Aurangabad city, commonly used as a base for a visit to the World Heritage Sites of Ajanta and Ellora is seeped in medieval history. Named for Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughal Emperors, Aurangabad acquired plenty of monuments and a rich culture as its heritage from the middle ages. The one single factor that determined Aurangabad's role in the history of medieval India is its location. So strategic is its location at the cross roads of north and south India, that Mohammed-bin-Tughlak and Aurangzeb, two powerful kings attempted to translocate their capital from Delhi to Aurangabad. Their vision was clear, from Aurangabad, they would be better able to control both northern and southern regions of their empires. The fact they failed should not be attributed to the inherent flaws in their scheme as it should on the less evident fact that their empires were crumbling.
Under Aurangzeb, Aurangabad became the seat of the powerful Mughal Empire for a short while. Built during his years in Aurangabad were such architectural gems as the Bibi-ka-Maqbara, a mausoleum with a marked resemblance to the Taj Mahal and a medieval watermill. Aurangabad became a thriving industrial centre with many fine academic institutions. Its textiles became much sought after and even today, the weavers of Aurangabad produce fine textiles like pathani, himroo and kimkhwab.
But Aurangabad's crowning glory for tourists is undoubtedly the famous Buddhist caves at Ajanta & the magnificent rock temples of Ellora. Built between 200 BC and 650 AD, the viharas and chaityas at Ajanta are masterpieces as are the incredibly ornate temples carved out of hard rock at Ellora.
How to Reach Aurangabad?
By Air : Aurangabad airport is 10 km east of the city and is connected by daily flights to Mumbai and Delhi. Taxis and auto rickshaws are available outside the airport or you could have a rented car meet you on arrival.
By Rail : Aurangabad is not located on the main route but some trains do stop here. However, Manmad, 113km northwest of Aurangabad is the closest junction for major trains from across the country. There are two direct trains to/from Mumbai as well as a daily train to Hyderabad in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Other direct connections are to Delhi (1395 km) and one, every five days to Amritsar via Delhi. Local trains, taxis and buses connect the two places.
By Road : You can easily drive in as Aurangabad is well connected by road to the towns and cities around it. State Roadways buses and private bus companies connect Aurangabad from Pune (5 hours), Nashik (5 hours) Indore. Overnight luxury buses connect Aurangabad from Mumbai (12 hours) via Pune or Manmad.
Best Time to Visit Aurangabad
The best time to visit Aurangabad is between October and March when the weather is pleasant enough to enjoy sightseeing and explore the outdoors.
During the summer season, from March to May, the climate is hot, ranging between 21°C to 37°C. However, at times, the mercury can rise up to 43°C. It is better not to visit this place during the summer season.
Things to do in Aurangabad
The list of things to do in Aurangabad includes a trip to famous monument like Bibi Ka Maqbara, Jami Masjid, and the Dargah of Baba Shah Musafir, Buddhist caves, Panchakki – an interesting water-powered flour mill. Pay homage at various temples in Ellora near Aurangabad or head to Daulatabad or Paithan – a pilgrimage city for Hindus. Pick up shawls and stoles either in Kimkhab or Himroo and exclusive Paithani saris. Delve into the variety of cuisines available here or revel in the festivities of the various festivals celebrated here. Come and explore Aurangabad -- the historically rich city of Maharashtra.
Places Near Aurangabad
There are many places to see near Aurangabad. The first and foremost destination is Ajanta Caves that were chiselled out by Buddhist monks between 200 BC and 650 AD as ‘chaityas’ (prayer halls) and ‘viharas’ (monasteries), and contain exquisite frescoes and fine sculptures. Each cave has its own story to tell.A party of British officers discovered this group of 30 caves hidden behind dense undergrowth and excavated out of a steep horseshoe shaped gorge. So go there and discover them for yourself and before leaving, do go to the ‘viewpoint’ on the flat-topped hill opposite the caves for an amazing view of the whole group and the gorge.
The Ellora Cave temples are from a later period than those at Ajanta (350 AD to 1000 AD), and include Hindu and Jain monuments as well (13 Buddhist, 16 Hindu and 5 Jain). The architecture and the carvings of the 34 monolithic cave temples are truly awesome and breathtaking in their grand scale and design. The most incredible feature is that they were chiselled top downwards from a 2 kms sheer rock escarpment. Pride of place here goes to the gigantic Kailasa Temple, the world’s largest monolithic sculpture, which required hours of diligent chiselling, sculpting and carving and scooping out of an estimated 200,000 tons of basalt rock, with absolutely no margin for error! A short distance from Ellora is the Grishneshwar temple, one of the five ‘jyotirlingas’ (‘self born’ lingams) in Maharashtra, and an important pilgrim centre for Hindus.
Daulatabad, 13 kms from Aurangabad (enroute to Ellora), has an awe inspiring fort perched on the top of an insurmountable 200 metre rock hillock. Dating back to the 9th century when it was known as Deogiri, the fort has a chequered history, having been under the control of the Yadavas, Delhi Sultans, Mughals and finally the Marathas. The fortress is remembered mostly for Muhammed bin Tughlak’s abortive attempt to shift his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad in the early 14th century. The fort is worth seeing for its elaborate and superb multi-level defences, as well as the excellent viewsof the surrounding countryside from the top.
Khuldabad also called Rauza, is a small walled town 22 kms from Aurangabad. The Dargah of Sayeed Burhan-ud-din is believed to be a repository of hair from the Prophet’s Beard, which increases in numbers over a period of time. It is also fabled to have two silver trees. Several historical figures of the Deccan lie buried here, including the last great Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. The emperor’s simple plastered masonry tomb is located next to the Dargah of the Sufi saint and is remarkable in its austerity - the simplicity reflects the life of the emperor, who paid for his grave in cash he collected from the sale of the skullcaps he hand stitched. On display on the 12th day of the Rabi-ul-awwal month of the Islamic calendar (usually November) is the Robe of the Prophet, the most prized possession of the Dargah. On special holy days qawwalis (devotional songs) are performed in the Nakkar Khana.
Paithan a Hindu pilgrim city lies on the banks of the Godavari, 56 km south of Aurangabad. It is famous for its beautiful ‘Paithani’ silk saris, adorned with intricate ‘zari’ (gold embroidered) borders. They take master weavers aeons to make, cost the earth but are treasured heirlooms and sheer poetry in silk.
Hotels in Aurangabad – Choice is Yours
There are numerous hotels in Aurangabad ranging from 3-star, 4-star and 5-star deluxe to budget hotels.