Location: West Central Maharashtra
Originally Called As: Khadke (Big rock)
Founded By: Malik Ambar
Best Time To Visit: October And March
Aurangabad is a historical city located in the west central part of Maharashtra State , on the banks of Kham River. Aurangabad is located 630m above sea level and is also the district headquarters of Aurangabad district. The Sahyadri (Western Ghat) Mountains dominate its physiography. This is the largest city in the Northern Maharashtra region extending over an area of 158.9-sq-kms.
A Travellers' Paradise
It's easy to see why many travellers regard Aurangabad as little more than a convenient place to kill time on the way to Ellora and Ajanta caves. First impressions seem to confirm its reputation as an industrial metropolis yet, given a little effort, this northern Maharashtrian city can yield compensations for its architectural shortcomings.
Scattered around its ragged fringes, the dilapidated remains of fortifications, gateways, domes and minerals - including those of the most ambitious Mughal tomb garden in western India. The Bibi-Ka-Maqbara - bear witness to an illustrious imperial past; the small but fascinating crop of rock-cut Buddhist caves, huddled along the flanks of the flat-topped. Sandy yellow hills to the north are remnants of even more ancient occupation.
The city, originally called Khadke, or "Big Rock", was founded in the early 16th century by Malik Amber, an ex-Abhyssinian slave and prime minister of the independent Muslim kingdom of the Nizam Shahis, based at Ahmadnagar, 112-km southwest. It was a perfect spot for a provincial capital: on the banks of the River Khan, in a broad valley separating the then-forested Sahyadri Range to the north form the Satharas to the south, and at a cross roads of the regions key trade routes, Many of the mosques and places erected by Malik Amber still endure, albeit in ruins.
In 1629, Shah Jahan's redoubtable army swept south across the Deccan to usher in Mughal rule. As Fatehnagar, Aurangabad became the centre of operations for their protracted military campaign. It really rose to prominence, how ever towards the end of the 17th century, when Aurangazeb decamped here from Delhi to supervise the subjugation of his troublesome enemies in the region.
At his behest, the impressive city walls and hates were raised in 1682 to withstand the persistent Maratha attacks that bedeviled his later years. Following his death in 1707, the city was renamed in his honour as it changed hands once again. The new rulers, the Nizam of Hyderabad, somehow staved off the Marathas for the greater part of 250 years, until the city finally merged with Maharashtra in 1956.
Aurangabad district has always been a prominent region on the Deccan plateau and has a long artistic and cultural history, to which several dynasties have made major contributions over the years. The cuisine of Auguranbad has been highly influenced by the North Indian method of cooking, as a result of the long Mughal rule in the region. It has retained much of its Islamic feel, although in the present day both Hindu and Muslim population lives in perfect harmony. Principal languages spoken over here are Marathi, Urdu, Hindi and English.
A Cosmopolitan Hub
Today Aurangabad is one of India's fastest growing commercial and industrial centres manufacturing anything from pharmaceuticals to auto-rickshaws for a voracious Mumbai market. It's a decidedly upbeat kind of place - with plenty of interesting shops in the old city, restaurants and bars - and a peaceful one.
Easy day-trips from Aurangabad include the dramatic fort of Daulatabad, a veritable warren of secret passages and strategic architecture that was briefly the 14th century capital of Mughal India. Just a little further along the Ellora road is the Muslim village of Khuldabad, where the tomb of Emperor Aurangzeb lies under a carpet of rose petals and in the neighboring courtyard, a ragged curtain in drawn back to reveal a trunk containing the sacred "Robe of the Prophet".
PRIME ATTRACTIONS AURANGABAD
This region in Maharashtra is a place for witnessing the imposing architecture of caves and shrines of Buddhism, surviving hundreds of years from 200 BC through 650 AD. The earliest caves at Ajanta and Pitalkhora were excavated during the Satvahana period (2nd century BC).
Pratishthana, now known as Paithan, became an important centre of trade around the same time. During the Chalukya reign, Buddhism continued to flourish. This resulted in several 'Viharas' (monasteries) and 'Chaityas' (chapels) being excavated at Aurangabad, Ajanta and Ellora. In later years, the Rashtrakutas built several shrines, the most significant being the Kailash temple, which is an unrivalled example of Indian architecture.
Aurangabad caves are located outside the city of Aurangabad just few kilometres away from the famous monument Bibi Ka Maqbara. These caves were excavated between the 2nd and 6th century AD. These caves are carved out of the hillside and are a fine piece of architecture, housing the most stunningly intricate carvings. In total there are twelve caves, a major chunk of which are Viharas, of which Caves 3 and 7, are the most fascinating ones. Caves 1 to 5 are in the western group and caves 6 to 10 are about 1-km away in the eastern group. One can see that Tantric influences discerned in their architecture and iconography of the caves.
Bibi Ka Maqbara, situated 5-km from the Aurangabad city was built in 1678 by Aurangzeb's son Prince Azam Shah, in memory of his mother Begum Rabia Durani. It is considered as a fine piece of Mughal architecture in the Deccan region. It is also known as "The Taj of south India". This mausoleum is a replica of the famous Taj Mahal. Though the layout and surrounding of the tomb is very much similar to that of Taj but some how the architecture fails to produce the magic of Taj. When its delicacy of work etc. is compared, it falls far short of the glory of the Taj at Agra. Hence, it is considered to be a poor imitation of Taj Mahal in Agra.
Bani Begum Gardens
They lie just 24-kms from Aurangabad, the centre of which houses the tomb of Bani Begum set amidst the tranquil gardens. She was the wife of one of Aurangzeb's son. One can come across fluted pillars; massive domes and fountains that are built in different styles.
Once known as "Devgiri", this magnificent 12th century fortress stands atop a hill, 13-km from Aurangabad, and is one of the few impregnable forts in Maharashtra with a fine architecture. Rising dramatically over 600 ft above the Deccan plain, this fort served as the head quarters of the powerful Yadava rulers. In the 13th century, Mohammed Bin Tughluq, the Sultan of Delhi made it his capital and renamed it Daulatabad, or City of Fortune.
Dargah of Baba Shah Muzaffar is located on the left bank of the River Kham, near Begampura Bridge, with a mosque, a modest tomb and ornamental gardens. It has an unusual watermill known as "the Pan Chakki", built by Malik Ambar in 1695. The water, channelled from a spring on a distant hill was used to power the flourmill and grind grain for the pilgrims.
EXCURSIONS IN AURANGABAD
Ghrishneshwar Temple is an important Shivate temple located 30-km away from Aurangabad, just half a kilometre from the Ellora Caves. There are twelve shrines in India, which holds the magnificent 'Jyotirlingas'. Ghrishneshwar Temple is one among the twelve Jyotirlingas in the country. There are various versions of the name itself, such as "Kusumeswara Jyotirlinga", "Grushmeswara Jyotirlinga" and "Grishneswara Jyotirlinga". Worshippers of Shiva flock this temple every year to pay homage to the deity.
Pitalkhora Caves are located about 40-km northwest of Ellora near Aurangabad. The caves dating from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD are cut into the side of a secluded ravine. Comprising mainly viharas, which form the largest group of 'Hinayana' Buddhist structures. The story of 'Pitalkhora' is shrouded, but the site has yielded many unusual sculptures, including wonderful 'Yaksha' figures.
Khuldabad, or the Abode of Eternity, is a walled town just 3-km from Ellora. It is a holy shrine for the Muslims and contains the tomb of the last Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb. The dargah, or tomb of Moinuddin Chishti, the spiritual guide of the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, is within this sacred complex.
The state of Maharashtra is home to the charming Ajanta and Ellora group of caves. The city of Aurangabad shot to fame as the world's most famous caves, Ajanta and Ellora are situated about 108-kms northeast of Aurangabad. These caves lie deep within the Sahyadri hills, cut into the curved mountainside, above the Waghora River. They constitute one of the most beautiful expressions of the art of the Indian Middle Ages, and are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Paithan, an ancient city and pilgrimage centre situated on the banks of the river Godavari, 51 kms south of Aurangabad. Paithan caves are situated 56-km south of Aurangabad on the banks of the river Godavari. The modern village of Paithan was built on top of a large settlement of mound that extends back to early history and perhaps prehistory. It was previously known as "Pratisthan" and was the ancient capital city of the Satvahanas from 2nd Century BC. Located deep in the Daroq Mountains, Paithan caves are not often visited by nightmare adventurers because of its tradition of death. Today, it is also an important excavation site. Centuries ago, the famous Marathi poet - saint, Eknath lived here .
Impressive in their own right, the rock-hewn temples and monasteries of Ellora are just 30-km away from Aurangabad. Among the 30-odd shrines at Ellora, the Kailash temple is the most remarkable. Chiselled by hand from a single massive rock, it includes a gateway, courtyard, vestibule and tower.
HOW TO GET THERE AURANGABAD (AURANGABAD TRAVEL INFORMATION)
Air: Aurangabad airport is 10-kms away from the city. Various airlines operate Daily flights from Aurangabad to Bombay. One can also catch a flight daily to Delhi from here, calling at Udaipur, and Jaipur.
Rail: Trains to and from Aurangabad are very limited, as the city is not on the main line. Aurangabad is a section on the Manmad - Kachiguda line on South Central Railway. Now a direct train service operates between Bombay and Aurangabad. The two most useful services to Bombay are the Devagiri Express and the Tapovan Express. Otherwise, trains serve the nearest mainline station, at Jalgaon (108-km north of Aurangabad) to Delhi, Agra, Bhopal, Calcutta and Madras.
Road: Both the State Transport Corporation (MSRTC) and MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) run good number of night-buses to Bombay. State services are available from Bombay, Pune, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Shirdi, Nasik and Dhule to Aurangabad, and from Jalgaon to Ajanta.
USEFUL INFORMATION ON AURANGABAD
WHERE TO STAY
Aurangabad's proximity to some of India's most important monuments, ensures a profusion of hotels. On the whole, standards tend to be high and prices very reasonable, particularly in the budget places, which range from extremely basic Indian lodges to more pleasant travellers' hostels
The most central places to change money are the:
State Bank of India on Kranti Chowk
Canara bank, Shahganj
Andhra Bank, Shaganj
State Bank of Hyderabad, Shahganj Square in the old city.
Govt. Medical College
Kamalnayan Bajaj Hospital
Tourist Information Centres:
Indian Government Tourism Office
Govt. of India Tourist office, Station Road
MTDC, Station Road
Tourist Information Center - Information & Booking Counter, Aurangabad Airport.
The legendary beauty of Paithani silk saris, and the intricate silver inlay craft of Bidri ware, which reached its culmination under the Moghals, is one of the famous shopping interests for the visitors. Aurangabad City is also known for its artistic silk fabrics, particularly Himroo and Mushroo shawls. Himroo is an age-old weaving craft of Aurangabad, renowned for its mixture of cotton and silk getting the texture of satin.
Monument Entry For Aurangabad
Ajanta Caves Are Closed On Monday & Ellora Caves Are Closed On Every Tuesday.
Population: 327,946 (1991 census)
Area: 10107 (district)
Temperature range (deg c)
Summer: Maximum 34 C
Winter: Minimum is 12 C
Clothing: Cottons in summer and warm woollen wears for winter.
STD Code: 0240/03485