A Fort Lost in Time | Adilabad Fort, Delhi


The one place that every child visiting Delhi is dragged to, is, of course, the Red fort. It is a monument that attracts one of the highest footfalls in the country.  That’s perhaps because it used to be the power-center of a greater part of India less than a century ago. But what of the numerous other fortresses strewn around this country? Did you know there are several others in Delhi itself? Seven cities were raised in the capital one after the other, and more than seven forts were built to protect the palaces and the monarchy in each case. Much of that splendor is gone today, but the stones  that remain in some parts of Delhi bear testimony to the immense military power of the kings that ruled here once. Let me take you on a visit to one of the smaller, lesser known forts in the city today.

In the south east fringes of Delhi, very close to the better known Tughlaqabad Fort, lies a fortress of almost identical features but smaller proportions, Adilabad.  Like Tughlaqabad, it lies in fascinating ruins today… Young boys play cricket in the meadows  around it, and except for locals, visitors to the place are few and far between.

Up the entrance into Adilabad fort
Up the entrance into Adilabad fort
Mysterious Adilabad fort
Mysterious fort
Lonely Bench for Tourists at Adilabad Fort
Lonely Bench for Tourists at Adilabad Fort

It was in 1321 when the first Tughlaq ruler had seized power from the Khiljis that ruled before him. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq was an able administrator and a shrewd military commander, and he had his dream fort,the massive Tughlaqabad, built in 6 years to keep out the menace of the Mongols. Tughlaqabad, however, never flourished as a city, and the curse that was its undoing is an enticing story in itself. In any case, after Ghiyasuddin’s death, his son Muhammad bin Tughlaq inherited the throne. Muhammad was a brilliant man, his ideas far ahead of his time… to the point that many still think he was a crazy man. Among the many projects he took up was the building of the walled city of Jahanpanah. In effect, instead of creating a new city again, this king consolidated all the previous forts inside one great wall- from Lal kot near Qutb Minar, to Siri in South Delhi, all the way to his father’s abandoned fort, the mighty Tughlaqabad in the south east. In the words of famous Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta, who was visting Tughlaq’s court in those days,

“Dilli the metropolis is a vast and magnificent city, uniting beauty with strength. It is surrounded by a wall that has no equal in the world, and is the largest city in the entire Muslim Orient.”

So far so good. But if the kingdom of Jahanpanah was so well consolidated, and the fort of Tughlaqabad couldn’t be properly settled for lack of drinking water in the area, what led the king to build another fort in its vicinity? No one can tell. Perhaps it was built as a transitory palace between Tughlaqabad and Jahanpanah? Or perhaps it was the prince’s private palace when his father was king? All we know is that Muhammad named it Adilabad after himself, Adil being his assumed title. To add to the confusion, there’s yet another fortress in the distance, tinier and even more ruined, also said to have been built by Muhammad bin Tughlaq. Not much more than a wall remains there, but its name is intriguing: Nai ka Kot (Barber’s fort). Historians haven’t been able to find out much about this place.

Adilabad was originally connected to Tughlaqabad via a causeway. Today there is no direct connection, but you can drive right up to it through ‘kuchha’ roads. Not far away is the well preserved tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, where, it is said, Muhammad bin Tughlaq is also buried beside his father. Though his fortress is in ruins today, its basic structure is still intact. When I went there just after the rains, the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) seemed to have done some beautification of the area. The grass was fresh green, and colorful flowers against the broken rubble walls made a strangely poignant scene. Do visit once.  Surely this mysterious fort deserves a few guests.

In the distance, Tughlaqabad fort to the left, and Nai ka Kot to the right
In the distance, Tughlaqabad fort to the left, and Nai ka Kot to the right
Through a hole in the wall, a glimpse at Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq's tomb
Through a gate in the wall, a glimpse at Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s tomb
Ghiyasuddin and Muhammad bin Tughlaq's tomb
Ghiyasuddin’s tomb- where both father and son lie buried
An effort at beautification by ASI at Adilabad Fort
An effort at beautification by ASI at Adilabad Fort
Bird sitting on fort wall
Lone Visitor
Why do I find this poignant? At Adilabad Fort
Why do I find this poignant?

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Sunil Deepak says:

    Absolutely marvellous pictures and great description. I have been to Tughlakabad and had not heard about this Adilabad place.

    1. wanderfool says:

      Hi Sunil, thank you so much. Adilabad is actually visible from Tughlaqabad fort, but unfortunately most people haven’t heard about it so they don’t know where to look.
      I just went through your blog and feel so glad you found mine, because I found yours. You have a unique thing going there with the 3-picture concept… as you can see you’ve just won yourself a fan 🙂

  2. mj says:

    As always, great pictures put together with great love and labor. Yes, I see why the last picture is poignant. For me, it spells a desolation that stretches back to times and people that came before us.
    You give Delhi monuments a gravitas and dignity that we, as Delhiites, have forgotten in our daily rushed lives. Keep up the great job.

    1. wanderfool says:

      And as always, mj, you understand and express the unspoken so well! Thanks again for the encouragement.

  3. beautiful pictures and, as always, informative and engagin writing!

  4. twobitwo says:

    loved the pictures, i have been on that road that passes by the fort, but never stepped off to pay a visit… you somehow manage to add a lot of must-dos to my list! and i m not complaining 🙂

    1. wanderfool says:

      Thank you dear 🙂 🙂 Come soon to visit! Date With Delhi misses your writing too!

  5. AU says:

    There is a district called Adilabad in AP state… or the to-be Telangana state 🙂 “Adilabad derives its name from the erstwhile ruler of Bijapur, Mohammed Adil Shah.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adilabad_district

    1. wanderfool says:

      Interesting, didn’t know about this!

  6. Amrish says:

    The area around Ghiasuddin’s tomb was a lake. That is why a causeway to access it. Over the years this lake has silted up. Now some Air Force flats have been built at the southern end of the lake. Must have looked very beautiful – the tomb floating like a lotus amidst the waters of the placid lake.

  7. I have been there and i can say this place need t be in sight of everyone. Thanks for sharing.

    1. wanderfool says:

      Yes indeed. Even Delhi-wallas don’t know about this little fort.

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