Part 9: Placement and Approach 

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

The intended use of the hilltop palace is difficult to determine due to two reasons. First, it is not easy to reach, requiring a long climb up the hill and through a steep and narrow underground tunnel. Second, as a place of imperial residence, it seems an unnecessary addition to the fort because this need was filled by the Daulat-Khana. The function of the hilltop palace is partly explained by its providing a panoramic view of the surrounding plains and hills. This capacity indicates that the building functioned as a “get-away,” as a place for recreation and retreat.

However, it is important not to assess this structure simply in terms of its possible utilitarian function. It is the most prominent structure within a fort which was of key strategic importance; further, its construction was likely commissioned by Shah Jahan, an emperor who actively pursued the Mughal policy of using architecture as a means of projecting personality and power.

Therefore, the architectural symbolism of the hilltop palace should be considered: the prominent position of the building in relation to the fort and surrounding areas; how the structure altered the appearance of the citadel in order to announce imperial presence; and the possible motivation for repeating the design of the Daulat-Khana in a prominent location.

Placement and Approach

The distinguishing physical feature of Daulatabad is the hill known as Deogiri, a geological formation which can be seen for several kilometers in all directions. The upper regions of this hill are narrow and rocky and its apex consists of little more than a projecting rocky escarpment supporting a gun turret. As the terrain of the hill is increasingly flatter and broader toward the northeast, it becomes capable of supporting larger architectural constructions.

It is in this region that the hilltop palace is located, a structure which can be seen from a significant distance in all directions except from the southwest, where it is obscured by the gun turret. The front of the building consists of a prominent octagonal burj which is made more noticeable by its surface of white plaster. As stated earlier, this part of the structure, which is an arcaded cloister, can be related to a jharoka, the window at which a king would appear before the public. From this portion of the building it is possible to look out over the entire fort, as shown on the map of Daulatabad. The structure is placed on an axis which cuts through the center of the Mahakot region of the fort, allowing the burj--its most ornate feature--to be seen from a complimentary angle throughout the fort.

In addition, the building is placed so that it is visible from all gates within the fort complex, allowing it to be seen from every approach to Daulatabad. The length of the structure is visible from the Paithan and Khirki (Aurangabad) gates, and it is seen frontally from the northeast gate leading to Khuldabad. The hilltop palace is therefore situated in a prominent position which allows it to overlook the entire fort and be seen from a multitude of vantage points, including the roads leading to Daulatabad from distant cities.

The visibility of the hilltop palace from vantage points throughout the fort, and its conspicuousness from all approaches to Daulatabad, shows that this structure was strategically placed. This prominent location reveals the significance of the building and its symbolic function of projecting imperial presence and authority.