It is somehow a surprising fact of Indian History that dynasties which were, at one time the greatest and path breakers have vanished in oblivion just like that. Even the places that had seen those days cease to be recognized. The Fort in Malkhed is one of such places from which the Rashtrakutas ruled.
The Rashtrakuta Empire ruled large parts of the Indian Subcontinent between the sixth and tenth Century A.D. However, their history can be traced till the 13th Century. The origin of this dynasty is a controversial topic, however, the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta (our Malkhed) can be accurately traced by numerous contemporaneous inscriptions referring them. In fact many rulers, claimed to be Rashtrakutas at one point in time and ruled in parallel, parts of India. The crux of the empire extended from the Cauvery River in the South to the south of river Narmada on the North. At their peak, they were the only South Indian empire who conquered regions as far as Kannauj as well as extreme South. How can we forget the largest monolithic temple of the world, the Kailas Temple of Ellora? This was commissioned and built during the reign of Krishna I. Apart from multiple constructions in Ellora, Rashtrakutas contributed to Elephanta Caves and Cave Temples in Padatkal (Karnataka).
Malkhed became the capital city of Rashtrakutas during the rule of Amoghavarsha I. This place was also the capital city of the Western Chalukyas till the end of 10th Century. Today, it is a barren land with traces of the brutally demolished glory. I came to know about this fort during my research before travelling and wanted to explore. I hired a vehicle to travel to Malkhed. 40 kilometers of bad roads, one hour of anticipation and a first visual of a huge bastion, I was extremely excited. Walls connect to the bastion and from outside, it looked like a brick structure with a coated layer. But on a close observation, it turned out to be crude stones placed one upon the other.
The entrance is massive with two large bastions on either side. There is a narrow design on the top of each bastion. Interestingly, this is also made of stone and fitted into the construction. Gaps in the stone structure are visible now and are in a very bad shape with no maintenance. You can find a construction outside the entrance to the right which is recent but built off the stones inside the fort. As I moved inside I passed through one more gateway with smaller bastions on either side. This gateway has a small parapet with similar stone design as we had seen on the bastions of the main entrance. There is a small house inside this gateway being used by a Muslim family.
Once I passed through this house and turn right and walk through first visuals of the buildings appeared. I was astonished to see that they were all totally demolished with not even minimum maintenance. The entire walkway is filled with rubble and stone. If you keenly observe, you can find walls on either side covered in bushes now. Such is the pathetic situation inside. You will find broken structures here and there. There is no way I could understand what kind of structures they were and what was their significance. I walked almost 300 meters further when I saw a small domed structure with an entrance at a distance. There is a flight of steps to reach this structure. The top of the entrance, made of brick and mortar is broken in the middle and can collapse any day. The entrance apparently was well decorated with minute carvings but none of it is clear.
Inside is a small domed mantapa with a broken parapet, decorated though. I carefully went inside. As expected, many parts of this structure are broken and lying here and there. There are three arches through which one can enter inside. The building is supported by 8 pillars within and three internal arches of the same style. The dome is decorated with an octagonal design. Finding that I do not have anything to see inside this mantapa, I proceed further to another small construction in this vicinity.
Once I got near the other construction, I understood that it was a Jaina basadi. We always knew that Rashtrakutas as great patrons of the Jain religion. However, this is the only indication that I found inside the fort. This is a typical basadi with simple design. The posterior part of the basadi, the sanctum was reconstructed in recent times. By the looks it is difficult to identify the idol inside, but by the simplicity I am assuming it to be Adinatha or Shantinatha who were the foremost Tirthankaras. Also, the later Tirthankaras had typical identifiers which are not present in this one.
There is a further road to the side of this basadi and I walked. It was a short but tiresome walk uphill. Further down, I came across a domed building again which I could not understand its importance. Considering the pitiable condition in which this place is, it is high time the authorities strive to do a face lift of the entire place and who knows, there might be unknowns waiting to be explored.
When Amoghavarsha started ruling from Malkhed, he was already old and became a follower of the Digambara sect of Jainism. This could be a reason why the defenses of this fort look very weak. Even though the rulers were peace lovers, they frequently ventured into provoked battles and continued their legacy for the next 250 years without being defeated.
Manyakheta was plundered sometime after 1050 A.D and the dynasty was taken over the Chalukyas of Kalyani.