It’s not just like a palace, consisting of some beautiful crafted walls, luxurious rooms and eye catching furnitures, my experience can name it as a perfect fort and is still intact in its position to give you a feeling of medieval period. Here you can sail all around the structures on the river Kharasrota, you can have the soothing breeze and come across ancient composition that will make you definitely creative. In a nutshell we can brief that the parts of the fort added in different times and by different rulers or rajas or zamindars are still in its respective position to glimpse own stories.
It is just a 3 hours distance from Bhubaneswar, Aul is situated in Kendrapara District. It bears the stories of Odisha during Afghan, Mughol, Marahatta and the British rule. In Independent India also it has the special status than other villages because of its Zamindari till the execution of Estate abolition Act in 1952.
Now the Killa stands on 35 acres of land. This includes the residence of the present raja, 8 beautiful Guest Houses or Tungis, the old Darbar, temples, old poili( lady servant) colony, ponds, courtyards and ruined Rani Mahal.
If you want to approach the place by road then you have to enter from the reverse, because the main entrance faces to the river. It is because, the inland waterways at that time were considered as main connecting path for external relations and business.
As discussed in the history part, Aul killa was established in the year 1590 by Telenga Ramachandra Deba. He acquired the throne at Aul after influencing one Yogi raja. Before Aul Ramachandra Deba was escaping himself from the eyes of Bhoi dynasty rulers at Cuttack and hided at Derabish. After getting blessings from Raja Maan Singh and Raja Todar Mal he made strong embankments on the river Kharasrota. Then slowly the Killa was built with stone, red bricks and traditional joint materials. Latter on contemporary archeological methods were added for extensions but still a traditional Odishan Killa or fort feature is seen.
I can say that not a single stranger can enter to the Raja’s residence directly when he comes to the fort for first time even today. He has to come in a zigzag way and it is also not possible to remember the route. During my first visit, I made a diagram to understand the routes and the palace employees helped me in this regard.
On the same matter why the route is like this, the present raja says, “ it is the peculiar feature of settling any Fort in India to prevent any type of attack on the king by the enemy part. As this Killa is Originally made by Odishan artists from Puri, Cuttack and Kalinga area same architecture is applied as in Barabati fort and other Killas in Utkal”.
Beautiful stone carving is seen here as the stone architects from Puri, khurda were here to erect different parts of the Killa. “Similarly the South Odisha structure is also found in our Killaas our forefather belonged to Chalukya dynasty of the south. We have not harmed any of the structures and opened to a visitor to feel the ancient tradition and building making style”, he said.
Let’s now have a glimpse over the Aul Killa. If you come from the river side you’ll see a large “U” shape structure, though the curve is little wide. The two ends of the palace at that time were used as guard towers and Paikaswere alerted there day and night to have a vigillant eye on the entrants and activities on the river. At the Middle of the fort the Raja’s residence is situated. But to approach the Raja’s residence you have to go through two guard rooms. Then an open space or courtyard and entrance to the fort. During the statehood there was a secret pass for the king to flee from the from the fort. Though this pass is existing but it is closed down.
Present raja Braja keshari Deba recalled the story of Raja Padmanabh Deba in this matter. During his rule, Padmanav was irritated over the behavior of a British officer at Balasore and slapped him. This became an issue and the officer came here to arrest the Raja with police and armed forces. The Raja escaped to a secret place via this pass and asked the paikasto signal with a white cloth when the force left away. But the British police knew the plan of the King and threatened the servants of the palace to show the signal. When the Raja came confidently the veiled British soldiers made him arrested. The state came under court of wards. But latter, the Raja won the case in British Court and re-installed with all dignity and the Officer was dismissed because of miss behaving a ruler. That hiding house is no longer in existence. Time has smashed the history and the relevance of such system also.
Before entering into the main residence we found a beautiful house on the right. On the top of this house one security tower is also situated. It is now converted to a guest house. Luxurious bedrooms with ancient wooden furniture and modern bathroom systems are there to provide a memorable accommodation to any tourist who has a passion on royal stories and heritage. Beautiful glasses, glittering marble and dazzleing Italian tiles will make your days impressive. You can enjoy the river and natural beauty by sitting on the pandal here. The Raja has made special arrangements for this. We enjoyed chilled winter here and presume the summer on the bank of Kharasrota. A script on the wall of this house earmarked the year 1936. This may be the year of modernization but the House is much older than this. From the old photos of Braja Sundar Deba the house is seen as the background. It is now named as the Tungi Ghara or the out House.
In my journey the Raja helped me a lot to show different places inside and made me witness ove the stories added to different parts of the Killa. There was a Big courtyard situated in the middle of the Killa adjacent to the Gaddighar. When Talenga Ramachandra Deba founded this state he first made the Gaddi. It is said that 108 Salgrams ( special stones worshipped as lord Bishnu) were covered beneath the Gaddito make the king powerful and religious. This encouraged the King to take realistic and impartial decision for the benefit of the state, when he presides over the Darbar .
Latter, the Gaddighar was modernized. We found a two storied building over it. teak wook ladder was there to step up to the 1st floor. this floor is considered as Raja’s main Darbar. The walls were decorated with fine Rajasthani Meena works. Now the teak wood ladder is replaced with permanent cement stairs. The Raja usually sits here to enjoy the entertainment programs with family members and hears major cases of revenue or state matter.
The Gadighar had 8 rooms. One of them was named as treasury hall. Kauris collected from farmers and earned from business were kept here for further use. Strong trellis was made by stones to decorate and ventilate the Treasury room. The boundaries made in that time in front of the Gadighar were damaged now. When you pass the boundary you’ll find the main Darbar hall. It is made to hear any common man. It can be compared to the Dewan-e Aam in the Moghul rule. 12 huge pillars were made side to side. In the front there is a raised platform. This is now used as a Puja Mandap. But during the estate time, the raja used to sit here to discuss and hear any party. It is very fascinating and attractive.
The General Durbar was linked straight to the Main gate. This gate was made to link with the citizens inside the state but now turned as the main entrance as the water ways are out fashioned. The main gate is roofed by straws and bamboo sticks. It might be the impact of south Odishan style on the palace structure. “We tried to keep and maintain the structures as it is, so that a visitor can have a glimpse of the antiquities” added Raja Brajkeshari. Attempts were made to shift the main gate to one modern gate, made up of red bricks with beautiful arches influenced by British architects but it could not became fruitful as the British era was considered as an black period in Aul history said the Raja.
Beside the Gaddighar I found a big space or courtyard named Agana. One Shiva temple is there and if you proceed straight another entrance will be found. Then the Royal Kitchen and right to it the King’s Residence and houses to accommodate more guests.
The Raja’s residence was nicely arranged with old photographs and a replica of the throne made up of Bronze and Furnitures were there made up of beautifully carved teak wood. The Raja helped us to make familiar with the traditional war weapons like swords, old fashioned walking sticks, tool boxes of the rulers. He said it is a great combination of heritage and tourism. This is the reason foreigners are falling in love with it. We want to make it more attractive in coming years and sure it will play a great role in promoting tourism here in Aul said Birkeshari. The infrastructure and blessings of nature will make this dream fruitful, we hope so.
Beside the palace there are numbers of temples like old Barahjew temple is situated outside the palace and is considered as a place to community worship and gathering at Aul. You can also have a darshan of Lord Barahjew for blessings. The Rani Nivas is in very ruined condition. A well connected pond is there in front of teh Rani Nivas and is also linked to the poili of the lady servants colony.