Saturday, April 30, 2011

Visiting Aurangabad

After thinking and researching, and then thinking and discussing, and then again thinking and planning, Sanjeev and I finally decided to visit Aurangabad for our short four-day trip. While researching and discussing, one thing was certain, it was going to be hot, perhaps hotter than Pune. We had chosen such a characteristic hot month to travel to an arid area, that it was bound to be intensely hot and unbearable. Yet, I, more than Sanjeev steeled myself against the harsh heat and set forth to Aurangabad.

Aurangabad lies around 245 kms from Pune in the north-east. On the way to Aurangabad lies Ahmednagar, more popularly called as Nagar. The road through Nagar to Aurangabad is a really very good and is well-maintained. Mostly arid, the landscape is dry and looks parched.

Aurangabad boasts of a rich past. It was ruled by Satvahanas, Yadavas, Tughluqs, Nizams, and Mughals. The amalgamation of all rulers has led to a curious culture in Aurangabad, but it seems predominantly Muslim. Muslim rulers have left their imprints on the city and it is still apparent in the architecture. You will find the famous Taj of Deccan, Bibi-Ka-Maqbara right in the middle of the city.

Aurangabad also has several "Gates" in various parts of the city. You can find the Delhi Gate, Bhadkal Gate, Paithan Gate, and a few others. No wonder it is called the City of Gates.

Daulatabad fort, which should rightly be called the Deogiri fort lies around 17 kms from Aurangabad. And what an awesome fort it is! It was considered impregnable. It was won over by besieging it and not by fighting. That's the greatness of the fort.

Around 10-12 kms ahead of Daulatabad lies Ellora, the world heritage site of Buddhist-Hindu-Jain caves. Beautiful, huge, awe-inspiring sculptures carved out of rocks! Inspite of their hugeness, every minute detail is captured on the sculptures. Each sculpture has a story to tell. Each shows a different emotion.

After Ellora, there's still one place to visit-one of the twelve Jyotirlingas in India-Shri Grhishneshwar. It is a small temple that has a confusing entrance to the main "gabhara." But all in all, it's worth a visit.

Ajanta, another world heritage site lies around 106 kms away from Aurangabad. It's more famous for the paintings in the Buddhist caves than the sculptures. But it is really a wonder of the world that is now slowly fading in the wheel of time.

With Daulatabad, Grhishneshwar, Ellora, and Ajanta, Aurangabad offers sites that can be covered in a three-day visit. But otherwise, the city itself has nothing else to offer. It is a rather poorly-lit city. We were staying in a hotel on the Station Road. After dusk, the city seemed to be lost in darkness. Although pretty crowded, there were no bright street lamps to light the roads. It felt like being in a small town that had nothing much to do.

If you are planning to visit Aurangabad, you can plan your trip for three days. The day you reach, you can cover Bibi-Ka-Maqbara, Panchakki, and local sights in Aurangabad. Use the entire next day for Daulatabad, followed by Ellora, ending with Grishneshwar. Keep at least 5 hours for Ellora and make sure you complete all 34 caves before 5.30 p.m. The third day should be all for Ajanta. You need at least 2.5 hours to reach Ajanta. From the bus base, you are taken to the caves 4 kms inside the mountainous terrain by CNG buses. Again, for the caves, keep aside at least 4-5 hours.

Otherwise, Aurangabad is a pretty sleepy city. Nothing much happening around. Make sure that you take a really good, bright torch with you. Keep enough cash as ATMs might be few. Keep some indoor games like playing cards or board games with you. You can also think of taking your laptop and movies along with you for entertainment in the evening after you have returned from sight-seeng. If you have these tools handy, you should have a pleasant stay in Aurangabad.

Happy Visiting!

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