Almost 800 years ago, Daulatabad, then called ‘Devigiri’ was a thriving city. It was founded by Bhillamraja of the Yadava dynasty in 1187 AD. Later, the fort of Daulatabad passed through the hands of several dynasties in the Deccan. Less than 150 years after the Yadava dynasty, Daulatabad also became the capital of India for a short period during the reign of Sultan Muhammad-bin-Tughluq, who gave the city its present name. But very soon the charm of this ancient city faded.
Daulatabad (190 57’ N; 750 15’ E) is located at a distance of 15 km northwest of Aurangabad, the district headquarters and midway to Ellora group of caves. Daulatabad or ‘the abode of wealth’ was the name given by Muhammad-bin-Tughluq when he made his capital here in A.D. 1327. The ancient name being ‘Devagiri’ or ‘Deogiri’ meaning ‘Hill of Gods’ under the Yadavas of Deogiri. The Yadavas were initially ruling under the Chalukyas of Kalyani over region of modern Dhulia and Nasik districts with their capital at Chandradityapura (modern Chandor, Nasik district). Bhillama V who was one of the powerful Yadava rulers led victorious campaigns against the Hoysalas, Paramaras and Chalukyas founded the city of Deogiri and shifted his capital here. Since then the succeeding Yadava rulers held their capital here. During the rule of Ramachandradeva, son of Krishna, Ala-ud-din Khilji invaded and captured Deogiri in A.D. 1296. However, Ramachandradeva was allowed to rule from here as a vassal. Later, Malik Kafur led two campaigns against Ramachandradeva and his son Shankardeva in A.D. 1306-07 and 1312 respectively; Shankardeva was killed during the latter campaign. Harapaladeva was placed on the throne by Malik Kafur 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. Muhammad-bin-Tughluq succeeded the Khiljis at Delhi and he renamed Deogiri as Daulatabad and seeing its impregnable fort, shifted the capital from Delhi in A.D. 1328. This led to serious repercussions and he had to again transfer the capital back to Delhi. The region and the fort passed on into the hands of Bahamani rulers under Hasan Gangu in A.D. 1347 and Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar in A.D. 1499. Daulatabad became the capital of Nizam Shah dynasty in 1607 A.D. Deccan witnessed turbulent periods due to the frequent invasions and infights between the local ruling families during this period. 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 A.D. after a long siege of four months. Thus the Mughals seized power and Aurangazeb was placed as the Viceroy of Deccan who led his campaigns to Bijapur and Golconda from Daulatabad. The rising power of Marathas troubled the Mughals and for a brief period the region passed under the control of Marathas. Thus the Daulatabad fort passed several hands, captured and re-captured, by the Mughals, the Marathas, the Peshwas, and finally placed under the control of the Nizams of Hyderabad in 1724 A.D. which was under their control till independence.
The Daulatabad fort was one of the most powerful forts during the medieval period. 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 defense system. The fortifications comprise three encircling walls with bastions.
The entrance through the outer wall is by a strong hornwork consisting of a succession of gateways and courts. It has very thick and lofty walls convoluted on the outer faces and is defended by large bastions both without and within the courts. A barbican of later date, the entrance to which has been broken away, stands in front of this hornwork. One the right of the entrance gateway is an enormous bastion. The face of the gateway above the door has been pierced with three large openings for artillery. The entrance from the barbican to the first court is through a lofty vaulted passage with a turn midway and two-leaved door at the entrance, a large recess for the guard on right and stairway to the parapet wall over the gate on the left. The outer door, studded and spiked against elephant attack, is still in position. It is a formidable barrier, strengthened behind by heavy battens spaced at short intervals, and secured when closed by a square timber bar, drawn out from a long socket in one jamb, passed behind the door and fitted into a socket in the other jamb. The iron spikers are arranged in horizontal rows up the face of the door.
The next gateway is defended by strong towers and an embattled parapet. There is only one two-leaved door here but it is of the usual heavy constructions and armed with iron spikers. Within the doorway are two guard rooms, each of two vaulted bays. In the next court, facing the second gateway, is a large conical tower which has lost its upper part and from this tower, about midway in its height, projects a covered balcony supported on sculptured corbels. To reach the following gate in the hornwork one must pass diagonally through the court exposed to attach from all sides. This gateway, closed only by a single two leaved-door, is much narrower than those already passed.
The second curtain has a simpler entrance with still narrower gateway and the entrance is defended from within by a guardroom on either side of the passage at is issue. This fortress enclosed an area occupied by the ruins of the palaces of Tughluq and of later days. The outer part has also numerous ruined buildings – palaces, temples and mosques. Besides there exists a fine and conspicuous minaret, 30 metres high and 21 metres in circumference known as Chand Minar which was built by Sultan Ala-ud-din Bahmani (Sultan Ahmed Shah II) in 1447 A.D.
The third wall is much further up the hill and the rise begins to grow steeper, the entrance here is complicated and difficult to negotiate, and is defended by a tower on either side. A flight of steps leads upto the first door, this door being carried, an assailant is faced by guards in a recess directly in front of him, and his further progress is obstructed by a door on the right, opening to a passage throught he wall with a flight of steps up, under attack from guards posted in a large recess in the rear, another recess on the right-hand side of the passage and a third directly facing him. A third door opening to a flight of steps on the left and under attack from the rear must finally be carried before he has arrived inside the wall.
Ascending form this level and passing by the ruins of the Chini Mahal, a palace decorated with encaustic tiles, one reaches a platform at the foot of the citadel. By the side of Chini Mahal, is placed a massive cannon manufactured during the period of Aurangazeb popularly known as ‘Menda Top’. The entrance to the citadel is defended by a wide and deep wet moat leaving dams across it and a submerged causeway for the bridge of unusual design. It descends rapidly by a flight of steps down from the counter scarp and rises again to the level of the gallery on the other side. The gallery passes round three sides of a tall bastion and an assailant rushing through it would be under attack from the battlements of the bastion and from those of a high wall and strong tower on the counter scarp of the moat, which are so built as to face in that direction. From the end of the gallery a few steps lead down to a small open court, on one side of which is the entrance doorway to the tunnel.
The long ascending tunnel rises rapidly and tortuously by flights of steep steps. Opening of it at intervals are chambers for guards commanding the approach. At the head of the tunnel is an iron shutter which runs horizontally on small wheels, covering or uncovering the opening like a trap-door. A most ingenious and effective defense of this tunnel was the provision of a barrier of smoke. At a po
int about half-way through, where the tunnel passed near the vertical face of the rock a hold was cut through to secure draught for the fire in an iron brazier which installed in a small chamber opening into the tunnel when the fire was kindled the current of air from the hole would waft the smoke up the tunnel and render its passage impossible.
On issuing from the trap-door at the head of the tunnel one arrives at the foot of a very wide and long series of flight of steps, ascending to the baradari, a summer house, built for Shah Jahan on his visit to Daulatabad in 1636 A.D.
From this level a further flight of steps leads up to the level summit of the citadel where lies a heavy canon of 18th century in its original mountings. The citadel possesses a plentiful supply of water from its own perennial springs.