Part 10: The Citadel and Architectural Symbolism

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

The importance of the conquest of Daulatabad for Shah Jahan’s imperial ambitions and policies is revealed by the emperor’s official histories containing a detailed description of the 1633 siege of the fort. The passage is accompanied by a miniature painting illustrating the event. The painting, Padshah folio 144 recto, was created as part of Shah Jahan’s official history for the sixth regnal year, 1633. It is signed by the court artist Murar, and is reproduced below.

This detailed painting, which appears to have been based on actual visual studies of Daulatabad, provides evidence of the appearance of the fort prior to the construction of the hilltop palace. After the Mughal siege, Daulatabad’s citadel was greatly changed by the addition of the hilltop palace, the construction of which necessitated the removal of previous structures. Because earlier buildings were eliminated in order to make room for one built by the Mughals, the hilltop palace can be understood as a conscious attempt to announce the changed ownership of the fort and to make the site distinguishable as part of the Mughal empire. The artist has included the entire fort on the page. In order to do so, Murar compressed the three primary fort walls and rendered them as three concentric circles which emanate from the scarp of the hill. These major fortified areas are seen from an acute vantage point, and within them are many of the major monuments extant in the seventeenth century.

Beneath the walls of the Ambarkot the artist has depicted the initial siege of the fort. On the left, the imperial forces are seen entering the Ambarkot through the recently exploded wall, indicating that this scene depicts the events of April 19, 1633, as chronicled in the Padshah Nama. On the right, the troops enter the Ambarkot from a gate which apparently has been opened from the inside. In the foreground the artist has depicted Mughal military officials on horseback who played major roles in the conquest of the fort. On the left is Mahabat Khan. Centrally positioned is Khan Zaman, and to the right, facing the other two, is Nasiri Khan. Surrounding them are members of the imperial forces.

Although Murar has provided a stylized view of the three major fort areas, he paid considerable attention to the hill, the distinguishing feature of Daulatabad. It occupies the upper-third of the page, and is shown frontally, as seen from the east. Comparison of this painting with the above photograph shows that the artist has depicted the hill with a high degree of accuracy. The shape of the hill shows Deogiri’s rise at the southwest end, and its gradual slope toward the northeast. The proportion of the rocky scarp to the upper areas of the hill is essentially correct. Further, the artist has paid close attention to architecture elsewhere within the fort. These and other accurate details indicate that this painting was based on actual visual studies of Daulatabad.

The painting shows that the architectural appearance of the upper-regions of the hill changed significantly after the Mughal siege. The painting indicates that the location where the hilltop palace now sits was occupied by a burj and bastions. At the apex of the hill, Murar depicted a large white structure, which under Mughal dominion was demolished.

This transformation of the upper-regions of the hill was likely a conscious decision on the part of the conquerors in order to proclaim imperial presence. In this manner, the hilltop palace was a means of projecting the changed ownership of the fort.

Architectural Mirroring

It has been shown that the hilltop palace was based on the design of the Daulat-Khana, the structure which served as the imperial residence at Daulatabad. The choice of this design for the hilltop palace was likely not an arbitrary one. The Daulat-Khana was a well-recognized structure in the area and already associated with Mughal occupation. It would therefore have been a logical design for a structure intended to project the empire’s presence in the fort.

The strong resemblance between the two floor plans demonstrates that the smaller palace was constructed in dialogue with the design of the Daulat-Khana. Perhaps more important are the exterior similarities between the two structures. The basic design of both buildings consists of a plastered octagonal burj extending from a square open courtyard surrounded by rooms.

This mirroring of architectural form reinforces the intended symbolic capacity of the hilltop palace. By repeating the form of the Daulat-Khana in a location visible throughout the area, Mughal presence in the fort was emphasized to a greater degree.