Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Impregnable Devagiri Fort! Never Defeated In Battle

One of the most formidable Forts in India, the Devagiri fort, has only one accessible approach which was fiercely and ruthlessly guarded during the medieval Deccan era. This invincible fort with the most complex and intricate defense system remained undefeated in battle. Legend has it that during the Devagiri period the Royal family challenged people to try and gain access to the fort and claim rewards. However, the reward was never claimed by anyone. Numerous attempts by Mughal invaders to conquer this fort resulted in failure and finally they had to resort to treachery to rule over this fort.

It is believed that Lord Shiva resided in the surrounding hills and hence the name Devagiri 'Hill of Gods.' This fort was built by King Bhillama V of the Yadava Dynasty. After its conquest by Allaudin Khilji in 1926 AD, it remained under the Mughal rule and in 1328 AD, Mohammed Bin Tughlak changed the name from Devagiri to Daulatabad 'Abode of Wealth.' He was also responsible for shifting the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad forcing the entire population to relocate but due to lack of water and other resources, he was forced to move the capital back to Delhi. Just imagine the plight of a common man enduring such hardships, even the sick and old were not spared.

At a height of 200 mt on a conical hill, 16 km from Aurangabad, this 11th century fort, a blend of land and hill fort has three encircling fortification walls. These walls were built in a way that the entire town was divided into sectors- Amberkot for common people, Mahakot served as the residential area of the higher class of the society, the Kalakot was the Royal residential area with double line of fortifications and Balakot was the pinnacle portion where the pride of honor the flag fluttered. At every interval there were strong chambers that served both as guardrooms and storage place for grains and ammunition. The outer wall is 5 km in circumference with an average height of 6-9 mt and a thickness of 2-3 mt.

With flawless military engineering, this architectural marvel was defended well with its complex arrangement of bastions at regular intervals, maze like passages, lofty gates with iron spikes and strategic position of gun turrets.The rock around the fort was chiseled skillfully making the climb impossible. The fort was defended by moat around the hill at its foot and the only way to enter was via a mechanical drawbridge. In case of an attack, crocodiles in the moat hindered their entry, flaring torches were unleashed on the enemy forces, hot oil poured in their path, the iron spikes on the lofty gates to attack enemy's elephants and numerous confusing passages lured the enemy to their death.

Such exemplary defense system left us wondering if these pains were taken to protect something that valuable or was it more of a matter of pride and honor of being indomitable.

Once you enter the fort, you are greeted with a number of canons that are displayed in the courtyard near the entrance gate while others remain in their original places such as bastions on fort walls and circular towers. This huge collection of canons is a show of strength.

After crossing the passage post the entrance gate, we reached an open area from where the Hathi Tank and Bharat Mata Temple were on our left and a couple of hundred meters ahead of us were a fleet of steps leading to the pinnacle of the fort. Midway the Chand Minar standing tall was quiet a sight.

Hathi Tank or Elephant Tank- It is known as the Hathi tank because of its gigantic size. This fort is known for its unique water management system with a network of terracotta pipelines and drains that provided water to the entire city. The capacity is estimated to be at 10000 cubic m.

The site at which stands the Bharat Mata/Mother India temple was earlier a Hindu temple that was ransacked by the Mughal Invaders and converted to a mosque. Now, it has been restored to a temple dedicated to Bharat Mata. The present monument comprises of 106 pillars which were ransacked from Hindu and Jain temples. The ransacked pillars lying in the premises paint a picture of arrogance and a trial of destruction.

The Chand Minar stands tall at 63 feet and reminds you of the Qutub Minar in Delhi. It was erected in 1445 by Ala-ud-din Bahmani to commemorate his capture of the fort. This used to be covered in Persian glazed tiles all over but now only the structure remains with most of the prized decorations lost over time.

The Chini Mahal or China Palace, was a palace of great beauty then and it was here that Abdul Hasan Tana Shah, the last of the Qutub Shahi kings of Golconda, was imprisoned by Aurangazeb in 1687.

This fort is indeed mysterious, intriguing and very much unlike any other fort. No wonder, it remained undefeated in battle. One of the best constructed forts in the world, despite the ruthless history behind it, it seems to have survived unaltered.

The fort rich in history and the pride of many dynasties boasting an unachievable feat of being undefeated makes you want to venture out to this place, hardly visited by tourists, to appreciate it.

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