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Tughlaq Architecture

Contrary to popular perception, Tughlaq architecture is not restricted to Delhi. Their unique style was
copied and spread across the Indian sub-continent by Tughlaq-era governors and many fine examples
may be seen even today.

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The Tughlaks ruled northern India from Delhi for about a hundred years, from the early 14th to the early
15th centuries. The first three sultans of this dynasty were exceptionally energetic and capable (though
sometimes controversial) individuals. In addition to their military and political accomplishments, these
rulers also left behind a unique architectural legacy. They built forts, palaces, and tombs throughout
their capital Delhi while their governors replicated the easily-identifiable style in religious and military
buildings across the country.

During my travels in the subcontinent, I have come across Tughlak buildings in some unexpected places
very far from Delhi.

Tomb of Shah Rukn-e-Alam, Multan (Pakistan)

The tomb of Shah Rukn-e-Alam is said to have been built by Ghiyas-ud-din
Tughlak for himself during the days of his governorship (under Ala-ud-din Khilji)
of Depalpur. The date of its construction is uncertain but it is likely to have been
completed around 1320 when Ghiyas-ud-din moved to Delhi. The mausoleum
was later given by his son, Muhammad, to the followers of Shah Rukn-e-Alam, a
renowned Sufi saint of Multan, and grandson and successor of Shaikh Baha-Al-
Din Zakariya.

Built on a mound, this magnificent structure and its huge dome can be seen for miles around, from
whichever side the city is approached. The mausoleum, built entirely of red brick, has the trademark
thick, sloping walls that characterise Tughlak architecture. The lower walls here form a high octagon
whose corners are marked by round and tapering buttresses. Above this, on the second story is a
smaller octagonal structure, leaving a narrow, uncovered walkway on the second level. Surmounting this
structure is a massive, hemispherical dome.

The whole of the exterior is elaborately ornamented with glazed tile panels, string-courses and
battlements. Colors used are dark blue, azure, and white, contrasted with the deep red of the finely
polished bricks. In the 1970s the mausoleum was thoroughly repaired and renovated. The entire
glittering glazed interior is the result of new tiles and brickwork done by the Kashigars of Multan.

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Tughlaqabad, Delhi (India)

When Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughlak moved to

Delhi as the first ruler of the Tughlak
dynasty he embarked on an energetic
building programme. In his short reign of
five years he commissioned a new fortified
citadel, Tughlakabad, the third of Delhi's
seven historical cities which he filled with
a royal palace and magnificent gateways.

The buildings are now in ruins and all that remains well-preserved today is his own tomb, a magnificent
structure, standing within a separate fortified compound. The tomb itself looks like a fortress with its
thick, sloping walls surmounted by crenellations. The compound it is placed within has arcaded walls
with fortress-like parapets.
Jahanpanah, Delhi (India)
The major contribution of Muhammad Tughlak, the son and successor of Ghiyas-ud-Din, was the fourth
city of Delhi, fortified walls named Jahanpanah or the 'Refuge of the World'. Within this city he built a
double storied bridge of seven spans named Sath Pul, and a victory pavilion, the Bijai Mandal. In 1340,
the city was deserted when Muhammad moved his capital to Daulatabad in the Deccan, a move which
would come to deeply impact the politics and architecture of the region.

Constructions of Firoz Shah, Delhi Region (India)

Firoz Shah Tughlak revived Tughlak architecture in Delhi with a flourish and built extensively during his
long reign. He expanded the Ferozshah Kotla into the fifth city of Delhi and also built three other forts
in the cities of Jaunpur, Fathabad, and Hissar. He also built several mosques including the Khirki Masjid
and the Begumpuri mosque at Jahanpanah, Kali Masjid, the mosque in the Dargah of Shah Alam at
Timurpuri and the Kalan Masjid at Shahjahanabad.

Khirki Masjid, Delhi (India)

The immense Khirki Masjid with its monumental entrance was Firuz Shah's greatest architectural
achievement. The small rectangular mosque has a prayer courtyard that is surrounded by a two-storied
cloister that has magnificent arches surmounted by a roof with small, hemispherical domes. Arched
windows on the second storey have intricate jali patterns.

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Shaith Gombuz Mosque, Bagerhat (Bangladesh)

This small town in southern Bangladesh has
several Islamic monuments from the 15th
century. Most of these buildings are attributed to
Khan Jahan Ali, a Tughlak nobleman who came
to Bengal just after Timur's sack of Delhi in
1398. He acquired this forested region as a jagir
from the sultans of Delhi and Bengal, established
a fortified town, and then launched an energetic
building programme. The resultant architecture
is an unusual blend of Tughlak and Bengali

The Shaith Gombuz mosque is the earliest building here, a massive structure standing in a large
enclosure defined by a low wall. and entered through an large eastern gateway embellished by
terracotta decoration. The mosque itself is heavy, almost fort-like in construction with the thick sloping
walls and bastion-like tapering corner towers that clearly derive from Tughlak style. The slightly curved
roof has rows of simple, hemispherical domes, except the domes on the central aisle which are
unexpectedly, in the Bengali charchala style.

The walls of this mosque are severe compared to later Khan Jahani buildings in the area. The parapet
has only a single moulding with a line of rotated squares and the walls are left completely unadorned.
Only the entrance arches have terracotta roundels and rows of ornamentation above the enclosing
rectangular frame. The main east entrance arches are distinguished by additional roundels placed
outside the rectangular frame.

Singar Mosque, Bagerhat (Bangladesh)

The late 15th century Singar Mosque lies a short
distance south of the Shaith Gombuj. Its large, single
dome is impressive for its size and symmetry. The east
wall seen here has a gently curving cornice and three
entrance arches, of which the central arch both wider
and higher than the others. Each arch is framed in a
narrow rectangle that contains mouldings and rows of
simple terracotta decoration at the top. The parapet is
also simple with a row of small recessed arches at the
top and a jali frieze below, separated by a projection.
This design wraps around the circular corner bastions
which has horizontal bands of ornamental mouldings.

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Noi Gombuz, Bagerhat (Bangladesh)

The architecture of the Noi Gombuz or nine-domed mosque is more ornate indicating a later date, more
influenced by Bengali architectural traditions. The wide parapet is more noticeably curved and
embellished with a row of squares between high mouldings. The three entrance arches on the east wall
(seen here) have wide rectangular frames. In the central arch, which is slightly higher and wider, this
frame forms a pierced screen. The area above each arch is divided into two panels, probably intended
for calligraphy blocks (now missing). Similarly elaborate entrances mark the north and south walls. The
corner minarets are less heavy and more ornate now, with five moldings, and a triple moulding at the

Khush Mahal at Warangal Fort, Warangal (India)

The fort at Warangal was strengthened
and reconstructed in Islamic style after
the Tughlaks defeated the last Kakatiya
ruler and occupied the site. Although
the gateways and pavilions of the
fortress itself are Islamic, the ruins
within the fort are mostly remnants of
Kakatiya temples and palaces, including
the famous Kakatiya portals near the
Swayambhu temple area.

The one exception is the Khush Mahal, a rectangular hall said to be built over the site of a Kakatiya
palace. It may have been used as an audience hall by Shitab Khan, the 16th century Qutb Shahi governor
of Warangal but was probably built during the 14th century Tughlak occupation of the fort. Its sharply
sloping walls are easily identifiable as Tughlak. The long east and west walls of the building have a
projecting parapet and six high arches framed by narrow rectangles.

These high arched windows admit light to the interior. A wide entrance arch on the north wall leads to a
single spacious schamber inside with small storage rooms on each side. Transverse arches span the high
ceiling. Broken fragments from the Svayambhu enclosure and Jain temples are placed inside the hall and
near the north entrance.

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