Located amidst hills of Maharashtra, Aurangabad is one such destination that is neither short of scenic beauty nor man-made wonders.
The fifth largest city in the state of Maharashtra, Aurangabad is named after the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. It is famous as a tourism hub as many historical monuments are close to the city. For tourists, it offers glimpses of fine art & history. As a city, Aurangabad fascinates with its culture and lifestyle. Recently, the city has been declared as the ‘Tourism Capital of Maharashtra’.
Aurangabad is a major urban centre with its own domestic airport and even its own life-sized replica of India’s most famous monument – the Taj Mahal. The city has 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 position to manufacture and sell its wares, predominantly fabrics. Mixing historical attractions like Daulatabad with a number of naturally formed sites such as the Ajanta and Ellora caves, Aurangabad is one of India’s most iconic travel destinations. The city has 52 gateways built here in the Mughal era, and has thus received the monicker ‘City of Gates’.
While driving through the city, you will come across a number of ancient gates, with carvings and pillars which obviously stem from another period in time. With names like Roshan Darwaza, Dilli Darwaza, Kaala Darwaza, etc., these gates are somewhere between 400-500 years old, while the road beneath is smooth bitumen/tar. There are some 50 odd such 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.
Bibi ka Maqbara: Barely 10 km away from the heart of the city, is the beautifully done Bibi ka Maqbara which is touted as the Taj Mahal of the South. It was lovingly built by Aurangzeb’s son, Azam Shah as a touching tribute to his mother Dilras Bano Begum. Shahjahan’s magnum opus is what the architect is said to have copied and although it falls short in magnificence and size, it is definitely a brave effort.
Soneri Mahal: Inside the Marathwada University campus is the Soneri Mahal, a dazzling little palace complex nestled all by itself below a little hillock. The area is known as Paharsinghpura and is named after a small time chieftain in Aurangzeb’s army. The Soneri Mahal was built by Pahar Singh as his family residence back in the 1670s. It has exchanged hands many times and is today, looked after by the ASI. The highlight of the small palace is the beautiful ‘jaali’ windows and the gold paintings on the sanctum sanctorum.
Panchakki: Another interesting part of Aurangabad is the panchakki, built in 1744. The cleverly engineered water mill was used to pound wheat for the people through the power of water falling on the blades. The blades of the mill have turned green with age, but they still turn and the water still falls into a pond. One of Aurangzeb’s engineers crafted the idea of bringing water from a hidden hill stream 6 km away. Through clay pipes, that are still working, water was made to flow all the way downhill from a hidden underground well, till it fell onto the gigantic blades of the motor. One holy man, Baba Shah Muzaffar is said to have made this place his abode.
The basic cuisine of Aurangabad is not very different from Hyderabad’s as the two cities share the Mughal heritage. So a lot of similarities can be found in their biryanis and pulaos. 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).
Industrial Growth: The Waluj Industrial complex in Aurangabad is growing in leaps and bounds. Here manufacturing is riding high and finished products are actually going worldwide. A number of pharmaceutical giants have started their manufacturing units in the city and the German and Swedish car giants, Volkswagon and Skoda, have set up their plants here.
When in Aurangabad, do not miss a visit to the Paithani silk stores, which is probably the only place in the country where the ancient art of weaving is being kept alive. The Paithani sari used to be woven for queens of yesteryears. The high cost of the gold and the intricate weaving makes these saris forbiddingly expensive.
Otherwise get yourself a Mashroo or a himroo sari which can comfortably be converted into a dress. The finely woven motifs of the himroo dates back to at least 500 years—Mughal times! Within the country, the weaving patterns moved from the Kashmir Valley to Aurangabad— take home a piece of heritage! Another Mughal art available here is the bidriware knick-knacks – a ‘jooti’ shaped ashtray, a photo frame or a little Persian style pitcher. 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).
Know the city
Aurangabad is the last rail head for the famous Ajanta & Ellora caves, the UNESCO Heritage site which was unearthed barely 150 odd years ago.
Rich legacy: Mohammad Bin Tughlak, the monarch, is known for his famous folly of ‘leather coins’ and for shifting his capital down south and then moving it back again to Delhi. The place that this ruler went to and returned from was Daulatabad, which is very close to Aurangabad. Although he did not spend even a decade there, the ruler left behind a rich legacy of arts and crafts in these areas.
History of the city: Malik Ambar, the prime minister of Ahmednagar, is credited with the founding of Aurangabad in 1610. The city was given the name Fatehnagar and in 1653 after Aurangzeb conquered the Deccan, he made Fatehnagar his capital and renamed it Aurangabad. In 1720, Aurangzeb’s general Nizam ul mulk Asif Jah took over the city and made it his capital. The next ruler of the Asaf Jahi dynasty moved the capital to Hyderabad in 1763. Aurangabad remained a part of Hyderabad till the Independence of India. After the reorganisation of states, it became a part of Maharashtra.
Gateway to some famous places: Aurangabad is a gateway to the World Heritage Sites of Ajanta and Ellora caves and Sai Baba’s temple town, Shirdi. If you have a day to spare, do make a trip to the famous UNESCO world heritage sites of the Ajanta and Ellora caves, which are within a radius of 100 km from the city.
Shirdi Temple: A lot of devotees of Sai Baba of Shirdi, make the trip from here. With Aurangabad as your base, you can drive across, as the distance by road is 104 km.
Sufi roots: Shrines of many saints, including Shaikh Burham-ud-din Gharib and Zain-ud-din Chishti, are located here. The modest tomb of Aurangzeb is situated at the southeast corner of the tomb of Zain-ud-din complex.
Art of Himroo: What Mohammad Bin Tughlak introduced more than 500 years ago is now the staple handloom product of Aurangabad—the famous Himroo. Art historian and curator, Jagdish Mittal says that the himroo was actually a copy of the weaving patterns of the fine pashmina of the Kashmir valley. Since the rulers of the south could not possibly wear the woolen shawls, the designs were reworked in silk threads so that the king could use it for his royal robes.
Trujet connect: Trujet offers direct services from Hyderabad to Aurangabad, and convenient connections from other cities. Log on to www.trujet.com for further details.
Written by Shyamola Khanna