Tughlaq: Play Scene 6 - Summary & Analysis

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      This is the scene of Darbar-i-khas in the palace. Muhammad appears on the stage accompanied by Najib and Barani. After a brief silence, Muhammad is shown restless, pacing up and down. Barani breaks the silence, meanwhile the door-keeper enters and announces the arrival of the Amirs along with Shihab. Muhammad greets them and asks them to be quick in raising their problems if any, as he has promised the Imam to be at the mosque for prayer. When no reply comes Muhammad announces his two important decisions: First, he has invited Ghiyas-ud-din Abbasid of the holy family to visit the new capital (Daultabad); Second, from next year they shall have copper currency in their empire along with the silver dinars, both having the same value.

      Shihab-ud-din, ‘however’ implores His majesty not to move the capital to Dualtabad in view of the general unrest all around. To this Muhammad justifies his action with explanation that the empire cannot flourish with Delhi as its capital. Regarding Ghiyas-ud-din’s visit he says it will show how faithful I am or how religious I am or even perhaps how modest”. When doubts are raised by Shihab-ud-din and the Amirs Muhammad tries to convince them by referring to China’s paper currency that is readily accepted by the public who have faith in the Emperor’s seal on the pieces of paper. So it’s all a matter of confidence and trust. Why not faith in copper currency!

      When the Amirs object to his policies and one of them calls him mad in a whispering tone Muhammad feels offended but very diplomatically he begins to beg for their support in the implementation of his policies that are in public interest. He pleads before them, “I have hopes of building a new future for India and I need your support, for that.”

      Muhammad, while pleading, kneels before them. Shihab-ud-din feels embarrassed, the Amirs, shocked. They show readiness to be commanded by him. But when it comes to taking oath on the Koran to support the Sultan’s plans, they hesitate.

      Meanwhile, Muezzin’s call is heard. They begin to pray. Half-way through the prayer a commotion is heard off-stage which is taken as a signal to attack by Shihab-ud-din and others who pull out their daggers very much like Brutus and the conspirators to stab Julius Caesar, but ironically enough, here the table is turned and twenty Hindu soldiers rush in with spears and take the Amirs into custody. Only Shihab is left behind. Interestingly, Muhammad continues his prayer unconcerned as he was confident of his plan of defence. After finishing the prayer he steps down from the throne and on being asked by Shihab as to how he could know about the conspiracy against him Muhammad shows Ratansingh’s letter for warning him. Shihab understands now that Ratansingh has avenged his father’s murder in that way. He loses all hope, yet challenges Muhammad for the last battle perhaps. “Get on with your killing, Muhammad.” This all the more enrages Muhammad and he stabs him, goes on stabbing him and hits out at Shihab’s dead body fiercely.

      Anger follows disgust. Muhammad throws down his dagger and turns to Barani and raises a series of unanswerable questions in a deeply anguished tone:

Why must this happen, Barani? Are all those I trust condemned to go down in history as traitors? What is happening? Tell me, Barani, will my reign be nothing more than a tortured scream which will stab the night and melt away in the silence?

      Muhammad turns to Najib and orders that all the traitors be “caught and beheaded, their bodies stuffed with straw and hanged for a week. No, their bodies be put up for pubic display round the entire kingdom to be taken as an exemplary punishment for treachery. As for Shihab, giving a twist to the whole situation, Muhammad asks Najib to make a public announcement that he sacrificed his life while saving the life of Muhammad who was attacked by the nobles of the court-an act of rebellion to kill him at the time of prayer. What a heroic deed! What a great martyr Shihab is! He shall be buried with full state honor in Delhi, where his noble father will be invited to attend this grand funeral. His father will be given due importance and respect on this occasion.

      “Oh God! Aren’t even the dead free from you politics?” Barani’s exclamation here confirms that Muhammad Tughlaq is a shrewd manipulator whose political moves are well-calculated.

      Further, Najib apprehends and attracts the attention of His Majesty that Hindu guards who have witnessed the scene “are bound to talk” they should also be hanged along with the culprits. The Sultan now issues an order that Delhi is vacated immediately. Plus, within a fortnight, all must leave for Daultabad:

      Everyone must leave. Not a light should be seen in the windows of Delhi... Nothing but an empty graveyard of Delhi will satisfy me now.

      Barani is so much shocked that he prays to God “May Heaven protect us!” This reminds Muhammad of his religious obligations, but he stands so much disillusioned that he can only express his despair and frustration.

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.

      At his point of time Muhammad’s feelings seem to be genuine in view of the dirty role being played by the custodians of Islam. When he came to the throne he did his best to be a true follower of Islam, his intentions were pious and his plans meant for communal harmony, peace and progress, but now he suffers from intense disillusionment. His order is harsh:

There will be no more praying in the kingdom, Najib. Anyone caught praying will be severely punished.

Najib, however, suggests humbly “we say there’ll be no more prayers till Ghiyas-ud-din Abbasid, the descendant of the Khalif, visits us.” Muhammad does not reply, his silence is approval.

Critical Analysis

      This scene of Durbar-i-Khas is highly significant as it is marked by various developments in the plot. It also throws ample light on the true character of Muhammad Tughlaq. It is evident here that he is a man of conplex nature, a shrewd and crafty politician. His announcement regarding the visit of Ghiyas-ud-din is to show, as he himself admits “how faithful I am or how religious I am or even perhaps how modest.” But the fact is known to the audience how much Muhammad means what he says. The way he turns the table while dealing with conspirators also shows his shrewdness. His craftiness lies in stabbing Shihab to death and declaring him a martyr. Even the dead are not free from his politics, this is what Barami says. His exclamation here is pertinent. Shihab’s father will be given eminence and Shihab himself, a state funeral.

      His second announcement regarding introduction of copper currency is also significant which invites criticism from the Amirs. Muhammad is unmindful of the fact that he himself is responsible for the uprising against him. However, he knows fully well how to avert the situation and put the rebels into an ironical situation from which escape was imposible. Wisely enough, he turns the whole table. His firm and quick decisions show him a man of action for whom returning was not possible. His actions on the stage make the play highly dramatic and interesting full of surprising turns. ‘No action, no drama’, is the dictum that holds good even today. His decision to evacuate Delhi within a fortnight is a queer one to suppress the revolt as many people were involved in conspiracy. This is his unusual ability to tackle the problems in his own way. He is bold and assertive in giving directives:

No light should be seen in the windows of Delhi. Not a wisp of smoke should rise from its chimneys. Nothing but an empty graveyard of Delhi will satisfy me now.

      This hate speech of Muhammad is indicative of his cruel and vindictive nature. After getting disillusioned he declares that even prayers be abandoned.

But our prayers too are ridden with disease, and must be exiled. There will be no more praying in the kingdom, Najib. Anyone caught praying will be severely punished.

      These are the words of a person who has been claiming to be a religious man, a devoted follower of Islam.

      One is reminded of the scene in Shakespeare’s Julius caesar in which Brutus along with other conspirators stabbed Caesar to death with difference though, here Shihab made a similar attempt, but it is aborted and table turned as Muhammad, unlike Caeser, had already known about conspiracy through Ratansingh’s letter and thus he had made adequate defence arrangements. Twenty Hindu soldiers already deputed outside rushed into the chamber to drag away the Amirs and leave behind only Shihab to be killed by the Sultan himself.

      Ratansingh’s role is also dramatic. First he took Shihab into confidence, got him ready to lead the conspirators and then by exposing him he took revenge. As it is known, his father was killed by Shihab’s father. This was perhaps the best way to be avenged upon Shihab’s father. The concluding part of Scene Six is the announcement made for the citizens of Delhi to leave for Daultabad within the next month - an amendment perhaps. Earlier the Sultan had given hardly a fortnight.

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