TUGHLAQ BY GIRISH KARNAD
‘Tughlaq by Girish Karnad’ is a largely acquainted historical play, first published in 1964 in Kannada and then translated into English (by Karnad himself) and other languages. It was the second play of Girish Karnad written after ‘Yayati’. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, shortly known as ‘Tughlaq’ ruled Delhi Sultanate for 26 years from 1325 to 1351, an agonizing period of existence for his subjects.
Tughlaq was the eldest son of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq. Tughlaq was popularly known as ‘man of ideas’. UK Ananthamurthy noted that the play seems to reflect (to the Indian audience) the 1960s political disillusionment that followed the Nehruvian era of idealism. He started his rule with great ideals of a unified India, but he was degenerated into anarchy and his kingdom. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
Tughlaq’s ideas (plans of amendments) for a unified India were:
- Revenue Reform
- Increasing tax in the Doab
- Shifting capital from Delhi to Daulatabad
- Introduction of token currency
- Judicial Reforms
TUGHLAQ BY GIRISH KARNAD SUMMARY
The play opens in front of the Chief Court of Justice in Delhi in 1327, two years after Tughlaq came to power. A group of predominantly Muslim citizens along with a few Hindu citizens gather there and share their views on the present abnormal political condition of Delhi Sultanate. They discuss the Sultan’s various policies and his excessive generosity to Hindus. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
His first move of amendment is to shift the capital of Sultanate from Delhi to Daulatabad since Daulatabad has a majority of Hindu population. He wants to acquire their favour, a political strategy. But this move is criticized by the Muslim subjects and his idealism gets to acquire a great condemnation from them.
Aziz, a highway robber, appears disguised as a Brahmin named Vishnuprasad and he wins a case against the Sultan himself. This is a parody of the Sultan’s declaration that he can also be acquitted in the court of justice. He also wins the game that the Sultan had started in a fit of ambitiousness. Aziz and his close associate Aazam are then making money by deceiving people on their way to Daulatabad.
The scene II of Tughlaq by Girish Karnad takes place at Tughlaq’s private chamber, where he is playing chess. Almost in most of the important scenes, he is found being passionately engaged in the chess game. His step-mother reprimands him for not initiating action to protect himself from the anticipated attack of Ain-ul-Mulk on his sultanate and playing chess instead. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
Muhammed Najib, the politician and Zia-ud-din Barani, the historian, two important acquaintances of the Sultan offer different perspectives on a same issue and therefore representing conflicting points of view on political matters. Najib is rational while Barani is humanistic. Najib’s job is to contrive political strategies for Tughlaq.
Tughlaq assassinated his own father and brother to realize his political ambition and this makes his life unsecured. So his step-mother orders Barani not to let Tughlaq to engage with some of his advisors.
Sheik Imam-ud-din meets Tughlaq and accuses him of parricide and inflames hatred of his opponents. He is considered to be the chief agent in stirring up the fires of discontent in the sultanate.
Both Sheik and Tughlaq wait in the Great mosque for an anticipated audience. But Sheik utterly disappointed when on one gathers during the proposed meeting time. He consequently reprimands him for his cunningly contrived political move. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
Eventually Tughlaq convinces Sheik, whose physical attributes resemble those of his, to go counter Ail-ul-Mulk’s attack in the guise of the Sultan. He purportedly requests him to act as a messenger of peace.
The rationale for his weird decision, in Tughlaq’s opinion, was that Ail-ul-Mulk will never proceed when he sees Sheik, a holy man, conveying a message of political compromise.
The step-mother shares her anxieties about Tughlaq with Shihab-ud-din, another courtier. The sudden death of Sheik Imam-ud-din is announced. Sheik Imam-ud-din’s death is a testimony to the success of the Sultan’s plans. The Sultan cunningly plots Sheik’s death in the battlefield in a bid to counter Ain-ul-Mulk, and is easily and effortlessly absolved of his guilt. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
Shihab-ud-din and Ratansingh, the Amirs and the Sayyids are involved in a discussion to teach a lesson to Sultan for his tyrannical attitude. They project the Sultan as blasphemous, and implore Shihab-ud-din to act on their behalf.
The proposed shift of capital from Delhi to Daulatabad is vigorously debated. The Amirs debate the proposed shift of the capital to Daulatabad. According to them, this shift is a trap to dis-empower them, since Daulatabad is a place with a majority of Hindu population. The Amirs along with Ratansingh successfully manage to persuade Shihab-ud-din to engage in the plot of the murder of the Sultan. It is decided by the consensus that Tughlaq would be murdered on the day of his Durbar-i-khas, at the time of prayer. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
The Sultan’s announcement to introduce copper currency in the sultanate further disappoints the Amirs. Shihab-ud-din advises the Sultan not to move to Daulatabad, as it might invite the hatred of many citizens. But it falls in his deaf ears and he won’t change decision. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
The Sultan somehow finds out that the Amirs’ has planned to murder him with Shihab-ud-din. Shihab-ud-din is mercilessly stabbed by Sultan himself in a fit of rage. Tughlaq emerges as a brute and merciless murderer in this scene. He orders the corpses of all conspirators be hanged publicly for people to learn a lesson. He also bans all prayer in his kingdom, but Najib advises him to suspend all prayer till the anticipated arrival of Ghiyas-ud-din Abbasid, a descendent of the Khalifa. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
Aziz, still dressed as a Brahmin swindles innocent citizens on their way to the new capital and makes money out of it. Aziz lives a life by cheating others and deprive of their properties. When asked, he justifies his each and every action. Based on the circumstance, he uses various new methods of cheating people.
The scene quickly shifts to Daulatabad, the new capital. The two sentries guarding the fort comment on the progress of events on the way to Daulatabad. The family of the older official died on the way and he considers himself to be unfortunate enough to have survived this calamity. They discuss the rather unhappy and somber state of affairs in the fort. Tughlaq suddenly arrives on the spot and reminisces the moment when he had arrived with his citizens to Daulatabad. He was overflowing with hope and enthusiasm which eventually died out. This scene reveals how he suffers from qualms of conscience and inner conflict. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
The news of armies marching towards his kingdom unnerves him. He confides in Barani, the historian, who provides timely advice to him by suggesting that it is high time he considered giving up the ruthless bloodshed and murder. The sudden murder of Najib, the courtier and a close associate of Tughlaq, is announced.
Aziz and Aazam discuss the various methods of cheating people. Aziz orders Ghiyas-ud-din Abbasid to be kidnapped. A man arrives with the goods he expected i.e. Abbasid, and hands them over to Aziz. Aziz then murders him and dresses himself up as Ghiyas-ud-din Abbasid. Disguise, which forms an integral part of the theatrical technique used in the play, is once again used to magnify the theme of parallelism between Aziz and Sultan. He makes best strategic use of the political climate of Daulatabad and steps in the guise of a holy man who was invited by the Sultan. The observance of prayer would only be resumed after the arrival of this much awaited guest.
The step-mother questions Tughlaq and reprimands him for his erratic and illogical behaviour. The proposal of equating the value of copper coins with silver dinars had led to a huge problem.
Around five hundred carts of counterfeit coins had to be exchanged for silver dinars, and the step-mother fears this might adversely affect the economy. Tughlaq is disturbed by the death of Najib, his adviser in political matters. He orders many of the Amirs and their families to be killed for not being able to reveal the murderer. On hearing of these innumerable deaths, the step-mother reveals the fact that she had Najib poisoned to death as she apprehended further violence. Tughlaq is further agonized by this revelation. He is torn apart and becomes mentally unstable. He orders her to be stoned to death for her crime. He is further isolated from his surroundings.
Barani announces that the descendant of the Khalifa has arrived and it is a time for resuming prayer in the kingdom.
Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
The people are afraid of the arrival of the holy man. They are further perplexed because in their opinion, prayer is not a befitting solution to death and famine. People have been mercilessly murdered; many others have starved to death in the long run. Prayer can no more save their starving frames.
Tughlaq welcomes Abbasid, who is infact Aziz in disguise. He uses high flown words and honorary titles for him, which, seen in the context of the play, sound hilarious since the readers are aware of the fact that it is Aziz in disguise. A Hindu woman who had lost her child on the way to Daulatabad recognizes Aziz, but she doesn’t speak. Riots follow this episode, since this is supposed to be yet another cleverly contrived measure at defeating the will of the citizens. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Summary
Aazam makes plans for escape from the palace with Aziz. Aziz resists these attempts because he believes he is comfortably placed in the Sultan’s custody. Moreover, Aazam’s sudden disappearance may give rise to questions. Aazam voices his fear of being recognized, whereas Aziz is contented with his circumstances. Aazam realizes the seriousness of the situation and pleads with Aziz to escape, but Aziz is confident enough not to even conceive of anything like this. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad
The unexpected assassination of Aazam brings Aziz to the Sultan. His identity is questioned and Aziz seems to be caught. Aziz cleverly absolves himself of all crime by eloquently arguing that he has been the true disciple of the Sultan, since he has unflinchingly observed each and every order of his. He was a disciple who closely imitated the actions of the Sultan himself, obeyed every bid of his and stood by every law.
He reveals the fact that when the Sultan declared the oneness of all religions, he, a common dhobi, was the first to file a suit against the Sultan in the garb of a Brahmin. He then produced counterfeit currency and obeyed the new law. He plundered people of their wealth and belongings on their way to Daulatabad. Exhausted with all this, he killed Abbasid and appeared in the garb of a holy man. On being asked what punishment would be appropriate for him, he requests the Sultan to promote him to the post of an officer. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad
The Sultan amazed at his genius and his deeds, appoints him the official of Deccan. Even Barani, the only surviving companion of Tughlaq, leaves him. His isolation is complete and he is a different being altogether. As he tries to get the forbidden sleep, the call for the prayer is heard and he falls asleep. After prayer, he gets up confused from his deep sleep. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad
‘Tughlaq by Girish Karnad’ is a historical play of a largely failed leadership of the great man of ideas, Mohammed Bin Tughlaq. All his politically contrived moves are most of the times, the products of his revengeful mind, his motives to exact revenge on his enemies, but never for the welfare of the state. Most of his ideas fail because, they lack fine execution and not find the support of the citizens. As the protagonist and leader of the state, throughout the play, he is never steady in his seat and he transforms into an antagonist gradually as the play moves on. He appeals to the audience as an antagonist rather than a protagonist. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad
Tughlaq : The protagonist of the play. The sultan who ruled Delhi Sultanate in 14th century. His full name is Mohammed Bin Tughlaq. He is otherwise known as JunaKhan or UlughKhan.
Aziz : One of the two robbers in ‘Tughlaq’. Aziz is a highway robber. He comes disguised as Vishnuprasad, a Brahmin. He also comes disguised as Abbasid killing the real Abbasid and meets Tughlaq.
Aazam : Another robber in the play, Aazam is the friend of Aziz and partner in his robberies. He takes part in all robbery of Aziz. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad
Ain-Ul-Mulk : Ain-Ul-Mulk is the ruler of Avadh who threatens an attack on Tughlaq.
Shihab-Ud-din : Shihab in ‘Tughlaq’ is incharge of Tughlaq, a courtier. Along with the Amirs, he plots to murder Tughlaq.
Ratan Singh : Ratan Singh is an adopted brother of Shihab-Ud-din. He joins Shihab, Amirs and Sayyids to teach a lesson for Tughlaq for his tyrannical attitude. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad Tughlaq by Girish Karnad
Najib : One of Tughlaq’s ministers, Najib is poisoned to death by Tughlaq’s step mother. Najib is one of two important acquaintances of Tughlaq who offers different perspective for the issue.
Barani : Zia-ud-din Barani is a historian, one of two important acquaintances of Tughlaq who offers different perspective for the issue.
Shams-Ud-din : Shams-ud-din is Sheikh Imam-ud-din who meets Tughlaq, accuses him of parricide and inflames hatred of his opponents. Sheikh’s physical attributes resemble those that of Tughlaq.
Abbasid : Ghiyas-Ud-din Abbasid who was murdered by Aziz, the highway robber.