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Robert Sewell’s A Forgotten Empire, Vijaynagar, has this rather gruesome bit of history referred to as the best known of Muhammad bin Tughluq‘s inhumane eccentricities. MBT was the Sultan of Delhi from 1325-1351 and has been described as a a scholar versed in logic, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and physical sciences, with knowledge of medicine and skilled in dialectics. The said incident concerns the Sultan’s decision to move the capital from Delhi to Devagiri (later renamed Daulatabad) located about 600 miles away. Sewell quotes Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan scholar and traveler, who was in Delhi at that time.

“The Sultan ordered all inhabitants to quit the place (Delhi), and upon some delay being evinced he made a proclamation stating that what person soever, being an inhabitant of the city, should be found in any of its houses or streets should receive condign punishment. Upon this they all went out; but his servants finding a blind man in one of the houses and a bedridden one in the other, the Emperor commanded the bedridden man to be projected from a balista, and the blind one to be dragged by his feet to Daulatabad, which is at a distance of ten days, and he was so dragged; but his limbs dropping off by the way, only one of his legs was brought to the place intended, and was thrown into it; for the order had been that they should go to this place. When I entered Delhi, it was almost a desert.”

Battuta relates that during the interval of desolation, the king mounted on the roof of his palace, and seeing the city empty and without fire or smoke said, “Now my heart is satisfied and my feelings are appeased”.


I am not half-way through the book; the numerous references to blindings, flayings, bodies being chopped into pieces, and villages massacred in their entirety makes one really appreciate the times in which we live.

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