“Put the guidebook in the bag,” I directed Sayan.
“Oh don’t worry it is safe with me,” Sayan replied back.
I knew he was right. Sayan is one of the messiest persons when it comes to organising stuff but it’s no less than magic how he never loses a thing. We know each other from 2009 and he has never lost anything.
“Eid- Mubarak.” We greeted our auto driver. As promised by him, he returned after performing the morning namaz in the mosque on the holy day of Eid. We had booked his vehicle, a three wheeler auto, to take us to the Daulatabad Fort and wait there while we visit the fort. When we were done he was supposed to drop us off at the Aurangabad railway station. We had a train to catch at 2.30 PM from Aurangabad station.
Our plan was perfect but then I (Tania) heard the growling sound in my belly. I was hungry. We both were. The ‘complimentary breakfast’ served to us at the hotel was obviously insufficient. We wasted a solid half hour to satisfy our stomach before we could take on the challenge of reaching the top of the deceptive fort.
Daulatabad Fort’s Place in History – From the hills of the God’s to a fool’s paradise
Aurangabad is no place for a history hater. In order to get the most out of the ‘sightseeing’ there, you need to read up history.
Daulatabad was known as Deogiri (The hill of Gods) when the Yadava dynasty founded it. The Yadavas ruled from this very fort for more than a hundred year until it was annexed by Ala-ud-din Khilji, Sultan of Delhi. The Yadava king Ramachandradeva was allowed to rule from this fort as a vassal. But, Ramachandradeva did not obey the orders passed by the then Delhi sultanate and soon the army chief of Ala-ud-din Khilji attacked the city again. The Yadavas lost all power and the control passed to Harpaladeva, who was fighting for the sultanate. However, he later declared independence so another battle followed and finally the city and the fort were directly annexed by the Khilji dynasty.
The Tuqhlaq dynasty won the throne in Delhi by leading a coup. Mohammad bin Tuqhlaq, renamed Deogiri to Daulatabad. He thought Daulatabad was better positioned than Delhi; so he forced the entire population of Delhi to abandon Delhi and brought them to Daulatabad. However, affected by acute water problem the people were again forced to return all way back to Delhi. This event is very popular in Indian history as a classic act of foolishness.
Daulatabad and the fort saw much turbulence, wars, battles and change of royalty, but the citadel stands strong even today.
Entry Ticket (Indians)- INR 15
Time- Sunrise to sunset
Required time to visit the entire fort – 3 hours
How to reach by public transport – Any MSRTC (Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation) bus leaving from the Aurangabad bus depot on the road to Ellora will stop at Daulatabad Fort. It will take around 30 minutes to reach the fort. Daulatabad Fort is clearly visible from the highway.
How to reach by tourist bus – AC tourist bus leave from the MSRTC Aurangabad bus depot for 1-day sightseeing tour. They ply on a fixed itinerary which includes Daulatabad Fort, Bibi- ka- Maqbara, Ellora caves and some other places.
Daulatabad Fort – An exceptional example of defence mechanism
We started our exploration of the fort at 11.30 AM on the day of Eid, a national holiday in India. As expected people was everywhere. Squealing kids, yelling teenagers, chattering families, the young and old everyone was out to enjoy the holiday.
While entering the fort, we craned our neck up to check out what we thought was the top. In our minds we were fully prepared to scale that height. I was holding the guidebook in my hand.
The Daulatabad Fort is surrounded by three kots or fortifications. The first one is the Amberkot which was intended for the use of common people.
The next one is the Mahakot. The kots or fortifications have many gates and bastions. We identified the Mahakot. It has a huge courtyard surrounded by guardrooms. The guardrooms flaunt cannons.
The cobblestoned yard surrounded by stone walls reminded me of scenes from Game of Thrones. It was not hard for me to imagine the ‘lifestyle’ that people must have had there.
The gates are massive and have spikes on them. The spikes were installed to nullify the use of elephants for breaking doors.
The Mahakot has eight gates. As we walked from gate to gate, we noticed, sometimes ordinary sometimes extraordinary cells built along the walls. The purposes of those are not known. We assume the ordinary ones were built for storage and the better ones probably served as meeting halls or shrines.
There are many bifurcations on the way from Mahakot to Kalakot. We avoided taking those routes as the fort is popular for having false routes. Not that we were scared but we did not have enough time to deal with being led astray. But, in one of these bifurcated routes lie the Saraswati stepped well (Saraswati Bawdi) and Hathi tank (Hathi Haud) – two structures that we missed seeing.
The Saraswati Bawdi is a step-well. A flight of stone staircases brings a person to the level of the water. When the water level is high, the number of steps one needs to cover to reach the water level is low. The step well was established to provide for the water requirements of the commoners. We have never seen a step-well and we hated missing this one.
The Hathi tank is basically a water tank built by a water management expert to store and distribute water to various parts of the city.
Another reason why we missed seeing these was that our guidebook never mentioned them. I came to know of their existence only while writing this article. What our esteemed guidebook screamed about was the Chand Minar– The iconic tower in the Daulatabad Fort which draws the maximum attention.
It is no wonder the minar gets the maximum importance. The structure is easily identifiable from afar. It lies on a bifurcation to the right on the path to Kalakot from Mahakot.
The Chand Minar has four storeys and the exterior is adorned with Persian blue tiles. Visitors are not allowed inside the minar.
We went back and forth around the minar photographing it. We suddenly realised we have never climbed a tower.
Now that we were done with the Chand Minar, we started hunting for the Bharat Mata Temple. As per the guidebook it would be near the minar. And soon we found a temple of sorts with many pillars and no two pillars were similar.
Strangely, no one seemed to be bothered with this structure and we found some quiet time in the temple.
The place is very photogenic with the Chand Minar by its side. The Bharat Mata Temple has a history of its own. It was built by the Hindus as a temple and later on converted into a mosque when the Muslims captured the fort. It was again re-converted back into its original form and the idol of Bharat Mata was installed after the formation of independent India.
The Archaeological Survey of India mentions there is a hammam (royal bath) somewhere within the Mahakot premises – a complex network of chambers all connected with each other by earthen pipes which used to carry hot water. Men and women had different chambers.
But, boy! Visiting historical places are least relaxing and so exhausting. Kacheri is a double storeyed building with a courtyard and arcades in the Daulatabad Fort which we failed to identify. If you ever visit the place and find out about it, do let us know.
We finally reached the gates of the innermost fortification- Kalakot. The inside of kalakot is extremely intriguing and every corner of this part roars of mystery and history. We couldn’t stop our minds from meandering hither and thither.
The last ruler of Golkonda was kept as a prisoner till death by Aurangzeb in a palace called Chini Mahal within the Daulatabad Fort. It is supposed to be a two storeyed building within the bounds of Kalakot. We tried to find it, but unfortunately couldn’t identify it.
The most popular cannon of the Daulatabad Fort is found near the moat. The butt of the cannon has a carved ram’s head. The mouth of the cannon has inscription from the holy Quran. No matter how much we would have loved to see this ancient weapon of destruction, our wish was not fulfilled. A huge crowd of visitors already fought with each other at the cannon spot for a precious selfie opportunity.
We had seen moats in movies, we had read about moats in both historic and fiction books but we saw moats for the first time in our life at Daulatabad Fort. I remember underlining the word moat in the guidebook so that there would be no chance of us missing it. The deep rock cut moat encircles the citadel. The colour of the water in the moat is green and by the look of it we inferred it wasn’t very clean.
We were almost expecting a drawbridge; but the connecting bridge was just another wooden bridge which had been constructed for the convenience of tourists like us. In the erstwhile era, there was indeed a drawbridge. In the late 19th century the drawbridge was replaced by a permanent footbridge. We expect the moat was also home to crocodiles during the more glorious days of Daulatabad Fort.
We passed the narrow paths around the walls of the citadel and reached the entry point to the most interesting part of the fort that we had been waiting for – the andheri. Andheri is the hindi word for darkness. So we could very well guess what to expect in Andheri.
Guards posted outside the entry point will let visitors enter only if they have a proper flashlight. Guides can also be hired for the purpose. Andheri is yet another example of the fort’s immaculate defence system.
So we held each other’s hands, shone the torch, and entered into the darkness. The camera was dangling from my (Tania) neck. The tunnel was pitch dark indeed, bats screeched from all directions. The torchlight revealed flying bats. All the creatures inside that subterranean passage at that moment were dead scared of each other. We just don’t know if the bats were more afraid of us or we of them.
Sometimes we saw a hint of light coming from a grilled opening. The grills were installed by government before allowing visitors in the fort. These openings were originally created by the royals to bluff the enemies into walking out of the opening and falling into a ditch below.
The staircases inside these great dark labyrinths are tyrannically steep. We concentrated on being alive and taking photos was the last the thing on our mind.
The view of the valley after emerging out of the tunnel was worth every bit of the effort.
We felt relaxed that the toughest part was done and we are just a few steps away from reaching the summit. We kept on walking with a heart full of pride; after all we are so close to scaling the summit!
But every single time we thought “ah! this must be the last staircase” we were proved wrong. The fort’s architecture is a blazing example of treachery. Our stature was soon reduced from “a proud couple” to “a panting couple”. Lol.
We finally came face to face with the Baradari. In front of us was an octagonal double storeyed building having an impressive veranda with twelve arches. We went inside the building and finally felt relaxed. No more staircases were visible, so this must be the top. The building has a central square courtyard which is surrounded on all four sides by chambers with arched veranda. We gleefully hopped around the veranda, posing and videographing our surroundings.
Our short lived bubble of accomplishment didn’t last long, though. The husband found more staircases.
It was nothing but grit and arrogance which took me (Tania) to the top of the fort. My knees were literally shaking.
A cannon was mounted on the summit. It was clearly a modern selfie point. We stood atop for a while with the attitude of an Everest climber but our face gave away the agony of our aching muscles. The valley below was stunning and green.
Is this vertigo?
Climbing down was made all the tougher with an aching body. We lost all enthusiasm and packed our camera in the backpack. Once all the excitement was over I (Tania) realised I was in the strong grip of vertigo.
I froze midway while trying to climb down a staircase without handrail. I saw the sheer drop and it send a chill down my spine, and froze me in place. As I was nursing my bruised nervous system, a woman carrying a child casually passed by me on the narrow path. The sight terrified me. I couldn’t imagine risking the life of any child like that!
Where is the guidebook?
Suddenly the husband asked for the guidebook. In a few moments it became clear that neither of us had it. We ransacked our backpack but it wasn’t there either. We had read every single page of that book multiple numbers of times and carried it under rain and sun without much care. Naturally, the book was almost in fossils. But having it by our side would be utterly important while sorting pictures.
For a moment I (Tania) felt like all the hard work I had done on this trip was wasted. The photos will be no good if we fail to distinguish them. The darkness, the bats, the steep climb, and the vertigo nothing made me cry, but a mere incidence of Sayan losing the soiled guidebook did.
All along the path while climbing down we searched for our guidebook. We were sure we will find it. Afterall, it’s not gold or money; it is just a simple guidebook which was almost reduced to skeleton.
We reached the mouth of the tunnel or Andheri. By this time we were 100% sure we had lost it somewhere in the tunnel. Confidently we entered inside. With the torch we searched the entire pathway underground, we found a scrap of paper here and there but not what we were looking for.
I (Tania) was so desperate that I even searched the two dustbins placed near the terminal end of the tunnel. Nothing.
It was 2 PM and we had a train to catch at 2.30 PM. We almost ran the entire way from the moat to the Mahakot gates. What happened to our beloved guidebook will forever be a mystery, when asked we say – The Andheri of Daulatabad Fort has it now!
Did anything mysterious happen with you while visiting a historical building? Comment below and let me know! Do you want more information on the fort? Fire away your questions in the comments below!
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