AKPIA-Medieval Studies Lecture in Medieval Islamic Architecture


Tuesday, March 31, 2020, 6:00pm to 7:30pm


Sackler Auditorium, 485 Broadway

Sunil Kumar (Delhi University), The Creation and Representation of Order: Ghiyas al-Din Tughluq’s Tughluqabad. Co-sponsored by the Committee on Medieval Studies, the Harvard Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, and the Harvard Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies. CANCELLED

The Sultanate redoubt of Tughluqabad, constructed by Sultan Ghiyas al-Din Tughluq (1320-24) soon after his accession, is one of the well-known, if miscounted, seven cities of Delhi that survives perilously in the southern plain of Delhi. This paper reads the construction of the city as an ‘event’ that communicated the political transitions in Ghiyas al-Din’s brief reign. But the manner of the city’s functional organisation, its usage of space and monumentality, also was embedded in the larger social and political ordering of early fourteenth-century Sultanate society. This paper therefore also addresses the contingencies surrounding the early fourteenth-century world and Ghiyas al-Din Tughluq’s reign, piecing together fragmentary details from the narrative and monumental detritus of the period that complicates the hegemonic readings of the Persianate word of the Delhi Sultans. What pasts can we resurrect of the Neguderid Turk whose roots belonged in the nomadic histories of Afghanistan and the trans-Caucasian world of the dasht-i Qipchaq? How do these pasts touch upon the history of the Tughluq dynasty in Delhi (1320-1418), on Tughluqabad, and the deeper social and political structuring of the Sultanate with its capital in Delhi? These questions challenge the ways in which conventional dyads—medieval and Islamic, Turk and tajik, Sultan and sufi—have been configured in Sultanate history. More precisely, they ask how the nature of the newly constructed citadel of Tughluqabad, its geography and its readings can provide a conflicted and therefore, a more accurate understanding of the dynamic and fluid fourteenth century Sultanate world.