When we think of Aurangabad, the first thing that comes to our mind are the sister caves Ajanta & Ellora but this beautiful city has its own charming history that makes you fall in love with this place. It had close to 52 gates during medieval times though only a few of them have survived the test of times. This place offers a lot to explore from Temples, Caves, Monuments to Museums, Textiles and Local Cuisines. It is a very pleasant, clean and traveler friendly city, the infrastructure is top notch and it was very appeasing and nice to see quite a few trees occupy sides of the road. To our delight, the footpaths were broad and free of any kind of encroachments.
We commenced our Aurangabad trip by visiting Grineshwara Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is one of the 12 Jyothirlingas, believed to be the last shrine or 12th Linga and is considered sacred among Hindus. The temple tower is made of red stone and the architecture within the temple premises left us awestruck. The carvings, pillars, paintings and statues are the highlight of the temple. Since it is one of the 12 Jyothirlingas, it is highly commercialized and people try to sell you one thing or the other right from the parking lot. Camera and phones are prohibited inside the temple and have to be deposited at a nearby counter.
Bibi Ka Maqbara is a mausoleum built by Aurangzeb's son, Azam Shah, in memory of his mother. This monument is an imitation of Taj Mahal but fails to ignite the charm, aura and a feel of being lost in time.
The lesser known Aurangabad Caves are only 2 km away from Bibi Ka Maqbara. These caves are on par with the magnificent Ajanta and Ellora caves but do not hog the limelight. It would be a good idea to hire an auto or cab to visit Aurangabad caves as it is in the outskirts of the city and there are no other means of transport. If you want to hire an auto we highly recommend Mr.Krishna (9130194847) a very honest and thorough gentleman who makes sure that the travelers have a good time. He is pretty flexible, patient and informative.
Chatrapati Shivaji Museum tucked away in a small corner of Aurangabad is a must visit not only for history buffs but for everybody to learn more about this fearless warrior. Shivaji is very well known and respected widely for being a fierce warrior, great patriot and true liberal. Under his able leadership, our country flourished and thrived. He never differentiated people based on their caste or creed giving them opportunities depending on their skill set. Under his rule, women enjoyed great rights and were respected and honored. This compact museum lays down the legacy and artifacts from Shivaji's period.
As you enter the museum you are greeted by massive cast iron canons and huge teak wood doors. The museum is classified into different galleries exhibiting exceptionally well preserved armory - swords, pistol, barrels, canons, guns, lead balls, knives, daggers, Madu (deer horn) body armor. Artifacts range from portraits, paintings, oil lamps, candle sticks, religious importance items, extensive mughal era coins from Shivaji's period. spice box, stone and ivory sculptures, jewelry boxes. The best part about the museum is the wide collection of beautiful silver nutcrackers and 1600 AD Paithani Saree and shawl still in mint condition. They have an extensive collection of great manuscripts. The museum is very well maintained and is sparkling clean with each artifact clearly visibly through glass. The museum is closed on Thursdays.
En-route we saw a lot of handloom shops selling the famous Paithani and Himroo sarees. Paithani sarees - A Golden heritage of 2000 years, these pure silk sarees are completely handwoven with great care and fabulous artistic work. Silk from Paithan was traded for gold and precious stones ages ago. Even today, the work is handwoven in pure silk and silver. Himroo is also another traditional weaving art which is a mix of silk and cotton. This art is slowly fading away and efforts are being made by the government and weaving industry to keep this art alive.
Be sure to stop by one of the stores and check out the work. Paithani silk weaving centre in Lokmat Nagar is the perfect place to shop and also see the weavers in action handcrafting every single saree. Government Of India, Ministry Of Textiles run a training centre for weavers here. The centre has sarees, handwoven exquisite carpets with 900 knots per sq inch, shawls, artifacts and the likes. It would be safe to say you could buy genuine stuff from this outlet.
Ajanta Caves, a World Heritage Monument, is not just known for its magnificent architecture but also for the elaborate mural paintings highlighting the life events of Buddha. Our Exclusive post on Ajanta can be found here.
Ellora Caves stand as a testimony for secularism with 3 different religions coexisting in harmony in the same premises. Apart from that, the mystery surrounding the architecture of these caves and the possibility of receiving help from extra terrestrial beings to finish the mind boggling carvings makes these caves even more intriguing. Our exclusive post on Ellora.
CIDCO serves as the perfect locality to stay, there are several hotels that fit all budgets and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. To taste authentic Aurangabad biryani we recommend Karim's. Their Chicken biryani is simply amazing, it is a semi dry gravy mixed with rice and quite spicy. The chicken pieces are super tender and finger licking good. Apart from the most amazing biryani, Karim's outlet comes highly recommended for its delicious Kathi Roll, mouth watering kababs and Kheema Pav. Another excellent biryani eat out would be this tiny place called Zaika, behind Naik college, Cannaught Place.
If you are a vegetarian we recommend 'Pakwan Thali Restaurant' at Jalna road CIDCO, specializing in Rajasthani cuisine. If you crave for Maharashtrian vada pav, Pet Puja outlets serve yummy vada pav.
To enjoy street food and not count the calories, Cannaught place is an excellent hangout area. It serves best and clean street food. For the sheer variety that this area has to offer, it would for sure serve as a paradise for any foodie. The stalls range from Kebabs, Dum Biryani, Shawarma, Chinese, desi food and of course superb chaat. The best place to have chaat is 'Icy Spicy' behind LIC office. Their pani puri is a must try and of course you wont stop at one plate. They also serve pizzas, sandwiches and the likes. However, their stand out dish has to be their Ice Gola. They serve Ice Gola with 3 or more Golas, each topped with different flavors and is sinful. We also recommend Chatpata chicken kebabs at the Koyla Biryani joint. If you are a sweet pan freak, do try the different varieties of sweet pan at Sai Samart pan house.
While in Aurangabad do try out different varieties of 'Mastani' which is a blend of 3 fruit juices and topped with rich scoops of ice-cream. We ordered the one with extra dry fruits doused in colorful essences.
We on the spur decided to watch a Marathi movie and were excited to read the synopsis of the movie Killa and immediately bought the tickets. This beautiful film captures the emotions of a young boy and is very well scripted. No wonder it won the National Award for the best Marathi film.
We stayed at Thrimurti Guesthouse, a budgeted place with clean rooms. The best part about the hotel was the helpful management. Their location is another plus as you have a whole lot of restaurants, shopping markets, CIDCO bus terminal and Mall all at a walk-able distance. To cover longer distances, there is easy access to autos at any point in time.