Daulatabad: A Medieval Era Fort

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Daulatabad Fort is an 800-year-old rock-cut medieval era fort of medieval Deccan having a remarkable history. A strategically located fort with an extraordinary defence system was almost invincible. Nevertheless, its possession was carved by the most powerful dynasties ruling between the 12th – and 18th centuries, such as the Khiljis & Tughlaqs of the Delhi Sultanate, Bahamani rulers, Mughals, Marathas and finally the Nizams of Hyderabad. At 14 km from Aurangabad, this Fort has been a matter of pride and prestige. It might be for the kingdoms of medieval India. 

Daulatabad: A Medieval Era Fort
Daulatabad Fort Entrance

Therefore, I decided to explore this rock-hewn medieval-era fort by climbing close to 700 steps. I started from my hotel early, around 8 a.m., and began researching the Fort. Devagiri, whose literal meaning is’ Hill of the Gods, ‘ was a small settlement on a crucial caravan route for travellers. Devagiri became the capital of the Yadava dynasty in the 12th century when the Devagiri Fort was constructed to guard the capital city against invasions. Since then, the Fort has witnessed several raids, sieges, wars and changes in ownership across a descent of time as long as 800 years.

Daulatabad: A Medieval Era Fort
700 Steps begins

‘Devagiri’ fort was named ‘Daulatabad’ (meaning ‘Adobe of Wealth’) in 1328 CE by Mohamad bin Tughlaq, the ‘Sultan of Swing. He even transferred his Capital from Delhi to Daulatabad for a certain period. However, Nizam of Hyderabad was the last official ruler to hold the Daulatabad Fort until 16th Sep 1948. Upon reaching, I bought my tickets from the counter & hired a guide for the tour.

Top view of the Fort

Spread over an area of approx. 95ha, the Fort represented a unique combination of military engineering, exceptional town planning and architectural marvels. The guide told me that inside the Fort, the entire area is divided into small sectors encircled by fortification walls. The area for the ordinary people was called Ambarkot. In contrast, the royal residential area with a double line of fortifications was known as Kalakot.

Daulatabad: A Medieval Era Fort
Double wall Fortification

Four distant lines of enclosure walls served the residential area for a higher class of the society called the Mahakot. However, Balakot was the pinnacle portion where the flag used to flutter. He explained that the Fort included structures like stepped wells, reservoirs, towers, hammams (baths), temples and mosques. And the water management system was unique, with a network of terracotta pipelines & drains. With the changing dynasty, the Fort underwent several rounds of additions & alterations in the subsequent periods.

Daulatabad: A Medieval Era Fort
Step Well

I asked our guide to share the highlights of various dynasties the Fort has been passed upon. Hence, he explained as we climbed the stairs of the Fort. This rock fort was built by Yadava king Bhillama, king of the Seuna Kingdom, in 1187 CE and was named Devagiri Fort. Until 1296 CE, when Ala-ud-din Khilji invaded Devagiri as the wealth of Devagiri lured him. The impenetrable Fort lost the battle because the formidable defence system of the Fort and the absence of any outside attack for an extended period made the Yadavas too complacent. Hence, Ramachandra again pleaded for a peace treaty.

Also Known as Devagiri Fort

Soon after the siege, Ala-ud-din killed his uncle Jalal-ud-din and became the Sultan. Later, in 1306-07 and 1312, Malik Kafur, Ala-ud-din’s most trusted general, succeeded the throne in 1328 CE. The Tughlaq dynasty succeeded the Khilji dynasty in the Delhi Sultanate and remained the fort name of Daulatabad from Devagiri. However, through a quick succession of political events, the Bahmani dynasty (1347 CE)took over. But by 1499 CE, Nizam Shahi rulers of Ahmednagar captured Daulatabad and made it a part of their kingdom. 

Ruins of the Fort

 Due to substantial political development, Shah Jahan captured Daulatabad in 1633 CE. But with time, Mughal power was substantially reduced in the Deccan. The Fort was passed into Maratha’s hands for a brief period. But the Fort was captured by the Nizams of Hyderabad in 1724 CE—a remarkable 800-year history of the Fort. 

Interior remains of the Fort.

While walking along the Fort, I realised there is only one entrance/exit and no parallel gates—Zigzag & lofty gates with iron spikes. In the era before gunpowder, intoxicated elephants were used to break the massive gates. Gates were fitted with iron spikes on the outer side to stop such activity. Moreover, there were two resounding rock-cut trenches (dry & wet) and a glacis along with Bastions at regular intervals. What astonished me was the Three layers of fortification with massive walls. The walls have an average height of 6 – 9 meters and 2 – 3 meters thick.

Three Layer fortification

The entire Fort is Ingeniously built with mazes and strategic position of gun-turrets with an Andheri, a rock-cut underground passage. I suggest having a guide while exploring the Fort, as many passages & ways may lead to a deadly end. Tourists who want to avoid going through the tunnel can use an alternative route through the courtyard constructed by the authorities in 1952 for the convenience of the tourists.

Daulatabad: A Medieval Era Fort

We decided to start with Andheri, as any intruder to the citadel had to pass through this serpentine & devious dark passage that was practically impenetrable. This passage was also infested with several traps for the intruders, who would fall down the slope to meet a watery grave in the trench below. These are in the form of windows, now covered with grills. 

Daulatabad: A Medieval Era Fort
Maze Passage

A long, maze-like passage that ascends rapidly & tortuously by a series of steps, uneven in width & height, making it extremely difficult to climb without light. Several hidden chambers used to be guard rooms. Architecture to be appreciated, but then the question comes to my mind: such a formidable defence system, how was it sieged & captured several times? My guide answered it for me: treason and forgery.

Fort entrance to different areas

Further, it is moved to explore other parts of the Fort apart from trenches, fortification walls and the Andheri. 

Chand Minar

Chand Minar is a 65-meter-high tower and the second tallest after Qutub Minar in Delhi. In 1435 CE, Sultan Ala-al-din Bahman Shah (Ahamadsha-II) constructed the Minar as a victory symbol over Gujarat. It is a four-storeyed tower built of stone and decorated with coloured tiles, which are still found on the wall. The tower has a spiral staircase to reach the top. Since 1990, the authorities have prohibited public entry inside the tower as the tower was becoming a popular suicide spot in the area. 

Daulatabad: A Medieval Era Fort
Chand Minar

Bharat Mata Temple

It is one of the oldest and most important structures within the Fort. It is dedicated to Bharat Mata (Mother India). As per the records, the original temple was converted into a mosque during the reign of Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Khilji. However, the authorities decided to install the idol.

Bharat Mata temple

Chini Mahal 

A prison was built by Aurangzeb, who kept Abul Hasan Tana Shah, the last king of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty of Hyderabad, prisoner. However, the antecedents of Abul Hasan Tana Shah are shrouded in mystery. But this Mahal also had another prisoner, Shambhaji Maharaj, son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Chini Mahal

Cannon Collections

The collection was vast, from bronze to iron cannons that ranged from large, heavy guns to medium howitzers & handguns. The collection includes two bronze cannons indigenous, which were caterdam in 1638 and 1642. However, the Mendha cannon (Ram Cannon) is the most significant artillery piece in the Fort near Chini Mahal. It belonged to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and was called Tope Qila Shikan (destroyer of forts). Muhammad Hussain Arab built it.

Tope Qila Shikan

Other noteworthy cannons include the Durga cannon and the Kala Pahad cannon. Some cannons are kept at their original places, like bastions on fort walls and circular towers. In contrast, others, collected from various places, are displayed in the courtyard near the entrance gate and Aam Khas gate. 

Kala Pahad


It was the summer residence of the Mughal emperors. An octagonal-shaped building with 13 walls stands near the summit of the Fort. It was built in 1636 CE for Shah Jahan’s visit. The Baradari offers an excellent panoramic view from the top. 


Here, I ended the remarkable 800-year history of the Fort, and I sat along the wall to soak in the view. I realised Daulatabad was more than just a fort, a palimpsest of subsequent kingdoms. It represents human history, migration, social mobility and ambition. 

Ruins of the Fort

From warlords & armies, they fort carved for centuries to create overlapping layers of architecture, myth and history.

How to Reach

By Air

The city has the nearest Aurangabad Airport, which is 10 km from the city centre. A cab or Auto can be hired from the airport to reach the desired destination. 

By Rail 

The city railhead is well connected with all major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Nagpur, Pune, Madurai, Bhopal and Gwalior. The railway station is 2-3km away from the bus stand. A cab or Auto can be hired to reach the destination. 

By Road

The road connectivity of State and National Highways is excellent. State and private buses are available from Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Nagpur and other nearby cities. These buses ply at regular intervals. One can also book a cab or self-drive to Aurangabad.


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