Aurangabad Travel Guide
Location : In the northern part of the state of Maharashtra
Area :138.5 sq. km
Attractions : Aurangabad Caves, Bibi-Ka-Maqbara, Panchakki
Ideal Time To Visit : November and February
The ancient city of Aurangabad is located in the northern part of the state of Maharashtra in the western region of India. It is 403 km away from Mumbai and is encircled by hills. Situated on the banks of the Kham River, this historical city is famous for its medieval monuments and cultural heritage.
Aurangabad was an important seat of the Mughal Empire for a short period. Thus, the city has many monuments speaking volumes about the grandeur of the Mughal architecture. Take a travel trip to important monument sites at Aurangabad, Bibi-Ka-Maqbara, Panchakki, Himroo factory and Aurangabad caves are most important among them. There are many Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu temples also located in this region. Apart from these historical structures, the city is also famous for its close proximity with world heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora and for its silk and cotton textiles.
Aurangabad was earlier known as 'Khirki', due to its strategic position that provided a window view of the Deccan plateau. Though the city looks like a calm and serene city but it is rapidly growing as an industrialized city, trying to be as competitive as possible.
Aurangabad was initially ruled by the Mauryans, who introduced Buddhism in this region of India. The advent of Buddhism is evident in the form numerous Buddhist cave temples in and around Aurangabad. There are many temples located here which were built by Satvahana and Rashtrakuta rulers. The world heritage site of Ajanta and Ellora Caves are a part of this Buddhist tradition.
The history of Aurangabad is incomplete without mentioning the short but very important Mughal period. The city of Aurangabad was established in 1610, on the site of a village named Khirki, by a local Muslim noble Malik Ambar. It was then ruled by his son Fateh Khan who named the city as Fatehpur in 1626. Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal ruler, took the charge of this city in 1653 and renamed it as Aurangabad. Aurangzeb made Aurangabad his capital keeping in mind its strategic location in peninsular India. He used this city as a base to suppress the thriving power of the Marathas.
After the Mughals, this historical city was also ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad until 1948 when it was unified with the state of Maharashtra.
¤ Attractions In Aurangabad
Aurangabad is situated a little offbeat in the state of Maharashtra, but still it never fails to attract the attention of tourists. It is famous because of its historical and religious architectural sites. Aurangabad is not covered with lush greenery but a good number of gardens present here provide a pleasant stay in the town. Aurangabad is a major tourist spot due to its proximity to some of the world famous heritage sites of India. The thriving tourism of this city has also helped the local traditional textile and handicraft industry to grow.
There are 12 Buddhist caves snuggled in the middle of hills, probably dating back to the 1 A.D. The most important ones are those with the Tantric influences, which is reflected through the iconography and architectural designs of the caves. Some of these caves show Lord Buddha seated on an intricately carved throne. You can also get beautiful views of the city as well as the imposing Maqbara from this point.
Bibi-ka-Maqbara was built by Aurangzeb in the memory of his wife Rabia-ud-Daurani Begum. This tomb bears some resemblance with the Taj Mahal, which is a major attraction for tourists coming to this place. The architecture of this tomb is magnificent which is surrounded by a garden. You will have to buy an entry ticket of a negligible amount to enter the Maqbara.
Panchakki is a major attraction of Aurangabad and its literal meaning is water mill. This mill receives its share of water that travels through an underground channel from a source which is 6 km away in the mountains. The water is then discharged on to the wheel creating a fascinating waterfall. There is also a garden and fountains with fish-filled tanks adding to the charm of the entire area. Panchakki also has a tomb of Baba Shah Muzaffar, a Sufi Saint who was spiritual adviser to Aurangzeb.
Another major travel attraction of Aurngabad is the Himroo Factory. Himroo is a traditional fabric which is a blend of cotton and silk, famous for its quality. Paithani saris, traditional handloom shawls and other textile material of Himroo fabric and silver threads are very popular. An interesting fact about the designs and patterns made on these fabrics is that they are inspired by the frescoes of Ajanta.
The Jama Masjid at Aurangabad was built by Aurangzeb. It situated in the center of a grove of trees in Killa Arrack. The Masjid has a low building with minarets and a broad band. This broad band is carved with Koranic inscriptions written through the length of the facade.
The Chauk Masjid was built by Shayista Khan, the uncle of Aurangzeb in 1665 is another travel attraction of the city. This Masjid consists of five beautiful domes.
The Lal Masjid was built in 1655 and is built in red-painted basalt. This mosque is located in the old city area of Aurangabad.
¤ Excursions From Aurangabad
The world heritage Ajanta caves are one of the few historical and architectural marvels of India. It was discovered accidentally during the 19th century by a group of British officers who were on a tiger hunt. These caves are located deep within the Sahyadri hills above the Waghora. They describe the story of Lord Buddha and Buddhism religion that prevailed here during 200 BC to 650 AD.
The Ellora cave temples are regarded as the World heritage sites of India. They are situated just 30 kilometers northwest of Aurangabad. It can be easily reached from the nearby major towns. There are almost 34 monasteries and temples that date back from 600 to 1000 AD. The temples of Ellora are dedicated to Brahmanism, Jainism, and Buddhism. The cave temples here have some superior carvings on the stone depicting the legends related to Lord Shiva.
The exquisite Daulatabad fort is located just 13 kilometers from Aurangabad on the way to Ellora, makes an excellent travel excursion from Aurangabad. The fort was built during the 12th century by king Bhillama of Yadav dynasty. It is situated on a pyramid shaped hill making it a major attraction here. According to the locals here, the Daulatabad fortress was earlier known as 'Devgiri'. Later the name was changed to Daulatabad by Mohammed Bin Tughlaq, Sultan of Delhi.
Shirdi is situated approximately 144 kilometers from Aurangabad. It is an important excursion destination from Aurnagabad and is considered as a holy place by the Hindus. Innumerable tourists come throughout the year to visit the shrine of Sidhi Sai Baba, located here. Apart from this, there are some more holy shrines closely related to Sai Baba here. It can be easily reached from the nearby towns.
¤ Events and Festivals
An important festival celebrated in Aurangabad is the Mahashivratri. It is celebrated during the months of February/March in the temple of Ghrishneshwara, which is located near Ellora. Other festivals celebrated here are Buddha Jayanti, Dussehra, Ganesh Chaturthi, Khultabad Urs, Paithan Fair and Shivaji Jayanti.
¤ Reach Aurangabad
By Air : Aurangabad airport is situated 10 km east of the city. Both Indian Airlines and Jet Airways have a daily flight to Mumbai (Bombay). The Indian Airlines has an evening flight to Delhi via Udaipur and Jaipur.
By Rail : Aurangabad can be easily approached by rail from Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi. There are regular trains available on South Central Railway to reach Aurangabad.
By Road : Aurangabad is well connected with major cities of the state by a good network of roadways. The distances for some of the major cities from Aurangabad are Pune (214 km), Nasik (218 km), Indore (402 km) and Mumbai (403 km).