Tughlaq: Play Important Passages Analysis

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And then I want to go back to their poetry and sink myself in their words. Then again I want to climb up, up to the top of the tallest tree in the world, and call out to my people: ‘Come, my people, I am waiting for you. Confide in me your worries. Let me share your joys. Let’s laugh and cry together and then, let’s pray. Let’s pray till our bodies melt and flow and our blood turns into air. History is ours to play with— ours now! Let’s be the light and cover the earth with greenery. Let’s be darkness and cover up the boundaries of nations. Come! I am waiting to embrace you all!’ But then how can I spread my branches in the stars while the roots have yet to find their hold in the earth? I wish I could believe in recurring births like the Hindu but I have only one life, one body, and my hopes, my people, my God are all fighting for it. Tell me, how dare I waste my time by sleeping? And don’t tell me to go and get married and breed a family because I won’t sleep.

      Girish Kamad has already presented Muhammad Tughlaq as the Sultan of Delhi in scene one who has a great longing to do something extraordinary, to “build an empire which will be the envy of the world.” Naturally he has to pass sleepless nights thinking all the time how to achieve the goal.

      When his step-mother shows her great concern for his insomnia, the romantic idealist becomes highly imaginative and in reply to her, makes a long speech in which he displays his scholarship and concern for the welfare of his subjects. He tells her he has no time to waste by sleeping. He wants to reach the height of glory and achievement and thereby raises himself above the common level of humanity and be god-like. Then he would exhort his people to come forward and extend their support and cooperation to bring about a new world-order. Then they would share joys and sufferings together. Suddenly, he becomes diplomatic. He says that one life is too short for his ambitious schemes. He wishes he could believe in re-birth like the Hindu.

Critical Analysis

Tughlaq’s soaring idealism is discernible here.

He impresses upon the audience that he is not only a great scholar but also gifted with poetic sensibility.

This is a diplomatic speech indeed to win the Hindus.


Do you know why I gave up Hinduism?
Because it didn’t speak of salvation of society. It only talked of the soul - my individual soul — while a poor, frenzied world screamed in agony around, So I became a Muslim.

      Najib, Muhammad’s vizier, tells here about his conversion to Islam. He justifies his action by establishing supremacy of Islam over Hinduism by saying that Islam advocates for the betterment of the entire society; whereas, Hindusim is confined only to the emancipation of individual soul. He expresses his hope that one day Islam will surely bring the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

Critical Analysis

      Kamad has shown here that Najib is as crafty as his Lord Muhammad. Like his master he is also secretive in his inner designs and conceals his real motive in the guise of religion.

His conversion is a diplomatic move to be close to the Sultan and enjoy power and position.


I can quote scores of transgressions. If they weren’t wilful, they could only be results of ignorance. But I can’t believe that in a scholar of your eminence. Perhaps you are sincere. But if one fails to understand what the Koran says one must ask the Sayyids and the Ulema. Instead you have put the best of them behind bars in the name of justice.

      This speech of Sheikh Imam-ud-din in scene three is a vehement attack on Muhammad’s conduct against religious leaders in the context of the Sultan’s defensive statement that he has never gone consciously against the tenets of Islam.

      The Sheikh, though admits that Muhammad is a great scholar and sincere too, blames Muhammad for his deviations from the path of religion as he has been unjust and harsh in dealing with Sayyids and Ulema. Most of them had been put to imprisonment.

Critical Analysis

      The passage throws light on Muhammad’s character that he is a scholar and a sincere person.

However, his revengeful attitude is also discernible. He cannot tolerate orthodox Muslims and fanatics as he himself poses to be secular in outlook.


They tried to indulge in politics - I couldn’t allow that. I have never denied the word of god, Sheikh Sahib, because it is my bread and drink. I need it most when the surrounding void pushes itself into my soul and starts putting out every light burning there. But I am alone in my life. My kingdom has millions - Muslims, Hindus, Jains.

      This is Muhammad’s reply to Sheikh Imam-ud-din when his action of putting the sayyids and ulema behind bars was criticized by the Sheikh who regarded it as a ‘transgression’ from Koran.

      Muhammad defends himself and justifies his stand by saying that those orthodox Muslim leaders had tried to indulge in dirty politics and pollute the atmosphere and thus proved hurdles in his way of establishing communal harmony. His policy of secularism is the only way to establish peace as there are all kinds of people in his kingdom, Muslims, Hindus, Jains. Moreover, he has to adopt strict measures as he wanted to clean the dirt deposited by those people.

Critical Analysis

Muhammad’s secularism is discernible here, as a part of his idealism.

Muhammad’s sense of responsibility is evident. He, in all sincerity, wants welfare of his subjects and progress in his kingdom.


The Arabs spread Islam round the world and they struggled and fought for it for seven hundred years. They are tired now, limp and exhausted. But their work must continue and we need someone to take the lead. You could do it, you are one of the most powerful kings on earth today and you could spread the kingdom of Heaven on earth. God has given you everything - power, learning, intelligence, talent. Now you must repay his debt.

      These words of Imam-ud-din are meant to remind Muhammad of his inherent qualities and also to inspire him to take the lead for the spread of Islam throughout the world as the Arabs have been doing for centuries together. There is a need of someone like the Sultan who is quite capable of exercising his influence on others to further the cause of Islam.

Critical Analysis

This passage is a tribute to Muhammad’s virtues and capabilities.

It reflects the public image of Muhammad that he is regarded as a powerful king, who is endowed with power, learning, intelligence, talent by God.

In history too, Muhammad is remembered even today as an ideal Sultan with noble qualities and fair intentions, but whimsical and impulsive in creating utopian plans.


Don’t I know it? I still remember the day when I read the Greeks - Sukrat who took poison so he could give the world the drink of Gods, Aflatoon who condemned poets and wrote incomparably beautiful poetry himself - and I can still feel the thrill with which I found a new world, a world I had not found in the Arabs or even the Koran. They tore me into shreds. And to be whole now, I shall have to kill the part of me which sang to them. And my kingdom too is what I am - tom into pieces by visions whose validity I can’t deny. You are asking me to make myself complete by killing the Greek in me and you propose to unify my people by denying the visions which led Zarathustra or the Buddha. (Smiles) I’m sorry. But it can’t be done.

      Muhammad Tughlaq, in these words, replies to Sheikh Imam-ud-din who advises Muhammad to adhere to Islam strictly, otherwise his personality will split into two halves and he will always be in a miserable state of conflict and confusion. Muhammad tells him that he is fully aware of it because has read so much besides the narrow teachings of Koran. He has read and understood the teachings of great Greek philosophers like Socrates and Plato who themselves had suffered for their beliefs. His personality as of now is the result of different kinds of education. He is also influenced by the ideals and visions for which Zarathustra and Buddha stood.

      Very frankly Muhammad tells the Sheikh that if he follows Islam work for its spread alone he will have to kill everything beautiful and thrilling and ideal found in Greek literature, and that is not possible for him.

Critical Analysis

This passage illustrates Muhammad’s love for Greek literature and culture, besides his great admiration for the teachings of the Koran. This is his broad-mindedness and secularism.

He also shows his regard for the noble and enlightening visions of Zarathustra or Buddha.

Muhammad shows his strength of character. He would like to suffer like Socrates or Plato but never deviate from his ideals.


What hopes I had built up when I came to the throne! I had wanted every act in my kingdom to become a prayer, every prayer to become a further step in knowledge, every step to lead us nearer to god. But our prayers too are ridden with disease, and must be exiled.

      While talking to Barani in the context of the conspiracy of the Amirs led by Shihab-ud-din to kill Muhammad at prayer time that could be averted though, Muhammad is greatly enraged, and expresses his disillusionment, after stabbing Shihab-ud-din in a frenzied manner the idealist suddenly becomes a tyrant. His realization is that he has been too soft, and now they will understand the language of the whip alone. He also realizes that people have not understood him. His faith in Islam and prayer has been abused. He had made it compulsory to pray five times a day to create religious atmosphere in the kingdom. But the plan to kill him at prayer time shows how “prayers too are ridden with disease,” that something pious is polluted. Hence, he orders, “no more praying in the kingdom.”

Critical Analysis

The passage illustrates Muhammad’s disillusionment and transformation into a tyrant.

It is also ironic to note that Muhammad was about to be killed at prayer time who himself is accused of having killed his father and brother at prayer time.

Girish Kamad’s use of irony in the life of Muhammad is a part of his dramatic technique.


My dear fellow, that’s where our future is - politics! It’s a beautiful world - wealth, success, position, power - and yet it’s full of brainless people, people with not an idea in their head. When I think of all the tricks I used in our village to pinch a few tom clothes from people - if one uses half that intelligence here, one can get robes of power. And not to have to pinch them either - get them! It’s a fantastic world!

      Aziz here talks to Aazam and expresses his desire to join politics to earn wealth and power in the context of Aazam’s frustrating statement that now he is too tired and exhausted to be a pick-pocket. One day he will be caught and ruined. He says, “What other future’s there for us.”

      Aziz, in an amusing and satirical manner, suggests that there is great future in politics. This is an area where no brain is required and is suitable for a dhobi (posing as a brahmin) like himself and also for Aazam, the pickpocket and thief. Both of them have been deceiving the eyes of others. Luckily, Aziz had become an officer following his victory in a legal case based on a fraud. However, they are tired of their present profession and Aziz thinks it will be safer and more peaceful if they join politics. He tries to convince Aazam that politics needs no brain, and if they use only half their intelligence they will be quite successful and this fantastic world will offer them enough wealth, power and position.

Critical Analysis

      The playwright aims at a powerful satire on politics and politicians through these words of Aziz — “it’s full of brainless people, with not an idea in their head.”

The passage also throws light on the political conditions prevailing in the times of Muhammad Tughlaq.

It also serves the purpose of light-hearted fun and comic relief immediately after the scene of murder and horror.


Yes, it’s a long passage, a big passage, coiled like an enormous hollow python inside the belly of the fort. And we shall be
far, far happier when that python breaks out and swallows everything in sight - every man, woman, child, and beast.

      This is reply of Old Man (middle-aged watchman) to the queries of the young watchman regarding a “strange and frightening passage” within the Daultabad fort who describes it as a huge hollow python. It symbolically suggests the danger that lies ahead for everyone falling victim of Muhammad’s tyrannical rule. The fort within is always ready to swallow ‘everything in sight’, it is so bloodthirsty, cruel and savage and wild. And so is Muhammad who hangs people merely on suspicion. The Old Man himself has been a sufferer. During mass exodus from Delhi to Daultabad he lost his father, his son and so he apprehends disaster, chaos and misery in near future.

Critical Analysis

This passage is highly indicative of Muhammad’s savage, cruel and inhuman behavior causing unrest, violence, revolts all around the fort.

It also throws light on moral degradation of Muhammad and also degeneration of his personality.

The use of python as a symbol of ferocity and blood-thirstiness of Muhammad is remarkable.


Nineteen. Nice age! An age when you think you can clasp the whole world in your palm like a rare diamond. I was twenty-one when I came to Daultabad first, and built this fort. I supervised the placing of every brick in it and I said to myself, one day I shall build my own history like this, brick by brick.

      One night Muhammad Tughlaq stands on the ramparts of the old fort in Daultabad and talks to Young Man (the watchman) who is nineteen. Muhammad is reminded of his own past when he had built the fort when he was only twenty-one. That was the time when he was young, enthusiastic and romantic full of idealism and visionary plans. So, he inspires the young watchman to stick to his ideals to realize his dreams of life. He gives his own example how he at his age (watchman’s) had dreamt to fulfill his ideals and create history slowly and slowly as the fort was built brick by brick. Nineteen is the age when one can leave one’s ideal image behind in history to be remembered permanently.

      However, things have gone wrong in Muhammad’s life and now he stands completely disillusioned and hopeless and he has failed miserably to translate his dreams into reality.

Critical Analysis

Muhammad’s moral dilemma is discernible here.

Though himself disillusioned, Muhammad encourages the young watchman to conquer the whole world by doing something extraordinary as ‘nineteen’ is a wonderful age when an individual can make the best use of his potential to achieve immortality in history as he himself had hoped.


But it isn’t that easy. It isn’t as easy as leaving the patient in the wilderness because there’s no cure for his disease. Don’t you see - this patient, racked by fever and crazed by the fear of the enveloping vultures, can’t be separated from me? Don’t you see that the only way I can abdicate is by killing myself?

      Muhammad has already described the miserable condition of his kingdom for which he himself is responsible. While talking to his close companion Barani, the historian he mentions how his own trusted nobles have risen up in rebellion against him, the common people are starving and rioting and the economy has gone to dogs due to the flourishing industry of counterfeit copper coins. And further, the country has become “honeycomb of diseases”.

      When Barani suggests that Muhammad’s true place is “in the company of learned men” and “Not in the market of corpses,” Muhammad in the above lines, explains his moral dilemma that now it is too late, and moreover, he can’t shun away from his responsibility. He can’t retire from his throne and go to Mecca, sit by the Kaaba and search for peace which Daultabad hasn’t given him. It is not easy to leave his sick kingdom, the patient in lurch to become victim of the rebellious nobles who like vultures have been preying upon his kingdom.

      Thus Muhammad tells Barani his helplessness to cure his kingdom’s sickness as well as his own sickness. The only way is perhaps to kill himself and redeem his guilt.

Critical Analysis

      In this passage Muhammad expresses his moral dilemma, his burden of existence under which he feels badly crushed, he “can neither bear nor throw off?” - a Nietzchean experience indeed.

The passage also illustrates Muhammad’s profound spiritual anguish and mental agony owing to his acute sense of responsibility and his inability to translate his dreams into reality.

His death-wish expressed in the passage is an instance of revolt against self to discover some value-a theme of great significance in the hands of existentialists like Camus and others.

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