A city that is steeped in history, art and culture, Aurangabad is a little gem that is waiting to be discovered.
It was a trip to the Ajanta and Ellora caves that led me to Aurangabad which was my base to explore the famed Buddhist sites. However, it was here that I discovered that Aurangabad itself has many things to see that make for a motley set of experiences.
Ode to the Taj
Among the most visited monuments here is the Bibi ka Maqbara shrine known to be a replica of the famed Taj Mahal is also called as Dakkhani Taj, meaning the Taj of the Deccan. A fine example of Mughul architecture this monument was built in 1679 by Prince Azam Shan, Aurangzeb’s son in memory of his mother, Begum Rabia Durani. The mausoleum is in a hexagon shape surrounded with a quadrilateral garden and is framed by four towering minarets. The white marble lattice screen is intricate and the workmanship can be admired once you are in close quarters of the building. The main entrance is on the southern side of the outer wall. The three remaining walls are open and these spaces are said to be used as a mosque, the Diwan-e-Am and Diwan-e-Khas. These buildings have some stunning paintings dating back to the Mughal and Nizam period. The grave itself is simple and has no ornamentation and is surrounded by exquisite marble screens. Do take time to walk around and you will discover interesting facets like the Mughal garden, fine brass doors, stucco floral motifs and water management systems here. When you are here hop by to the Shivaji Maharaj Museum that has some of his war weapons and a display of old coins and is an ode to the Maratha king Shivaji.
While Aurangabad is known to be the best place to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ajanta and Ellora, the rock-cut Buddhist shrines in the Aurangabad Caves are a must see. These 12 caves have been carved from soft rock and date back between the 6th and 8th century. This is where you will see some intricate carvings of Buddha as well as dancing Goddesses. Cave number 7 here is the best monastery here with a pillared verandah and square sanctum and a circumambulatory passage with small cells that house some of the best sculptures here. The square pillars are intricately carved with geometric designs, foliage and human figurines that make for a compelling sight here. If you are a bird lover, you will be thrilled to see the large number of parakeets that have made homes in the crevices on the caves. Some caves are on an elevation and climbing up will reward you will beautiful city views and a lovely sunset especially if you are here towards the evening.
Sights & Sounds
While in Aurangabad there is much to see and a stop to the medieval Daulatabad Fort, located about 15 km away from the city is something that must be on your travel itinerary. Said to have the tallest spire in India, this has a history of being one of the most powerful forts of Maharashtra and stands 600 feet in height. You will need to climb up and explore the many passages and labyrinths as you take a trip down memory lane here. Also remember to pay obeisance at the Grishneshwar Mandir, dedicated to Lord Shiva one of the 12 Jyotirlinga sites in the country. The temple is not just for the spiritually inclined but also for architecture enthusiasts who will find the intricate details quite enticing. Do take time to admire the beautiful carving and sculptures of Gods and Goddesses as well as look at the detailed inscriptions on the inner walls of the temple. Bird lovers must pay a visit to the Jayakwadi Bird Sanctuary a haven for migratory birds like the Flamingo, Crane, Teal, Brahminy duck, Pochard and Ibis that make the Nath Sagar lake their home during the season. Aurangabad is also home to the Salim Ali Sarovar lake a rich biodiversity spot that has also been declared a bird sanctuary. The city is well known for its lung spaces including the Bani Begum Garden, Himayat Bagh and Siddharth garden. Known as city of gates courtesy the 52 gates built at every entrance point, you will see a few that have survived the passage of time. The oldest and largest one the Bhadkal Gate is one of the few surviving ones. With so much to see and explore, Aurangabad is certainly a destination that must be on your next holiday. As I bade goodbye with a heavy heart to the city, I knew exactly why it has been tagged as the ‘Tourism Capital of Maharashtra’.
- When you are in Aurangabad, check out the Paithani saree, a traditional design that is native to the region.
- As the summer here is quite harsh, do remember to carry a hat, sunscreen and water when you are here in this season.
- The month of November to March are more pleasant and is the best time to visit the city.