Aurangabad is a dream town for a heritage enthusiast – the Ajanta and Ellora caves, yes! But there’s much more to explore in this ancient town named after Aurangazeb, the last Mughal emperor.
This place was also once the stronghold of the famous Mohammed bin Tughlaq, whose policies are ridiculed even today, though some do think he was actual ahead of his times.
There’s one more reason for me to get excited about my Aurangabad trip. It’s the land of Paithani and Himroo saris! For a diehard handloom enthusiast, the chance to visit an exclusive Paithani sari outlet was a long cherished dream.
Therefore, it was with utter joy I flew to Aurangabad from Mumbai for our 2 day (3N) holiday. You can reach Aurangabad by road, rail or flight, and we chose to fly to save time. Jet Airways, Indigo and Air India operate daily flights between Mumbai and Aurangabad.
I had made all travel arrangements for our stay and transport in Aurangabad several weeks before we travelled. Booked to and fro flights between Mumbai and Aurangabad on Jet Airways. One leg cost around 2k. We arrived at Aurangabad around 5 PM and also flew back to Mumbai around the same time after the stay there.
Lemon Tree Hotel
Got a good deal at Lemon Tree Hotel situated in Aurangabad town from Makemytrip.com for 3 nights. It was around 5k per night for a garden view double room inclusive of 2 meals. I chose breakfast and dinner as we would be out exploring at lunch time.
And for transport, I chose KM Holidays based on tripadvisor reviews. Proved to be wise choices. Stay at the Lemon Tree was super comfortable and Mangesh of KM Holidays was a pukka professional with prompt email communication skills. He charted out an itinerary for us, inclusive of 2 full days of sight seeing and airport transfers. He quoted Rs 4100 for the entire package which seemed reasonable.
Ajanta is around 100 km (1.5 hours to 2 hours) from town and Ellora about 30 kms (30 mins). KM Holidays planned to do Ajanta on Day 1 and Ellora, Bibi Ka Maqbara, Daulatabad Fort, Grishneshwar Temple and Panchakki on Day 2. KM Holidays would pick us up at 8.30 AM and drop us back at the hotel by 5 PM.
We spent the entire day at Ajanta and it was close to 5 PM when Mangesh dropped us back in town, at the city’s most famous vegetarian hotel, the Green Leaf.
On the second day, we started with Panchakki, then moved onto Bibi Ka Maqbara. Mangesh wanted to take us to the temple next, but by then I realised we wouldn’t be able to cover everything by evening.
Daulatabad Fort en route to Ellora, was a bigger priority for me than the temple, so I was forced to skip the ancient temple. Even then, we could not see all of Daulatabad fort where we spent 2 hours. You need an entire day to see it properly, I realised too late.
By the time we reached Ellora it was lunch time and the sun was in its full glory. I was tired by then, but the sight of the caves gave me renewed vigour and I trudged on. We visited the Kailasa Temple first, thank God! We took time to take it all in.
After that we had to rush through the rest of the caves. And on the way back, we stopped at a Paithani retail outlet called Mughal Bazaar.
Advice for Travellers
I’d like to share my learnings with future travellers reading this. If you’re serious heritage enthusiasts, do devote 3 full days for the sights.
You can devote the first day fully to Ajanta like we did. But on the second day, proceed to Ellora first so you cover most of it before the sun gets really hot. On the way back, you could visit the Paithani outlet unless you find better outlets somewhere else.
On the third day, make your visit to Daulatabad. Taxi drivers may convince you to combine Daulatabad and Ellora since the fort is en route to Ellora, but if you want to spend quality time at these two key places, don’t do them on the same day.
Bibi ka Maqbara can be done in 1 hour and Panchakki in 15 to 20 mins. I don’t know about the temple. You can fit in visits to these three monuments between Day 2 and Day 3.
Aurangabad is famous for its mutton, which I could not fit in due to planning issues; so if you’re a foodie, then plan your mutton trip after checking reviews. Don’t miss the mutton and the temple like I did!
In this series on Aurangabad, I will be including separate articles on each of the monuments I visited.
Best time to visit: October to February
BIBI KA MAQBARA
This beautiful monument is referred to as the Taj of the Deccan. Aurangazeb commissioned a replica of the Taj Mahal in memory of his favourite wife Dilras Banu Begum who died giving birth to their fifth child. The commissioning of this mausoleum is also credited to Aurangazeb’s son. As we studied in history, Aurangazeb was a bit of a Taliban who did not believe in erecting beautiful buildings and also tried to destroy the magnificent Kailasa temple, but he did build this lovely edifice and also the Pearl Mosque in Delhi.
This building is the poor man’s Taj Mahal I guess, since it’s not cared for much, as you can see from the photographs I took. ASI, are you listening? We had the entire marble mausoleum to ourselves since there were no tourists around, and just guards at the gate a long way off. Quite a contrast from the queues and crowds at Taj original.
Located right in Aurangabad town, in Maharashtra is the Panchakki, a 17th century water power driven grinding mill that still works today!
The Panchakki is fed by underground channels of water sourced from a spring 8 km away. The water flows through clay pipes and falls from enough height to generate electricity required to work the ancient grinding mill. The mill functioned to supply ground flour to pilgrims.
Attached to it is the Dargah of Hazrat Baba Shah Musafir, a Sufi saint and philosopher, who is credited to have been the architect of this engineering marvel.The soothing sound of the water gently flowing into the green pool and the cool shade of a 600 year old banyan tree make it the ideal environs to chill with friends and family. In medieval times, this must have been a popular social hub for the pilgrims.
Opening hours: Sunrise to sunset