A fort of prestige, money & power

A fort of prestige, money & power

Daulatabad Fort in Aurangabad district of the Marathwada region  in Maharashtra is one of the strong forts of medieval Deccan. It holds in awe visitors and makes historians to explore into some new aspects of the fort.

It was known as Devagiri or Deogiri meaning 'Hill of Gods' but it was changed to Daulatabad which means 'The Abode of Wealth'. The town was part of the carvan routes in the sixth century.

The fort had changed hands several times in a period of nearly 1,000 years and rulers made efforts to improve or modify it. The fort among other things has a dark passage (blind alley), multi-layered fortification and strategically-placed cannons.

Impregnable by military standards and an example of strategic planning, the fort falls between Aurangabad city and Ellora Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring Buddhist, Jain and
Hindu monuments.

The ground-cum-hill fort spread over 95 hectares currently comes under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Built on a 200-metre high conical hill, the fort was defended by moat and glacis running around the hill at its foot besides the most complex and intricate defence system. The fortifications comprise three encircling walls with bastions.

"It is one of the finest pieces of defence architecture," says Dr Tejas Garge, Director, Archaeology and Museums, Government of Maharashtra. "Among the various dynasties ruling Daulatabad, the Nizamshahis of Ahmednagar and Mughals were leading in promoting artillery," said Garge, who had authored a guidebook – Aurangabad and its Neighbourhood.

"It is a magnum opus of sorts for forts," says archaeologist and culinary anthropologist Dr Kurush Dalal, Assistant Professor (Archaeology), Coordinator (Archaeology, Advanced Archaeology and Ancient Indian Arts, Crafts & Sciences), Centre for Archaeology (CfA), CEMS.

"Daulatabad was all about money, power, prestige," adds Dr Pushkar Sohoni, who teaches at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, who has several publications to his credit including 'Aurangabad with Daulatabad, Khuldabad, Ahmednagar'.

"Daulatabad was not built in a single day, over the years, decades and centuries involving generations," says veteran trekker and fort expert, Amit Samant, one of the founders of Trekshitiz, who had visited and documented close to 300-odd forts in Maharashtra.

"The city has several walls and gateways, serpentine roads, pathways with right-angle turns and strategically done to repulse or foil attacks," pointed out Garge. "The dark tortuous tunnel and the moat made the citadel virtually impregnable by military standards," he said.

Dark passage

The dark passage is the only entrance to the tunnel which at times of seize unable to cross. The long  ascending tunnel rises rapidly and torturously by flight of steps, which are uneven in width and height and difficult to climb in the absence of light.

Garge, who is an expert on cannons, said that the cannons here are a matter of study. "The Qila Shikan or Breaker of Forts or Mendha tope (the cascabel is in form of a ram) was made by Muhammed Hussain Arab…..Aurangazeb's name is engraved as 'Abul Zafar Muhiuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb Bahadur Alamgir Badshah Gazi'," he said.

The outer wall of the fortress (Mahakot) is three metres in perimeter. The doors are studded and spiked against elephant attack.   The open courtyard with guard-rooms now has several cannons for public display. Similarly the third inner wall (Kalakot) rises up in stages by flights of three steps.   The Chini Mahal  is the place where Abdul Hasan Tanashah, the last and powerful ruler of Golconda was confined.

The Chand Minar made by Alludin II Bahmani is an example of Persian art and was Hathi Tank is an example of water management and was done by none other than Malik Ambar, a Siddhi military general of Ahmednagar.

Another interesting feature of the fort is a moat (Khandak) that had been excavated out of a living rock. It is so steep that it is impossible to cross not only for human beings but reptiles as well.

Architecturally important structure is the white octagonal building situated at the top  which is known as Baradari because of the 12 arches.

Also, the famous cannon is the Durga tope which is located at the top of Daulatabad – placed on a large platform to target approaching enemy in the
open plains and also the surrounding mountain ranges. The Bharat Mata temple and Ganesh temple are two other interesting places in this mega fort-complex.

According to historical records, Daulatabad was founded by the Yadavas of Deogiri in 11th  century under king Bhilamma V, who led victorious campaign against the Hoysalas, Paramaras and Chalukyas of Kalyani.

During the rule of Ramachandradeva, Ala-ud-din Khilji marched to Deogiri in 1296 AD and captured it. However, Ramachandradeva was allowed to rule from the fort as a vassal till Malik Kafur led two campaigns against Ramachandradeva and his son Shankardeva in 1306-07 AD and 1312 AD respectively. Shankardeva was killed during the second campaign. Harapaladeva was enthroned by Malik Kafur, the slave-general who later ascertained his independence.

This led to another successful campaign against Deogiri by Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Shah Khilji and the fort was annexed to the Delhi Sultanate yet again.

After that, Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq succeeded the Khiljis at Delhi Sultanate and he renamed Deogiri as Daulatabad and seeing fort, he shifted the capital from Delhi in 1328 AD but various issues prompted him to go back to Delhi and rule from there.

Thereafter, it passed on into the hands of Bahamani rulers under Hasan Gangu in 1347 AD and Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar in  1499 AD. Daulatabad became the capital of Nizam Shah dynasty in 1607 AD.

The Mughals led several campaigns during the rule of Akbar and Shah Jahan and only during the latter's period the area was fully captured in 1633 AD after a long siege of four months.

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