FEATURE 24 December 2012

Aurangabad / Ajanta Ellora

The historic city of Aurangabad, on the Deccan Plateau, has many tourist attractions and could easily stand on its own charm were it not overshadowed by the world-famous Ajanta and Ellora caves nearby.

Founded in 1610 on the site of a village called Khirki by Malik Amber, prime minister of Murtuza Nizam Shah 2, this city was renamed Fatehpur after the Nizam‘s son Fateh Khan succeeded the throne in 1626. When Prince Aurangzeb became Viceroy of the Deccan in 1653, he made the city his capital and re-christened it Aurangabad.

The traces of the long artistic and cultural influences that a number of dynasties have cast upon it are present everywhere in Aurangabad. The city continues to attract tourists from all over the world who come to discover an old world carved in stone.

Aurangabad Caves: Carved between the 2nd and the 6th century, these ten hillside caves are typically Buddhist in architectural form, with remarkably detailed sculptures.

Ajanta: This World Heritage Site is located about 107 km from Aurangabad city. Dating from 200 BC, these caves were excavated in two distinct phases and reportedly took more than 800 years to complete. They comprise Chaityas (shrines) dedicated to Lord Buddha, and Viharas (monasteries) used by Buddhist monks for meditation. The paintings and sculptures depict incidents from the life of the Buddha and various Buddhist divinities, with the Jataka tales, illustrating stories of Bodhisattva, being the most famous. Besides the temples and monasteries, there are magnificent murals that attract visitors from all over the world.

Ellora: About 30 km from Aurangabad are the world renowned Ellora Caves, known for their Buddhist, Jain and Hindu cultural influences. There are 34 caves containing Shrines, monasteries and temples. The Buddhist caves were carved during the period 200 BC to 600 AD. These were followed by the Hindu caves (500 - 900 AD), and finally the Jain caves (800 - 1000 AD).

The Kailash Temple at Ellora is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is the greatest monolithic sculpture in the world. It is carved from a single, mammoth rock.

Daulatabad: About 15 km. from Aurangabad, on the way to the Ellora Caves, is the hill fortress of Daulatabad-one of the world's best-preserved medieval forts. Once known as Devgiri, meaning Hill of Gods, this magnificent 12th century fortress was the capital of the Yadava rulers. It was renamed Daulatabad (City of Fortune) in the 14th century by Mohammad Tughlaq, Sultan of Delhi.

Bibi-Ka-Maqbara: In 1679. Aurangzeb's son built the inspiringly beautiful Bibi-ka-Maqbara as a tribute to his mother, Begum Rabia-ud-Durani. A replica of the Taj Mahal of Agra, it is the only piece of Mughal architecture on the Deccan built towards the end of the Mughal Era in India.

Panchakki: This 17th century water mill exemplifies the engineering ingenuity of that age. The mill, which runs on water channelized from a river 6 km. away through an earthen pipeline, was used for grinding food grains for the community kitchen. Surrounded by a series of fish-filled tanks, it also serves as a memorial to Sufi Saint Baba Shah Muzaffar, the spiritual mentor of Aurangzeb.

Ghrishneshwar Temple: About half a kilometer from Ellora is the Ghrishneshwar Temple, which was built in the 18th century. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas in India, and a place that one must visit in order to make the pilgrimage to the Jyotirlingas complete. This beautiful temple has 24 exquisitely carved stone columns, which support the main hall.

Paithan: Situated about 50 km. south of Aurangabad, on the right bank of the Godavari River, this ancient city (once known as Pratisthan) was also the capital of the Satavahana kingdom, and the birth place of great Hindu saints such as Bhanudas, Mukteshwar and Eknath.

The place is also internationally renowned for its unique Paithani silk saris, which are masterfully woven by artisans using traditional methods.

Khuldabad: The ancient walled town of Khuldabad, near Aurangabad, is where the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb was buried. It is a place of pilgrimage for the Indian Muslim community and a major centre for the five-day Urs celebrations held annually.

Bani Begam Gardens: The Bani Begam Gardens are located about 24 km from Aurangabad. The fluted pillars, huge domes and aesthetic fountains showcase the architectural splendour of a bygone era.

Languages spoken: Marathi, Hindi, Urdu and English.

Climate and clothing: October to March is the best time for a visit, although the tourist season extends throughout the year. It is warm from April to July, but the climate is pleasant during the rainy season, extending from August to October. The winter months, from November to March, are the coolest. Cool cottons in summer and light woolens for winters are recommended.

Shopping: The handicrafts of Aurangabad reflect many cultural influences. The legendary beauty of Paithani silk saris, the intricate silver inlay craft of Bidri ware, which reached its peak under the Mughals, and the beautifully woven silk Himru and Mushru shawls are some outstanding examples.

Getting There

Aurangabad airport is about 10 km. from the city centre.

Aurangabad is on Manmad ~ Kachiguda section of South Central Railway,
Mumbai - Manmad - Aurangabad is 375 km.

Mumbai - Aurangabad (Via Manmad) is 388 km.
Mumbai - Aurangabad Ma Pune) is 400 km.
S.T. buses run from Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Shirdi, Nasik, Nagpur, Dhuie & Osmanabad to Aurangabad.

Where To Stay
MTDC Holiday Resort: It is conveniently located on the main station road (5-10 minutes away from the bus stand). Standard rooms A/C / Non-A/C (18 blocks), Family rooms A/C / Non-A/C (30 blocks) and Deluxe suites Non-A/C (18blocks).

Check-out time: 9.00 a.m.

Reservation: Mumbai, Aurangabad and other MTDC offices.

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