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One of the critical issues that Karnad addresses in Tulghlaq is the striking gap between political aspirations and its reality. Karnad understands this about the historical conditions that surround Tulghlaq, himself:
When I read about Mohammed bin Tughlaq, I was fascinated. How marvelous this was, I thought. Tughlaq was a brilliant individual yet is regarded as one of the biggest failures. He tried to introduce policies that seemed today to be farsighted to the point of genius, but which earned him the nick name "Mohammed the mad" then. He ended his career in bloodshed and chaos.
This is seen in different aspects throughout his Tughlaq's characterization. Karnad renders a vision where the reality and aspirations collide. How this plays out in the mind of the political ruler becomes one of the central issues of the drama.
As the drama opens, Tughlaq implores his subjects to observe a social setting in "without any consideration of might or weakness, religion or creed." The idealism with which Karnad depicts Tughlaq is in stark contrast to both the historical judgment of him rendered and the political reality within which Tughlaq must work. Such a depiction shows how difficult political authority is. It is one that compels authentically transformative leaders to risk much in order to challenge an existing system that goes against their vision. Karnad's depiction of Tughlaq as one who sought to put aside religious differences in the hopes of embracing secularism is a powerful issue in the drama. The ability to strive to put forth a vision of what can be amidst a setting that is hopelessly immersed in a reality of what is. Tulghlaq states early on that he wishes to see unity between Hindus and Muslims as a significant part of his vision: "Daulatabad is a city of Hindus and as the capital, it will symbolize the bond between Muslims and Hindus which I wish to develop and strengthen in my kingdom." Aspiration collides with reality as Tulghlaq fails in his vision. It is because of such a condition that Karnad suggests Tulghlaq is seen as a failure.
This dynamic is significant when set against the condition in which Karnad writes the drama. In 1964, India had been less than two decades removed from Partition and Independence. The result was a nation where direction and transformative vision was hard to establish. A nation born from Gandhian principles was still hopelessly locked in sectarian violence and communal hatred, the very elements that Karnad's Tulghlawq desires to overcome in the drama. The theme of political aspiration being limited by temporal reality is a significant one in both the drama and the historical condition in which it is written. Tulghaq's initial judgment rendered upon a Brahmin that he "should receive a grant of five hundred silver dinars from the state treasury… and in addition to that…a post in the civil service to ensure him a regular and adequate income" is a reflection of how a transformative political vision might not necessarily be received well by the public. This theme of political transformation stumped in the face of temporal reality is a significant part of the drama. It is reflective of the India that Karnad sees in front of him, a stunning realization between the gulf between what is and what can be. The chaos and fragmentation that results out of a vision steeped in genius and transformation becomes a part of both the ruler's narrative and the nation's history.
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