Aurangabad

A pleasantly spacious town, Aurangabad is the most common starting point for visiting the superb caves at Ellora and Ajanta. The gates are all that is left of the old city walls. There is a university, medical and engineering colleges and an airport to complement the town's industrial and commercial activities.

The British
cantonment
area is in the southwest quadrant, along the Kham River and can be seen on the way to Ellora. The old Holy Trinity church is in very poor condition. To the northwest is the
Begampura
district in which there is the attractive Pan23 Chakki water mill and the Bibi ka Maqbara, both worth visiting.

Aurangzeb built the 4.5-m-high crenellated city walls in 1682 as defence against the Marathas.
Killa Arrak
(1692), his citadel, lay between the Delhi and Mecca Gates. Little remains, though when it was Aurangzeb's capital over 50 maharajahs and princes attended the court. With Aurangzeb gone, the city's significance faded. At the centre in a grove of trees lies the
Jama Masjid
, a low building with minarets and a broad band carved with Koranic inscriptions running the length of the fa├žade.

Other interesting monuments include:
Kali Masjid
(1600), a six-pillared stone mosque built by Malik Ambar;
Shahganj Masjid
(circa 1720) in the market square with shops on three sides;
Chauk Masjid
(1665), built by Shayista Khan, Aurangzeb's uncle, with five domes; abd
Lal Masjid
(1655) in red-painted basalt. The
City Chowk
is worth visiting.

Bibi ka Maqbara
 beyond the Mecca Gate, is the mausoleum of Aurangzeb's wife, Rabia Daurani (1678). The classic lines of a garden tomb give it an impressive setting. However, it is less impressive close up. Modelled on the Taj Mahal, which was completed 25 years earlier, it is about half its size. Far
less money was spent (one three hundredth by some estimates) and the comparative poverty
of the finish is immediately obvious. It uses marble on the bottom 2 m of the mausoleum and four of the
jali
screens, but plaster elsewhere. The proportions are cramped and the minarets are too heavy in relation to the main mausoleum. Despite its failings it is one of the finest buildings of its period. The brass door carries an inscription which says Ata Ullah was the chief architect and Haibat Rai the maker of the door. On the tomb itself, in place of a
marble slab, there is bare earth covered with a decorated cloth, a sign of humility. Light enters
through a precisely angled shaft, allowing the early morning sun's rays to light the tomb for three minutes. The second tomb in the corner is said to be that of Rabia Daurani's nurse.

On the same side of the river is the
Pan Chakki
(1696) which has a white marble shrine to Baba Shah Muzaffar, the devout Aurangzeb's
spiritual adviser. The pre-Mughal 17th-century water mill for turning large grinding stones was
powered by water channelled from a spring some distance away and released through a dam.

Aurangabad Caves

The Aurangabad Caves are very interesting though not a substitute for Ajanta and Ellora. Overlooking the town they fall into two groups of five each, about 1.5 km apart. They date from the Vakataka (fourth and fifth centuries AD) and Kalachuri dynasties (sixth to eighth centuries), though the older Hinayana Cave 4 is believed to be at least first century, if not earlier. Waiting charges for auto-rickshaws can be high - bargain. Or, if it is cool and you are fit, you can walk back to the edge of town and get an auto-rickshaw back.

The
Western Group
are all
viharas
except for the earlier Cave 4 which is a
chaitya
. Cave 1 (incomplete) has finely carved pillars with ornamentation around doorways and walls and figures on brackets. Cave 2 has a shrine and columned hallways, a large Buddha and intricately carved panels. The larger Cave 3 has a plain exterior but superb carvings on 12 pillars of the hallway; the sanctuary has panels illustrating
jataka
stories and a fine large Buddha figure on his throne with attendant devotees illustrating contemporary dress and style. Cave 4, the
chaitya
has a rib-vaulted ceiling with a
stupa
containing relics and a Buddha figure outside. Cave 5 is damaged and retains little of its original carvings.

The
Eastern Group
has more sculptures of women and Bodhisattvas. Cave 6 has a large Buddha supporting Ganesh, indicating a later period when Hinduism was gaining in importance over Buddhism. Note the paintings on the ceiling of the balcony. Cave 7 is regarded as the most interesting of both groups. Columned shrines at each end of the veranda house images of Hariti (right) and six goddesses, including Padmini (left). The central shrine has an ambulatory passage around it and a large preaching Buddha at the back. The wall carvings depict deliverance and numerous female dancers and musicians. The importance of Tara and of Tantric Buddhism is evident here. There is little to see in the unfinished Cave 9; the carvings of pre-Nirvana figures suggest Buddhism was waning. The incomplete Cave 10 illustrates the first stages of cave excavation.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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