Part 4: Ascribing a Date to the Palace

The Hilltop Palace in the Fort of Daulatabad, by Carl Lindquist

It is stated in the Maharashtra State Gazetteer of the Aurangabad District that the “baradari” on the citadel of Daulatabad was a favorite summer residence of Shah Jahan and his son Aurangzeb. Unfortunately, this information is not backed by literary evidence from Shah Jahan’s time. The court histories of Shah Jahan do not indicate that he made frequent trips to Daulatabad, although he did visit the fort in 1636 for a period of several months; if subsequent trips to the fort did in fact place, they were not recorded. There is no extant inscription on the building or in its environs which states its time of construction, and therefore a precise date cannot be put forward with absolute certainty. However, the most likely dates for commission of the building are between the years 1636 and 1644. 

Various dates have been assigned to the building by authors. M. S. Mate speculates that it was built in the latter half of the 17th century. Stuart Piggott states that the palace was built for Shah Jahan’s visit in 1636. Sidney Toy also suggests 1636 as the most probable date of commission. Both Piggott and Toy fail to provide evidence for this date. Piggott implies that the building was intended as the place of imperial residence, although the court histories of Shah Jahan do not support this. Piggott may have misinterpreted a passage written in 1636 by Lahori, Shah Jahan’s court historian, in reference to the Daulat-Khana, the larger Mughal palace situated in the upper region of the Mahakot. The passage reads:

As the building of the Daulat-Khana inside the citadel of Mahakot had not been completed, on 21st Ramazan 1045 (28 February 1636), the world-conquering monarch (camped)...two karohs from Daulatabad.

This passage indicates that the Daulat-Khana was intended as the imperial residence for Shah Jahan, and that its construction was being completed in 1636. The official histories of Shah Jahan do not mention the hilltop palace, although they do indicate that 1636 could have been the building’s year of commission. The strongest evidence for this assessment is the revelation that in 1636 Shah Jahan spent several months at Daulatabad, that he toured the fort and inspected the tunnel which leads to the citadel:

On the 24th of Ramazan 1045 (2 March 1636), the Emperor...paid a visit to the fortress of Daulatabad and took delight in inspecting the wonders that had been performed by former architects in cutting away the stone, excavating the trenches out of the flinty rock, boring a passage through the hillside, and constructing numerous lines of defenses and other stupendous works.

It is possible that at this time Shah Jahan devised plans for construction of the hilltop palace. As stated earlier, Shah Jahan continually commissioned buildings and actively participated in their designs. The construction of fort architecture was vigorously pursued, such as at Agra, Lahore and Delhi. Considering this constant involvement in building, especially in regard to forts, it is a distinct possibility that Shah Jahan ordered the construction of the palace on the citadel during his visit in 1636.

A date of commission prior to 1636 for the hilltop palace is unlikely. Because the Daulat-Khana is more spacious and contains all the features which an emperor would require for daily life and for execution of official duties, it is logical that a structure of this kind would be the first priority. The statement by Lahori conclusively dates the Daulat-Khana to the year 1636, indicating that its construction had to have been started shortly after the 1633 Mughal conquest of the fort. The hilltop palace was probably built at a later date using plans based on the Daulat-Khana. If indeed the palace was a retreat for Shah Jahan, as the Maharashtra State Gazetteer suggests, then the structure would have had to have been built before his imprisonment in 1657, the final year of his reign.

The possibility exists that the hilltop palace was commissioned by Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb, who twice served as Viceroy in the Deccan during the periods 1636-1644 and 1652-1657. It is unlikely that Aurangzeb commissioned the building after seizing power in 1657, as he did not return to the Deccan for many years after this date; it is likely that he would have conceived the idea during his first viceroyalty, at which time he lived at Daulatabad.

In conclusion, 1636 is the earliest and most likely date for commission of the building. Shah Jahan’s active building program, his long stay at the newly-conquered Daulatabad, and the fact that he examined the upper regions of the fort, give strength to this possibility. 1644, Aurangzeb’s final year of residence at the fort, is the most likely latest date for commission of the building.