The Indomitable Daulatabad Fort, Aurangabad

Daulatabad Fort has been tragically condemned by labelling it with the whims of the ‘Mad King’ Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq of the 14th century. We have all read about the king in the school history books who could not decide where to have his capital and kept shuttling between Delhi & Daulatabad.

According to historians, Delhites used to write him abusive letters. Apparently, we Delhites then were far more civilized than the present bunch. So to teach them a lesson, Mohd-bin-Tughlaq decided to shift the capital to Daulatabad. Also, the move was supposed to keep them safe from the frequent marauding excursions by the Mongol hordes. Though it is believed that he forced the entire population of Delhi to move to Daulatabad but it was only the upper classes that got the moving orders.

Daulatabad-Fort-in-Ruins


Large number of people died during the long and hot journey. Once in Daulatabad, people faced paucity of water and there was a general rebellion by the displaced populace. Tughlaq also realised that he could not control the North from Daulatabad and decided to shift the capital back to Delhi within two years. Delhites smarting from the forced relocation probably were too bored of lack of seasons and the peaceful life in the foothills of Western Ghats. They were more at home fighting the sundry invaders from the North in numbing winter and scorching summers keeping ennui in check.

Some historians call Tughlaq visionary instead of using epithets of mad king. During his reign, Delhi Sultanate expanded from Peshawar to Madurai and Sindh to Assam. The historians believe the reason for moving capital from Delhi to Daulatabad was to establish a second capital. Even the blighty British used the concept of two capitals. He also introduced copper and brass coins as token currency which could be used at par with silver and gold coins. But the ever ingenious Delhites forged the coins and the experiment failed. Another blunder was the invasion of Himachal. His misfortune was that most of these experiments failed, putting financial pressure ultimately leading to disruption of Delhi Sultanate.

View from Level 1

Denizens of Daulatabad should have learned from the inhabitants of Chitradurga Fort inhabitants about their rain harvesting techniques. This you find odd because the same set of people like Yadavas and Rashtrakutas ruled over this general area of Maharashtra and Karnataka. So they should have had the services of the same pool of architects. Today, people in the area have still not learned anything from the Daulatabad debacle.
Aurangabad today gets water once in four days. And this is the period just after the monsoons. Imagine what will happen in the coming months. But this is of not much concern to you. What does concern you is that Aurangabad is the beer capital of India. More alarmingly, with no water in the Jayakwadi dam that serves the city, you might have a beer buzz free coming summer.But, all is not lost; some water has been released from the Bhandardara Dam. You actually saw this water making its way from Ahmednagar to Aurangabad. So Cheers!

However, the fort has far more chequered history than just being synonymous with a crazy king. The fort was founded in the 12th century by Yadavas who were the original inhabitants of Daulatabad. It was named Devgiri then. You feel certain kinship towards the Devgiri Fort as the Yadavas came from your ancestral land of Mathura.

End-of-Days

The fort is amazing piece of human labour and nature’s surprises. In an area surrounded with rolling hills, this conical hill stands tall and alone by some miracle of nature. While the volcanoes erupted in the neighbourhood, lava flowed to form the chained hills in the distance. But here it seems the earth opened up in this crevice below, lava spewed, and then it just stopped, the lava inexplicably froze forming this hill. The initial builders chiselled the slopes of the hill so that the 50m vertical stone walls made the fort impregnable on three sides.

Outer Walls have Disappeared

As you enter the fort, you are greeted by this tall minar – Chand Minar. It used to be covered with Persian glazed tiles. Now they have whitewashed it in faded orange colour. You want to strangle the person who ordered this colour. The minar was built by Ahmed Shah II to celebrate the capture of the fort. To approach from the front one has to go through three bastions of fortified walls. Then it is a walk on a narrow bridge – be careful as the bridge is wobbly with loose wooden slabs – over a moat probably filled with starving crocodiles. Then there is this minor matter of walking through dark tunnels. This walk is designed to disorient you so that you are relieved when you see this opening with sun shining. You step off and plummet down 150 feet.

Chand-Minar

Last time we visited Daulatabad Fort during our college days; we took the train from Aurangabad and got off at the Daulatabad station. Then we walked for about eight kilometres. We hardly encountered anyone on the station or on the way. Then we climbed all of 200 metres to the top of the fort without breaking a sweat. After about 25 years, I drove through the bustling town to the fort door. By 100m I was panting and my legs felt like jelly. I tried to motivate myself like the Sikh gentleman in the Hero ad by singing the jingle ‘Hum main hai Hero’ but gave up and came down. Yes, I am a middle aged guy now.

View from Ellora Road

I remembered the fort as a proud edifice with a commanding view of the area when I saw it last. Today, it is a picture of neglect, the walls are crumbling and trash abounds in the rich Indian culture of defacing and dirtying our monuments. This seems to be general sorry condition of forts in Maharashtra – Ahmednagar Fort and Sinhgad Fort in Pune. I fear that the fort will be lost forever in the next 25 years if the ASI does not wake up.

Getting There: Daulatabad is about 16 kms northwest from Aurangabad on the Ellora Road and halfway to the Ellora Caves. But do not think about seeing both on the same day. Unless, you just want to get to the first level at Daulatabad Fort and see the Kailash Temple in Ellora.

27 Comments

  • Praveen Wadhwa says:

    Great post and great pictures.

  • Amitava Chatterjee says:

    Great post, Nirdesh.

    I still remember the black stoned wall, the long walk from the entrance, passing through the Chand Minar, those canons, that bridge and finally, yes, I couldn’t go further up. A very good tip for all travellers, as you rightly said – don’t try to cover Ellora and Daulatabad Fort in the same day. In my case, it was only five years ago, but totally exhausted after my day’s trip to the wonderful Kailash temple and all the caves of Ellora. Yes, you can feel the neglect everywhere there, as compared to other forts – hope ASI will not allow things to deteriorate any further.

    If I am not wrong, this fort can also be seen while going to Aurangabad from Manmad on your RHS (similar to your last picture).

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Amitava,

      Great observations!

      Yes the fort deserves a complete day, young legs and comfortable sneakers. 25 years ago we were able to go to the top when we were walkers. Not anymore. Of course, Vishal and Jatdevta will do in 2 hours!

      Keep the second day for Ellora.

      Even I was amazed with the neglect of the fort. But then I was not surprised. Ahmadnagar Fort in Ahmednagar and Singhad Fort in Pune were equally despairing. My heart really cried out. ASI’s performance is patchy, to say the least. Mercifully, I found the Ellora in pretty good condition – maybe better than 25 years ago.

      Yes during college days we would take the metre gauge from Manmad to Aurangabad and the fort was on the RHS. It is only in the monsoon months when the area comes alive, otherwise it is depressing brown and barren.

  • Vipin says:

    Fort man is back with another beautiful historical account! Nice to know about Daulatabad Fort, Nirdesh Ji through your post. Captures too are pretty captivating. ASI should definitely take some steps to protect these living historical heritage…else few years later these will only be found in books…:(

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Vipin,

      Daulatabad Fort holds a special place in my heart as it has associations with the wonderful college life in Aurangabad.

      But what is heart breaking is the state of affairs at the fort. Except the Chand Minar and the tunnelled top, everything else will disappear inn few years. I have written to the ASI but got no reply.

      Thanks.

  • Nice one Nirdesh ,

    I am coming up with the same one on 30th of this month.

  • kishan says:

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    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Kishan,

      What a coincidence! I was there on Oct 21st. Had some official work in the neighborhood! Saw Ellora and took photos of the fort from outside. The other photos are from Jan 2012!

      Even I could not go all the way up because of my age!

      That day I did Grishneshwar darshan, saw Aurangzeb’s Mausoleum and Bhadra Maruti temple.

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Thanks to take us to this historical monument.

    One side of fort is dry & another side is too green. :-)

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Mahesh,

      Great Observation!

      I had gone to Daulatabad Fort in January 2012. It was sort of home coming. I had gone to Aurangabad after 25 years. Saw my college, met the principal and in the bargain picked up my degree also.

      That time I could just manage to climb to the level 1 of the fort. Luckily, I again got a chance to go to Aurangabad in Oct 2012. This time, I went to Ellora and the Daulatabad Fort was on the way. In the monsoons, the area was lush. In another month it will be bone dry. Hence the difference in the scenery!

      Maybe next time I will try to climb to the top!

      Thanks.

  • ashok sharma says:

    interesting post,good pics of ill kept heritage monuments.

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Ashok,

      Yes, something needs to be done about the fort’s upkeep. Still trying to figure out how to reach the ASI in local circle.

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Hi Nirdesh,

    Nice description and captivating pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Immensely readable account, Nirdesh, of your trip to the Devagiri/Daulatabad fort. Sad to see the historic monument crumbling under the very eyes of the ASI which has the mandate for its preservation. We Indians are blessed with an embarrassment of cultural and historical riches that we hardly ever care for them. Hope that the new breed of ghumakkars will help preserve them for posterity.

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi DL,

      I am trying to get to speak to the Superintending Archaeologist in Aurangabad. Let me see if he hears me out.

      Thanks for your appreciation.

  • Hi Nirdesh,

    I love the way you express yourself – “would like to strangle the man who ordered …..” Thoroughly enjoyable. Incidentally, I was travelling early morning at the same place with Vishal Rathod and Jat Devta also!

    ASI would take care of it only if European or American historians start writing about it. It will gain importance in the eyes of ASI then! Even our PM moved his old ass when he was scathingly attacked by the foreign media for his total inertia. We Indians have the mindset of peons – peons of white skinned ex-rulers of this country.

    • Nirdesh says:

      So Kishan, Vishal, Jatdevta, me and you at the same place in the space of few days – Priceless.

      Sushantji, thanks for the kind words.

      And you are absolutely right about us being peons of white skin. Gita met someone similar during her trip to Jaipur.

      I again called up the Aurangabad ASI office. They put me on hold and then hung up on me!

      They have the money. Since Ellora witnesses a lot of white skin patrons, it is nicely preserved.

  • Please rotate the Chand Minar picture. You will have to upload it again if edit facility is not available.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    @ Vipin – I liked ‘Fort Man’. If Nirdesh agrees then may we can address him as ‘Fort Man’ sometimes.

    @ Sushant – Done Sir.

    @ Nirdesh – Thanks a ton for penning and sharing this. Apart from the ‘Orange’, I would also add one more ….This walk is designed to disorient you so that you are relieved when you see this opening with sun shining……….

    Aurangabad has been on Radar for Ellora and Biwi ka Maqbara. This one along with the free-flowing-bubbly makes the decision easier. We have been contemplating on taking a long drive. May be it is for Tughlaq this winters. Thank you.

    You must educate us more on Forts, Nirdesh.

  • Nirdesh says:

    Hi Nandan,

    You can call me Fort Man, Beach Bum or Jungle Guy – any will do!

    Seems like a great idea. Weather will be perfect. Only downside will that all greenery disappears and entire area become brown. But who cares with the beer buzz.

    There are tons of places – Aurangzeb’s Mausoleum, Aurangabad Caves, Maruti Bhadra Temple (reclining Hanumanji), if you have an extra day then Ajanta Caves.

    Will do, please bear with me.

    Thanks for the appreciation!

  • Giriraj Shekhawat says:

    Hi Nirdesh Ji,
    The whims and fancies of the maniac (Tughalq) might have given nothing to others .. but the testimony of this failed attempt still stands erect … it still looks mighty being perched high above the lava topped deccan plateau and its fortification juxtaposed to the verdant landscape of western ghats … As a kid i visited aurangabad & ellora caves ,but now only faint memories remains……i wished i had visited daulatabad then …
    You have given good retrospective insight of daulatabad before the sultanate rule (the rashtrakutas and the Yadavas) …I was shocked to learn from this post that this area which seems to be the watershed of the country is facing such acute shortages of water ….. I am reminded of a saying in hindi “bagal mein chora aur shaher mein dhindhora” … LOL.
    Pictures were very good especially the one in you have canvassed chand minar into a toran shaped lintel .
    Writing was of superior quality … superlatives will fall short if i ever want to describe it …

    Looking forward for more of your historical and mythical escapades …. Eagerly waiting to be a part of the Badami Delight of Karnataka …..
    Will read and drop down my feedback

    Regards

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Giriraj,

    Thanks for all the feedback.

    Yes, the fort and the setting are formidable. But what is sad is the upkeep and the crumbling stuctures.

    Mohd-bin-Tughlaq was scary and visionary at the same time. Ibn Battutah was scared of him and like everybody else had to make the long walk to Daulatabad from Delhi.

    Aurangabad is still thirsting. While Pune is getting loads of rains this year, Aurangabad 200 kms away is still dry and barren.

    I have found only two places in Maharashtra well maintained – Ellora which I visited last year during the rains when it was all green and Ajanta which I visited for the first time last month when the temp was 44.

    I found the Ajanta caves really beautiful. I hope to come back when the hills all around turn green.

    Thanks for the appreciation. Will look forward to all your informative replies.

  • amita says:

    where to stay while visiting ajanta caves? any good homestay?

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