By PRATEEKSHA MAYEE,
T he city of Aurangabad has great historical significance and there are numerous monuments located in the surrounding area which are worth visiting. Aurangabad has been renamed many times since its establishment by Malik Ambar who called it Kharki. It was renamed as Fatehnagar and finally as Aurangabad by Aurangzeb when he was appointed as the Viceroy of Deccan in 1653. It was once a walled city.Awall was built during the Aurangzeb tenure to protect it from the sporadic attacks by the Marathas. Bibi Ka Maqbaraareplica of the famous Taj Mahal is another important monument from the Mughal era in the city. It was built in 1660 by Azam Shah,son of Aurangzeb in memory of his mother Dilras Bano Begam as a tribute to her.
This replica lacks the grandness, symmetry, intricate fine carvings which the original Taj is known for. The walls are covered with white plaster and are not made of marble stone and thus do not leave an impression due to the lack the beauty and maintenance. In short it is an inferior quality imitation. About 30km from Aurangabad are located the Daulatabad fort, Bhadra Maruti, Grishneshwar temples and the impressive Ellora caves. All these are located in a circumference of 10 kms. We started our day by visiting Bhadra Maruti first. It is a unique temple of God Hanuman who can be seen in lying down position.It’sabeautiful,stone idol covered with silver. It’s a calm and quiet place.Apart of the temple is under renovation and thus a little messy.
At a short distance is Grishneshwar, temple of God Shiva and is one of the Jyotirlinga (meaning- radiant sign of God Shiva) and thus a very auspicious place of worship for the Hindus who flock in to seek blessings from all over the country. It is a south Indian style of temple in terms of outer architectural structure. It is relatively crowded and one has to wait in a long queue. Men and boys have to remove their shirts before entering the main temple premises otherwise entry is denied. The linga is decorated with an intricately designed silver cover with a snake around it. Mobiles are not allowed inside the temple and photography is strictly prohibited. After seeking blessings at the holy places we drove to Daulatabad fort which was originally called as Devagiri. Devagiri fort was built by the Yadav king BhillamaVin 1187. The Yadavas ruled this fort for about 131 years. It was then attacked by Alauddin Khilji in 1294. This was the first invasion by any Muslim rulerin the Deccan area. Later Devagiri; a hill of Gods became the capital city of Muhammad Tughlaq who renamed it to Daulatabad; a city of fortunes.
He forcefully shifted his base from Delhi to Daulatabad but soon had to shift back to Delhi due to water scarcity in the area and other political reasons. The magnificent fort has seen the rise and fall of prominent eight kingdoms namely the Yadav, Khilji, Tughlaq, Bahamani, Nizam, Mughal, Asafjahi and the Peshwa in a period of about 761 years since the historical records are found. Interesting isn’t it! The fort was handed over to the government of India post independence on 17th September 1948 from the Nizams. The main fort is perched on a steep conical hill and looks spectacular from a distance. The stony hill has been chiseled skillfully so that it was just next to impossible to conquer the fort unless an insider betrayed and left the gates open. There are three main walled gates called as Mahakots. It’s said that the gates were fitted with wooden doors and sharp spikes. Two elephants carved in stone welcome you at the first gate. A variety of cannons made of iron or bronze have been displayed at the entrance. As you enter this first gate at the base of the fort there is a long passage and Chand Minar,agrand 65 metre high tower;second in height to Qutub Minar can be seen standing tall on your right side. It has three floors with spiral stairs but entry is restricted. It is iconic and looks picturesque. It is supposed to be built during the Bahamani rule around 1447AD as a symbol of victory. On the left hand side of the passage is a huge tank called as Hatti Haud (Elephant Tank) which was a source of water for the occupants of the fort. There are steep steps going down to the base of the tank which is now dry. Close by is a dome shaped structure now known as Bharat Mata Mandir. As you enter the main gate you come across a huge open courtyard surrounded by beautifully carved pillars on all four sides. They are partially broken but give us a glimpse of the ancient splendor.
The symmetry of the pillars lining the inner passage and gateways looks marvelous. An eight armed idol of Bharat Mata had been installed in the temple recently after independence. It’s a rare thing to have a temple dedicated to our motherland and one feels proud and the head bowsin pride and humility at the same time. The temple was originallyaJain temple which was converted in to a mosque by the Muslim rulers who invaded the fort. As you walk further you come across the Chini Mahal and Nizam Mahal on opposite sides of the passage. One can only see the ruins of these palaces and marvel at the architecture from the arches.The Chini Mahal was so called because it was covered with China clay and had porcelain tiles on the inner walls. This particular palace was converted into a prison where the defeated Kings were kept captive. Close by is a round structure on top of which a cannon called MendhaTope is kept. It has a face of a Ram oraSheep (Mendha). The cannon is also known as Qila-Shikan Tope which means fort breaking cannon. The surrounding area looks spectacular from here. As you walk a little further, you come across an iron bridge which is the actual link between the base fort and the actual Daulatabad fort which is perched on the hillock. This bridge is built over a moat or well which is deep and filled with water. It’s said that in the olden days the bridge was made of leather and could be rolled up and kept so that no access was available to reach the fort. Secondly the moat was a mechanical and architectural wonder. It had two dams and water levels could be controlled as per need. The bridge could be submerged in the water in times of enemy attack or any suspected danger. Moreover in rainy season the moat was always filled with water and had crocodiles so that enemy could be pushed and killed to death. In summer the moat was filled with logs of wood which could be set on fire in case of attack.The defence system of the fort was very strong and thus it was invincible. Once you are on the otherside of the bridge you are actually at the entrance of the main fort.
There is a dark underground zig -zag passage with steps called as Andhari due to the pitch darkness in the cave like structure. During the ancient times it was lit with marshals now one has to use mobile torch to avoid falling down. It also had some deceptive openings for air and light which mislead the enemy and they fell down into the moat and in case if the enemy succeeded in crossing the passage, hot oil used to be poured on them at the exit of the Andhari passage. Amazing isn’t it! The fort has a small Ganesh temple built during the Peshwa rule. As you walk further towards the top floor of the fort there is a palace called as Baradari built by Shah Jahan. It has octagonal architecture and givesaspectacular view of the whole fort and the surrounding hills. There is another tank called as Moti tank behind it which is a source of water on the fort. Stone pots partially buried in sand can be found at various locations throughout the fort. These could probably be for water storage.
Close by is a meditation cave where Janardhan Swami is said to have meditated and blessed by Datta Maharaj. As a sign of this, their holy footsteps have been carved in stone for people to seek their blessings. Sant Eknath Maharaj is also said to have stayed on the fort for a few years. On the pinnacle, two more cannons called asDurga andKala Pahad cannons are strategically located as part of the defence system of the fort and this is the highest point of the Daulatabad fort. The fort has lost its sheen and grandeur but it neverthelessis a must visitspot if you are around Aurangabad. We enjoyed the panoramic view, soaked in the fresh, cool breeze and set back with an enriched mind and gratitude for our forefathers.You also plan a trip to this historically rich city and pride of Marathwada