Aurangabad is an overnight train ride away from Hyderabad making it a perfect weekend getaway. It is in the Deccan region so weather plays a big role. Any time post the summers would be a good time to visit this city. The city itself is endearing and has few unique draws. But the main attractions are around the town at a short distance. The Ajanta and Ellora caves along with Daulatabad fort and the Bibi Ka Maqbara create a packed 2 days’ trip to Aurangabad.
We arrived early morning at Aurangabad railway station. We hadn’t had best of night’s sleep in the train so we crashed at our hotel who graciously allowed us early check-in and upgraded our room. After a quick nap and a shower, we were ready to hit the road. We had booked a local taxi for the whole trip beforehand so the transfers were convenient.
Our first stop was the Daulatabad fort. The erstwhile capital of Deccan kingdoms Deogiri yielded to Delhi based sultans. It was during the rule of ill-famous Mohammad Bin Tuglaq that the capital was shifted to here and the city was renamed as Daulatabad. All what is left of the great city is the fort.
Passing the outer wall and curtained gateway, we entered the fort. We could see a broad passage leading to what was another gate. To the left lay the ancient Hindu temple and to the right the Chand Minar. The temple has a huge courtyard and wonderful carving on the pillars.
Sun was starting to beat down hard but we decided to venture ahead. Climbing several sets of stairs, we crossed a cannon perched on top of a watch point to reach the moat. This was the highlight. Seldom do we get a chance to see such the deep moat with a single narrow passageway, just like the historical accounts or the medieval stories. Passing the moat, we are greeted by a sub-terrain passageway. These were built as a further barrier to the enemy if they were able to pass the inner walls. Here we accepted our defeat and beat retreat to avoid the heat.
The main attraction of the day was the Ellora caves. These marvelous creations of our ancestors amazed us and left us spellbound by the skills displayed in front of us. Each cave was a masterpiece in architecture and rock cut sculpting. We spent hours admiring the craftsmanship put on display. And these caves were to our surprise a combination of monuments belonging to three religions: Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
We had a heavy lunch at a Thali restaurant nearby. Then we were off to the final stop for the day: the Ghrishneshwar Temple. This temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is the twelfth Jyothirlinga and is one of the most sacred temples in India.
Our driver told us that the route is extremely beautiful full of greenery in the monsoon. But in the winter, it was pretty much dried up. On our way back, we stopped at a panoramic viewpoint of a lake or a reservoir (Not really sure). We also got a chance to watch handlooms in action at a craft center. It is a really hard job doing that by hand.
We wanted to cover Ajanta caves before the sun rises high and started early on the second day. It takes about a couple of hours to reach Ajanta caves from Aurangabad.
On the suggestion of our driver, we didn’t go to the main entry of the caves. Instead we took the alternate route starting at the panoramic viewpoint. It is an easy route downhill to the second viewpoint right in front of the caves and might be a better view post the monsoon. We moved ahead and crossed the ravine to reach the entry in front of cave number 5 and 6.
Ajanta caves have been excavated in the wall of the ravine which is in the shape of a horseshoe. As we went along exploring the caves we were amazed by the art in the caves. We realized they had so much more to offer in addition to the exceptional architecture. The wall paintings are still visible and make you stand in awe of the skills. And the carvings at the entrances are superb too. As we reached the last cave, and stood looking back, we could see all the other caves in a distance. The sight of all the caves entrances was so beautiful.
Satisfied with the plunder of the day, we started our way back. But had to wait for couple of hours in the queue for taking the bus back to the parking. Ajanta caves are 5-6 km from the main parking entry and are serviced by government buses. The buses were frequent, but the crowd on that particular day, was too big to handle. In the end after lots of pushing and shoving we got into a bus and reached the parking.
When we reached Aurangabad, we still had a few hours to spare. We sprang on the opportunity and visited Bibi ka Maqbara: the “mini Taj Mahal”. Well, to be honest those who have visited the real one would rather say it is micro version on a budget. But that aside, if we don’t make the comparisons it is a beautiful monument. It is in white plaster and have a similar structure to the big brother.
We ended the day with another thali dinner and made our way to the railway station to catch our overnight train to Hyderabad.
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