Tughlaq: Play Scene 1 - Summary & Analysis

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      This is the opening scene of the play set in the yard in front of the Chief Court of Justice in Delhi in the year A.D. 1327.

      As the curtain rises many citizens including mainly Muslims and a few Hindus are seen waiting curiously for the final verdict in some court cases in progress.

      Meanwhile, a conversation between an Old Man and a Young Man follows in which they discuss the mode of administration and liberal policies of Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq. The Old Man seems to be disgusted with the wrong-headedness of the Sultan and feels somehow that the country is going to dogs now. He says he has never seen such a misrule in his long life before. The young man, however, contradicts him and defends the Sultan and says that the country is quite safe in the hands of the Sultan - “safer than any you’ve seen before.”

      He adds - “This king now, he isn’t afraid to be human.” He praises Muhammad’s qualities that this king stands for equality and humanism, so he is not the least afraid of anyone and he mixes up with people of all kinds freely. A Third Man intervenes and condemns the liberal policies of the Sultan arid finds no sense in exposing his own mistakes publicly.

      The Old Man and the Third Man are vehemently against the prevailing condition in the kingdom and accuse the Sultan of being anti-Islam because he had exempted the Hindus from payment of Jiziya- a tax recommended in the Holy Koran. They young Man, however, refutes the charge and says in favor of Muhammad that he cannot be called anti-Islam as he has made it mandatory for all Muslims to “pray five times a day” - “that’s the law”. Those found breaking it shall be punished. Furthermore, Muhammad is not a fanatic, instead he is rational in approach and follows the policy of equality for peace and harmony. He has displayed religious tolerance in dealing with Hindus. A Hindu fellow also joins and passes remarks that show how skeptical he is about the moves of Muhammad. The public opinion, however, is against the faulty administration responsible for progressive deterioration in the living conditions.

      The wait is over. An announcement is made. Kazi-ul-Mumalik, the Chief Justice has given the verdict that the claim of the Brahmin named Vishnu Prasad is just and that he will be paid a compensation amounting to five hundred silver dinars by the govt, treasury as his land had been seized unlawfully by the state officers. Furthermore, he has been offered a post in the civil service.

      Next is the appearance of Muhammad Tughalq, the Sultan on the stage who addresses the public and commends the Kazi for his justice done in case of the Brahmin. He is full of praise for him for his fair and impartial treatment of both Hindus and Muslims. The Sultan also announces his historical decision to shift the capital of his vast empire from Delhi to Daultabad. This too is not without reason. He says, Daultabad is centrally situated and moreover, Delhi is not safe in view of foreign attacks. This move will also promote Hindu-Muslim harmony as Daultabad (known as Devagiri) is inhabited mostly by the Hindus. He makes an earnest appeal to his subjects to support his plan which has already been approved by his ministers.

      This announcement causes a commotion in public mostly dominated by orthodox old Muslims who express their disgust and anger with the Sultan. They also discuss his cruelty and wrong-headedness how he had managed to get his father and brother killed at the time of prayer.

      The crowd disperses. Only Aazam hangs around to see the Brahmin who also shortly comes out of the court. He is soon recognized by Aazam that he is not Brahmin, but a Muslim dhobi (washerman) whose name is Aziz. Aazam himself turns out to be a Pocketmar (pickpocket) - both embrace each other. They have been close friends.

      Aziz requests Aazam to “keep his voice down” lest he should be exposed. Aazam agrees, but he’ll have to tell him how the idea of filing a suit as a Hindu against the Sultan came to his mind. Aziz narrates his success story.

      Aziz, while mimicking a public announcer, tells him that on the second anniversary of coronation of the Sultan there was an announcement:

Henceforth people may file a suit against the Sultan himself for the misbehavior of his officers... No one need have any
fear...Justice will be done...etc.

      This, in fact, inspired him to contact a Brahmin named Vishnu Prasad whose land had been confiscated earlier and got ready a back-dated document in his favor and thus filed a suit to test the sincerity of the announcement. The result.is well-known - a victory, compensation ‘for nothing’ and a job in the civil service.

Critical Analysis

      The opening scene introduces the protagonist Muhammad Tughlaq both as the Sultan of a vast empire as well as a just human being. It also introduces a few more characters who voice public opinion. Muhammad is characterized by idealism, love for justice, equality, peace and harmony between Hindus and Muslims. He is fair, impartial and religious. He is gifted with extraordinary power and intelligence to create a new history. In order to translate his dreams into reality and to establish communal harmony, he has taken certain steps such as abolition of the Jizia, his decision to shift the capital, treating Hindus as equals.

      Unfortunately, his mode of administration in general and his liberal policies based on idealism are not received by the public favorably. Both Muslims and Hindus are critical about him. Orthodox Muslims condemn vehemently his inclination towards the Hindus who were given exemption from Jizia and treated as equals. Even his move to shift the capital from Delhi to Daultabad was declared an act of madness. Even Hindus doubt his sincerity and call his ‘moves’ diplomatic.

      The purpose of the playwright seems to suggest that Muhammad is understood by nobody. The scene thus reflects the atmosphere of doubt, uncertainty, opposition and criticism in the times of Mohammad Tughlaq that forms the basis of the play.

      The scene also reveals another side of Muhammad’s character, of course, through public views, that he is very much suspected to have murdered his own father and brother for the throne. This has certainly tarnished his image, though his guilt is not proved. His defenders plead for him and say Mohammad is so noble, religious and ideal that he can’t be treacherous. It was an accident in which his father and brother were involved.

      The audience is also introduced to two characters: Aziz and Aazam who deceive the judiciary and the common people respectively. Aziz is meant to take undue advantage of the liberal policies of the Sultan. He mocks at judiciary by winning a false case. Under disguise he creates fun and laughter. Aazam, a pickpocket shows his skill in deceiving the common man.

      Disguise of Aziz is used as a dramatic technique to give rise to several dramatic effects in the play such as fun and laughter, irony, mistaken identity. Thus they also contribute to the development of the plot.

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