Dominating the horizon 13km northwest of Aurangabad, the awesome hilltop citadel of DAULATABAD crowns a massive conical volcanic outcrop whose sides have been shaped into a sheer sixty-metre wall of granite. Not least for the panoramic views from the top of the hill, Daulatabad makes a rewarding pause en route to or from the caves at Ellora, 17km northwest.
It was the eleventh-century Yadavas who were responsible for scraping away the jagged lower slopes of the mount – originally known as Deogiri, “Hill of the Gods” – to form its vertical-cliff base, as well as the fifteen-metre-deep moat that encircles the upper portion of the citadel. Muslim occupation of Deogiri began in earnest with the arrival in 1327 of sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq, who decreed that his entire court should decamp here from Delhi, an epic 1100-kilometre march that cost thousands of lives, and ultimately proved futile – within seventeen years, drought and famine had forced the beleaguered ruler to return to Delhi. Thereafter, the fortress fell to a succession of different regimes, including Shah Jahan’s Mughals in 1633, before it was finally taken by the Marathas midway through the eighteenth century.