The call of Aurangabad

The city of Aurangabad has yet to make it to the Malaysian list of Top Ten Travel Destinations in India. Still, when I arrive in the city in the state of Maharashtra and meet my guide, Sanjay Vaswani, I am excited to be here.

Aurangabad is named after the Moghul emperor, Aurangzeb Alamgir (son of Shah Jahan, the man behind the famous Taj Mahal). During his second viceroyalty of the Deccan, Aurangzeb made it his capital in 1653 and named it Aurangabad.

But its history goes further back. With an abundant water supply and a strategic location between north and south India, the city was first built around a village called Khidki.

It's known as the City Of Gates as there are 52 gates into the old city (each one was opened for a week every year). The principal ones were the Delhi gate (in the north), the Jalna gate (in the east), the Paithan gate (in the south) and the Mecca gate (in the west). Most of them are no longer used.

Not for love

Our tour begins with a visit to Bibi-Ka-Maqbara (top photo) (which means Tomb Of The Lady), the mausoleum of Aurangzeb's wife, Dil Ras Banu. She wanted her mausoleum to be as beautiful as her mother-in-law's in Agra (Taj Mahal). However, Bibi-Ka-Maqbara was not built by Aurangzeb to commemorate his love for his wife.

Instead, it was built by their son to fulfil her wish.

Also known as Taj Of The South and sometimes, The Poor Man's Taj, the mausoleum was designed by architects Attaullah and Haspatrai at the cost of about 665,283 rupees (S$17,470).

I ask Sanjay why history tends to remember Aurangzeb as a cruel man.

Apparently, Aurangzeb was a puritan and despised anything ostentatious. True enough, his tomb in the town of Khuldabad seems way too plain for the man who was once an emperor.

Sanjay explains, in a matter-of-fact manner: "His mausoleum was Aurangzeb's final slap to his father as he hated the Taj Mahal."

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