One of the holiest towns in this part of India, Khuldabad, whose name translates to "Abode of Eternity," is the burial place of some 1500 14th century Sufi Moslem saints. The abundance of domed shrines of these saints earned the town the nickname "Valley of the Saints," which led the pious Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal Emperor, to select it as his own burial place. Khuldabad is located 30 minutes from Aurangabad, only a short distance before reaching Ellora. It makes an interesting quick stop on anyone's itinerary when visiting the area, and completes one's understanding of the history of Aurangabad.
For more, please check out the Khuldabad page.
A formidable defence structure, the Daulatabad Fort occupies a hill that overlooks the surrounding plains of the Deccan Plateau. Originally called Deogiri under the Yadava dynasty's rule, the Fort fell into the hands of the Delhi Sultanate in 1328. Its conqueror, Mohammed ibn Tughluq, renamed it Daulatabad and made it the capital of the Sultanate, but its moment of glory was ephemeral for the capital was soon moved back to Delhi, mainly due to the insufficient water supply. Much of the Daulatabad Fort now lies in ruins, but it has numerous well preserved structures, including a few architectural gems dating from the 14th to the 18th centuries. The most famous structure is the red minaret, Chand Minar.
Daulatabad is situated about 20 minutes east/north-east of Aurangabad and makes an excellent day trip. The Fort is also located about halfway on the road Ellora Caves and could thus easily be combined with Ellora in a single day.
For more, please check out my Daulatabad page.
Carved between the 2nd century BC and the 6th century AD, the Ajanta Caves are considered masterpieces of Buddhist art. Much like the nearby Ellora site, Ajanta is a fascinating site on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. However, while it does not have a single magnificent temple to boast, such as the Kailasa at Ellora, Ajanta more than compensates with its dramatic setting and well-preserved colourful Buddhist murals and intricately decorated cave-temples. The 30 exclusively Buddhist caves at Ajanta were carved into a cliff within a gorge shaped like a horseshoe. Ajanta is located about 1:45 hours north-west of Aurangabad and is easily accessible by car or bus.
For more, check out my Ajanta page.
Along with nearby Ajanta, Ellora ranks top among India's cave-temple sites. It is essentially the main reason anyone comes to Aurangabad and is therefore a must-see when in town. With its 34 caves, carved into an escarpment between the 6th and 11th centuries AD, Ellora has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its prized jewel is undoubtedly the astonishing Kailasa Temple, the world's largest monolithic structure, but other caves in Ellora are nevertheless fascinating. What makes Ellora so unique is the existence of caves belonging to three faiths, Buddhist, Hindu and Jain, which provides an invaluable insight into the history of early Indian architecture and religions. Note that it is impossible to visit both Ellora and Ajanta in a single day, but if you have to choose between the two, I would recommend Ellora, though it would be a shame to come all the way here and not see both. Ellora is best combined with stops at Daulatabad and Khuldabad as all three lie along the same road, with Ellora being the furthest from Aurangabad, a mere 35-minute drive.
For more, please check out my Ellora page.
The Ellora Cave complex ( 40 kms from Aurangabad). consist of 34 caves, carved out of a mountain, millenia ago. They are truly magnificent.......Buddhist, Jain & Hindu, and still being used for worship. We spent 10 days exploring them, and there were only a handful of foreign tourists. The Indian tourists, however, made up for this,thousands arriving by the bus load.,particuarly school groups.
It is unbelievable that these magnificent structures were man made, so long ago. For me, standing inside one of these cathedral-sized caves, I wondered ,how many pilgrims over the centuries had climbed the steps and worshipped here.
I will not even try and explain the differences between all the caves, but they were, distinctly different. The carvings & traces of ancient paintings inside signified to what religion each cave was created for.
They inspired a feeling of reverence & awe.
As one arrives at the entrance gates to the complex, there is a vast garden , with paths leading up to the actual Main Entrance Gate. The most important Cave/Temple is the Kailasa Temple (Mt Kailasa is the home of Shiva in the Himalayas). This gigantic temple is twice as large as the Parthanon. Surrounding this awesome structure are many smaller, darker caves., all having magnificent religious carvings & artifacts inside. A small torch is useful to have.
We had a lovely old man as a self- appointed guide, who carried with him a largish mirror. This puzzled me, until we reach the first dark cave. He skillfully re-directed the rays of the sun into the cave, which came alive with colors , and we could see the treasure hidden within.
I was glad that we had spent 10 days here. There is so much to see inside these caves. But it can get tiring. There are many steps to climb, and much walking to do. When we were there, it was very hot, so we saw what we could in the early morning, went back to Hotel Kailas for lunch & a rest, and the strolled back in late afternoon, to catch the sunsets over the caves.
The gardens outside the caves are filled with trees, birds & many monkeys......beware, they snatch whatever is not tied down! It was relaxing, sitting on the lawns, watching the sun set. And the monkeys found it relaxing watching us.
I really believe that this world heritage listed sight should be seen by anyone who is even vaguely interested in architecture, religion & history. They left a huge impression upon myself & my husband. It deserves another visit from us, and will get one.
> Ingrid (Trekki) made a comment on the immense size of the Kailasa Temple. Its size can be appreciated by comparing the people & structure in 4th photo
Chini Mahal is a two story building that used to be covered in blue and white tiles. Now only a fragment of the tiles remain and the roof of the building has collapsed.
The king of Golconda, Abul Hasan Tana Shah, was held a prisoner here for 12 years before he died in 1699. He had been captured by the Moghul emperor Aurangazeb.
Several other kings have also been kept prisoners in Chini Mahal.
On your way up to the hilltop fort you must go through a dark tunnel. In the tunnel you can feel the smell of bats and it is not illuminated so you must use a torch, your own or pay one of the guides with a fire-torch. I arrived just as a group of Indian tourists were entering the tunnel. Their guide was walking first with the fire-torch and I used my small torch when it was needed for us in the end. Going back down I walked alone through the tunnel.
This was the only way in to the upper fort and to confuse the enemies the steps are uneven and there is a labyrinth of passages. When invaders came boiling water and hot oil was thrown down the tunnel.
Originally there were Jani and Hindu temples at this site, but in 1318 the Delhi’s Sultan Qutubuddin Mubarak Khilji converted the present temple to a mosque, the Jami Masjid. After the independence in 1948 a statue of Bharat Mata was installed and it once more became a Hindu temple. In front of the temple there is a big open courtyard and in the temple you can see many rows of beautifully carved pillars. There are 106 pillars.
On a round bastion between Chini Mahal and Nizamshahi Mahal there is a huge cannon, a Fort Breaking Cannon. The cannon, which is cast from five different metals, is 6 metres long and at the rear end there is a rams head (see photo 2). Engraved on the cannon is the name of Aurangzeb, and there is also an inscription from the Holy Koran.
Daulatabad Fort was built during the 12th century by the Yadav kings. They ruled over the fort between 1187 - 1318. In 1318 Daulatabad came under the rule of the Sultanate of Delhi. At this invasion Harpaldev (son-in-law of the king) was flayed alive and his corps was hanged outside the main gate. It was not until 1328 that Daulatabad got its present name by the sultan Mohammed Tughlaq who decided to move his capital here from Delhi. To populate the new capital he had the entire population of Delhi moved 1100 km south to Daulatabad. But it turned out that Daulatabad was unsuited as a capital because of strategic reasons so all the inhabitants were moved back to Delhi.
The ruins of the fort in Daulatabad can be visited on the way to Ellora, but it will be a very long day of sight-seeing, so I saw it on a separate day.
I started with walking up to the hill fort on top of a 200 metre high mountain. On the way I stopped to take a few photos, walked pasted buildings, walls and gates and through a long dark tunnel with stairs leading further up the slope. To reach the top it took 50 minutes. From the top you have a great view of the surrounding landscape and you can see how big the area of the fort is. The thick outer walls circumference is almost 5km. On my way down I took a closer look at some of the structures I had passed on the way up.
Admission to the fortress was Rs 100 (June 2010) for foreigners. It is open between 6 - 18.
Daulatabad for is situated about 15 km northwest of Aurangabad.
The red, 60 metres tall, minaret Chand Minar is easy to spot and you will walk pass it on your way up the mountain slope. The minaret has four floors with a spiral stairway, but it is not open to visitors. The base is rectangular. It is a Tower of Victory and was built to commemorate the conquest of the fort in 1435 by Ala-ud-din Bahmani. It has been used as a watch tower and also for call to prayer. There is a small mosque just next to the minaret.
Khuldabad is a small town located about 3km south of the Ellora Caves, which, in turn, are about 30km northwest of Aurangabad. It's famous for where the tomb of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb is located in the mosque of Shaikh Burhan ud-din Gharib Chisti. Everything is very low-key which, from all accounts, is what he wanted. The mosque is also famous for containing two of Prophet Muhammad's whiskers.
Daulatabad (meaning City of Prosperity) is a fortified city located 16km (10 miles) northwest of Aurangabad. The area was once known as Devagiri, (circa sixth century AD), when it was an important uplands city along caravan routes but is now just a village, based around the former city of the same name. The city is said to have been founded around 1187 by Bhillama V, a prince who renounced his allegiance to the Chalukyas and established the power of the Yadava dynasty in the west. There is a tradition that Devegiri was built in 1203 by a herdsman who amassed a great fortune. In 1294 the fort was captured by Ala-ud-din Khilji, and the rajas, so powerful that they held the Sultans of Delhi to ransom to be the rulers of all Deccan. However, the ransom failed and Devagiri was again occupied by the Muslims under Malik Kafur, in 1307. Devagiri now became an important base for the operations of the Delhi Sultanate's conquering expeditions southwards. In 1327 Muhammad bin Tughluq, determined to make it his capital, changed its name to Daulatabad, and tried to march the whole population of Delhi to it. It remained in the hands of the Bahmanis till 1526, when it was taken by the Nizam Shahis. It was then captured by the Mughal emperor Akbar, but in 1595 it again surrendered to Ahmad Nizam Shah. His successors held it until they were overthrown by Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor, in 1633; after which it remained in the possession of the Delhi emperors until, after the death of Aurangzeb, it fell to the first Nizam of Hyderabad. However, it then fell into ruin and decay which is how it exists today.
The outer wall, 2.75 miles (4.43 km) in circumference, once enclosed the ancient city of Devagiri, and between this and the base of the upper fort are three lines of defences. Other structures include the 210ft (64m) high Chand Minar tower which was originally covered with beautiful Persian glazed tiles. It was erected in 1435 by Ala-ud-din Bahmani to commemorate his capture of the fort. The Chini Mahal, or China Palace, is the ruin of a building once of great beauty.
The area of the city includes the hill-fortress of Devagiri which stands on a conical hill, about 200 meters high. You can climb to the top of the hill, by entering through the remains of the fort, where the views over the surrounding landscape are pretty good. I came here as part of a tour I did to the Ellora Caves, which also included a visit to Khuldabad (the burial place of Emperor Aurangzeb).
Open: 6am-6pm. Admission: Rs100 for foreigners.
Aurangabad actually has only a few attractions within the city that are worth the effort to visit. One of them is the Pan Chakki. This is a cleverly designed watermill that dates from the 17th century. The mill was used to grind flour by way of the elaborately constructed mill. It was the creation of Malik Ambar, a Sufi saint who is entombed on the grounds of the watermill. The mill is a tranquil place but it is hardly remarkable. I would only visit it if like me you had lots of time to kill while in Aurangabad.
There are caves just outside of Aurangabad itself. They can easily be visited via auto-rickshaw from Aurangabad which is how I got to the caves. They are located just a few kilometers northeast of the city.
The caves were all built between the 2nd and 6th centuries A.D. They are divided into two groups, the Western Group with caves 1 to 5 and the Eastern Group with caves 6 thru 10. The caves have to be approached by a long stairway from the parking lot. This might prove to be difficult for people with mobility problems.
Most of the caves are in relatively good condition and I found that my visit was very interesting indeed. I will warn you that they are not as good as the caves at Ellora or Ajanta and you should not think of them as a possible substitute for visiting. Although they are harder to reach they are still the primary reason you have come to Aurangabad. The cave at Aurangabad themselves are very good but should only be visited if, like me, you have the time.