Aurangabad - I: Devgiri/Daulatabad fort and Grishneshwar
Aurangabad - I: Devgiri/Daulatabad fort and Grishneshwar
Aurangabad is termed as the Tourism Capital of Maharashtra. So one can expect a whole bunch of tourist attractions. It has various Religious attractions including the Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Islam, which is why Aurangabad is very special. The list is big, putting it short in below list.
Top 10 attractions of Aurangabad:
1. The Ajanta Caves
2. Ellora Caves
3. Devgiri/Deogiri/Daulatabad fort
4. Grishneshwar Jyothirlinga
5. Pitalkhora Caves
6. Bibi Ka Maqbara
7. Aurangabad Caves
8. Gautala Sanctuary
9. Bhadra Maruti
We had two days for our excursion, of course a weekend. So we planned for only Ajanta-Ellora and Grishneshwar temple. We had chosen Celcabs for our two day trip. They in turn outsourced it to Mauli Tours & Travels (not to be confused with Shree Mauli Tours & Travels). The driver name was also Mauli and he was the owner of the car.
Our initial plan was to leave Friday by early morning and reach Ajanta by afternoon, but ended up leaving by 10am from Pune. We were headed towards Ellora, but the time was already 5pm when we took the diversion before Aurangabad city, reason being our driver was driving slowly on the highway. So we decided to skip Ellora for the day as it was already late, and headed towards Devgiri Fort which is on the way to Ellora. This fort is quite unique and architecturally a wonder.
It was founded by the Yadavas of Deogiri (“The hill of Gods”) in 11th century A.D. It was the capital of Yadavas for over a century (1187-1294). The Khilji Dynasty annexed Daulatabad in 12th centuary A.D. Muhammad-bin-Tughluq, renamed Deogiri as Daulatabad (“Abode of wealth”) and got the capital shifted from Delhi in 1328 A.D. Later changed hands from many kingdoms.
The fort is built on a 200meter high conical hill, was one of the most powerful forts of the medieval Deccan. The fort is protected with three outer fortification walls and the outer door, studded and spiked against elephant attack, is still in position. Much of the lower slopes of the hill has been cut to leave 50 meter vertical sides to improve defenses. The only means of access to the summit is by a narrow bridge.
|The narrow bridge which leads to the fort|
After passing through the bridge, the only entrance to the citadel was through a devious tunnel popularly known as Andheri or the Dark Passage, which in times of siege was rendered impassable by an ingenious contrivance. This sub-terrain passage is indeed mysterious. The long ascending tunnel rises rapidly and tortuously by a flight of steps, which are uneven in width and height, difficult for climb in the absence of light. The labyrinthine passage coupled with the darkness confuse the enemy army to kill themselves along a tunnel containing numerous chambers cut out of solid rock which were used in the olden times as guard rooms and store houses. The turns and twists lead to a window, now covered with grills, but was originally a trap set for enemy intruders, who on entering tumble down the slope to meet a watery grave in the moat below. The tunnel was impassable when the great obstacles come in the form of darkness, caltrops, barrier of smoke and a splash of hot oil or water from above. The steps in the courtyard are newly constructed in 1952 for the convenience of tourists.
|At the entrance to the main Fort|
It represents a unique combination of Military Engineering, Amazing Town Planning with Unique Water Management System and Architectural Marvels with strong political and religious hold. Due to its strategic location and its strong protective defenses it is known as an Unconquerable fort. The defensive system consists of moats and three encircling fortification walls with lofty gates and bastions at regular intervals.
|Entry to the labyrinthine passage - Andheri|
Below the hill before entering the main fortification wall is a fine and conspicuous minaret, 70 metres high and 21 metres in circumference at the bottom known as Chand Minar which was built by Sultan Ala-ud-din Bahmani (Sultan Ahmed Shah II) in 1447 A.D.
|Door to close the entrance from the passage|
It was about 5.15pm when we entered the fort gates, there is a nominal fee for entering and no fee for still cameras. About a ten min walk you enter one more fort gate after passing by the Chand Minar, and there are two gates here in between is a platform where the cannons were kept. After passing by these gates you can find a moat followed by a high wall cut from the rock itself, leaving it difficult to climb. There is only one bridge which connects to the Citadel. As you cross the bridge you raise up to a tunnel passage, which is having a complex route which ascends to the main fort, as you ascend up you can see a door which can be closed horizontally to close the entrance from the passage. From here it was another 30percent of the way to the summit and has few more forts and gates.
It is advised to carry a torch with you while passing through the tunnel, and also there is a guide before the tunnel who can guide you through the tunnel for a nominal fee. Keep noted that the fort will be closed by 6pm, so the entrance to the summit will be closed about 30min before this. As we started late and reached summit entrance by 5.50, we were not allowed to ascend further. We started to climb down and it relaxed at the foot of the hills while enjoying the sunset around the Chand minar and the Citadel hill.
|slopes of the hill which are cut to leave 50 m vertical sides to improve defenses|
This was an informative and memorable journey after disappointing plan changes and not so good start of the day.
We later proceeded towards Grishneshwar temple, which is just less than 1km from Ellora. Grishneshwar is the twelfth Jyothirlinga and very sacred for Hindus. It was about 7pm when we reached the temple. Photography is banned inside the temple and its premises. Men have to remove their shirts to enter inside the temple. The temple is built of red rocks, composed of a five tier shikara. Restored in the 18th century by Ahilyabai Holkar, the temple is 240 x 185 feet tall. It houses beautiful carvings and sculptures of many Indian Gods and Goddesses.
Relaxed at the temple for a while and started towards our hotel which we booked in Aurangabad.
Although we had kept in excess for the second day, the Ajanta and Ellora caves.