Part 3: Daulatabad and the Mughals

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

Daulatabad was a site of particular importance for Mughal imperial ambitions, and therefore a logical site for a structure which would announce imperial presence and authority. This coveted site was the focus of intense political and military debate, and the Deccan in general was of pivotal imporance to Shah Jahan.

The Fort of Daulatabad was perhaps the most strategically important location for the control of the Deccan, and its conquest was a priority for Shah Jahan. It was in this region that the future emporer first demonstrated his talents as a diplomat and military strategist, and these early successes helped forge his identity and played a crucial role in his securing the title of emperor.

The Mughals had long sought total control of the Deccan, but many of their vigourous military policies resulted in failure. In 1616, Emperor Jehangir appointed his son Khurram to the post of Viceroy of the Deccan. This action by Jehangir was in the hope that the prince could reverse a history of failed Mughal policies in the Deccan. The prince's talent for administration of Deccani affairs earned him the honorary title Shah. Within the next few months Khurram achieved several diplomatic victories in the Deccan, resulting in the Deccani Malik Ambar surrendering several forts and relinquishing territory. These successes prompted Jehangir to give Khurram the title Shah Jahan in the fall of 1617.

The truce with Malik Ambar was short-lived, however, and by the summer of 1618 the Deccanis renounced their allegiance to the Mughals and began to seek their lost territory. Shah Jahan then made Daulatabad a focal point in the conquest of the Deccan. in 1621 the imperial troops attempted to take the fort, but were driven away by the forces of Malik Ambar.

In 1628 Shah Jahan ascended the throne. The desire for new territory and the need for an increasingly large military fueled the continuing military campaigns in the Deccan. Fath Khan, the son of Malik Ambar, was at this time in charge of Daulatabad. In 1632 Shah Jahan received a tentative pledge of allegiance from Fath Khan in exchange for protection from the Adilshahi Court, which had threatened to attack Daulatabad. Randola Khan, the Adilshahi commander, communicated to Fath Khan that the Mughals sought to dispel him and seize Daulatabad for their own. The two entered into negotiations and Randola Khan pledged military and financial aid in exchange for Fath Khan switching sides.  This turn of events reached the emperor, and on March 1, 1633, Mughal conquest of the fort began.  The Mughals took possession of the fort in June of 1633.

The Deccan was of central importance to Shah Jahan from the earliest years of his career, and his successes there helped him secure the throne.  As Emperor, he continued the Mughal campaign to secure the Deccan as part of the empire, and he recognized Daulatabad as a site of pivotal importance for attaining this goal.  The significance of Daulatabad continued throughout the reigns of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, and therefore the placement of a prominent structure on the citadel of this fort is an expected action by a regime that had long recogized the power of architecture to project authority.