top of page
  • Writer's picturesulla80

Stupor mundi / Wonder of the World

When Ghiyath al din Tughluq (1320-1325 CE) became sultan, he gave his eldest son the title Ulugh Khan and named him as successor. Ghiyath al din Tughluq died in an accident as he was celebrating recent victories.

"The Sultan's table had been spread, and he took food; the nobles came out to wash their hands. A thunderbolt from the sky descended upon the earth, and the roof under which the Sultan was seated fell down, crushing him and five or six other persons, so that they died."
- Ziauddin Barani, "Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi"

Ulugh Khan succeeded him as Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq.

Sultanate of Delhi, Ghiyath al din Tughluq (1320-1325 CE), Billon Jital/4 Gani, 3.62g, dated (bottom left of reverse) AH 723 (1323)

Ref: Mitchiner World of Islam 2583

There are varied descriptions of reign of Mohammad bin Tughluq. This one from the 19th century is very complimentary of the sultan:

"It is admitted, on all hands, that he was the most eloquent and accomplished prince of his age. His letters, both in Arabic and Persian, were admired for their elegance, long after he had ceased to reign. His memory was extraordinary ; and besides a thorough knowledge of logic, and the philosophy of the Greeks, he was much attached to mathematics and to physical science ; and used, himself, to attend sick persons, for the purpose of watching the symptoms of any extraordinary disease. He was regular in his devotions ; abstained from wine ; and conformed, in his private life, to all the moral precepts of his religion. In war he was distinguished for his gallantry and personal activity ; so that his contemporaries were justified in esteeming him as one of the wonders of the age."
-Elphinstone, Mounstuart, Hon. The History of India. Vol. 2, 

However, the description does not end there. Elphinstone continues:

"Yet the whole of these splendid talents and accomplishments were given to him in vain ; they were accompanied by a perversion of judgment which, after every allowance for the intoxication of absolute power, leaves us in doubt whether he was not affected by some degree of insanity. His whole life was spent in pursuing visionary schemes, by means equally irrational, and with a total disregard of the sufferings which they occasioned to his subjects ; and its results were more calamitous than those of any other Indian reign."
-Elphinstone, Mounstuart, Hon. The History of India. Vol. 2, 

Elphinstone leans to melodrama in his description (e.g. "perversion of judgment" and "some degree of insanity" do not come across as factual and unbiased). For a more sober discussion of Muhammad bin Tughluq's reign we can turn to Peter Jackson's thoughtful and well researched book. His opening description of Muhammad bin Tughluq's reign:

"The reign of Muhammad b.Tughluq throws up perhaps more problems than any other in the history of the Sultanate. At the sultan’s accession the authority of Delhi was acknowledged over a larger area of the subcontinent than under any previous monarch. It is to this process of expansion that Barani refers when he describes the unprecedented scope and efficiency of the revenue department in Muhammad’s early years. And yet the reign appears to be dominated by an extraordinary number of revolts. By the sultan’s death in 752/1351, Bengal and every tract south of the Vindhyas had declared their independence, and none of these provinces was ever recovered."
-Barani, Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi

Muhammad bin Tughlaq, a Sultan of the Tughlaq dynasty (AD 725-752/1325-1351 CE) , is remembered for his ambitious and imprudent policies. Some examples include:

  • He moved the capital of Delhi over 1000km to to Deogir around 1327 (later renamed Daulatabad) to increase security from the Mongol empire - this led to hardships for those relocated and the disruptions to the economics of the Delhi.

  • After the death of Ghengis Khan in 1227, Tughlaq raised an army that may have been up to 370,000 soldiers to take land from the Mongol empire, which he disbanded in 1329 when he found it difficult to pay this large army.

  • He increased taxes in the fertile agricultural region of Doab which provoked a revolt and together with other factors resulted in famine that lasted several years. It is worth noting that he seems to have learned from this failure and put in place an innovative and systematic policy to promote agriculture that included loans to farmers for wells needed for irrigation and to support expansion of agricultural production.

  • In 1333, his attempts to conquer parts of northern India resulted in the devastation of his 100,000 soldiers and retreat.

Ibn Battuta (1304-1368/70 CE), was a Muslim traveler from Morocco who stayed in the court of Mohammed bin Tughluq and was appointed grand qade (a Muslim judge) of Delhi, and in 1342, the sultan’s envoy to the Chinese emperor. Battuta wrote one of the most famous travel books, the Rihlah (Travels). Battuta traveled about 75,000 miles and visited nearly every Mulsim country. Battuta describes him in these words:

"This Emperor Emperor [Mohammed son of Ghaith Oddin Toglik] was one of the most bountiful and splendidly munificent men (where he took); but in other cases, one of the most impetuous and inexorable: and very seldom indeed did it happen, that pardon followed his anger.
Battuta, Rihlah (Travels)

Another contemporary historian, Ziauddin Barani , writes of his reign:

"Sultan Muhammad planned in his own breast three or four projects by which the whole of the habitable world was to be brought under the rule of his servants, but he never talked over these projects with any of his councilors and friends. Whatever he conceived he considered to be good, but in promulgating and enforcing his schemes he lost his hold upon the territories possessed, disgusted his people, and emptied his treasury."
- Ziauddin Barani, "Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi"

After the invasion in 1323 CE, Madura came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate. This coin, minted in Madura in 1326, comes after the conquest of Madura, after the ascension of Muhammad, and before the move of the capital. This coin is particularly beautiful in it's script and state of preservation.

Here is a later 6 Gani coin.

India, Delhi Sultanate, Muhammad III bin Tughluq ,AD 1320-1325, dated 734 AH, 6 Gani, 3.54g, 15mm.

With a shortage in precious metals, fluctuation in gold-silver values, Mohammad bin Tughluq issued token currency i.e. coins of brass and copper minted and valued equal to gold and silver coins, while holding the precious metal in the treasury. Although initially there was some success in this innovative idea, confidence in the currency quickly fell with counterfeiting and loss of trust led to hyperinflation (5X increase in prices by one estimate). Note: this coin is not an example of "token currency" rather it is a regular billion issue tanka.

Delhi Sultanate, Tughluq Dynasty, Muhammad bin Tughluq (AH 725-752 / 1325-1351 AD), Billon Tanka, AH 729, 9.2g

Obv: Arabic legend "darab fi zaman al Abd-al-Raji Rahmatullah Muhammad bin"

ضرب / في زمن العبد / الراجي رحمة / الله محمد / بن

Rev: Arabic legend "al-sultan-al-Saeed al-shaheed Tughlaq Shah" & Hijri year (seven hundred and twenty-nine)

السلطان / السعيد الشهيد / تغلق شاه سنة تسع / وعشرون وسبعمائة

This token is an example for the forced token currency:

Delhi Sultanate, Muhammad III bin Tughluq, Copper Tanka (9.03g, 22.7mm), date AH 730-732 (1329-1332 CE) mint name Tughluqpur 'urf Tirhut in margin.

Although I have a translation - I am not confident that it is correct:

Obv: Struck as a current tanka in the time of the servant hopeful of Divine Mercy Muhammad Tughlaq

Rev: He who obeys the sovereign truly, he obeys the merciful one; in the margin the mint name

here is another example:


I'll add one other Delhi Sultan coin from this time - this 8 gani coin from Ghiyath al din Tughluq's predecessor Qtub ud din Mubarak.

Sultanate Coins Delhi Sultanate, Qutb-ud-din Mubarak (AH 716-720/1316-1320 AD), Billon 8 Gani 3.63g, 13.75 x 14.25mm, AH X19

Obv: Mubarak Shah al-sultan ibn al-sultan,

Rev: qutb al-dunya wa'l din in center, abu'l muzaffar khalifat allah around

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page