Much of Aurangabad city’s tourist allure has to do with its past as a capital of the Mughal Empire between the mid 17th century and the early 18th century. However, its history goes as far back as the 2nd Century BC. Today, it is the focal point of tourism in India’s Maharashtra state with many visitors drawn by the historical sites and buildings within its vicinity.
ven though recent years have seen an industrialization explosion and many large corporations set up shop in Aurangabad, there has been a deliberate effort to retain its tourist allure.
Top tourist attractions include:
Ajanta is home to 29 Buddhist monastic caves whose paintings go as far back as the 2nd Century BC. The first Westerners to visit the caves were a group of British soldiers who stumbled upon them during a tiger hunt in the early 19th century. Carved into the hillside using simple chisels and hammers, the caves isolation and relative inaccessibility (especially in comparison to the Ellora Caves) has played a significant part to their sculptures and wall paintings preservation.
The Ellora Caves were carved out between the 4th and 7th centuries AD. Their rise to prominence coincided with the decline and eventual abandonment of the Ajanta Caves. Unlike the Ajanta Caves that are wholly Buddhist, the 34 caves in Ellora represent Hinduism (17 caves), Jainism (5 caves) and Buddhism (12 caves). Whereas the Ajanta caves stand out for their sculptures and wall paintings, Ellora caves are renowned for the elaborate temple architecture. Both the Ellora Caves and Ajanta Caves are listed as World Heritage Sites.
Bibi qa Maqbara
Built in the 17th century as a mausoleum dedicated to the emperor’s mother, the Bibi qa Maqbara is the only building based on Mughul architecture in the whole of the Deccan plateau. This has seen it also referred to as the Deccan Taj. Originally, the Bibi qa Maqbara was built to rival the Taj Mahal. However, the budget allocated for its construction was less than a quarter that used for the Taj Mahal.
The result was a building whose design was similar to the Taj Mahal but built with less expensive material, a situation that has led to its nickname – the poor man’s Taj Mahal. This tag has unfortunately meant many tourists to India never including it in their itinerary but it is worth a visit for anyone travelling through Aurangabad.
Daulatabad (or Deogiri) Fort
Daulatabad is a 13th century fort whose construction on a 200 metre hill earned it a reputation for impregnability. The fort’s wall is 5 kilometres long all round.
Pan Chakki means ‘water wheel’ and is the name given to a 17th century water mill in Aurangabad. It was lauded as an engineering marvel of its time. Powered by water that’s directed to the mill by earthen channels from a river that is six kilometres away, the mill was once heavily relied on for grinding grain. The more than 300 year old machine still works.