the king if he did not accept. Battuta notes that Tughlaq was displeased with this response, and ultimately agreed to ascend the throne himself. This account seems highly improbable according to scholars. Nonetheless, as we have already seen, the situation that compelled Tughlaq to take over the throne was quite different.

Early Years:

Ferishta, who collected information from some Mughal sources in Lahore, states that Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq's father, Malik Tughlaq, was a slave of Sultan Balban, while his mother was a Jat woman of Lahore. Citing from Mulhiqat, Ferishta adds that Tughlaq is an Indian corruption of Qutlugh.

According to Shamsi-Siraj Afif, the author of Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi, during the reign of Ala-ud-din Khilji, three brothers - Tughlaq, Rajab, and Abu Bakr - migrated from Khorasan to Delhi. Their bravery and vigor caught the attention of Ala-ud-din, who enlisted them into public service. Tughlaq was granted the country of Dipalpur.

Ibn Battuta learnt from Shaikh Rukn-al-Din of Multan about the humble beginnings of Sultan Tughlaq. Sultan Tughlaq belonged to the Qarauna Turks who inhabited the hills between Sind and Turkistan. He came to Sind as a horse keeper in the service of a merchant during the reign of Ala-ud-din Khilji. Tughlaq then entered the service of Ulugh Khan, the governor of Sind and brother of Ala-ud-din, who enlisted him in the infantry and later in the cavalry. Ulugh Khan eventually appointed him as the amir ul-khail (Master of Horse). Tughlaq then rose to become one of the great amirs.

As per the purported autobiography of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq arrived in India as a stranger sometime after the days of Balban.

In Amir Khusru's Tughlaq Nama, a eulogistic piece, it is stated that Tughlaq was leading a nomadic existence before being enlisted in the imperial guard of Sultan Jalal-ud-din Khilji.

'The late Sultan Jalal-ud-din Khilji raised me from a humble post to a position near to himself and I guarded him sleeplessly with my sword, sharp as a diamond.' (From Tughlaq's speech before the assembly of the nobles after his victory over Khusru Shah)

He won his first distinction during the siege of Ranthambore under Ulugh Khan. After Jalal-ud-din's death, he was greatly depressed. Tughlaq then entered the service of Ulugh Khan and became his trusted personal attendant. When Ulugh Khan died, he joined the service of Ala-ud-din Khilji. 'Whatever promotions I have received since then have been due to that great monarch.'

In Barani's history, Tughlaq is first mentioned during the reign of Ala-ud-din Khilji, where he served as the governor of Lahore and Dipalpur. Tughlaq was confirmed in his government by Qutb-ud-din. Tughlaq's tenure was marked by his successful efforts in repelling the Mongol invasions, marching to their frontiers and raiding them. Such was the impact of his campaigns that the Mongols were reportedly too demoralized to even make a show of force on their borders.

In due course, Tughlaq acquired the title of Malik-ul-Ghazi for defeating the Mongols in twenty-nine battles. Ibn Battuta saw an inscription on the Jami mosque at Multan, built by the order of Tughlaq, that mentioned his victories over the Mongols.

Tughlaq, Name of Sultan or of His Tribe?

The term Tughlaq was, in fact, the personal name of the Sultan. This is evident from the inscriptions on Muhammad's coins, which read "Muhammad bin Tughlaq," meaning "Muhammad, son of Tughlaq." It is worth noting that Muhammad's successors did not adopt Tughlaq as their surname. Notably, Tughlaq was the personal name of the first successor of Firoz Shah. Therefore, it is historically inaccurate to refer to the dynasty of Ghiyas-ud-din and his descendants as the Tughlaq dynasty.

Furthermore, as testified by the Multan mosque description, "Ghazi Malik" was the title earned by Tughlaq on account of his repeated successes against the Mongols.

Rulers of Tughlaq Dynasty:

1. Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq (1320-1325): Ghiyas-ud-din was the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty at Delhi. He died in an accident in 1325.

2. Muhammad Tughlaq, Son of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq (1325-1350): Of the three great rulers of the Tughlaq dynasty, the most important is Muhammad, for under him, the kingdom reached its greatest extent.

3. Firoz Shah Tughlaq, Cousin of Muhammad (1351-1388): Firoz Shah was the last powerful ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty. His successors were weak rulers.

4. Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq II, a Grandson of Firoz Shah (1388-1389)

5. Abu Bakr Shah, a Grandson of Firoz Shah (1389-1390)

6. Muhammad Shah, Son of Firoz Shah (1390-1394)

7. Ala-ud-din Sikandar Shah, a Grandson of Firoz Shah (1394)

8. Nasir-ud-din Mahmud Shah, Son of Muhammad Shah (1394-1412): During Mahmud's reign Timur invaded India and sacked Delhi in 1398.

9. Nasir-ud-din Nusrat Shah, a Grandson of Firoz Shah (1394)


A Comprehensive History of India: Vol. 5. The Delhi Sultanat: A.D. 1206-1526

Ghiyathu'd-Din Tughluq - his original Name and Descent By R.C. Jauhri