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Archive for the month “February, 2013”

The Moti Masjids of Delhi

When we say Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), the first image that comes to our mind is the small box-shaped mosque inside the Red Fort, which we never get to see from inside. But fact is that the last Mughal Emperors built another Moti Masjid in Mehrauli. These mosques were built as the private chapel of the emperor and his family. You will find Moti Masjids in almost all Mughal Palaces This article is about these two beautiful marble pieces of history from Delhi.

Moti Masjid of Qila-i-Mubarak (Red Fort)


The Moti Masjid of Red Fort was built by Aurangzeb. He did not miss his prayers and the Jama Masjid (merely 600 mts. from Badshahi Gate of Red Fort) was probably too far for him. So he commissioned his own private mosque and decorated it with nice white marble. Originally this mosque had golden domes but they were severely damaged during the mutiny of 1857. This mosque was built at a cost of 160,000 in 1659 AD. It is situated to the west of Hammam. The female of harem were also allowed to attend prayers in it. The main entrance on eastern side has a small door with decorated copper plates nailed to it. There was originally a door in the northern wall for women, but during the repairs after 1857, it was closed. Archaeologists at that time were not able to restore the original domes with their Copper plates, but did good work restoring the Pietra Dura (embossed artwork on walls).  It also has a small ablution pond (wuzu-khana) in the centre of courtyard.

Gumbad-RedFortMehrab-RedFort Motifs-RedFort

Red-Fort Red-Fort-2 RedFort-Minaret


Moti Masjid of Zafar Mahal, Mehrauli

Mehrauli The Moti Masjid of Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli is not as beautiful or as big as the mosque of Red Fort. But it serves the same purpose of offering a place to offer prayers to the royal family. It has similar three dome structure and have marble patterns on Mussallas(Praying Mat) on floor. There is hardly any embossed artwork (Except for flowers near the keystone of arch and some floral patterns near ground). Mehrauli-1The only beautiful thing about this mosque is that it is to the immediate west of the Dargah of  Hazrat Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (ra). A small wall separates the courtyard of Mosque and the Dargah. This mosque was built around 1707 by one of the last Mughal Emperors. Only one minaret of this mosque survives in shattered state, and which is now supported by external scaffoldings to avoid its collapse.


The dome with stairs in this picture is of the Dargah Sharif and the triple marble domes are of the Moti Masjid. This pic shows the distance between the Mosque and the Dargah. On the lower right corner of picture, we can see the sardgah, the enclosure containing graves of Emperor Akbar Shah II and the empty slot, where Bahadur Shah Zafar wanted to be buried. One door of the mosque opens inside the Dargah complex, and is usually kept locked. This palace (Zafar Mahal) was built adjoining Dargah of Hazrat Kaki, when Akbar Shah II started the famous Sair-e-Gulfarosha’N (Phoolwalo’N ki sair) festival of Delhi. Royal family along with other nobles from Red Fort used to stay in this palace during the 7 days of festivities.

Today, these mosques lie ignored and silent.

A Lunatic Visionary – Tughlaq

On 20th March, 1351, as prince Fakhr Malik (aka Jauna Khan) died, thousands of people stood against him. Some called him lunatic and some called him visionary. Most of them hated him, because he made them suffer so much.

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq Jauna Khan ruled the powerful throne of Delhi as “Muhammad Bin Tughlaq”. He succeeded his father Ghiasuddin Tughlaq and ruled from February 1325 to March 1351. These 26 years were not easy for him, but they were much more difficult for his countrymen. His decisions were ambitious and attempted with best intentions, but exhibited lack of proper planning and inadequacy of correct information. He was a visionary, who extended his empire to a limit, to which no other Sultan of Delhi did in entire history of Sultanate period.

I believe:

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was a great visionary and he always thought ahead of his time. Unfortunately, others could not match the depth of his thoughts and were not able to execute his orders properly. His decisions were based on half-baked information and most of them ended in devastating results”

Many other like me believe that he was a great visionary and a noble emperor. While a larger number call him crazy, lunatic, and a torturer. The question arises, what did he do?



The learned & Wise emperor

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was a highly qualified person. He was one of those few Islamic/Turkic rulers, who could understand and speak Sanskrit along with Persian, Turkish and Arabic. His interest in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and physical sciences gave him the tag of ‘Scholar’. With the knowledge of medicine he had, he was half a doctor himself. Such a learned person he was, that he thought of far future but failed to handle the present.

Policies and Innovations excited him and he was always busy in planning something new for domestic and foreign front. He used his knowledge of languages and philosophy to unite India and to establish embassies in various other countries.

Muhammad bin Tughlaq was so wise and far-sighted, that he never allowed religion to interfere with the administrative matters of the empire. His decisions were not biased by the religious heads and Ulemas. There were cases where Tughlaq have changed the decisions taken by Qazis as he found them unfair or discriminating. He was the first Muslim Emperor to appoint Qazis from outside Ulema class. Even Qazis were treated and punished like a common man when they were found guilty of some crime.

He also started the practice of keeping record of income and expenses of all princes. Governors were told to submit periodic account statements of their jurisdiction. It was the earliest form of centrally controlled accounting system that would involve everyone, from the king to peasant. It was considered a useless step at that time but today we know, how important national level central accounting system has become in our lives.


The Architect and Planner

Since Anangpal Tomar stepped in Delhi in 736 AD, around 38 rulers from 6 dynasties ruled from Delhi’s throne. Many of these established cities, forts and villages. To name a few, Tomars built Lal Kot, Mahipal Tuar (Tomar) built Mahipalpur, Prithvi Raj Chauhan built Qila Rai Pithora, Khilji built Siri and Ghiasuddin Tughlaq built the majestic fort of Tughlaqabad. But Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was a visionary and he realized that the growing population of his capital will require bigger places to live. He did the best part by combining the previously built cities – Rai Pithora, Siri & Tughlaqabad.

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq also created a smaller replica of his father’s huge construction (Tughlaqabad) right opposite to it and named it ‘Adilabad’. Though I am not sure, why he built another fort smaller to Tughlaqabad, whereas he could have used the same. Some people believe that he was moved with the curse of Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin (r.a.), where he says “Ya Rahe Hijjar, Ya Basse Gujjar”.

His successor did marvellous contribution in the terms of architecture. But in his case, more credit should go to the respective architects, like Malik Maqbool who built the seven magnificent mosques of Delhi. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq on other hand, participated in planning and designing himself and gave amazing results.


Batuta, The Visiting Qazi

ibn-battuta-and-Muhammed-bin TughlaqThe famous Moroccan traveller Ibn-Batuta (ʾAbū ʿAbd al-Lāh Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Lāh l-Lawātī ṭ-Ṭanǧī ibn Baṭūṭah) visited India during Muhammad Bin Tughlaq’s region. He gained emperor’s confidence and was appointed Qazi for almost 6 years when Tughlaq himself was away for study. Batuta was the judge and in-charge of enforcing shariyat in absence of emperor, but found it very difficult to do so in a Hindu country. He was living high life as a trusted subordinate of the emperor, but at few occasions, he was suspected of treason. When he planned to leave (saying that he wants to offer another Hajj), the emperor offered him to be his ambassador instead and visit Yuan Dynasty in China. This clearly shows how far-sighted the emperor was and how he wanted to extend his friendship to neighboring empires. Emperor not only judged Ibn Batuta well, but also knew that only a person of Batuta’s calibre can match his vision.


What went wrong?

If he was really so clever, learned, influential and powerful ruler, then what went wrong? Let’s have a look at few of his policies and decisions:

Tax-Fire in Famine Affected Doab

Sultan’s ambitious projects and schemes needed money for which he had to increase Taxes. He assumed that since the land between Ganges and Yamuna is very fertile, the farmers of that area must be very rich. So he increased the tax by 20 folds. But unfortunately, that was the year of famine in that region because of no rain. Poor and frustrated people left their homes and become robbers and dacoits. But govt. officials continued to collect tax, which resulted in a major revolt.

Failure of the Agricultural Policy

Muhammad bin Tughlaq established a new ministry for Agriculture and dedicated one of his Wazeers for this ministry. Purpose of this step was to improve the agricultural system by increasing the cultivation land. However this scheme failed miserably and the department was shut within 2-3 years because of high level of corruption amongst the people who were implementing it. They purchased very poor land for cultivation and assigned it to people, who had no interest in farming over govt. land.

The Currency Confusion

Muhammad bin Tughlaq then thought that may be if I can find an alternative currency, I can save some money. So he replaced the Gold and Silver coins with copper currency. Local goldsmiths started manufacturing these coins and which led to a loss of a huge sum of money to the court. He had to take his orders back and reissue Gold/Silver coins against those copper coins. This counter decision was far more devastating as people exchanged all their fake currency and emptied royal treasure.

Attacks on Khorasaan, Himachal and China

Tughlaq tried to reverse the invasion of Alexander by attacking on Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Iran (Khorasaan). But this attack was a disaster. He also attacked Kullu and wanted to further invade China. But as rainy season started, his forces started falling off because they were not prepared for the cold weather of Himalayas. Tughlaq’s men analyzed and reported of enemy’s strength, but failed to study their bigger enemy, nature.

The Capital Punishment – Daulatabad

One of Tughlaq’s worst decisions was to shift the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad. He thought that if I have to unite India, I must be centrally placed. He also wanted to move away from Delhi because it was on direct radar of invaders. The third reason to set up Daulatabad was that he realized that a country as big as Hindostan, needs atleast two capitals. But his men failed to analyze the situation and land properly. The land of Daulatabad and the journey to that land was one of the biggest disasters of the Sultanate period.

The Cruel “Pagla Sultan

People used to call him “Pagla Sultan” and his orders were called “Tughlaqi Farmaan”. Some even called him “Muhammad Khooni” because he was considered to be the most cruel, cold bloody and crazy sultan ever. There is a case where he had one man slaughtered and his body parts were cooked in ‘Biryani’ and victim’s family was made to eat it.



This is probably the first time I am writing a conclusion, giving my views on what is right and what is wrong. I usually present the facts and leave the decision to audience. But in this case, there is something that forces me to right more.

I feel that a person like Muhammad Bin Tughlaq could have changed the fate of this country. But what good is an emperor with no support. His story hides much deeper management lesson for modern day management gurus. It is true that a team leader is handicapped without proper team but it is also true that the same team leader can become very dangerous if his own trusted team feeds him with inaccurate information and executes his orders improperly. But whose mistake is it? It’s the general’s duty to pick his men carefully. And It is the duty of the team leader to first train his team, so that they can match his vision and understand what he says and what he means.

Even the part where Tughalq became bloodily insane and did man-slaughter teaches us that the most learned and highly educated philosopher can become a devil when in power.


– Vikramjit Singh

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