An excellent base for exploring the World Heritage Sites of Ellora and Ajanta, Aurangabad gained prominence when the last Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, made the city his capital from 1653 to 1707.
Named after the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, Aurangabad is the fifth largest state of Maharashtra. Tourists to this city can expect to see glimpses of fine art and history. The city was declared the ‘Tourism Capital of Maharashtra’ and is also a major urban centre with its domestic airport and even its own life-size replica of India’s most famous monument, the Taj Mahal. The city flourished as a business centre for a long time prior to India’s current economic surge. For 400 years, the city has been situated on a major trading route, making the most of its location to manufacture and sell its wares, predominantly fabrics. The city has 52 gateways built here in the Mughal era, and has thus received the monicker ‘City of Gates’.
Lanes of History
Pass through a number of historical gates as you drive through the city. The gates have carvings and pillars which are around 400-500 years old. The important gates include Roshan Darwaza, Dilli Darwaza, Kaala Darwaza, etc. There are more than 50 gates that were built by various rulers to protect the city. Now they are regular landmarks which dot the countryside and are a part of everyday folklore.
Around 10 km away from the heart of the city lies the beautifully done Bibi ka Maqbara. Touted as the Taj Mahal of the south, the maqbara was built by Aurangzeb’s son, Azam Shah as a tribute to his mother Dilras Bano Begum. Another major attraction of Aurangabad is a dazzling little palace, Soneri Mahal, nestled below a little hillock. Situated inside the Marathwada University campus, the palace was built by Pahar Singh as his family residence back in the 1670s. The palace is now looked after by the ASI. The highlights of the small palace are the beautiful ‘jaali’ windows and the gold paintings of the sanctum sanctorum. Aurangabad is also well-known for Panchakki built in 1744. This well-engineered water mill was used to pound wheat for the people through the power of water falling on the blades. In this mill, water was made to flow all the way downhill from a hidden well. This place is also believed to have been the abode of a holy man named Baba Shah Muzaffar.
The local cuisine of Aurangabad is a fusion of quintessential Mughlai and Hyderabadi flavours. The spices and herbs used are mostly sourced from the Maharashtrian cuisine. The dishes are essentially an amalgamation of Hyderabadi and Maharashtrian cooking styles.
While Maharashtrians relish powdered masala with other ingredients, Hyderabadi dishes are known for lavish garnishing. Naan Qalia is a dish that is associated with Aurangabad. Qalia is a rich mutton curry cooked with a variety of spices. Naan is the unleavened flat bread made in a tandoor. It is a common meal at weddings and is generally rounded off with either Double ka Meetha (bread pudding Hyderabad-style) or Doodhi ka Halwa (grated bottle gourd cooked in milk).
Tourists visit Aurangabad not just for its architecture but for its culture and lifestyle as well. Nobody leaves Aurangabad without a bag full of beautiful ethnic souvenirs. The city has a plethora of items to choose from. Aurangabad is renowned for its Paithani sarees. One can shop for fabrics including Himroo shawls, Mashru and Kimkhab weaves. The place is also known for silver craft, especially Bidriware. The art is an intricate silver inlay craft which was once patronised by the Mughal rulers of India. If you wish to buy semi-precious stones, Aurangabad will not disappoint you. One of the most popular stone is Agate Stones. In Aurangabad, one can purchase this in various shades and shapes. You can also get some water colour copies of the paintings of the famous caves, the most popular one being of the Buddha as Padmapani (holding a lotus bud in his hand).