Saturday, 3 January 2015



By Jyoti Shetty & Nala Ponappa

Aurangabad (once known as Daulatabad) was the capital of India under Muhamad bin Tughlaq for quite some time before it got shifted to Delhi. Aurangabad translates as “Built by the Throne” named after Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb whose tomb is enshrined in the city. With highest number of visitors and tourists in Maharashtra, Aurangabad has been declared as the tourism capital of the state. 

Aurangabad is quite a chaotic town with hooting cars and two wheelers, unkempt and in spite of lack of signboards we somehow managed to weave across several famous sites to explore in and around the city. Aurangabad is brimming with heritage and history. Every corner, every hill has the past to remind, that being a town with Mercedes and BMW as maximum orders is not enough!


Photo: Jyoti Shetty/Nala Ponappa
Photo: Nimish Patil

Daulatabad is about 16 km from Aurangabad, en route to the Ellora caves. The first glimpses of the ancient rampart walls are visible, towering at a distance. The climb to Daulatabad, is around 600 steps and snakes around a high pyramid of a hill that dominates the landscape. The fort is unique in its terrain, for its only path up, as one climbs higher leads to different facets of the fort, as it now slowly begins to unravel its mystery and remind one of the somber events of what took place at the fort when enemies ventured in.  Start this trek to Daulatabad Fort early morning when there is less of a crowd. All around the fort, inside the citadel, from temples, to step wells, ruined palaces, museum at the Chand Minar, canons at various points, royal hamams, an ancient bridge across the moat, secret paths, bring on the myriads of character to Daulatabad Fort.


With 34 caves to explore, Ellora caves are predominantly divided in 3 main segments. Caves 1-12 are Buddhist, the Hindu from 13-29, and the Jain, 30-34. The car park as you enter is an easy walk to the largest of the Hindu caves, which is mid-way along the linear north south alignment of the array. It is actually a temple (cave 16) and a most amazing at that. Preferable to start from this point, and then cover the south and middle series. Kailasha or Shiva’s abode is an incredible replica of wood translated into a timeless permanence in stone. It’s one of the largest monolithic structure carved from the top downwards, taking a 100 odd years to complete, the task of such a stupendous nature, chiseling the hard volcanic granite into a temple complex, a marvelous feat! Ellora reflects the harmony that existed between the three religions of the era, the Brahamanical series were excavated between the 7th and 8th century, the Buddhist caves that were executed even earlier, all of which left a distinct mark in stone.


The Bibi Ka Makbarah was built by Aurangzeb’s son Azam Shah in memory of his mother between 1651 to 1661 and was modeled on the Taj Mahal at Agra. The exterior is simple and not as grand as the Taj. An octagonal screen of perforated marble which encloses the tomb and the marble dome are the only structures of marble, the rest of the walls are of plaster. Even so, this is definitely worth a visit when you are in Aurangabad. 


Photo: Jyoti Shetty/Nala Ponappa
Around Daulatabad the tomb of Aurangzeb in Khuldabad is quite a revered site. Mid way from Daulatbad and Ellora a path less known leads to the simplest of tombs. Aurangazeb epitomizes simple lines in all his architecture, a very pious man, his last wishes to his resting place was explicit, as legends say the few rupees he earned by selling caps!


Many tourists skip the Aurangabad caves owing to the steep climb combined with difficult approach. Close to the Bibi Ka Makbarah, the Aurangabad Caves were cut between 6th-and 8th century. The tedious climb can be worth it to see these less celebrated caves. Some of the sculptures are famous and a great introduction to the Ajanta caves.


The Panchakki is a unique watermill that was used during Mughal times, mainly to grind grain for the pilgrims. Built in 1624 A.D. to commemorate a Muslim Saint Baba Shah Muzaffar, who was the spiritual guide to Aurangzeb. Used on the principles of siphoning which the Mughals excelled in, well laid out clay pipes were used for as long as 11 km. The water (from the Harsul River) travels through these pipes and is made to fall into the Panchakki cistern from a height in order to generate the necessary power to drive the mill. Today, it has become a tourist attraction and is a great place to relax and walk around in the evenings.


Ghrishneshwar Temple is situated just near Ellora caves, and is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. Built in the 7th century by Ahilyabai Holkar the temple is quite ornate. The temple entrance has immense carvings and leads to a courtyard. The temple strangely is built half in red sand stone and rest plaster of lime. The shivlinga is a naturally formed and is one of the most revered sites for shiv-bhakts.


To me the Ajanta Caves were the icing on the cake, a must visit when in Aurangabad. The Ajanta Caves are around 105 km away from Aurangabad and takes approximately 3 hours to reach there. A very impressive driveway greets as one enters the parking area, neatly planned by MTDC, a large parking space, rows of shops, and a neat cafĂ©, where tourists from across the globe throng here. Ajanta caves are a UNESCO world heritage site. Cars are allowed up to a certain point only. Just past the car-park and the shops are well-stationed bus bays, where every 10 minutes one is driven to the foot of the hill leading to the caves and back for a nominal fee. This is a four km ride. It is mandatory. 

Ajanta Caves were built between the 2nd and 6th century BC, The caves fell into disuse to be slowly taken over by forest growth over the later centuries. Stumbled upon accidentally by a group of British soldiers out on a hunting mission in 1819, these Buddhist rock hewn caves are carved out of a horse shoe shaped rock face, rising above a deep gorge and ravine, a place of perfect isolation, inspirational for the monks to pray and meditate. Ajanta is on the world map of heritage sites not only for its sculptures, absolutely stunning monoliths, but also for the meticulous paintings that epitomize their sheer dedication to the life of Lord Buddha. This combination of both art and architecture makes Ajanta so awe inspiring, and the fame it has achieved simply took my breath away.


Located around 50 km from Aurangabad, Paithan is famous for the intricate silver and gold thread embroidered Paithani sarees which are very popular within the Marathi community. People come from all over Maharashtra to buy bridal fabrics and sarees. These fabrics and sarees also find their way to Aurangabad and they are sold all around Aurangabad. On the way to Ellora dotted all along the highway are numerous emporiums selling Paithani Sarees, carpets, and fabrics at a great bargain.

10. HISTORY MUSEUM - The History Museum of Aurangabad is located in Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marthawada University and is one of the best and neatly arranged museums in the state. Dr Ramesh Shankar Gupta a renowned historian and scholar started it. Amassing all the rich treasures in the Marathawada region, he strived to preserve it as a great landmark in the city of Aurangabad.

If you want to take a trip to explore these places, do check our itinerary here. The Western Routes is also organizing a 3 day trip from 24 to 26 January 2015 to Aurangabad, where we will cover all these places and more. More details here 


  1. The complete information about tour guide is here
    Tourist Guide in Aurangabad
    Ajanta Ellora Caves Tour

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