We visited Daulatabad fort ( also called the Deogiri Fort) located sixteen kilometres from Aurangabad.
The fort is enroute to the Ellora caves and is an imposing structure with its thick walls and double moats and stretches all the way to the top of the hill. Its cannons are intact and so are most of its boundary walls. A desultory attendant at the entrance checks our tickets (it costs us five rupees each ) and offers us a guide for 750 rupees. This seems inordinately steep so we turn down his offer and proceed to explore the fort on our own, drinking in the beauty of the fort and the surrounding views.
This is a heritage building where the ASI has been at work since 1951 when it first put up concrete steps for the benefit of visitors. The ASI imagines that all visitors are young and wiry and able to mount steep stairs without any kind of supporting rails. Before the entrance to the second round of fortifications is a very swank building and a new board that announces toilets. Moving in the direction of this structure which has convenience facilities for men, women and the otherwise abled, one discovers that everything is under lock and key and firmly shuttered down. Possibly it awaits inauguration by some dignitary and in the meanwhile everybody will continue to press down on their bladders or ease themselves on the premises as is being done, wherever possible.
The Chini Minar is perched delicately in the middle of the fort and main section of the fort which probably houses the Chand Mahal is under renovation , so we lumber past the renovation and climb higher to the summit for better views of the fort.
On our way back we explore the large courtyards to our right where a shiny board announces the Bharat Mata Temple. This is rather intriguing because the gleaming goddess is quite young and was definitely not around at the time when the fort went into decline after the death of Aurangzeb. A sari clad woman's form has been fixed onto a niche in the outer walls of the fort which overlooks a large courtyard. I am informed that the goddess came into being at the time of the Kargil War. How she extended strength to our army from the heart of the Deccan to the northern frontier is a matter of speculation, but clearly our myth-making abilities as a nation have not diminished. Currently Bharat Mata, supported by her unlikely temple wall is adorned and tidied by one of her female descendants and cheerily smiles out into a large open courtyard, that provides a view of the lawns and the now dry water tank beyond.
Her descendants sweep the yards and the steps of the huge fort which apparently fell into disuse because of a paucity of water. I wonder what the women do if they need a drink of water or have to attend the call of nature, but remember thankfully that people doing menial work are not supposed to have bodies and subsist without any physical needs and requirements whatsoever. The Municipal Corporation of Bombay is housed in splendid heritage buildings. Surely sections of Daulatabad fort, so close to Aurangabad, Maharashtra's tourist capital, could be made habitable, house the town's municipal offices and provide better facilities for its caretakers. This would go a long way in terms of reviving local fortunes, generating employment and improving the conditions at the fort and increasing footfalls.