Part 6: Possible Functions of the Palace

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

Although the opulent space and elegance of the hilltop palace would have allowed it to function as a residence, its location precludes regular usage as such: it can be accessed only by a steep climb up the hill, part of which involves passage through a dark and narrow underground tunnel. Yet, the building itself is not hidden; its position and orientation on the citadel reveal that the palace was intended to be the most prominent building within the Fort of Daulatabad. It may therefore be asked: who built this structure, what was its functional use, and how was it intended to be perceived. 

Although the building is often attributed to Aurangzeb and his reign, it is more likely that the building was commissioned by Shah Jahan and constructed during his rule.  The building is of Shah Jahani design and was likely intended to alter the appearance of the fort in order to proclaim Mughal presence and authority in the region. Daulatabad was long-sought by the Mughals because of its strategic importance in the Deccan. By destroying other structures on the citadel in order to make room for a building of Mughal design, imperial dominion over the fort was proclaimed in visual terms. The ability of architecture to serve as a powerful way of projecting authority and personality was recognized by all the Mughal emperors, and it was considered politically prudent for emperors to be engaged in vigorous building campaigns. Mughal buildings were not associated with the names of architects, who are seldom mentioned in official court histories, but rather with the emperors who commissioned them.

The power of architecture as a political tool was recognized by Shah Jahan more than any of his predecessors. Official court histories state that the emperor's passion for architecture prompted him to take an active role in the design of buildings he commissioned. In particular, he was interested in fort architecture, and throughout his reign construction at the forts of Delhi and Agra was continual. Further, he constructed buildings on citadels at Kabul and Udaipur. Although there is no reference to the hilltop palace in the official court histories of Shah Jahan, these chronicles do show that he commissioned architecture at Daulatabad. Further, they describe his strong interest in the fort and state that he inspected the upper regions of the hill.

Considering his vigorous building campaign, fueled in part by political motivations, the citadel of the strategically-important Daulatabad would have been a likely site for construction. In addition to the building's efficacy as a statement of imperial presence and authority, it is a large and elegant structure with a number of rooms capable of serving a variety of functions. For example, some rooms could be used as sleeping quarters, some for recreation, and others as audience halls. In effect, the building was capable of functioning as an imperial residence. However, the difficulty in accessing the structure, and its distance from amenities such as the mosque and bath, indicate it was not the primary Mughal residence at Daulatabad, nor was it a residence on a permanent basis; instead, its remote and scenic location suggests that it served as a place of retreat for use by the imperial family and court members.