Aurangabad is definitely an interesting city to the explorer. Most visit the city with a view to explore the Buddhist caves the region is known for and in particular the Ajanta and the Ellora caves that are located on the outskirts. These caves are known to contain recorded examples of some of the oldest and rarest Indian art forms, specifically in painting. Aurangabad is also home to some really fascinating historic relics and is a city that draws the fascination of history geeks and the culturally curious.
One other reason to visit Aurangabad is because of its proximity tot the Lonar Crater Lake. A lake that was literally formed after an asteroid impacted the earth. How cool is that! The lake is about 3 hours away from Aurangabad and makes for a memorable Day trip.
History and culture of Aurangabad
A large part of Aurangabad existence and purported relevances comes from the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Ajanta and Ellora are aptly considered UNESCO World Heritage sites due to its historic relevance and due to the sheer beauty of how well the caves epitomise rock-cut architecture.
While the caves are the reason why Aurangabad is primarily a tourist hotspot, the city has had its moments in the spotlight on more than one occasion. Aurangabads relatively recent history is closely intertwined with Mughal emperor Aurganzeb who annexed the city, named it after him and made it his power seat for a good part of the 17th Century.
Such was Augrangeb’s passion towards the city that he commissioned the construction of a mausoleum, ‘The Bibi ka Maqbara’ for his first wife, Dirasa Banu Begum, who died soon after giving birth to her fifth son. Now not only is the story eerily similar to that of Aurangzeb’s parents, the mausoleum also holds a striking resemblance to its grander predecessor, A mausoleum of love that was built by a certain Emperor Shah Jahan in Agra. The similarity with the Taj is written off, largely due to Aurangzeb’s lack of interest in architecture.
Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 is a pivotal point in Indian History. Aurangzeb’s death marked the impending end of the Mughal Empire. The Mughals Dynasty would go on to lose most of its empire to other dynasties and colonial powers. Not too long after, the Mughal empire was reduced to a fraction of its former self. Aurganzeb’s death also marked the end of Indian medieval era and the beginning of the Modern Indian era. This was again due to the decline in the Mughal Empire and the rise of European forces leading upto the events in India’s recent history and the formation of India as a country.
The other reason why Aurangzeb’s death is important is because Aurganzeb’s death also played a catalyst in Aurangabad’s rapid decline. The rulers that followed moved the capital back to Delhi and the city longed for a ruler who would give her the same love as Emperor Aurganzeb. Aurangabad has since undergone a massive change. It has served as the capital of the Maratha Empire and the State of Hyderabad.
Today Aurangabad apart from being a tourist hub is known to be an Industrial hub. MIDC played a big part in driving Aurangabad’s rapid industrialization and the city is one of the largest cotton and silk manufacturing hubs. A lot of MNCs have their industrial manufacturing units set up in Aurangabad.
How to get to Aurangabad
By Air – Aurangabad has an airport, called the Chikkalthana Airport is located in the city. Aurangabad enjoys very good connectivity with Mumbai with about 28 flights operating between the two cities. Flying from other cities is likely to come with a layover in Mumbai.
By Rail – Aurangabad enjoys good rail connectivity with Mumbai, Pune and largely most of Maharashtra. Hyderabad also enjoys decent connectivity with Aurangabad by Rail. Mumbai in particular has a plethora of options to travel to Aurangabad.
By Road – Getting to Aurangabad by Road from Hyderabad, Goa, Pune and Mumbai is relatively straightforward. While the journeys are long. The roads are good and traveling by road is definitely an option. Aurangabad also enjoys good road connectivity with most places in Madhya Pradesh, specifically to Indore, due to its relatively central location.
Best time to travel to Aurangabad
The best time to visit Aurangabad is during the winters. Ideally from November to March is a really pleasant time to visit Aurangabad. The city is also very green and the weather is pleasant from June to October during the monsoons. Rains could however be a hindrance in your sightseeing experience. Visiting Aurangabad between April to June, during the summer is a bad idea. The weather is unbearably hot and a trip is best avoided.
Getting around Aurangabad
Getting around Aurangabad is relatively easy and cheap compared to other tourist hotspots in the country. For starters there’s the Maharashtra State Road Transport Commission buses (MSRTC) and the privately operated Aurangabad Municipal Transport (AMT) buses to choose from. Between these most tourist destinations within and the outskirts of the city are covered.
For Day trips to Ajanta and Ellora, hiring a cab is just a lot more simpler and not that expensive. Ideally hire a cab for two days one to explore Ajanta and the other to explore Ellora and Aurangabad the city.
Breaking stereotypes about Aurangabad
Ajanta & Ellora Caves are the only thing worth seeing in Aurangabad – While the Ajanta and Ellora caves are definitely the key attraction. The Bibi ka Maqbara (Aurangzeb’s Taj Mahal for his wife) and the Daulatabad fort which has been key to the Deccan kingdom are also sites worth visiting. If History interests you Aurangabad has more than enough to keep you fascinated.
Go check out
Ajanta & Ellora Caves – While they are two separate sets of caves in two separate directions from Aurangabad and ideally they warrant two separate day trips to soak in the magnificence of these caves. They are predominantly Buddhist Caves, that signify great rock architecture. These caves have recorded some of the oldest forms of art are found in these caves. Rare forms of painting and records of Warli painting can be found at these caves. Well deserved world heritage sites that definitely warrant at least one visit.
Bibi ka Maqbara – The poor man’s Taj is what happens when an Emperor who does not care too much for architecture builds a tomb for his beloved wife to showcase his conjugal fidelity towards her. Built in the likeness of the Taj Mahal. The Bibi Ka Maqbara is an interesting visit and gives a lot of perspective into Aurangzeb and Mughal architecture. The monument while underwhelming is not a disappointment and must be checked out at least once. If you haven’t seen the Taj Mahal it may even wow you.
Daulatabad Fort – Daulatabad is a historic fortified citadel that has literally been around for centuries. It was called Davagiri in the Common Era and was the capital of the Yadava Dynasty for much of 5 centuries! In the 12th Century Devagiri was annexed by Sultan Alaudin Khalji and soon became a part of the Delhi Sultanate. Sultan Muhammad bin Tuhglad in 1327 renamed Devagiri to Daulatabad and announced it as its new capital, ordering a mass migration of its subjects only to reverse the decision a few years later.
The city of Aurangabad was built around the fort and a lot of Fortification took place in the 17th century when the Ahmednagar Sultanate was created. The fort was built to repel sieges from invading armies and the hike up the fort for panoramic views of the Western Ghats.