Friday, February 25, 2011

Daunting Daulatabad

Dalutabad was a day trip from Aurangabad. We went to the central bus stand to take a bus to the Daulatabad Fort which is merely about 14 Kms away from the town of Aurangabad. We inquired some people and the information we got that none of the buses ply to Daulatabad. When were feeling a bit clueless, one of the bus conductors advised us to get into a bus headed for Kannad. Daulatabad would be on the way and we would have to explicitly tell the conductor of the bus to alert us when the bus reaches Daulatabad. We had to struggle a bit to get into the bus and while the others were busy acquiring seats, Santu stayed at the gate to talk to the bus conductor. After around three quarters of an hour, we reached Daulatabad. On the way, the bus stopped for a while at Khuldabad, where the tomb of Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb is situated.

The giant and imposing fort built on a 200 metre high canonical hill was founded by the Yadavas in the 12th century and the place was originally known as Devagiri (The hill of Gods). After various attacks, the fort was annexed by Alauddin Khilji and in 1328, Muhammad bin Tughluq, the then Sultan of Delhi, shifted his capital here and renamed the place as Daulatabad (The Abode of Wealth). The Daulatabad Fort has a long history after that and it changed hands in quick succession. It was controlled by the Bahamani rulers for a while before it was captured by the Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar who made Daulatabad their capital. Mughal Emperor Akbar captured the fort in 16th century but it was surrendered again to Ahmed Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar and remained with them until 1607 when after the fall of the Nizam Shahi dynasty, the fort passed into the hands of Malik Amber but his successors were overthrown by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1633. After the death of Emperor Aurangazeb, the Nizam of Hyderabad too control over Daulatabad in 1724.

Just after the entrance, near the Aam Khas gate, quite a number of cannons of different makes and sizes, made of both iron and bronze were displayed. A notice put up by the Archeological Survey of India mentioned that apart from the indigenous ones, a couple of cannons cast in Amsterdam were also found here.

The Daulatabad Fort comprising a rare combination of a land fort and a hill fort has a complex defense system. It has two moats, one dry around the fort and another wet around the citadel. The fort also boasts of three walls of fortification. The first, Amberkot, surrounding the old town was planned for the common people. Mahakot, the second line of defense, with four lines of enclosure walls and innumerous bastions and ramparts, served as the residential area of the higher class of the society. The gates were strategically built so that they were not opposite each other and hence the practice of breaking doors open by elephants would not work here. Kalakot, the third line of defense with double line of fortification, zigzag gateways and strategic positions of gun-turrets, was the royal residential area with a huge palace complex.

After walking a few minutes we came across a 110 feet high victory tower known as the Chand Minar. The pillar was constructed to commemorate the victory over Gujrat by Alauddin Bahamani in 1435. It served both as a watch tower and a place of call for prayer. Sadly, people are not allowed to climb the pillar any more.

Just after the Chand Minar was a large open courtyard with a temple dedicated to Bharat Mata.

Further up the way is located a double storied building called Chini Mahal. Once it was laid with blue and yellow enamelled tiles but now it is in a dilapidated state. The palace was used as a royal prison and it was here that Abdul Hasan Tanashah, the last and powerful ruler of Golkonda was imprisoned till his death by Emperor Aurangazeb.

We were moving more or less effortlessly up to this point but after some more time I was experiencing a little breathlessness and the legs seemed to be suddenly heavier. We came across a small bridge over the wet moat, which had become green with moss. It was disheartening to see the plastic waste thrown rampant into the water. We also noticed a cave like structure where a medieval saint Swami Janardhana Swami attained Samadhi.

On our way we passed through a dim lit passage infested with bats and emitting a strangely bad odour. There was yet another passage known as Andheri (Dark Passage) which was pitch dark and one could only step in with the help of a guide carrying a “mashal” (a crude kerosene-lighted torch). The labyrinthine passage couple with darkness was set as a trap for the enemy intruders and was virtually impassable.

After some more time I was breathing more heavily and decided to take rest for a while after every few steps. A group of local school children were merrily running around and I felt ashamed panting with exhaustion. The citadel at the top of the hill was visible from there and that helped me not to give up my pursuit. But none the less I was having serious thoughts about my fitness level. Hunger and dearth of drinking water was adding to the woes.

Finally, we reached the palace at the top and had the few packs of biscuits we were carrying. The drinking water had also finished by that time. The gentle breeze blowing at such a height was soothing our weary bodies and we rested there for a while. A group of squirrels were wandering around us in search of some food. It was surprising to see how close they came in contact with the human beings, since in the city or the campus of my alma mater college, where there were many squirrels, they always run away in fear whenever they see any human approaching. Perhaps, so far up in the hills they are still innocent and ignorant about the evil intensions of humans.

When I thought I had at last climbed to the top of the fort, we found that there was a flight of steps going further up. And when we reached that terrace above we found another narrow stairway going still further up. It seemed there was no end of going upwards in the massive fort. Given that we had come that far, we decided to go the last mile as well though our bodies were totally worn out by then. The steps were so narrow that only one person could use it at a time. Finally we were at the topmost point of the fort. It was probably the last strategic rampart adorned with huge cannon. We remained seated there for a while enjoying the magnificent view of the town from there until our hunger got better of us and we started climbing down (which was much easier) hoping to feast on a good meal when we reach the town.

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