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Jul 13, 2013

Tughlaq: Karnard

Karnard’s Tughlaq
“The whirlpool of violence and bloodshed” called, Tughlaq, is based on “the life of Muhammad Tughlaq, a fourteenth century Sultan of Delhi,” the most infamous Mughal emperor who thinks himself as “I was too soft, I can see that now. They’ll understand the whip.” According to Karnad, Sultan Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was “Certainly the most brilliant individual ever to ascend the throne of Delhi and also one of the biggest failures.”. Initially, Tughlaq was  “A man with unshakable faith in himself and his mission, trying to out- reach his own vision, unfortunately with his bare hands.”
“A Faithful slave of the Lord” or Tughlaq is a learned, intelligent Sultan of a vast country, India. He has become a victim of passion though all the characters admit that he is not a common man. His step–mother reveals to Barani that “… he is such an intelligent boy”; Sheikh Imam–ud–din, the saint admits:” God has given you everything–power, learning, intelligence, talent.”  Barani, the sensible man, says,
“But you are a learned man, Your majesty, you are known the world over for your knowledge of philosophy and poetry”
But the irony is that such a high and mighty personality has failed to control his passions. He himself gets puzzled as to what has happened to him. He himself reviews, ponders and reveals his tragic tale thus:
“I started in Your path, Lord! why am I wandering naked in the desert now? I started in search of You. Why am I become a pig rolling in this gory mud” .
Through his failures, the Sultan is elevated to a man of wisdom and maturity and this becomes evident when he says to the historian Barani as follows:
“But I am not alone, Barani, Thank heaven! For once I am not alone. I have a Companion to share my madness now – the omnipotent God.”
This “Intelligent, religious, cruel and hard hearted” unsuccessful Islamic or “Mad Muhammad” in the opening scene declares, “I shall build an empire which will be the envy of world.” Acutely aware of the short span of life and the stupendous task before him, like Ashoka the great, he seems to dedicate his life for the well-being of his subjects. He keeps awake during nights and tells his stepmother
“Tell me, how dare I waste my time in sleeping? And don’t tell me to go and get married and breed a family because I won’t sleep.”
He wants to climb the tallest of the trees in the world and call out to his people:
Come my people, I am waiting for you. Confide in me your worries. Let me share your joys. Let’s laugh and cry together.”
The King appears as a “carnivorous animal” and unlike other rulers, he wanted to be an ideal King and thinks “whatever he does is perfect” and foolishly announces, “Later this year the capital of my empire will be moved from Delhi to Daulatabad” and orders “Everyone must leave… Nothing but an empty graveyard of Delhi will satisfy me now.” By shifting his capital to the city of the Hindus, he hopes to win the confidence of the Hindus and help foster the Hindu-Muslim unity.
The cruelties of the Sultan find no end. When he comes to know of his stepmother’s killing of the Najib, he mercilessly orders “I want her stoned to death publicly tomorrow morning”. When his stepmother taunts him for killing his father, brother and Sheikh, Tughlaq claims that he has killed them for an ideal. He himself says, “I killed them–yes–but killed them for an ideal” because “They gave me what I wanted power, strength to shape my thoughts, strength to act, strength to recognize myself.”
Tughlaq desecrates prayer by using it as a means for political ends. At first he decrees religious punishment for failure to pray five times a day. Later, he bans prayer itself and punishes those who pray. Again, after sometime, he announces that “henceforth every Muslim will pray five times a day as enjoined by the Holy Koran and declare himself a Faithful slave of the Lord.” Later on towards the end, he admits his mistake and the wisest fool in the empire that he has become, he cries for God’s help:
God, God in Heaven, please help me. Please don’t let go off my hand. My skin drips with blood and I don’t know how much of it is mine and how much of others…. Clean me; cover me with Your Infinite Mercy.
The handling of the theme suggests that it transcends Muhammad Tughlaq of a specific period and encompasses men of all times. Ultimately the message conveyed by the dramatist is that God alone is the Supreme Being and not man:
Alla – Ho – Akbar! Alla – Ho – Akbar!      
Ashahado La Elaha Illilah.

Tughlaq has become the classic of the contemporary age through this eponymous and enigmatic character, the doomed dreamer, very well resembles Martin Luther King whose dreams were also shattered by destiny. Like Marlowe’s heroes namely, Tamburlaine, Doctor Faustus and Jew of Malta, Tughlaq, like a megalomaniac, is fully convinced that he alone knows what is good for others and he alone is capable of achieving it for them. The play greatly appealed to the Indian audience because it reflected the political mood of disillusionment, which prevailed in the Nehru era of idealism in the country. 


  1. Without offending anyone I would like to say that emperor Muhammad bin Tughloq was not a Mughal. He was from Turkey, and probably he was related to the Das dynasty. Mughal dynasty in India was started by Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur, grandfather of emperor Akbar.

  2. Mohd Bin Tughlaq wanted to wide his region at any cost so he made all thing according his will. who came on his way had been destroyed by sultan. his desire had become his master with growing time,

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  6. muhammad bin tughlaq was not a mughal emperor neither he was related to them in any way. He was of turkish descent and mughals came to india much later.


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