Named after the famous Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, Aurangabad has always been a city in the limelight for its pleasant climate and beautiful surroundings. Also known as the “City of Gates”, the place is a wonderful sight to acknowledge some of the marvels of Mughal architecture, including the famous Bibi Ka Maqbara, designed in the style of the famous Taj Mahal of Agra, Aurangzeb’s tomb and plenty of other monuments, palaces and gates. The place is also flocked throughout the year by tourists from all around the globe, being the gateway to the popular destination of Ajanta and Ellora Caves, the famous caves which are also named as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city also offers a lot in terms of art and culture, being the hub for shopping exclusives such as the woven Himroo shawls and the Paithani sarees, and also metal goods, precious stones jewellery and other handicrafts.
WHAT TO SEE
The City of Gates, which once had 52 gates out of which 15 have survived till date, has a very rich and fascinating history amongst the Mughal rulers and the later Delhi Sultanate. The very first Yadava kings of the region had set up their capital in this city and called it Devagiri (or Deogiri) and erected a fort here that was claimed to be unconquerable. Later, Ala-ud-din Khilji of Delhi captured this fort and renamed it to Daulatabad, which was later to be made the capital of the Delhi Sultanate ruler Mohammad bin Tughlaq, who transferred even the entire population of his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad. The move was a hasty one as he had not planned for the water supply in this new capital and he had to revert back to his old capital. The region fell into the hands of the local Muslim rulers for a while. Malik Amber then found this city first and named it as “Khirki” making it the capital again. It was recaptured by Shah Jahan again, and Aurangzeb was made its governor, after whom it was finally named.
Aurangzeb’s son built the famous Bibi Ka Maqbara in the honour of his mother, and there were also huge gates established here marking the strength of the Mughals in the Deccan. The most famous ones are the four gates facing the four different directions- Paithani Gate facing south, Delhi Gate towards the north, Khas Gate facing west and the Makai Gate (or Mecca Gate) facing the east. The region today is one of the 4 important cities of the state and an important region of the otherwise backward region of Marathwada. It is also the famous headquarter for Videocon, an Indian MNC. The city has seen a lot of rulers changing hands and its culture is a testimony to that.
The climate is on the moderate side with mostly temperate throughout the year but with distinct seasons. The humidity is less, but the summers see some soaring temperatures. Rainfall is ample, and there are cloudy days in the months of monsoon. Thunderstorms are also experienced during this period. Winters are cold but neither of the extremes, even in summers, is observed in the region.
Popular Tourist Attractions:
There are a number of tourist spots in Aurangabad and nearby to visit that a single day or even two are not sufficient. Bibi Ka Maqbara is certainly one of the important spots amongst them, and it is almost a replica of the famous Taj Mahal. 2 km north from this place are the Aurangabad caves, that are no lesser than the famous Ajanta and Ellora in the intricate carvings they have on offer, depicting the lessons from the famous “Jataka Tales”. A famous sculpture of a “Bodhisattva” praying for deliverance is a centre of attraction. Both these places charge around INR 200 as the entry fees for Indian Nationals.
Another important location in the city is a 17th-century water mill by the name Pan-Chakki, where the grains were crushed for the pilgrims. The place was the abode to a Sufi saint and there is a beautiful garden around that houses many fish tanks too. Further away is the Shrimant Chatrapati Shivaji Museum that has a lot of exhibits connected to the famous Maratha king on display. Then there is the Soneri Mahal that has been converted into a museum and offers ancient Indian pottery, dresses, architectural remains and other excavates on display.
Ajanta Caves, are a set of 29 caves almost 100 km from Aurangabad that were discovered in the 19th century by some British officers on a tiger hunt. These caves depict the ancient Buddhist culture between 200 BC and 650 AD through their sculptures and paintings. These caves were built by the Buddhist monks using simple tools like chisel and hammer where they used to perform various rituals in their “chaityas” and “viharas”. The entry fees to these caves are INR 30 for Indian Nationals and INR 500 for foreigners.
Ellora Caves (also known as the Verul Caves) are around 30 km from Aurangabad, which is open from 9 AM to 5:30 PM from Wednesday to Monday, even on national holidays. They are 34 in all, out of which the 12 to the south are related to Buddhists, the 17 in the centre to Hinduism and the 5 towards the north to the Jains. The carvings are from a period ranging from 350 AD to 700 AD, and this is a very unique assembly of the three cultures together. The entry fee is the same as that of Ajanta Caves. Half a km from these caves lies the popular Ghrishneshwar temple.
There is the Daulatabad fort almost 13 km from Aurangabad that still stands to its fame.
Other than these, there is the Gautala Wildlife Sanctuary, the Lunar Crater lake where there is depression due to a crater that fell almost 50,000 years ago, the famous towns of Paithan and Khuldabad and the Pitalkhora Caves, which are also on the UNESCO World Heritage List that can be travelled to from Aurangabad.
Food and Shopping:
Aurangabad has a great variety to offer in terms of food, both at famous restaurants specialising in traditional local cuisines as well as roadside eateries. The traditional cuisine of the place is a nice blend of the Muslim art of cooking like the Hyderabadi dishes and with a south Indian mix of spices to it. Biriyani is as popular as its southern counterpart, while the exclusive dishes like Naan Qalia (a concoction of mutton with spices) and Tahri (similar to Biriyani) are some of the best meat savouries you can find in India. Then there is the Marathwada cuisine that is the flavour of the place. And not to forget the famous paan of Aurangabad after a hearty feast.
The city is also a shopping haven of the region, specialising in the traditional Khadi clothes and the Himroo and Mishroo shawls. Paithani sarees are also famous within the state and outside. Other shopping favourites include the Bidri pottery near Ajanta caves, handicrafts and the organic fruits and vegetables from the famous Organic Food Market.
Where to stay:
As Aurangabad is a popular tourist spot, there are plenty of options in all range and comfort available throughout the city for accommodation. If you are craving to experience some royal welcome and also explore the culture of the ancient Muslim rulers including Mughals, the City of Gates welcomes you with its gates wide open. There is also a lot to find about the other cultures of Central India around.
How to reach:
By road: Aurangabad is very well-connected with all the major cities of the state via road. It is approximately 400 km from the state capital of Mumbai, around 240 km from both Nagpur and Pune and almost 200 km from Nashik. There are highway connections with all these places and also the route till the famous caves of Ajanta (107 km) and Ellora (29 km) is very comfortable. There are car rentals available in the city for the same. Otherwise, there are also private and government buses plying between these places regularly. There are taxis available in and for the city too from almost anywhere.
Inside the city too, the conveyance is excellent with municipal bus services connecting almost every place and also conducting tours to famous tourist spots around. Metered auto-rickshaws can also be considered.
By rail: Aurangabad has a major railway station where there are direct trains available to Mumbai via Nashik, Nagpur, Pune and even to other parts of India including New Delhi via Bhopal, Gwalior and Agra, and Amritsar via Panipat, Ludhiana and Jalandhar and even to southern cities like Hyderabad. On the Central Railway line, Manmad is the closest station almost two and a half hours away, where trains to all parts of India are available.
By air: Aurangabad has a fully functional airport where regular flights from Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi are easily available.