Muhammad Bin Tughlaq 1325-1351
Muhammad Bin Tughlaq is known as a “Man of Ideas” and can be said one of the most striking sultan of medieval India.
He was a trained intellectual, a keen student of Persian poetry and a philosopher, lover of science and mathematics. He is known for the idea of a Central Capital and experiments with a nominal token Currency. These ideas were all good, but he was in hurry and impatient of the slow adoption of his measures. All those who could not keep pace with his imagination, became victim of his wrath and were punished severely. The result was that Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, as a sultan proved himself a complete failure before the history of forces toppled him.
We know about the period of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq from the material of Ziauddin Barni. Barni’s main works are Twarikh-i-Firuzshahi
and Fatwa-i-Jahandari. We know about first 6 years of Tughlaq rule from Barni’s works.
Then another important work is left by Ibn Battuta. Ibn Battuta has discussed his travels and incursions in contemporary Islamic world and documented them in Rihla. He was appointed as
Qazi by Muhammad Tughlaq and was also appointed ambassador to China.
Ibn Battuta gives details about the later part of his rule. Portrait of Muhammad bin Tughlaq in Batutta’s words, “his gateway is never free from a beggar whom he has relived and never free from a corpse, he has slain”
Muhammad Bin Tughlaq generously scattered almost incredible wealth among the foreign visitors, learned men, poets, officials, beggars, diseased and so on. He impoverished the treasury. His project to conquer Persia (Khurasan Expedition), his dream to keep a huge standing army and his plans to invade China (Quarachil Expedition) finished his finances. His idea of invading China met with a disastrous in the passes of Himalayas where men and money got split like water.
Horrible Tax Reforms
The empty treasures needed fresh taxations. He wanted 5-10% more revenue from the Doab region which was the fertile land of his reign. The oppressive taxes reduced the farmers to beggars. They stopped tilling the lands, lost confidence and burnt their stacks. The cattle were turned loose and moved to Jungles. The Tax reforms of Sultan got failed. Miffed Sultan hounded the wretched Hindu subjects and massacred them. Every man captured was slaughtered like sheep. This was followed by a famine and the unfortunate subjects were left in deplorable conditions for many years to come.
Transfer of Capital
The inconvenience to rule the wealthy Deccan induced the Sultan to take step and transfer the seat of the government to Daulatabad (near Pune). The idea might have been practical and reasonable if he had ever thought of shifting the official court of Delhi. But, he wanted to transport the whole population of Delhi to the new capital. The inhabitants of Delhi were made to leave their homes and were forced to march 700 miles down south with their women, children and all such belongings they could carry. Many were killed on the way in this forty days journey and few could survive. Daulatabad became the burial ground of the Sultan’s exiled subjects. Sultan got enough wisdom to realize his failure and ordered the people back to Delhi; result was only few could survive to return. Delhi’s houses were deserted now. Sultan “imported” learned men, traders and landholders to repopulate the deserted Delhi, but they could not flourish.
Sultan also got enough wisdom to understand the distress caused by the Famine and the result of the excessive taxation. In 1341, he abolished all the taxes and started sitting twice a week to hear the complaints of the oppressed.
He started distributing daily food to the people of Delhi. He also established a loan system to the peasants. He created a department of Agriculture named as “Diwan-i-Kohi“. He established a “Famine Code” to relive the victims of Famine.
Experiments with Token Currency
The heavy drains of the treasury led him to do another disastrous experiment of a token currency.
The Idea of token currency was probably borrowed from Paper Money issued by his near contemporary Kublai Khan in China. He introduced the Copper/ brass coins which were to pass at the value of the contemporary Silver Tanka.
The silver coin introduced by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was called Adl.
The Gold coin, which was finely engraved was called “Dinar”
He did not foresee the consequences of this monetary experiment. He was aware that the value of the token money depends upon the credit of the treasury (which was full with Gold after his Deccan conquests) but forgot that none other than the state should issue the tokens.
Any skilled Hindu engraver could copy the inscriptions and strike the copper tokens of the values of the Tankas. The result was that “house of every Hindu turned into a mint and the Hindus produced coins in tens of millions”. They paid their tribute, purchased horses, arms, cloths and all the other things with this forged currency. The local Rajas and village headmen became rich but the government became poor. The value of these coins fell so low that they became worth pebbles. This forced Sultan to repeal the edict and he gave order to bring the copper coins to the treasury and exchange them with old coins of silver / gold. Thousands of men from all corners flocked with these copper coins to the capital and exchanged them with Gold and Silver Tankas. So much of copper coins were brought to the treasury that heaps of them raised like mountains. The experiment got its disastrous end.
Death and Succession
The innovations of the Sultan exasperated the people and Sultan became unpopular. There was widespread discontent and rebellion. Bit by bit the empire disintegrated, one province after another revolted. Sultan could suppress the rebels at one point but could not be everywhere. Amid chaos and confusion, in 1351 Muhammad Bin Tughlaq died. He had no sons but his cousin Firoz Shah Tughlaq ascended the throne.