Thursday, August 23, 2018

Mute reminders of an Emperor and an Empire

Having finished Ellora Caves, we set off through bylanes to reach the Dargah of Sheik Zainuddin to visit the tomb of the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb.


 For someone who was feared, forever plotting to overthrow other rulers and expand his already large empire, it is a surprise that he spent his free time in religious activity, stitching caps or writing the Holy Quran. It was also his wish that when he died the money for his final rites and his grave should be from these religious earnings.

When he died in 1707 in Ahmednagar, his body was brought by his son Azam Shah to Khuldabad where he was buried next to his spiritual master Sheik Zainuddin in an unmarked grave, open to the sky.  It was much later that Lord Curzon, the viceroy of Britain had a marble slab and trellis around it.  The visit was a solemn experience.


Aurangzeb's Tomb - Open to the sky
Much later Lord Curzon had the marble structure put up


The Dargah of the spiritual master of Aurangzeb - Sheik Zainuddin

The skies suddenly opened up and it poured along the way.  We reached for our rain jackets, the rain was not going to stop us exploring the fort.  We had had a glimpse of the structure atop the conical hill and a orangish Minaret on the way to the Ellora Caves. It had not seemed impressive from afar.  Nevertheless, it was a fort AND we love forts.  There is an air of intrigue about them.  The battles that were fought, the elephants that were used to batter down the gates, the hot oil that was poured down on the invaders.  It all seems gory and so medieval.  We were looking forward to the visit to the Daulatabad Fort.  We reached the fort and Lo! the rain stopped!

We bought our tickets and were apprehensive till we  turned the corner.  From thereon it was a different story. The fort walls that were hidden from outside were remarkable with a single entry and exit point, huge wooden spiked gate and canons, a watchtower and more gates as we walked in.

The Devagiri Fort as it was called was built by a Yadava king in 1187 on an important caravan route.  It was much later after it changed hands and when Mohammed Bin Tughlaq acquired the area that he changed the name to Daulatabad.  He made it the capital of his empire and had the whole population of Delhi move here.  When there was a drought that led to a lack of water, he shifted them back to Delhi.
The Entrance to the Fort- quite deceptive since the flag mast is in the other direction
Another fortification wall of Mahakot, gate, courtyard and cannons alongside in niches


Watchtower at Mahakot
The stepwell or Baoli near the entrance.  There is also a massive tank nearby (Haathi Haud)
Vast courtyard of the Bharat Mata Temple (once the Jami Masjid) - the conical hill with the baradari in the background

106 or more pillars in the Bharat Mata Temple- these were brought from nearby Jain and Hindu temples
Chand Minar - built by Bahmani Ruler Hasan Gangu as a replica of Qutb Minar 

Path and steps leading to the Kalakot (Death Gate)
Chini Mahal - Aurangzeb built it to keep his important prisoners.

A bastion with the Mendha Tope ( Ram Canon) with inscriptions
If one got past all that , there was the moat, beyond that through winding dark tunnels that made the disoriented enemy look for an exit and in that state of confusion jump out of a window to their death in the moat below. 

High walls and a moat below

Andheri - the dark winding tunnel that disoriented many an enemy

The window, now with bars, that enemy would mistake for an exit and head down into the moat
No guide seemed available that day and we did not want to risk going through the tunnel on our own.  A recent staircase has been built to take the tourist halfway.  We did get up there to get a good view of the city and parts of the fort wall that remained.

A more recent staircase that led to at least half of the winding staircase of the Andheri
For the invaders who made it through the tunnel the ascent to the baradari was steep and narrow.   A difficult fort to conquer indeed.  We didn't make it to the top, but I think we did a lot more than most of the other tourists there.  It had been a long day and perhaps a guide and less tired legs might have seen us conquer the fort.  We were however pleased with ourselves.  It was the end to our short but wonderful trip to Aurangabad.  A trip I would recommend to anyone without hesitation.  Visits to ancient caves, to a mighty tomb and a humble grave, to small museums with great artefacts, an old temple and a great fort.  Could one ask for more?


FYI
Aurangzeb Tomb - entry is free.
 A small tip to the person who shows you around is expected.

Daulatabad Fort - Rs 15/- for Indians. Open from sunrise to sunset.
Allow at least two hours.  Wear comfortable shoes. Carry water.

3 comments:

  1. Such a journey of discovery you have been on! Thanks for sharing the details with us. I suspect that almost everyone who read this account learned about the location and the cast of characters for the first time.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lots of interesting information, regarding the rich heritage.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A brief acquaintance with the history of the place and its rulers before the visit to these monuments would give a better appreciation of these structures. Luckily for your readers ,you have given the salient features briefly given the constraint of length of post.
    Thank you.

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