Day 3: 27th January 2005 - Aurangabad (Ellora, Daulatabad Fort, Biwi ka Maqbara)
Aurangabad, once the capital of the mighty Tughlaq Dynasty, gateway to some of the greatest historical monuments in the state, welcomed us in the early hours of the morning. The city is named after Mughal emperor Aurangazeb, and literally means ‘built by the throne’. We stayed in a moderate hotel which met our requirements, and the manager looked like fine gentleman on our arrival, but we saw his true colors the next day morning, when he charged half a days rent extra for being an hour late then our suggested checkout time, teaching us a primary lesson of sticking to your checkout time atleast in hotels at tourist locations. After our unavoidable daily chores we took an auto for a guided tour of the city, yes we booked the auto for the whole day with the driver also playing the role of a tourist guide.
Our first destination was to Daulatabad fort. Daulatabad means ‘city of prosperity’, the fort city built in the 14th century is a perfect testimony to the cruelty of the time, once the symbol of prosperity and splendor, it now stands in the middle isolated green fields, with the major source of income being tourism and practically nothing else.
It left us with the thoughts, if this was same capital city of the Tughlaq dynasty, which at its zenith, made the emperor Muhammad bin tughlaq, move the entire population of his subjects from Delhi to this very place. The fort is one of very best for intended purpose of defense against enemies, it has a huge walls almost 60 feet in height lined by a moat, effective watch towers and is strategically poised on top of a hill, with almost nothing but green fields surrounding, giving perfect view of the enemies approaching from a few kilometers away.
To his credit though, he overcame his inhibitions with very little help from us and made it all the way to the top of the citadel, to see the Mughal pavilion, perched right on top of the hill.
The fort also has a four-storied tower called Chand Minar, built as tower of victory if I remember correctly, it looks so tall, because of the comparably small width and the barren back drop, that it made me joke that it would have got its name for probably looking like touching the moon (Chand), when you are looking up standing very close to it.
We moved on to Ellora, a set of 34 caves, testimony to the class of Indian rock cut architecture, is very uniquely constructed as temples and monasteries of 3 different faiths, Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
The kailash temple which is centre of attraction is by far the biggest and most artistically constructed cave. The first sight of this temple can be deceiving from far and you can be excused for thinking if this actually the much talked about monument, but you will change your opinion when you step closer, and may actually need help from somebody to remind you to close your mouth, open wide with amazement.
This place is a real wonder and would have my votes, even ahead of the splendid Taj Mahal, to be included as one of the wonders of the world. This cave (strange that I never felt it like one, apart from the enclosing hills) is exclusive in its style of construction as this was carved out of the hill from top to down, distinctly different from the more common approach of carving in from the side. It is unimaginable how a hill about 4 storey’s, 40 feet in height can be carved to such precision that the whole temple, pillars and an elephant statue included looked perfect. The construction of this cave was a feat of human genius, as it entailed removal of 200,000 tonnes of rock, and took 100 years to complete. It is beyond our imagination to even think how different artisans, understood the concept of a few extraordinary men, to carve down from different points on top of the hill to produce perfectly symmetrical and flawless structure.
The are quite few notable statues and caves with amazing carving on the roof, but my sheer admiration for the Kailash temple will not allow me to describe them in detail. This is a must see destination for anyone who would dare to say, “I love to see places’, even in the softest of their voices.
One really interesting experience was buying the guide book from the local vendors, the prices of the books comes down exponentially as the day progresses, Marky the first one to buy brought it for 40 rupees, Deepsy a little later for 20 and finally me just before departure for rupees 15. I would really not be surprised if they actually throw the odd one at you, free of cost, at the end of the day. (It is advisable to sharpen your bargaining skills before you go to this place).
Bibi Ka Maqbara, is supposed to be a copy of the Taj, I should admit after having seen the Taj, a really poor one at that. This is nowhere close to Taj, in its size, quality of the construction, material used and grandiose; the only exception being the close resemblance in shape, reminding you of a very poor attempt in vain. It has very fittingly earned the nickname ‘poor man’s Taj. The only reason to visit this place will be that you will be in better position to admire the beauty and grandiose of the Taj, and also for the fact that this dedicated to a mother unlike the usual structures dedicated to their partners.
It was quite an experience, and we were lucky, to find a bar and restaurant in Aurangabad, where we could savor the memories of a beautiful day, fittingly in a celebration mood, over a bottle of beer. There seems to only couple of them in town, atleast in the proximity of 10 kilometers, and others if ever there are any, are well hidden, in the shadows of the old city.
Day 1: 25th January 2005 - Introduction
Day 2: 26th January 2005 - Hyderabad (Charminar, Golconda fort, Birla mandir)
Day 4: 28th January 2005 - Ajanta Caves
Day 5: 29th January 2005 - Bhopal and Sanchi
Day 6: 30th January 2005 - Bhopal, Bhimbetka and Bhojpur