Aurangabad City is known as the tourist capital of Maharashtra state of India and makes for an ideal base to visit the popular historical monuments including Ajanta and Ellora. The 400-year-old city is named after the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. We planned a 3-day trip to Aurangabad and here is a list of things to do on a visit to Aurangabad:
Day Trip to Ajanta
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ajanta Caves are a wonderful group of 30 Buddhist caves some 100 km from Aurangabad. Maharashtra Tourism board runs daily buses to Ajanta, one can also hire a cab and explore at their own pace. The caves of Ajanta are closed on Monday. If you are planning to visit Ajanta here is all you need to know about a visit to the Ajanta Caves.
Visit the Daulatabad Fort
The 12th-century fort of Devgiri was built by Yadavas and was renamed to Daulatabad by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq who made it the capital of his kingdom for a short period. The magnificent fort is known for its amazing defense mechanism and strategic position which made it impregnable for a long a period of time. Read more about what to expect on a visit to the Daulatabad Fort.
Visit the Ellora Caves
The caves of Ellora are yet another exemplary of remarkable rock-cut architecture besides the Ajanta. The UNESCO World Heritage site has 34 caves dedicated to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Maharashtra Tourism board runs daily buses to Ellora with stops at Daulatabad Fort and Bibi ka Maqbara.
Grishneshwara temple is one of the twelve and the last Jyotirlingas. The temple at a km distance from Ellora caves has beautiful carvings in red stone on the temple tower, walls and the pillars of the courtyard. The way to the temple from the main road is lined with several shops selling puja items. At the entrance near the main road is an unknown tomb in a dilapidated condition.
Khultabad located at a distance of three km from the Ellora caves is of great religious importance as it was an abode to the Sufi saints in the 14th century. Khultabad also houses the tomb of emperor Aurangzeb and his son Azam Shah. Below is the picture of the simple tomb of Aurangzeb.
The major reason for us to visit Khultabad was to look for the tomb of the last Nizam of Hyderabad Abu Hassan Tana Shahi intrigued by his tomb standing unfinished amidst the other magnificent tombs of Qutub Shahi dynasty in Hyderabad. The tomb lies near Malik Ambar’s tomb half a km from Aurangazeb’s tomb.
On the way to the tomb of Abu Hassan Tana Shahi, we drove past several magnificent tombs in dilapidated state one of which was of Malik Ambar the founder of Aurangabad.
On the way back from Khultabad we visited a Himroo weaving factory. Himroo is a fabric made of silk and cotton originally made of silver and gold worn by the royal family. Himroo is said to be introduced in India during the reign of Muhammad Tughlaq. Himroo designs have a Persian influence with a bold complicated design of geometrical and floral patterns. Himroo products consist of sarees, bedsheets, shawls and stoles. Paithani Sarees considered to be one of the costliest sarees in India is handwoven with fine intermesh of gold and silk. The 2000-year-old weaving art embellishes the sarees characterized by designs of peacocks, parrots, and lotus.
The 17th-century water mill of Panchakki is a remarkable example of engineering where the energy from the flowing water was employed to grind grains for the pilgrims. Water from the mountains flows down through the 11 km clay pipes laid underground to the Panchakki where it falls from a height to generate the power required to turn the millstones.
Go Gate Hunting
Aurangabad is known as ‘City of Gates’ for the 52 gates built during the Mughal era of which only a few have survived today. The biggest of them being the Bhadkal Gate and the most impressive being the Delhi gate and Rangeen Darwaza. During our city tour, we could spot as many as seven gates on the way. We could also spot sections of ramparts which once enclosed the old city of Aurangabad.
The two main museums we did as a part of city tour was the Sunehri Mahal and the Shivaji museum. Unfortunately, Sunehri Mahal was closed on Monday and we could not visit it. The 17th-century Soneri Mahal is popular for the paintings made with pure gold. The museum also exhibits ancient sculptures, paintings, and weaponry. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj museum displays artifacts from the times of reign of Shivaji. The exhibits include armories, an impressive collection of coins and pictures of forts of Maharashtra. Not to miss are the 500-year-old war suit and a copy of the Aurangzeb’s handwritten Quran.
Aurangabad Caves are a group of twelve Buddhist caves located close to the city of Aurangabad, a couple of km from Bibi-ka-Maqbara. All of the twelve caves are viharas housing a shrine. Five of the caves are located amidst the dense forest and could be accessed only through a set of stairs which we skipped and headed to the rest of the caves.
Rest of the seven caves are easy to access and vehicles can go right up to the entrance. Though most of the caves were in ruins we could still find some remarkable sculptures and carvings.
Bibi ka Maqbara
Bibi ka Maqbara known as the Taj of Deccan was built as a replica of the world famous Taj Mahal of Agra. The monument was built by Prince Azam Shah in the memory of his mother and wife of Aurangzeb Begum Rabia Durani.
Unlike Taj Mahal, only the dome and the walls up to the dado level are constructed of marble. Rest part of the structure is constructed of basaltic trap rock. The plaster covering the basaltic trap had started giving way revealing the black rock. The walls and the ceilings are embellished with fine stucco and lattice work.
If you have one more day at hand plan a visit to the Paithan and Jayakwadi Dam. Paithan which gives its name to the famous Paithani saree is a must visit for the Jayakwadi Dam which is a massive dam located on Godavari river. The dam with 27 water gates is considered as one of the largest irrigation projects in Maharashtra.
Hotel we stayed
We stayed at the Hotel Skycourt right across the street from the train station. Though the initial experience was not very pleasant when first the door of the room would not close and later when they changed the room the door refused to open. But they made for it by offering us room to freshen up before the train journey at night after the full day city tour which was much required. (We had checked out the same day morning and returned to collect our luggage we left with the reception)
Do try the different flavors of Mastani, a thick milkshake topped with ice cream and lots of dry fruits. We loved the one in the station road just below the Skycourt hotel where we stayed and ended up visiting it daily after dinner for desserts.
We were approached by a cab driver right outside our hotel offering us package for sightseeing which we accepted. We were later warned by the hotel manager that it is safer to go through the hotel or MTDC tourism office.
We did Aurangabad city as part of the package which we realized wasn’t worth it for there isn’t much to see around and the price we paid was a bit high for the same. The better option would be to autos.
How has been your experience with visiting the city of Aurangabad? Have some suggestions? Do share with us.