Aurangabad is a bustling industrial hub and metropolis in Maharashtra state in South India. The city can best be described as a gateway to a pair of India’s greatest historical treasures. Aurangabad is the perfect springboard for visitors to discover two of India’s most fabulous ancient World Heritage Sites, the Ajanta and the Ellora Caves.
Aurangabad’s original claim to fame is that the city was the capital of the Mughal Empire in India for over half a century between 1653 to 1707. The city was built on the orders of the sixth Great Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, who used it as a base for his conquest of South India and the Deccan territories.
During the days of its zenith, Aurangabad’s Mughal administrators built a number of attractions in the city which continue to interest international travelers to this day. The most prominent of these is the Bibi Ka Maqbara. A garden tomb with a striking resemblance to the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Bibi Ka Maqbara has been dubbed the “Poor Man’s Taj” and the “Deccani Taj” over the ages. The tomb was commissioned by Prince Azam Khan, the son of Aurangzeb, in memory of his mother and was intended to rival the beauty of the Taj Mahal. However due to the lack of finances available for the project, the Bibi Ka Maqbara ended up as an extremely scaled down, albeit, beautiful construct made out of a combination of marble and lime mortar. The monument while suffering from comparisons with the Taj Mahal nevertheless is an interesting garden tomb in its own right with a classical Mughal Charbagh setting.
While the caves at Ajanta and Ellora are clearly the most amazing tourist attraction near Aurangabad, there is another minor complex of ancient Buddhist caves within the city limits as well. The cave complex, called the Aurangabad Caves, is a set of Buddhist cave temples built in the 6th and 7th century. While not as grand as the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, the Aurangabad Caves are worth a visit and have a collection of interesting sculptures some of which have been carved on extremely suggestive themes.
Many visitors on a tour to Aurangabad choose to visit the city’s attractions as part of a single day trip. A regular feature of this city tour is the Pan-Chakki which is a Mughal era hydro-mill. The Pan-Chakkihas an ingenious system of underground water pipes that carries water from a distance of 6 kilometers to feed the mill. Also in the immediate periphery of the Pan-Chakki is the Dargah (shrine) of Aurangzeb’s spiritual advisor and Sufi saint Baba Shah Muzzafar. The Dargah is the sight of some interesting religious rituals and has a steady stream of devotees coming to pay their respects.
Many visitors to Aurangabad also make it a point to visit the city’s Shivaji Museum which focusses on the legendary rivalry between the Marathas and the Mughals. The Museum has interesting exhibits of armour, weaponry as well as a manuscript of the Quran hand-written by Emperor Aurangzeb himself.
Undoubtedly the high-point of any tour to Aurangabad is a trip to the Ajanta and Ellora Caves. Both locations are within an hour’s drive from Aurangabad and can be toured as day trips from the city.
Designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Ajanta and Ellora Caves areancient complexes of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain Temples. The Ajanta Caves are significantly older andhave a number of Buddhist temples. These temples boast some amazing fresco paintings. Ajanta has been dubbed the “Louvre of Ancient India” by many leading travel experts around the world.
Similarly the Ellora Caves are a combination of Hindu and Jain temples. The Ellora Caves are famous for the amazing rock carvings in its temples. The Ellora Caves compriseof 34 cave temples which were carved into the cliff face by an army of 7,000 craftsmen over a period of 150 years.
A popular time to tour Aurangabad is the traditional high tourist season between October and March. The weather is at its best and many of the popular festivals in the city occur during this timeframe.
Festivals in Aurangabad that have been the center of visitor interest include the traditional Hindu festivals of Ganesh Chaturti as well as the Dussehra that are celebrated with considerable zeal in the city during October or November (dates are determined by calculations according to the traditional Hindu calendar).
Another local festival that is proving increasingly popular with foreign visitors is the Ajanta Ellora Aurangabad Festival that is organized every November. The festival features performances of dance, poetry and music as well as artistic traditions and handcrafts of Maharashtra.
Aurangabad is located in Maharashtra state towards the south of India. Aurangabad has a small domestic airport that offers good connecting flights to Mumbai which is the closest metropolitan city to Aurangabad.
For the foreign visitor, the most convenient way to take a tour of Aurangabad would be to fly to Mumbai’s Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport which is a major aviation hub of India and offers convenient global connections.
While Aurangabad has not been aggressively promoted as a primary tourism destination in India, the city nonetheless attracts hordes of foreign visitors every year due to the presence of such globally acclaimed attractions such as Ajanta and Ellora in its immediate periphery. Aurangabad with its cultural monuments as well as Ajanta and Ellora is sure to interest fans of archaeology, world history, art, sculpture, culture, spirituality and mythology.
For fans of retail therapy, the must have souvenir from Aurangabad is clothing made out of Himroo fabric. Himroo is made of cotton, silk and silver thread. Local tailors can make any article of clothing to visitor specifications ranging from traditional saris to shirts and scarves at very short notice. For high spenders, there is always an option to graduate to the considerably pricier Kam Khaab textile form which is similar to Himroo however makes use of ornate brocades of silk and gold thread.
Aurangabad is also a great point for the visitor to indulge in some traditional Marathi cuisine. The city is home to a vibrant set of communities and this diversity is well represented in the number of culinary options that are available to the visitors on a tour of Aurangabad.
Appropriate Attire :
While Aurangabad is a laid back multi-cultural metropolis, many of the city’s attractions such as the Bibi Ka Maqbara and Dargah Baba Shah Muzzafar are local shrines and require visitors to cover arms, legs and shoulders while visiting the premises.
Also trips to the magnificent caves temples at Ajanta and Ellora are full day tours with considerable walking on uneven terrain between the many attractions on site. Therefore visitors should wear comfortable shoes and take adequate precautions against bright sunlight.
January 2013 Thank you for a wonderful trip! You spoiled us. We want to go back. We alwaysfelt safe, had bottled drinking water available and clean facilities to use. Braced for the worst, I took Pepto Bismol, Immodium and water purifying devices in my suitcase. I did not need them because I did not get sick and felt great the whole time. We took reasonable precautions like washing our hands and wiping them with hand sanitizing towelettes frequently. We were mindful of, and appreciated, what our US-based India Specialist told us just before we left- to drink the bottled water and eat foods that had been peeled or cooked. It was very nice that Guest Relations called us from time to time, to see how we were doing. The pace of the tour was just right. We usually travelled during the day and got into the hotel rooms late afternoon or early evening. We met other travelers who were going day and night and I cringed at the thought of how tired they must’ve felt. Each day was a new adventure. Different places, modes of travel (elephant rides, rickshaws, TukTuks, train, boat, buses, cars and airplanes) and experiences made the tour interesting. Everything about the trip was as good, or better, than our India Specialist had told us before we left.
Throughout the trip, Easy Tours demonstrated impressive coordination and teamwork, meeting us at airports and the train station, handling glitches and changes with ease. They were very flexible and accommodating of our needs and requests. For instance when we arrived in Mumbai, we needed to take a break and eat brunch before going on the city tour. The Mumbai Facilitator and our guide were very knowledgeable, helpful and patient with us. Later when we had a day in Mumbai before returning home, the Facilitator and Guests Relations and others all helped us get a hotel room during the day so we could rest for the long flight home. That was really nice as well as the shopping opportunity and driver we had for the entire day.
When we were caught in a traffic jam going to Orcha, our Tour Director asked us if we would consider walking to lunch and we did. We enjoyed walking alongside the locals- they, on their way to the temple to worship and us, on our way to lunch. I liked how we walked in the streets sometimes. Otherwise we would’ve been totally insulated from India- only watching from the window of the vehicles. It must be stressful to take tourists to a place like Varanasi where there are so many people of all sorts. We sure appreciated our Tour Director’s guidance and explanation of what all was going on there as he demonstrated when he saved “Kingfisher Stan” from becoming a victim of “Kashi Baba”. Every hotel was the high standard we expected (first class). Each had welcoming staff and good service. Rooms were clean. Including breakfasts with the room charge was ideal. I appreciated, and often used, the computers in the Business Centers and treadmills in the spa/gym areas.
The food was fabulous. Indian food was always available to try as well as Western fare. When we were leaving on early morning flights, the hotels would pack a box of breakfast for us. We would unload the box and take the food in our backpacks on the flights. All the food at hotels and lunches were great. Some of it was little spicy for us. As we learned to ask for less spice, the cooks usually did.
In hindsight, I am so thankful the drivers got us to our destinations safely and simply miraculous that they function effectively with so much consternation in the roadways.
Thanks to the US and India based staff and all others who helped us throughout the trip.
I’m sorry I do not remember the names of everyone who helped us at Katmandu and Aurangabad airports, to and from the Agra train station, the tour guide of the temples in Khajuraho, the astrological guide in Jaipur. All were on time, courteous and helpful.
Huge thanks to our Tour Director for most of the trip. He went above and beyond daily meeting our requests. He did things like fixing my travel partner, Christine’s, suitcase handle, stopping at stores so we could pick up items we needed like camera batteries and beer. Throughout, he really cared about our wellbeing and met any request we had. He explained how life is in India and that was, in part, the purpose of our trip. He was very tolerant of repeating things so we could try to understand all the Moghul kings and historic events related to the palaces and forts we toured.
Our guide in Katmandu was an excellent tour guide. When I asked him what kind of tree we were looking at he said blue pine and then gave the Latin name.
The guide in Mumba, was also an excellent guide, spoke articulate English, was accommodating with what we wanted to see and do.
The guide in Aurangabad was obviously knowledgeable about the Ajanta and Ellora caves, spoke excellent English and tolerant of us when we stopped for photos with locals and went shopping.
Thanks to Easy Tours, we have fond memories of Nepal and India. Easy Tours was the right choice for us on our first trip to Nepal and India. REFERENCE AVAILABLE. SMALL GROUP TOURS
Patricia Werhahn – Three Family Members February 2013
My entire family truly enjoyed our trip to India and Easy Tour definitely made it amazing. We really appreciated the fact that everything was on time and very efficiently organized. We enjoyed all the sites! We definitely would recommend Easy Tour to anyone looking to travel on a private tour in India and if we travel there again, we will use Easy Tour again. Oh and we must have had the best driver in India for the portion of Delhi to Udaipor. He was just amazing! All our guides were excellent except for the one in Jodhpur. All the other guides always very enthusiastic. REFERENCE AVAILABLE. INDEPENDENT TRAVEL