A glimpse of the Aurangabad Caves, Bibi ka Maqbara and Daulatabad fort
When people think of Aurangabad they think of Ajanta and Ellora. Few tourists see the Aurangabad Caves even though they are of equal historical interest (6th-8th century A.D.) Besides, once you’ve seen Ajanta and Ellora, the caves tend to pale in comparison. Therefore we’re glad we saw the caves before we visited Ajanta and Ellora.
These caves lie on the outskirts of Aurangabad. It’s a long hot climb to the top but well worth it! The caves have been carved out of sheer rock and all with primitive tools. When we visited the caves, we were the only ones there at the time. Except for the lone attendant cutting tickets (Rs 5/- each) at the bottom of the hill, we did not see anyone, except on the way down.
The sculpture above is inside the sanctum (on the side) where Buddha’s statue is. It’s pitch dark in here and at first we did not notice the sculptures. There are many such (different) sculptures deep inside the caves but all are in complete darkness. It is clear that some of them were painted, but the paint has gone now. It’s sad that there are no lights here, unlike the sculptures at the Ajanta and Ellora caves. And there is no attendant either. A strong smell of bats and their dropping pervades all the caves.
The picture below is a Buddha outside the caves and here it would have been so easy to repair the awning without tampering with the statue. In fact there was a huge bee-hive nearby and it made us make a speedy exit from the venue. It’s a pity that we neglect our heritage like this…and the fact that we are a poor nation is not a good enough excuse.
Like the caves, Daulatabad Fort is a long climb up but definitely worth a visit. Again, this is a place that tourists, specially foreign tourists, skip (perhaps and that is why it’s in such a deplorable condition). However the place is crowded with domestic tourists. The fort was originally called Deogiri and in the 12th century it was the capital of the Hindu Kings. It was constructed by Rajabhillamraj of the Yadav dynasty but fell to the Sultans of Delhi in 1308 and 30 years later it became the capital again when Muhammad Tughlak became Emperor. There is an interesting story that goes with this – he ordered the complete population of Delhi to shift to Daulatabad, including the old and the sick! Unfortunately many died on the way. Later he changed his mind and ordered everyone to move back! Inspite of this Daulatabad flourished…
And this is what I meant by deplorable condition: here is a closer look of the ‘water’ in the moat. It looks solid!
There are dark passages inside and on the payment of Rs 50/- (for each group) the attendant lights a flame for you and takes you inside the passages. The ticket to enter the fort is only Rs 5/- however. The journey inside the dark passages was not a pleasant experience, although exciting. Not only was the place reeking of bat droppings, the bats tend to shit on you.
Another historical site is Bibi ka Maqbara, built in the 17th century A.D. It is the tomb of of (Rabia), wife of Emperor Aurangzeb, after whom the town of Aurangabad is named. Aurangzeb imitated the style of the Taj Mahal while building Bibi ka Maqbara (built by his father Emperor Shah Jahan) and in fact this monument is known as the mini-Taj. However it is a poor imitation in the sense that only the dome is made of marble, not the rest of the exterior. The inside is not as beautiful as the Taj.
There is another place in Aurangabad which is for some odd reason is being promoted as a place of tourist interest. True, this place, the Pan Chakki as it is called, is several centuries old but as you can see in the picture on the left, that is all there is to see. It’s interesting to know that it has been worked with water power but while it is an interesting fact to note, there is nothing to see. There is a small garden attached to it and the local people come here to sit in the garden.
Later this week I shall write about the Ajanta and Ellora Caves. Or perhaps early next week.
Note: Foreigners have to pay much more for entering these caves. It is around Rs 100/- (USD 2-3) a ticket.
Related Seeing/Reading: Ajanta caves photo feature
Aurangabad caves, Bibi-ka-maqbara and the Daulatabad Fort – photo feature
Aurangabad in pictures
The cave temples of Ellora
Other travel articles with photos
(All pictures have been taken by me and are strictly copyrighted)