Daulatabad, once known as Devagiri, is a magnificent 12th
century fortress standing atop a hill, 13-km from
Aurangabad . It is one of the few
impregnable forts in Maharashtra with fine
architecture. It was given the name Daulatabad 'The city of fortune', by
Mohammed bin Tughluq, the sultan of Delhi.
Daulatabad fort is famous for it's series of trick defences, secret escape routes, etc. Important monuments within the fort include the Jami Masjid - now the Bharatmata Mandir, the Chand Minar, Elephant Tank and 'Chini Mahal' or Chinese Palace.
Initially a Yadav stronghold, the fort passed through the hands of several dynasties in the Deccan. Ancient Devagiri or Daulatabad was a flourishing city 800 years ago, founded by Bhillamraja of the Yadava dynasty in 1187 AD. Less than 150 years later, the citadel enjoyed a brief glory of becoming the capital of India under Sultan Muhammad-bin-Tughluq who changed its name from Devagiri to Daulatabad. Soon the ancient city lost its importance.
Perched on top of a high hill, it is surrounded by thick walls, spiked gates, steep gravelled slideways and a deep moat. A series of secret, quizzical, subterranean passages lie coiled like a python amidst the fort. A 5-km study wall, artificial scarping and a complicated series of defences made Daulatabad impregnable. The fort itself lies in the body of an isolated hill; the steep hillsides at the base falling so sharply to the moat that no hostile troops could scale the height. The moat, 40 ft. deep with mechanical drawbridges teemed with crocodiles.
The most notable structures at Daulatabad are the Chand
Minar, Jami Masjid and royal palaces. The palaces consist of spacious
halls, pavilions and courtyards. The tapering 30-metre high tower of the
Chand Minar, a tower of victory, is erected by Ala-ud-din Bahmani to
celebrate his conquest of the fort in 1435.
The Persian blue and turquoise tiles that once plastered it in complex geometric patterns have disappeared. It is divided into four storeys, and was faced with glazed tiles and carved motifs. The Minar probably served as a prayer hall or a victory monument in its time. Higher up is the blue-tiled Chini Mahal where the last king of Golconda, Abdul Hasan Tana Shah was imprisoned in 1687, for thirteen years until his death, by the Moghul emperor Aurangzeb.
The Jami Masjid was a mosque built by the Khilji ruler of Delhi, Qutub-ud-din Mubarak in 1318, to chastise Deogiri's Hindu occupants for their refusal to pay annual tribute. The well-preserved mosque comprises 106 pillars plundered from the Hindu and Jain temples, which previously stood on the site. Recently, the Masjid was converted into a Bharatmata temple - much to the chagrin of local Muslims.
Nearby, the large stone-lined Elephant tank was once a central component in the fort's extensive water-supply system. Two giant terracotta pipes channelled water from the hills into the Deogiri's legendary fruit and vegetable gardens.
Once beyond the open ground surrounding the tower, the main walkway heads through a series of interlocking bastions, fortified walls, moats and drawbridges. The impressive ram-headed Kila Shikan ("Fort Breaker") cannon inscribed with its name in Persian, rests on a stone platform nearby. From here onwards, a sequence of macabre traps lay in wait for the unwary intruder.
Daulatabad features on the MTDC guided tour of Ellora from Aurangabad. The place can also be reached by the hourly shuttle buses between Aurangabad and the Ellora caves. The stop is directly opposite the main entrance to the fort, beside the string of Chai (Tea) and souvenir stalls and the good, small MTDC-run restaurant.
At the hotels in Aurangabad .