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Devgiri/Daultabad Fort
About 20 kms from Aurangabad. Take the route for Nashik highway. You can reach Devgiri/Daultabad early in the morning and make the trip in the cooler temperature to the top in about three hours and carry on to Ellora thereafter with enough time at hand. You need to walk the whole distance once you enter the first gate. The climb could get mildly demanding as you near the top, but do make it to the top. The topmost bastion of the fort offers a nice view and the great feeling of having conquered this invincible fort.
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Rising on the Deccan plateau northwest of Aurangabad is the momentous landmark of Devgiri Fort, situated in Daulatabad Village. One of it’s kind, this massive, pyramidal fort is an awe-inspiring example of defense architecture, grand from outside, astonishing from inside. One of the best-preserved medieval forts in the world, Devgiri tells numerous tales of splendor, betrayal, blood-shed and that of a long line of powerful rulers and prominent historical figures.

As we approach the fort, it becomes prominently visible from a long distance and completely overwhelms us as we reach its feet. This unconquerable fort was supposedly built by Bhillamraja, the ruler of Daulatabad, then called Devgiri, in 1187 A.D. The fort evolved in its defense mechanism over the next few centuries as it passed from one dynasty to another.

The fort was never conquered by force, as the task would be impossible even for an army of fifty thousand taking on a mere battalion of two thousand. The multiple layers of strong and high walls protecting the fort have gates that would render several hoards of charging elephant useless. Not to mention, the archers positioned atop these would make the job difficult. Once this defense falls, the defenders would retreat behind a 40 feet deep moat full of crocodiles. As the enemy charges after them, they would withdraw the mechanical drawbridge sending a big number of soldiers into the moat. Let us assume if the enemy somehow achieved the Herculean task of crossing the moat under the shower of arrows, they would be tired and injured at the end of it, left with the task of passing through narrow passages letting in two soldiers at a time blocked by the fresh and strong swordsmen of the defending army. The enemy would take the passageway, as climbing up the 100 feet rock-cut wall of the fort would be impossible. If they make it through these passages, they will enter a dark and deadly maze.

This maze is a piece of exceptional strategic architecture. As the attackers enter the maze, they would step upon poison dipped iron thorns. If they lit torches for vision, they would become an easy target for the archers hiding in strategically caved out holes just below the ceiling. If the attackers doused their torches and carried on in darkness, they would soon split in two parties and meet head-on to fight amongst themselves. Further, they will be lured by the purposely dropped light beams, giving them an impression that they have made it to the other end, but only to bath in boiling oil poured from above or to skid through the slippery tunnel throwing them down the precipitous mountain side into the moat. The final part of the maze is humanly impossible to endure. They would have to walk across a blazing hot brazier blowing insufferable wafts of heat carrying poisonous fumes of sulfur.

If ever a small number of enemy made it out of the maze, the fresh battalion of more than thousand soldiers would be waiting to make an easy work of them. Owing to such high impregnability of the fort, it was never taken by force. However, it passed on from several rulers owing to submission or being taken by treachery.

In 1294 the fort passed on to Ala-ud-din Khilji, who made the ruling Kings pay tribute. Later it went on to Malik Kafur who flayed alive Haripal, the last of the Kings of the original dynasty. Further it passed on to Muhammad-bin-Tughluq, who decided to shift his capital of India from Delhi to Devgiri. He changed the name of the fort and the city to Daulatabad and moved the entire population of Delhi to the city. The grueling journey afoot, took lives of thousands including women, children and old men. However, due to lack of water and resources, Tughluq decided to shift back to Delhi after two years, and brutally repeated the journey causing similar loss of life.

Over the next few centuries, the fort passed on through several dynasties like Bahmanis, Mughals and Nizams. Between Mughals and Nizams the possession of the fort transferred several times. Amongst some of the notable rulers during this period was Malik Amber, an Abyssinian slave brought from Africa who rose through the ranks to become the minister of Nizams, and later declared himself the king. In the early 17th century, Malik Amber discovered Kharki, which later became Aurangabad under the rule of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

The fort has several interesting monuments within. Prominent ones of these are, Chand Minar, a 30 meter high watch tower, a large stone-made elephant pool, which would also be the major source of water during the siege, and several cannons, the most notable of these being the Medha Toph (the ram cannon), composed of five metals, capable of firing a shot twelve kilometers long. At the top is a lovely royal palace named Baradari (of twelve doors), with an entertainment hall and balconies offering the picturesque views around.