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Aurangabad is located in the north-central region of Maharashtra State. Aurangabad city and district has a population of about three million and has eight Talukas or subdivisions, of which the Paithan Taluka is historically famous for its unique textiles. It is in Marathwada region of Maharashtra. The ancient four main Darwazas (Gates) and nine secondary Darwazas of the city wall formed quite a formidable defense system of this city. It is about 250 miles east of the port city of Mumbai. The city is surrounded by the hills of Western Ghats and is located on the banks of the Kham River.
The region around Aurangabad was part of the Mauryan Empire. The Mauryan Emperor Ashoka patronized the Buddhist cave monasteries in this region in the third century BCE. Later the region was under the Satvahana Dynasty rulers who also patronized the cave monasteries and temples belonging to Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions in this region. The Chalukyan Dynasty rulers followed them. They controlled the region until the eighth century CE. The Rashtrakuta Dynasty were the next kings who ruled the area up to the end of the tenth century CE. The world heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora cave monasteries and temples among many others like Aurangabad, Karla and Bhuj caves, originated during this prolonged period of intense religious, spiritual and artistic activity from first century BCE to ninth century CE.
The Lonar Crater Lake is located just outside the town of the same name in Buldhana district about 170 kilometers or 106 miles from Aurangabad. It was discovered in 1823 by J. E. Alexander, a British officer. There is a mention of this crater in Hindu ancient writings of Skanda Puran and Padma Puran. Abul Fazl, the official biographer of Mughal Emperor Akbar, also mentioned this crater in his historical narrative, the Ain-e-Akbari. It is the third largest crater in the world created by a gigantic meteorite weighing about 2 million tons. It impacted the earth and dug a hole about 1.2 miles in diameter and 492 feet deep. This cataclysmic cosmic event occurred about 50,000 years ago. After thousands of years the Lonar Lake has evolved into an idyllic and scenic spot with its sky blue water and emerald green forests all around. World renowned research agencies like the Smithsonian Institute of Washington, DC; the US Geological Survey; the Geological Society of India; the Sagar University in Jabalpur and Physical Research Laboratory of Ahmedabad, have all conducted extensive research on this site. The surroundings of the crater are abode of a vast variety of wild life like the Peafowl, Chinkara Deer and Gazelles. Among the birds residing in this scenic area are Egrets, Moor Hens, Herons, Coots, White Necked Storks, Lapwings, Gray Wagtails, Grebes, Black Droungos, Green Bee-Eaters, Tailorbirds, Magpies and Robins. Apart from these domestic birds many varieties of migratory birds also make their annual temporary home in this area.
Aurangabad Caves: The oldest monument in Aurangabad city is comprised of a series of Buddhist Cave Chaityas (prayer halls) and Viharas (residential monasteries) dating from the first century BCE onwards. These caves have Hindu Tantric influence reflected through iconography and architectural designs and are the most important and interesting caves nearest to Aurangabad city. The caves are located in two distinct groups separated by a distance of about 1 kilometer or 0.6 miles. The western group has the caves 1 to 5 of which cave number 4 is the oldest. It displays the older Hinayana architecture of a Chaitya (prayer hall) that had a ridged roof similar to the one in Karla near Lonavala. Hinayana, the older school of Buddhist philosophy was very conservative and orthodox. They believed that Buddha did not wish to have idols of him sculpted and there was no mythology that later became the salient feature of the Mahayana and the Tantric Vajrayana Buddhism. The Word Chaitya in Sanskrit language means a funeral monument and often contained a Stupa or funeral mound. The cave # 4 has a partially collapsed Stupa in the front. The remaining four caves in this group are Viharas or residential monasteries and reflect the early Buddhist style and consist of cells surrounding an open court that can be accessed through an entrance porch. In cave # 3 in this group there are 12 very intricately carved columns with sculptures depicting Jataka Tales of the former lives of Buddha.
The eastern group is newer. These later caves date from the sixth and seventh century CE. The cave # 6 has sculptures of women with very ornate hairstyles and head ornamentation. In this cave the idol of Lord Buddha is seated on a highly ornate throne. Curiously there is an idol of the Hindu god, Ganesh also in this cave exemplifying how Hindu mythology was blending in with this later Buddhist philosophy. The cave # 7 has scantily clad but very ornately bejeweled figures of women signifying the rise of Tantric philosophy in this period through its erotic sculptures. Left of cave # 7 there is a gigantic Bodhisattva (former incarnation of Buddha) praying for deliverance from the eight dangers to human life – the fire, the sword of the enemy, chains, shipwreck, lions, snakes, the mad elephant and the demon that represented death. From these caves one has a panoramic view of the city of Aurangabad.
Pitalkhora Caves are also excavated inside the rocky hills about 25 miles northwest of Ellora. They date from second century BCE to first century CE. Like Ajanta Caves they are also located in the side of a very secluded ravine. They were used as Vihara by the Hinayana Buddhist Monks. The road to Pitalkhora Caves goes though Satkunda.
Before the city was founded in 1610 CE by Malik Ambar, the Prime Minister of Murtaza Nizam Shah II, the ruler of Ahmednagar kingdom of Deccan, there was a small village called Kirki or Khadki at this location. He named it Fatehpura after his son, Fateh Khan. Malik Ambar was a former African slave who rose in ranks to the high position of the Prime Minister.
In 1634 the fifth Mughal Emperor Shahjahan appointed his third youngest son, Prince Aurganzeb, as his provincial Governor in this area. He remained in this region most of his life fighting against the proud and ferocious Marathas as well as Deccan Sultanates. After being the provincial governor in Gujarat, Bulkh & Badakshan as well as Sindh & Multan, he was re-appointed as Governor of Deccan in 1652. When Emperor Shahjahan fell ill in 1657, Prince Aurangzeb moved back to Agra area to fight a series of battles of succession against his two elder brothers and one younger brother. After defeating and killing his brothers, Aurangzeb ascended the Mughal throne as the sixth and last important ruler of this dynasty in 1658 and immediately imprisoned his father in the Red Fort of Agra. Emperor Shahjahan spent the last eight years of his life as a prisoner in his own palace in Agra Fort. The Deccan continued to occupy the attention of Aurangzeb and he returned to Fatehpura again in 1681. The Sultanates of Deccan and the Marathas posed a serious challenge to his rule and forced him to remain in this region until his death.
Aurangzeb died on Friday, February 20, 1707. His son, Azam Shah, probably renamed the city after his death. Aurangzeb left a will that his grave should be of plain earth and open to the sky. Maintaining the austere tradition that he followed during most of his lifetime, he wanted that the cost of his funeral be covered by proceeds from the sale of cloth caps used for Muslim prayers (the Namaz) he himself stitched and from the copies of the holy Quran that he painstakingly wrote in his own handwriting. It is said that the sale resulted in a sum of 305 Rupees. Aurangzeb is buried in a very simple grave in Khuldabad, which is 26 kilometers or 16 miles from Aurangabad on the way to Ellora Caves. Khuldabad was an area where Islamic scholars and Sufi saints belonging to the Silsila or lineage of Chistie Sufi sect lived under patronage of Sultanate and Mughal rulers from the fourteenth century onwards. The grave of Aurangzeb was placed in the proximity of the tomb of the Sufi saint Khwaja Zainuddin Shirazi who is also known as Bawees Khwaja. Originally there was no wall surrounding the grave of Aurangzeb. Lord Curzon requested the Nizam of Hyderabad to construct a latticed marble structure around the grave in 1911.
Aurangzeb did not want to build an imposing monument for his favorite queen, Rabia Durrani who died before him. He is believed to have had a long argument with his son, Alam Shah. Finally Alam Shah prevailed and started the construction of Bibi-ka-Maqbara or the tomb of the lady. The monument is only remotely similar to the famous Taj Mahal. It was built with baked bricks and plastered with white plaster instead of a laminate of white marble that covers the Taj Mahal. Only a small area of the façade is laminated like the Taj Mahal with white marble from the famous quarry of Makrana in Rajasthan. The monument is built on a square plan in contrast to the octagonal plan of Taj Mahal. Its four minarets are octagonal and not round like those of the Taj Mahal. The surrounding garden is typical Charbagh style in the Mughal tradition. The main dome and four smaller domes on the roof are laminated with white marble also. There is a site museum that displays household items personally used by Emperor Aurangzeb and his queen reflecting his very simple and austere lifestyle.
After the death of Emperor Aurangzeb in Aurangabad, the provincial chief in Deccan declared himself independent and annexed Aurangabad in to his state of Hyderabad. This fabulously rich dynasty of the Nizam ruled this city up to 1948 when it was merged into Maharashtra on linguistic basis after the independence of India from the British Raj.
The Deogiri/Daulatabad Fort is 13 kilometers or 8 miles from Aurangabad city. The Fort juts 600 feet above the surrounding Deccan Plain. Constructed by Bhilama, it was originally the seat of power of Yadava Dynasty rulers until Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq conquered it to make it his capital for a very short period of about seventeen years in the thirteenth century. He changed its name from Deogiri (the mountain of God) to Daulatabad or the city of Fortune. Considering its age the fort is remarkably well preserved. All elements used for defense in India during this period can be seen in this fort like spiked gates, massive cannons as well as the gigantic and high ramparts surrounded by deep moats. The very unique feature of this fort is a series of subterranean passages that were constructed to defend it in times of enemy aggression. The fort has double walls in part of its circumference and in some parts even triple walls to make it very difficult for an enemy to conquer it. It was overtaken only by treachery. Other very striking features of this fort are the Chand Minar, the Jami Masjid and the royal palaces. The Chand Minar is a 99 feet high tapering minaret that has balconies at four floor levels and it was added to the fort in 1435. It is decorated with glazed tiles and sculpted motifs. The minaret could have been built to commemorate victory or may have been just a high place in the mosque for the muezzin to call the faithful to prayers. Sultan Qutbuddin Mubarak of the Khilji Dynasty of Delhi had the Jami Mosque constructed in the fort. The palaces part of the fort has spacious living quarters for the royalty, large halls for assembly, beautiful pavilions and interesting courtyards. The Fort is open from 9 AM to 6 PM daily.
The Panchakki or a food grain grinding mill run by a water wheel is the first Islamic monument that was built by Malik Ambar in 1695. The water from a spring on a distant hill was channeled to power this mill located in a scenic spot. The food grains from this mill were used by the city dwellers and pilgrims.
The Aurangabad Jami Masjid was built by Emperor Aurangzeb. It is located in a scenic spot surrounded by a grove of trees in Killa Arrack area. It is relatively low building with minarets. The façade has Quranic inscriptions carved in its entire length. The Killa Arrack was an important citadel built by Emperor Aurangzeb in 1692 where during his lifetime over 50 rulers and princes of provincial governments paid homage to him in the imperial Mughal court. It is now in ruins and lies between the Delhi and Mecca gates of Aurangabad city.
The other mosque in Aurangabad was constructed by Shayista Khan, an uncle of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1665. It has five beautiful domes. There is a third mosque called the Lal Masjid because of the red painted basalt in its walls. This mosque is located in the old part of Aurangabad and was built in 1655. Another historical mosque is the Shah Ganj Mosque built in 1720 and it is also in the old part of the city.
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The Manor Hotel – 45 rooms
Khemis Inn – 10 rooms
Distance from Aurangabad in kilometers and miles:
Daulatabad: 13 kilometers or 8 miles
Dhule: 143 kilometers or 89 miles
Jalgaon: 194 kilometers or 121 miles
Pune: 214 kilometers or 133 miles
Ajanta: 99 kilometers or 62 miles
Ellora: 30 kilometers or 19 miles
Shirdi: 130 kilometers or 81 miles
Mumbai: 403 kilometers or 250 miles
Mandu: 395 kilometers or 247 miles
Indore: 401 kilometers or 251 miles
Nagpur: 504 kilometers or 315 miles