This is the character sketch of important characters in the play Tughlaq by Girish Karnad.
The major character in the play is Muhammad Bin Tughlaq also known as Sultan. The characters – Aziz and Aazam can also be seen as major characters as they appear throughout the play and form a sort of subplot to the story.
Muhammad Bin Tughlaq
Tughlaq is the emperor. His character is highly complex and enigmatic throughout the play. He holds all the power after the death of his father and elder brother by an accident as he claims. However, many citizens think that Tughlaq killed both of them for power, as his mother thinks. Tughlaq is aware of this but does not bother initially. He is an idealist and visionary, he puts forward many new laws which the citizens find difficult to accept. He makes rational decisions without thinking about the consequences. Tughlaq is a character who has made enmity with most other characters in the play. He receives negative criticisms throughout the play.
He implemented the following rules in his Country:
- Hindus were exempted from paying tax of Jizia.
- Hindus were given the right to complain against the King’s Civil Servants for any impunity they suffer.
- The capital of India was shifted to Delhi from Daulatabad.
- Introduction of Token Currency.
Tughlaq also played a great part in many tragic events in the play. He has murdered several characters in the play. They are:
- Tughlaq’s Father (to get the throne)
- Tughlaq’s Brother (The throne would be for the eldest son, so for the throne, he was killed)
- Sheikh Imam-Udin
- His Step Mother (Punishment for killing Najib, who she thought was a bad influence for her Tughlaq)
- Sadar Ratan-Singh’s father (by Tughlaq’s father)
Tughlaq has several enemies and he overcomes each one by killing them. At last, he has only Barani who is a noble friend but he too leaves Tughlaq seeing him doing treacherous acts.
There are many minor characters in Tughlaq. They are:
- The Stepmother (Tughlaq’s stepmother)
- Aazam (Aziz’s Friend)
- Najib (Vizier Muhammad Najib)
- Barani (Zia-Ud-Din Barani)
- Sheikh Imam-Uddin
- Sardar Ratan Singh
- Ghiyas-Ud-Din Abbasid
Let us see the character sketch of them one by one.
The stepmother is not given a name. She is a good mother and cares for her son even though he is widely criticized for his rational behaviour. She wishes to forget that Tughlaq murdered her husband and son. The stepmother has a varied opinion about Tughlaq’s Friends – Najib and Barani. She finds Barani is a good companion for Tughlaq but realizes that Najib is a bad influence for him. She poisons him, which leads to his death. However, she does not lie about it to Tughlaq. When Tughlaq comes to know the truth, he orders that she should be stoned to death. The stepmother tries to control Tughlaq but becomes the victim to his cruelty.
Aziz & Aazam
Aziz is a character who is present throughout the play. He is a Muslim dhobi. He is a shrewd man who deceives Tughlaq. After the announcement of the law where any citizen may file a complaint against the King for any suffering caused by the Civil Servants; he disguises himself as a Brahmin (Vishnu Prasad). He goes to court saying that he has lost his land. He gets a piece of land, some compensation and a job in Civil Service. He cheats Tughlaq using his law. He appears in the play alongside his friend Aazam.
Aazam is Aziz’s friend. He picks pockets and is shocked by what Aziz has done. He along with Aziz manage the crowds of people moving to Daulatabad. They take bribe from the people to end their suffering. If they did not bribe them, then they were left there to suffer. A woman asked for leave to see her sick daughter but she was denied leave as she had no money to bribe them. Both of them threaten Ghiyas-Ud-Din and Aziz ends up killing him. He goes before Tughlaq as Ghiyas-Ud-Din in disguise. The character of Aziz resonates with Tughlaq. However, Aazam is not so much like Aziz though he has a part in the cruelty they have committed. As the riots break out, Aazam is scared and flees the place. Though Aziz believes that they can be with Sultan and loot money. Aazam is murdered. Aziz is questioned by Tughlaq, where he confesses about all his lies.
Aziz’s life is spared by Tughlaq. There we can see kindness in Tughlaq, though he has cheated and fooled him. Aziz is a liar and a thief. He takes several disguises (Brahmin, Tughlaq’s Officer, Holy man) and tries to rob money from others. However, in the last scene of the play, he confesses but has lost his companion Aazam.
Najib is a politician and an advisor to Tughlaq. He is loyal to Tughlaq and is trusted by him. Though Najib is seen as an evil Influence to Tughlaq by his stepmother and Barani(Tughlaq’s friend) Najib has a network of spies to keep him informed of all the movements against Tughlaq. He does not trust anybody. Najib is the planner of many murders that Tughlaq commits.
Barani is a historian and an advisor to Tughlaq. He is loyal to Tughlaq and tries not to indulge in the evil influence of Najib. He tells Tuglaw to neglect any information that may turn him aggressive. Barani is one of the noble characters who have a true sense of truth and morality. He is trusted by the stepmother to help Tughlaq deliver justice to the citizens. His life is spared by the stepmother for his noble behaviour and Najib is killed by her. After the mad actions of Tughlaq, Barani leaves him and provides no reason.
Sheikh Imam Uddin is the biggest opponent of Tughlaq. He criticizes Tughlaq’s foolish acts. He argues that Tughlaq has murdered his father and brother. The citizens trust Imam and he has a big audience. Sheikh is also a noble character, who tries to put forward the truth to the citizens. Later Tughlaq invites him for a meeting to humiliate him though that plan fails. He, later on, plots his death and send him to Ain-ul-Mulk to stop the war. Tughlaq had persuaded him by saying that many Muslims would die in the war and for them to be saved the war had to be stopped. Ain-ul-Mulk’s men think Imam is Tughlaq and is killed.
Shihab-Ud-Din is an administrator and a dependable man. His father is an enemy of Tughlaq. He is misguided by Sheikh Shams-ud-in and Sadar Ratan Singh that Tughlaq has to be killed. Sadar Ratan Singh gains Shihab’s sympathy by saying he is his adopted brother and that his father was killed by Tughlaq. Tughlaq finds this conspiracy, Shihab is killed. Shihab’s honest words are that Tughlaq will be killed one day.
Sardar Ratan Singh
Sadar Ratan Singh is also an opponent to Tughlaq. He is from a royal descend. His father was killed by Tughlaq’s father hence he wants to take vengeance. He is cunning and pretends to be friends with Tughlaq while hating him in secret. He was sent with Sheikh Imam ud-in to meet Ain-ul-Mulk but he escapes. He was killed secretly by Tughlaq’s men.
Ain-ul-Mulk is a trusted friend and companion of Tughlaq. He is a great champion in chess. He does not appear in the play but has a relevant character in the plot of the play. He is the first person who raises an army against him. He is made the Governor of Deccan by Tughlaq. Nobody suspects him though he is a strong opponent to Tughlaq.