Saturday, August 18, 2001
S L I C E   O F  H I S T O R Y

The story of Hisar

Why did Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq establish the city of Hisar, which lies in the desert belt? There are different reasons given by various historians but the most widely accepted one, maintains M.M. Juneja, is that the Sultan built the city, including the Gujari Mahal, for his beloved, a Gujari, who refused to live with him in Delhi.

THOUGH the present city of Hisar was founded in 1354 AD by Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq,its actual origin is as old as history itself. Its antiquity may be established on the basis of discovery of certain nearby sites like Banawali, Rakhigarhi, Seeswal, Agroha and Hansi. Historian V.S. Aggarwal writes: "Aisukari or Isukara, a beautiful and prosperous city of the Kuru Janapada, referred to by Panini, was the ancient name of Hisar." Besides, the Jain’s Uttaradhayama Sutra mentions a town called Isukara in the Kuru land. On the basis of excavations done on the lost courses of the Saraswati and Drishadvati rivers, it is learnt that the earliest settlers on the soil of Isukara were the pre-Harappans who, in the first phase of the 3rd millennium BC, had migrated from north Rajasthan.


According to a report, when Sultan Firoz started constructing the city of Hisar, there were two villages in that area, namely, Laara Khurd (big) and Laara Kalan (small), dominated by Muslim Gujars. There was also a dera near the hamlets, where a Sufi saint called Behlol Shah lived. The inhabitants of the nearby villages frequently flocked the dera to pay their respects to the Sufi saint, who was known for his piety and wisdom. The dera also had a well, which was the main source of drinking water for the nearby villagers.

The Gujari Mahal in Hisar
The Gujari Mahal in Hisar

The Sultan was aware of the scarcity of water in the area but he was determined to develop a beautiful city there. As no city can be developed without the availability of enough water, the Sultan drafted a plan for a canal, which was excavated by 1356. As the canal was filled with the Yamuna water, it was subsequently known as the Western Yamuna Canal.

The construction work of the city began in the last quarter of 1354 under the supervision of the Sultan himself. The royal palace, popularly known as the Gujari Mahal, was the main attraction of the city. Apart from its several underground rooms, the complex had different buildings like Bara-Dari, Laat-Ki-Masjid, Diwan-e-Aam, Shahi Darwaaza, etc. The well-laid-out gardens also added to the beauty of the palace complex. Most of the raw material used in it was brought from Agroha.

A boundary wall surrounded almost all the buildings of the palace. A good number of the nobles and amirs of the empire were also invited by Sultan Firoz to get their houses built in the walled city. The boundary wall was made of stones brought from the hills of Narsai (present Narnaul). The houses were built with lime and burnt bricks. A big tank was constructed inside the fort, and a ditch dug round the wall surrounded the fort-city. The walled city had four strong doors, subsequently known as the Talaki, Nagori, Delhi and Mori gates. For the use of travellers, a beautiful hamaam and masjid were constructed near the present Moti Bazaar. After the incessant work of two and a half years, the infrastructure of the city was completed by the first quarter of 1357.

Sultan Firoz Tughlaq named the city ‘Hisar-e-Firoza’, which meant ‘Fort of Firoz’. The word Hisar, also spelt as ‘Hissar’, is a Persian word meaning fort or kila. For nearly two centuries, the city was called Hisar-e-Firoza or Hisar-Firoza, but during the reign of Akbar (1556-1605), it came to be simply known as Hisar.

On its establishment, the city was made the headquarters of a separate division called the shiq. The adjoining districts — known as iqtas — of Agroha, Sarsuti, Salurah and Khizrabad were attached to the shiq of Hisar-Firoza. The first shiqdar of Hisar-Firoza division was an energetic official, Malik Dilah, who belonged to the royal family. Thus, the newly established divisional headquarters, Hisar-Firoza, began to emerge as an important centre of political and fiscal affairs of the empire.

The founder of the city, Sultan Firoz Tughlaq, was born in 1309. His mother, Bibi Naila, was the daughter of a Hindu chief, Ram Mal Bhatti, of Abohar. His father, Nasiruddin Rajab, was the younger brother of Giyasuddin, the first ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty. On his birth, Firoz was named Kamaluddin.

Since Firoz lost his father at the tender age of seven, his beloved uncle, Giyasuddin Tughlaq, took care of him. Firoz’s relations with his cousin, Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq (1325-51), were also cordial. After the death of his issueless cousin, Firoz ascended the throne of Delhi on March 23, 1351. Firoz ruled for more than 37 years.

Firoz was evidently an indefatigable builder of several towns and cities, including Fatehabad, Hisar-Firoza, Firozabad and Jaunpur. Because of his love for canals, he is rightly called the ‘Father of Indian Irrigation.’ Firoz Tughlaq died on September 20, 1388.The tomb of Firoz is in Delhi, which was the headquarters of his empire. The city of Hisar, regrettably, has built no memorial to its founder.

Why did Firoz establish the city of Hisar, which lies in the desert belt? There are different reasons given by various historians.

Firstly, the city was significant from the commercial point. It was built on the Suleman route, which started from Delhi and passing through Sirsa, Bhawalpur and Multan reached the borders of Iran. It was then one of the most important commercial routes of the country. To promote trade in the region, Firoz built this city.

Secondly, as per some historians, the inhabitants of the surrounding area, who were descendants of the Yodheys, were hostile. In order to crush their frequent rebellions, the Sultan decided to build a strong garrison in the shape of a fort.

Thirdly, it is said that the Sultan, who had a great love for hunting, frequently visited the birs (jungles) situated around the proposed city. These jungles were full of wild animals, especially the neel-gai, black bucks and the chinkara or ravine deer.

Lastly, it is believed that Prince Firoz fell in love with a local milk-maid. When Firoz became the Sultan, he asked the gujari to live with him in Delhi, but she refused. He thus built for his beloved the Gujari Mahal, and also developed the city of Hisar. Though this is the most widely acknowledged story, history is almost silent about it.

Hisar, at present, has the highest per capita income in Haryana. It is known for its biggest cattle farm in India and the largest auto-market in Asia. It has an agricultural university of world fame.