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SIGHT SEEING
AURANGABAD CITY

A historical city in the Northern Maharastra, Aurangabad is the largest city in the region. An otherwise quiet town it wakes up during the political rallies and demonstrations. The town is named after Aurangzeb and has many places to see, admire and know about. The most famous excursion to be taken from Aurangabad is that of Ajanta & Ellora caves. History of Aurangabad goes back to 2200 years when it was known as Rajtadak and Kirkee Fatehnager. Finally, it was named as Aurangabad. The royal feeling of this city has not faded and can be still felt in its numerous relics and the fort which were once an integral part of the city. The city has the same splendour of Moghul architecture as seen in Delhi and Agra. goes back to 2200 years when it was known as Rajtadak and Kirkee Fatehnager. Finally, it was named as Aurangabad. The royal feeling of this city has not faded and can be still felt in its numerous relics and the fort which were once an integral part of the city. The city has the same splendour of Moghul architecture as seen in Delhi and Agra.

Aurangabad was once the viceregal capital of Emperor Aurangzeb, who wanted to control and campaign in the Deccan from here. The city of Aurangabad was founded in 1610, on the site of a village, Khirki by Malik Ambar - the Prime Minister of Murtaza Nizam Shah II. When Fateh Khan, Malik Ambar's son turned successor in 1626, he gave the city the name 'Fatehpur'. Later in 1653, when Prince Aurangzeb became Viceroy of the Deccan, he made the city his capital and called it Aurangabad. The walls which enclose the central part of the city, were added by Aurangzeb in 1686 in order to withstand attacks from the Marathas. There are four principle gateways to the city - the Delhi Darwaza, the Jalna Darwaza, the Paithan Darwaza , the Mecca Darwaza. Nine secondary gateways also formed a part of the defensive system of this city.

Aurangabad district has always been a prominent region on the Deccan plateau. Having been inhabited since the Stone Age, it has a long artistic and cultural history - to which several dynasties have made major contributions over the years. Maurya rule marked the arrival of Buddhism in Maharashtra. The earliest caves at Ajanta and Pitalkhora were excavated during the Satvahana period (in the 2nd century B.C.)During the Chalukya reign, Buddhism continued to flourish. This resulted in several 'viharas' (monasteries) and ' chaityas' (chapels) being excavated at Aurangabad , Ajanta and Ellora. In later years the Rashtrakutas built several temples, the most significant being the Kailas Temple (Cave 16, Ellora) - an unrivaled example of Indian architecture. With Aurangzeb 's death his empire, extending over almost the entire Indian sub- continent, disintegrated into small fragments. Shorn of its glory, Aurangzeb's city remained just a part of the State of Hyderabad which ultimately merged with the Indian Republic in 1948.

Aurangabad today is a bustling city of Maharashtra with diverse big and small industries, fine silken textiles, and exquisite hand woven brocades of silver and gold fabrics, Himroo of world frame. To scholars and lovers of art and culture the city is more familiar as the gateway to the ancient caves of Ajanta and Ellora, both famous as treasure houses of Indian Art and Sculpture.

BIBI-KA-MAQBARA

This is the monument for which Aurngabad is best known. The comparison with the Agra monument has unfortunetly somewhat denigrated the Aurangabad tomb which in itself displays a worthwhile architectural design, with much distinguished surface ornamentation in the late Mughal style.

The mausoleum dates from 1678 and it was erected by Prince Azam Shah, one of Aurangzeb's sons, in memory of Begum Rabia Durani, his mother. It stands in the middle of spacious and formally planned garden, with axial ponds, fountains, and water channels, many defined by stone screens and lined with broad pathways.

The central focus of this vast enclosure is the tomb itself. This is raised on a high terrace to look out over the garden plots and waterways. Exactly like the Taj Mahal, the mausoleum is framed by four lofty minarets that stand freely at the corners of the terrace.

PAN-CHAKKI

A 17th century water mill that takes its name from the mill which used to grind grain for the pilgrims and disciples of saints as well as for troops of the garrison. A mountain spring about eight kilometres away is the water source for running the mill ; a maze of underground earthen pipes cleverly chanelled the water to feed elevated masonary tanks;when full.

These would siphon out in the form of a perennial waterfall moving the blades of the grinding wheel. Underneath the reservoir of Panchakki there are spacious, cool chambers which are used during summer by pilgrims.

The water distribution system built in 1695 is a marble of hydrology and was the engineering feat of Malik Ambar, architect of Aurangabad city. In 1624 a Sufi saint, a spiritual guide to Emperor Aurangzeb, was buried here. The gardens with its several fish tanks serve as his memorial.

AURANGABAD CAVES

Hidden in the hills just outside of the city are a cluster of caves probably excavated in the early sixth century. There are Tantric influences evident in the iconography and architectural designs of the caves.

Some of the chaitya halls here are constructed on a mandala plan for the circumambulating of the Buddha who is depicted here seated on an intricately carved throne.

AJANTA-ELLORA

Ajanta and Ellora respectively 99 kms and 30 kms from Aurangabad are few of the finest cave temples in the world. Ellora is an impressive cluster of 34 caves which belong to the artists of fifth to eight century. These temples are in groups according to the faith and religion to which they belong. Ajanta is a collection 30 caves some of which are still unfinished. These caves mainly belong to the Buddhism. In both Ajanta and Ellora, some thing more went into carving of these caves than hammer and chisel and that was inspiration drawn from his the deep faith. It takes barely two hours to cover the 99 km. from Aurangabad to Ajanta, two hours to transport you to the second century B.C. when the first of these caves was hollowed out from the side of the cliff. Early in the 19th century a party of British officers scrambling over the thickly wooded slopes of the Sahyadri hill, discovered these caves buried under debris and screened by foliage. Strung out in a sweeping horseshoe shape in an inner fold of the hills, the caves were a secluded retreat for Buddhist monastic orders and yet offered easy access to the trade routes that swung past here to the coast. With little more than hammer and chisel but with a deep faith inspiring them, these simple monks excavated chaityas, built chapels for prayer and viharas, monasteries where they lived and taught and carried out ritual performances.

The 30 caves of Ajanta , some unfinished, span a period of 800 years and contain numerous images of Buddha. The sculptures in cave 26 are elaborate and beautiful: highlights here are the panel of the temptation of Buddha and the Parinirvana depicting the breaking of earthly ties and Buddha's passing into nirvana -- a wonderful recumbent figure amid people in attitudes of mourning and sorrow. The arched chaitya window set into the elegantly simple facade of cave 9 (first century B.C.) is repeated in the elaborate frontage of cave 19 (fifth century), which has figures of Buddha on the portico. This is a fully developed chaitya with a stupa enclosing a standing Buddha at the far end. Of particular note here is a sculpture of a seated Nagaraja with his consort and female attendant. Cave 16 is an elegant vihara with an inscription that mentions the king and his minister who built this cave. The shrine has a towering figure of Buddha preaching, flanked by attendants. Although tucked away deep within the folds of the hills, the sanctuaries are illuminated by natural light for some part of the day.

Using metal mirrors to reflect sunlight into the inner recesses, monks and artists painted the wonderful frescoes that glow on these walls. These were in a fairly good state when the caves were first discovered but have deteriorated over the years with dampness and exposure to ever increasing numbers of tourists every year. Still in caves 1, 2, 16 and 17 you can see some undamaged portions of frescoes that are vibrant and clear, the fading colours recall how beautiful these caves must have been in centuries gone by. Ajanta is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India and has been included in the World Heritage list of monuments. The Boddhisatvas who figure prominently in the Ajanta paintings are celestial beings, often personifications of the virtues of Buddha, who visit the world of men. In later Buddhist philosophy, the time when these rock shrines were hewn out of the hill side, the Boddhisatvas were beings who had renounced the attainment of nirvana to attend to human needs.

ELLORA CAVES

Even more impressive in terms of architectural splendour are the cave temples of Ellora, about 20 km. from Aurangabad. Here are some 34 caves, carved out in a curve on the slopes of low hills; 16 of them are Hindu, 13 Buddhist and five of the Jain faith. And yet no signs of religious hostility disturb the tranquil atmosphere of Ellora. These rock temples and monasteries were constructed between the fifth and eighth centuries A.D. The Kailasa temple, dedicated to Shiva, is unquestionably the most glorious achievement here. Transcending the earlier concept of a cave temple hollowed out of rock, the whole splendid structure of Kailasa is "an enormous monolithic rock carving in architectural form" Three great trenches were cut down into the rock and beginning from the top of the cliff, work progressed down to the base.

Massive blocks had to be left intact to fashion the inner sanctuary, the porch, the two free standing pillars, the life sized elephant in the courtyard, lesser shrines and cloisters. The main shrine was placed on a high podium which was carved in a continuous frieze of lions and elephants that seem to carry the massive structure effortlessly on their backs as they march in slow procession. And all this accomplished by hammer and chisel held in the hands! The deep relief of the Shaivite themes that so profusely ornament the Kailasa temple make them appear almost like free standing sculptures. The Kailasa temple alone would absorb all your time in Ellora. Yet there is so much here... The impressive double-storied Visvakarma (cave 10) has a trefoil window in the facade of the upper level, set off by beautifully grouped flying figures. This is both chaitya and vihara with a seated Buddha in the stupa.

There are dwarfs dancing and playing musical instruments in bands of frieze above the pillars. Next to this is a three storied monastery (cave 11). Exquisitely carved bracket figures of river goddesses adorn the entrance to Ramesvara (cave 21) which has a low parapet wall with a long frieze of elephants. Dumar Lena (cave 29) is dedicated to Shiva and is similar in plan and style to the great cave shrine at Elephanta.

The most interesting of the Jain caves is cave 32 with a beautiful lotus carved on the ceiling of the shrine and a magnificent yakshi seated on her lion under a mango tree laden with fruit. This is a double-storied cave with paintings in a fair state of preservation on the ceilings. up.

EXCURSIONS DAULATABAD

This fortress with an amazing history started as an old Hindu stronghold that was captured and plundered in the 13th century. Made the second capital of the Delhi Sultanate a hundred years later, Daulatabad was held as a fine fortress by successive dynasties in the Deccan. Dominated by a great conical hill, Daulatabad commanded a natural pass; artificial scarping made it impregnable.

The Chand Minar, a 30 m. high minaret with three circular galleries, looked down over the approach from the north and east and had a defensive as well as religious role in this fortress.

DAULATABAD FORT

Once known as 'Devgiri', this magnificent 12th century fortress stands on a hill just 13 kms. from Aurangabad. It was given the name Daulatabad,the' city of fortune', by Muhamad Tughlaq, Sultan of Delhi. Initially a Yadav stronghold, it passed through the hands of several dynasties in the Deccan.One of the world's best preserved fort of medieval times, surviving virtually unaltered, Daulatabad yet displays the character that made it invincible.

A Fortress that was conquered only by treachery. A series of secret, quizzical, subterranean passages lie coiled like a python amidst the fort. Here flaring torches were thrust upon an unwary enemy. Or hot oil poured down his path , as he deliberated in the labyrinth. Also the heat from a brazier was blown into the passage by a process of suction suffocating the entire garrison within.

The Fort itself lies in the body of an isolated hill; the steep hill - sides at the base falling so sharply to the moat that no hostile troops could scale the height. The moat, 40 ft. deep with mechanical drawbridges teemed with crocodiles. A 5 kilometre sturdy wall, artifical scarping and a complicated series of defences made Daulatabad impregnable.

The 30 metre high Chand Minar ( Tower) built much later with 3 circular gallaries had a defensive and religious role in the fortress.

KHULDABAD

A few kilometres from Daulatabad is the austere, plastered masonry monument that commemorates the memory of Aurangazeb who directed that his tomb should be the simplest possible. Khuldabad or the 'heavenly abode' is a walled town only 3 kms. from Ellora.

It is the Karbala town or holy shrine of Deccan Muslims. Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal emperor is buried here. He built the crenellated wall around the town, which was once an important centre.

GHRISHNESHWAR TEMPLE

Worshipers of Shiva flock to the Ghrishneshwar Temple. The temple is of particular importance since it enshrines a Jyotirlinga. This particular aspect of the god's luminious enegy is manigested in only twelve temples, including Kedarnath in the Himalayas, Somanath on the Arabian Sea coast, Ujjain in Central India and Varanasi on the Ganga.

In this respect, Ellora forms part of an elaborate piligrimage route that encompasses almost the entire country. As part of this unusual cult, devotees are permitted to enter the spacious sanctuary, but men must first remove their upper garments.

The temple is built of spotted red sandstone in what may be described as a revivalist Yadava style. It dates from no earlier than the eigtheenth century Maratha period, with substantial additions carried out by Ahilyabai Holkar in the early nineteenth century. This patroness was also responcible for a large tank nearby Ellora village which bears her name.

PAITHAN

Situated 51 kms. south of Aurngabad on the right bank of the Godavari river, Paithan is one of Marthwada's most ancient cities. Legend links Paithan with Shalivahana, who made it the capital the Satyavahana kingdom in AD 78, there by initiating the Shaka era. Despite this historical pedigree, little of Paithan's chronology is known for certain until the 18th century, when it was reaptedly fought over by Marathas and the Nizam of Hydrabad. The present-day city occupies but a very small portion of ancient Paithan, almost all traces of which have disappeard. Mounds of over grown ruins, however, are still visible to the east of the city.

A wall, now totaly dilapidated, having nine gate ways, once surrounded the town and the portion towards the river front rests upon a step bank-only two gates known as Sat Sayyad and Quziwada survive. Some ruins of the old fortress which rose high above the houses are to be seen at the south west angle. The Marathi poet-saint Ekanath lived here. There are many shrines within the town and along the river bank connected with the lives of the Hindu Saints, known for their piety and learning.

The one dedicated to Saint Eknath contains the Samadhi, or memorial, of the saint and is a structure with flat-roofed apartments. A small tank where Eknath took his bath, and where he eventually ritually drowned himself in 1598 is located to the west. By for the most picturesque aspect of Paithan are the bathing ghats-they are among the oldest structures in the city. Despite these association with Hindu Saints, the oldest structures at Paithan are actually a number of mosques and dargahs. The city is particulary well known for intricately woven and brilliantly colourd silk sarees known as Paithanis, which are manufatured locally.

Visitors to Paithan may also enjoy the Dnyaneshwar Udayan, the largest garden in Maharashtra, planned on the lines of the Brindavan gardens in Maysoor. here observation points enable you to watch resident and migratory birds. Paithani is the famous silk saree of Paithan. The art of weaving Paithani sarees is at least 2000 years old. The yarn used is pure silk and the 'zari' drawn from pure gold.

A heavily brocaded Paithani takes anywhere from six months to one and half years to weave. The ancient city and pilgrimage centre of Paithan is situated on the banks of the Godavari, 56 kms. south of Aurangabad. It is also well-known for the beautiful 'Pathanis' -- silk sarees with intricate zari borders.

LONAR CRATER

The only crater formed by a meteorite impact in India ranking the third biggest in the world. Lonar Crater is situated on the outskirts of Lonar Town in District Buldhana, Maharashtra. The crater was formed by the impact of a meteorite nearly 50,000 years ago. At the surface, the crater has a diameter of nearly 1.75 kms. At the bottom, a beautiful lake has been formed over thousndas of years by the perennial streams flowing into the crater.

The water of the lake, however is very salty, the ph being 10.5. A unique eco-system has evolved in the crater, which is nearly 132 meters deep from the top edge. A visitor is pleasantly surprised to see aquatic birds like Flamingos, Indian Moorhen, Coot, Dabchick and so on. One can also hear and see many peacocks in the crater's forest. On the beach of the lake, there are a few temples, built in 12th-13th Century.

Though in dilapidated condition, the exquisite carvings are remnants of their glorious past. To see and enjoy all this, the visitor must go down in the crater and make a complete round along the shore of the lake. Other Attractions-Apart from the Lonar Crater, there is another small lake, called Amber Lake, said to have been caused by a splinter of the meteorite. It is about one kilometer away from the main crater. On the shore of the Ambar lake stands Hanuman Temple in which there is a huge statue of God Hanuman in reclining pose. In Lonar town, there is Daityasudan temple which is a must for every visitor. Its outer walls and pillars are full of exquisite carvings and images of various sorts.

It was built in 10th century. If the time permits, one should also visit the Sharangdhar temple in Mehekar town, about 22 kms. away. Sindkhed Raja, 80 kms. from Lonar, offers a few historic sites, being the birthplace of Chhatrapati Shivaji's mother, Jijabai. A two-day trip is recommended to cover all the places. However, from Aurangabad, a day's trip can be easily arranged.
< br> From Aurangabad, it is 170 kms. by Aurangabad-Jalana-Sindkhed Raja-Lonar route. For lodging, a four-room PWD Rest House is ideal as it stands right on the edge of Lonar Crater.<

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