The gateway to the World Heritage Sites of Ajanta and Ellora, Aurangabad is named after the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb. Lying along the right bank of the Kham River, the city is the district headquarters, which offers visitors all the modern comforts and amenities. There are several luxury and budget hotels, shopping centres and banks. In the city are three museums housing the art treasures of the region -- the Sunheri Mahal Museum, the University Museum and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum. You can also while away the hours in the pleasant confines of the Bani Begum Gardens.
The first Buddhist cave monuments at Ajanta date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. During the Gupta period (5th and 6th centuries A.D.), many more richly decorated caves were added to the original group. The paintings and sculptures of Ajanta, considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, have had a considerable artistic influence.
The 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff, not far from Aurangabad, in Maharashtra. Ellora, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life. Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Aurangabad is the gateway to the region, and is generally where you would arrive or depart from. Aurangabad airport is conveniently located, around 10 kms east of the town, and is directly air-linked to Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and Udaipur
By rail, Aurangabad is well connected to Mumbai and other cities. There are two trains that depart daily from Mumbai. The Tapovan Express leaves Mumbai early morning arriving in Aurangabad by late afternoon, while the Devgiri Express is an overnight train. There are several luxury and state run bus services that ply between Mumbai and Aurangabad and the Ajanta/Ellora Caves.
Aurangabad, too, has a group of caves which are quite beautiful. These Buddhist caves were carved out of the hillside in the 6th or 7th century AD.
Bibi ka Maqbara
Built by Azam Shah in 1678, the Bibi ka Maqbara is a son's loving tribute to his mother, Begum Rabia Durrani, the Queen of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Standing spectacularly on the lawns of the landscaped garden with ponds, fountains and water channels, the white marbled monument rises majestically in an intentional bid to copy and rival the world famous Taj Mahal of Agra. The central tomb, distinguished by elaborate surface ornamentation and intricately perforated marble screens, is framed by four towering minarets.
An engineering feat of the time is the Panchakki, or the water mill built by Malik Ambar in 1695. The water, channeled from a spring on a distant hill was used to power the flour mill and grind grain for the pilgrims.
Most of the monuments in Aurangabad are of the Nizam Shahi, Mughal and Maratha period. There are four main darwazas, or gates leading into the city, which along with nine secondary darwazas formed part of the defense systems of the city.
About : The Ellora Ajanta Aurangabad Festival
Background : The Ellora Ajanta Aurangabad Festival witnessed some of the greatest performances from the best-known exponents of Indian music & dance. It was a magnificent evening which kept every one enthralled by its rhythmic harmony. Previously held at the enchanting Ellora caves the festival has now shifted its venue to the magnificent Soneri Mahal. Built in the 17th century, this Mahal was built by Pahadsing a Orchha chieftainis and is an architectural marvel of Aurangabad
Organized by : The Ellora Ajanta Aurangabad festival is organized by Aurangabad Festival Committee under the chairmanship of the Divisional Commissioner Aurangabad in association with MTDC.
Objective : The Ellora Ajanta Aurangabad Festival aimed to put the historical and pictorial sites in and around Aurangabad in the spotlight, some of them being Ellora, Daulatabad, Bibi-ka-Maqbara, Panchakki (A watermill), Lonar, Ajanta and Shirdi.
Highlights : The highlight of the event was the 300 stalls in Kalagram which displayed the art and craft of the artisans and craftsmen of the region. Rangoli, mehandi painting, cookery, essay, bhajan and numerous competitions and sports events had set the mood for the festival. The entertainment that was initiated by Aurangabad Festival Committee in association with MTDC was a mix of classical and folk dancing, instrumental, vocals and milajula mushaira; this was worth a look for its illustrious performances.