Tughlakabad1 is on the road joining Mehrauli with Mathura road, 10km east of Qutub complex on Mehrauli-Badarpur Road and more or less outside Delhi, India. People hardly ever go there, but the place is magnificent. The fort sits like a massive stone beast on the scrapped outcrop of a low hill.
Tughlakabad Fort is surely a thing of gigantic proportions, and made all the more interesting by its sad history — it was built quickly to serve as a stronghold against possible invasions by the Mongols, but soon fell into disrepair, and was abandoned. It is entirely possible that the corruption in the public sector that so bedevils India now, especially when it comes to building roads and bridges, had its start here, if not earlier.
Within, the citadel portion is relatively intact, and has some interesting places — an underground passageway with either storage rooms or prisoners' quarters, massive circular towers, and one or two standing buildings from which occasionally peacocks dart out and startle one. Monkeys and a few lizards are other creatures you see in there, though the locals occasionally bring their buffaloes and donkeys in to graze.
The towers rise high, and on a clear day you can actually see them faintly in the distance from as far as Nizamuddin Bridge. This takes a bit of luck; Delhi is seldom so clear, and now many obstacles may have sprung up between the two. The writer of this article remembers this view from about ten years ago, at the time of writing (2008).
Tughlakabad Fort has this stern, rude aspect to it, which makes it appear more as a savage natural element than something man-made, and the desolation within is reminiscent of a stricken giant nursing a wound. The fort stretches over a perimeter of 6.5km, and one can see the place where the royal buildings used to be; there are some arches standing still, though all overgrown with thorny bushes except in summer when the extreme heat withers them and one can make forays into them a little. There are also seven erstwhile water tanks in the fort, all dried up and full of shrubs and bushes, mainly the thorny acacia. A lot of the space within the perimeter walls cannot be accessed because of the unchecked growth of thorny shrubs.
The rampart walls have a series of loop holes, and have stairs that descend into roughly-constructed battlements with their own loop holes. The fort had 13 outer gates, and three gates to the citadel section, built with high walls and circular bastions. Most of the outer gates are inaccessible due to heavy rubble and semi-jungles that have grown up.
In comparison, the small mausoleum of Ghiyasuddin Tughluq right across the road from the fort is a gem of a building. It's also built massively externally, much like a fort, and one can see the causeway connecting the fort to this building. Apparently, earlier they stood inside a lake. What a sight it must have been! Now the causeway has been cut by the road, but otherwise it is intact. Inside the building is a fine example of early Islamic architecture in India.
A few words of caution; the place is often completely devoid of people. If visiting in summer, it's advisable to go as early as possible, else the heat gets to you.
It's advisable not to hurry while approaching the buildings and tunnels — there are often peacocks inside, and if they are guarding eggs, they can act with unexpected ferocity.
There are lots of monkeys inside the fort; with their penchant for mischief-making, things can occasionally turn uncomfortable for the victim of the mischief, so it is better to give them a wide berth. Snakes are a possibility or so it is believed.
The occasional donkey inside the fort can be another proposition altogether. Usually there will be a solitary donkey grazing peacefully, but once it sees a person approaching, it tends to silently follow the person around — and that can be a bit unnerving, especially if one is alone.
Typically the donkey would raise its head from grazing when one inadvertently approaches it, look with a reproaching eye, and insist on following one around with a time lag — that is to say, you think you have shaken it off, but then a few minutes later it is there, standing about ten feet away and silently observing you. It reminds one that the mule (or the hinny) after all had to get its fabled obstinacy from something.
I suppose if you saw such a thing in your dreams you would call it a nightmare, albeit a minor one.
– An h2g2 Researcher.
Still, when all is said and done, Tughlakabad is definitely a place to visit if one finds oneself in Delhi. The place stays with you. Nirad C Chaudhury, in the second part of his autobiography, mentions this in some detail — clearly he was very impressed with it. His close friend at one time, the Bengalee novelist Bibhutibhushan Bannerjee, had mentioned Tughlakabad in his novel Aparajito, where his protagonist Apu visits the desolate fort during his ramblings all over India, and is struck by it.
Sir John Marshall, the archaeologist whom Lord Curzon had brought over to India to organise the Indian Archaeological Survey, wrote in very glowing terms about this place: 'Its cyclopean walls, towering grey and sombre above the smiling landscape; colossal splayed out bastions, tiers on tiers of narrow loopholes; arched passageways... combine to give an impression of unassailable strength and melancholy grandeur. Within the walls all is now desolation...'
How to get There
The fort is located 15km southeast of Connaught Place on the Mehrauli-Badarpur Road. Tughlakabad is awkward to get to by bus; from New Delhi station or Connaught Place one can take No 459 to Badarpur, and change onto a Mehrauli-bound No 34, No 430, No 525 or No 717, or else take No 505 to Mehrauli/Qutb Minar Complex, and catch a No 34, No 525 or No 717 going east. A trishaw from Connaught Place could cost around Rs150, and is a more sensible way to get there, rather than taking Delhi buses.