Monday, April 01, 2013

Aurangabad, Arlee Bird, April and Aunt Annie's Alligator

Aurangabad, in Maharashtra, India is named after Aurangazeb, the last free Mughal ruler of India. For more history on Aurangabad, Wiki has a lot to say. I am going to focus on my travel. We traveled during the Good Friday weekend, way back in 2007, by train from Bombay. The train journey was comfortable, getting us to Aurangabad at 5.00 in the morning, which let us have a full day of sightseeing. I recommend Hotel Atithi, the rooms were large and good, prices fantastic! 

We started off with the Daulatabad Fort. A sweaty trek (go armed with a bottle of water and a cap, even in 'spring'), the dark secret mystery passage and the view from the top was well worth the effort. Guide books are available at the start point and give you accurate and interesting info as you climb up. The ramparts, the walls and the big stones do literally speak to you. You can almost hear horses galloping, the cries of the prisoners in the dungeon and the screams of the enemies who dared attack the fort! It is amongst the most well-maintained forts I've been to in India, and given my special love for 'em, I give this fort a MUST-SEE tag. 

We were exhausted after the trek up and down, and a bottle of Coca-Cola, no, did I read right, Mecca-Cola washed away some of our tiredness! Aurangabad is largely populated by Muslims and in some areas, traditionalists abound. Some hard-liners prefer the Middle-East's answer to the global giant. In fact, further investigation got us wandering down the alleys of these tranditional areas near the Fort and Bibi ka Maqbara. We had the most delicious Phirni and found lovely attar to buy. 

On my insistence, we visited 'Panchakkki' next. A water mill, built in late 17th century, it is a complex system of underwater cisterns that grinds flour, as well as cools off the mosque nearby AND supplies water to the mosque garden. Engineering feat indeed. Its a short stop, about 20 mins should do the trick. 

We went on to visit Ellora caves next. I can't describe the beauty of Ellora in words. Its moving, its amazing, a marvel indeed. Thanks to being a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is maintained reasonably well and there are English signs, English speaking guides and most importantly, dustbins. The intricate carving is a hard task even in today's technologically advanced world. Imagine the concentration and efforts of the sculptors in the 5th century, working for years to complete the  beautiful mountain reliefs. The caves are Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves, cut into rock, mainly for the purpose of monks resting and praying. 

We are not particularly religious, but fascinated by the stories of the Jyotirlingas, we went to Grishneshwar temple, near Ellora, where you can perform puja yourself to the lingam. 

There are excellent Gujarati thalis and other restaurants in Aurangabad. I went to Madhurams' and loved it, but it was in 2007. Please do your research before you go!

What do I say about the beauty of Ajanta? After 6 years, I still remember the vivid
colors and extensive detailing. And to think these were painted so many tens of centuries ago. Amazing! Since we'd already visited Ellora, we were not as awed by the sculptures (though they are exceptional too) as we were by the paintings. The murals range from the divine, to animal fables to sylph like nymphs and phantasmagorical creatures and scenes. The rock cut 'viharas' clearly have non-Indian influences, just like the murals, indicating the love for art and culture those days. Though the site is well maintained, do follow the rules and please, no flash photography, I want my granddaughter to see the murals too!

Last history stop was 'Bibi ka Maqbara'. A Taj Mahal look alike, it actually is the tomb of Aurangazeb's wife. It's often called the Deccan Taj, but I do think it is a classic beauty by itself, even without the comparison. What's amazing is the sheer contrast of Aurangazeb's tomb to his wife's. His tomb in Khuldabad(which I insisted on going to) is a salute to simplicity and starkness. He lived in piety and was a devout Muslim  He led an austere life, despite being the biggest Sultan of all times, a Badshah. He apparently knit caps, sang Sufi songs, lived off alms and copied verses from the Quran to 'earn' money for his own expenses.  We were led by a blind old man who showed us the tomb, and explained the significance of being buried with 2 saints.

Paithani saris are a must buy if you are in this area, and if you wear saris. I wish we'd had more time to explore the Lonar lake nearby, but the weekend rolled to a close inexorably. 

Even after 6 years of visiting the place, I have such fond memories of Aurangabad. If you are in Bombay and have a free weekend, I urge you to discover it for yourself.  

On popular request, a shout out to Arlee Bird, co-founder and leading blogger of the A-Z blogging challenge

And on another 'A' note, happy April to all of you! 

Ps: When I was thinking aloud this morning, without meaning to I apparently kept saying A, A, A, A! And my 4 year old jumped up and said "Amma, Aunt Annie's alligator A A A". Thank you Dr.Seuss!


  1. Absolutely enjoyed reading this and have now put Aurangabad on my 'must visit' list. Living in Mumbai, I really have no excuses not to visit. The Mecca Cola alone is a good incentive! ;)
    Looking forward to more of your Alligators Tails!!

  2. I was planning to do Ajanta as my A post till I remembered I have already written a blog post on it :) I loved visitign the Aurangabad fort !

  3. That was a virtual tour that I enjoyed. The bit about the alligator in your title had me curious till the end :)

  4. Your trip sounds wonderful, Meera. The Panchakkki sounds interesting. And of course the Deccan Taj. The "real" Taj totally took my breath away!

    Love your header photo!

  5. LOL!! Mecca cola!! Too good! Thanks for the informative post!

  6. Aurangabad (particularly Ajanta and Ellora) has been on my must see list. Thanks for the mini tour!

  7. totally enjoyed reading this, just I always do ur travel stories...

  8. Nicely described...i also have some very fond memories of my trip to Aurangabad! reminded me of them

  9. I can see your posts are going to provide a lot of us some education. These are new places to me and very interesting.

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