Saturday, January 23, 2010

Daulatabad Fort

Thursday (1/14) we hiked through Daulatabad Fort in Aurangabad. I say hiked because the fort's walls begin over a quarter mile from the base of the main fort, a small mountain probably 400 to 600 feet high. The fort's original builders cut the sides of the mountain away, so that it stands on 100 feet of flat rock on all sides. It took us a few hours to reach the top, but even if you didn't stop to site see, it would take most people at least half an hour to get from front gate to mountain top on foot. We were all amazed.
Kent told us about a Marathi leader named Shivaji. At age 19 he began to fight the Moghuls, whom his father had served, using guerilla tactics. Kent told us how he conquered one fort, thought impenetrable, using monitor lizards. At night, they attached ropes to the lizards, which then climbed over the flat walls at the rear of the fort. Then the soldiers pulled on the ropes so that the lizards got stuck, and boys climbed up and attached more ropes for the men. Shivaji swiftly conquered several sea and mountain forts using only small forces and lots of cunning, establishing a kingdom that continued for 100 years after his death.
Daulatabad was conquered at least once by a Persian ruler. He built a 110 foot tall minaret called the Chad Minar, or Victory Tower.
Daulatabad has many layers of defense, beginning with two outer walls which enclose an impressive section of land. Then there are several towers and walls along the route to the top. After that you have to cross the enormous moat surrounding the high walls I mentioned above, and get past a small inner fortress, which includes stairwells that are dark without torches. I imagine they could have put out all lights during an attack, and speared attackers -unfamiliar with the passageways- in the dark. (We also saw many bats hanging from the ceilings and heard them squeeking. Some of us found them ugly or creepy, but I thought they were cute. However, they did make the air very unpleasant, and Jonathan was the victim of some of their, err, refuse.) Then there are more stairs in the open, until finally you reach the summer palace (built by some of the intermediary owners). Of course there is one more small tower higher on the hill. Maybe it was a watch tower.
There were many cannons lying around the fort, some of which were probably brought in recently just for looks. (One cannon, someone noticed, was from Amsterdam.) There was also a very large, ornate cannon lying on top of one of the towers. We discovered that it was perfect for a bench, plus it was cold. It's comparable in size to many modern cannons. If it was ever used to defend Daulatabad, it must have been pretty destructive.
In some places, high on the facade of the royal prison (one ruler was held there under house arrest for some time) for instance, you can still see some of the designs that used to cover many structures in the fort. Nearly all the fort is now dark grey, and trash covers the ground in many places (though they keep most of the fort pretty trash free where possible). Probably more impressive is the surviving wood in the summer palace. As some of us said over and over as we walked through the fort, it must have been breathtaking in its hay day.
Another feature that was interesting was a giant, square, stone hole inside the second wall. It was filled with water at one time, and guards were trained to do aquatic combat so they would be prepared to fight inside the moat. The moat used to be home to dangerous animals, so defending it would have been an interesting operation.

-David Winiecki