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Bibi Ka Maqbara, Aurangabad, India

July 21, 2009
Bibi Ka Maqbara (Source: Wikipedia)

Bibi Ka Maqbara (Source: Wikipedia)

Built in 1679 as a mausoleum for Aurangzeb’s wife, Rabia-ud-Daurani, the Bibi-qa-Maqbara (Tel: +91 240 2400620; Indian/foreigner Rs 5/US$2; dawn-10pm) is known as the ‘Poor mans Taj’. This is a slightly ironic comparison considering it was Aurangzeb’s father who built the original shortly before being overthrown and imprisoned by his son on account of his extravagance! The comparison is also a little unfair because, despite the obvious weathering, it’s still a damn sight more impressive than the average gravestone.

The monument’s name translates literally to ‘Tomb of the Lady’, but has earned the nickname ‘poor man’s Taj’ because it was made to rival the Taj Mahal. It is situated in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. The tomb in itself represents the transition from the ostentatious architecture of Akbar and Shah Jahan to the simple architecture of the later Mughals. The comparison to the Taj Mahal has resulted in a general ignorance of the monument. This Monument is also called as Dakkhani Taj.

The Maqbara is erected beyond a locality called Begumpura. The Mausoleum stands within an enclosed area, 500 yards long and 300 yards broad. The surrounding high wall is crenellated with pointed arched recesses on the outside. There are bastions at intervals, and the recesses are divided by pilasters crowned with little minarets. The centre of the southern wall is occupied by a handsome portal entrance closed by folding doors which are covered with a running foliage pattern in brass. The structure is in the form of an hexagon and angles are ornamented with minarets.

Other sites in Aurangabad
Aurangabad Caves
With goats more numerous than tourists, the Aurangabad caves (Indian/foreigner Rs 5/US$2; dawn-dusk) might not be a patch on Ellora or Ajanta, but they are very quiet and peaceful. Carved out of the hillside in the 6th or 7th century AD, the 10 caves – consisting of two groups 1km apart (retain your ticket for entry into both sets) – are all Buddhist. Cave 7 with its sculptures of scantily clad lovers in suggestive positions is everyone’s favourite. A rickshaw from the Bibi-qa-Maqbara shouldn’t cost more than Rs 100 including waiting time.

Also see: Photos: Ajanta & Ellora Caves

Accommodation in Aurangabad
YHA Hostel
Tel: +91 240 2334892
Located at: Station Rd West
Price: dorm/double Rs 60/160
The woman who runs this decrepit old hostel is a real gem, but you really do have to be counting your pennies to stay here. Breakfast is available for Rs 17 and a thali dinner costs Rs 25.

Tourist’s Home
Tel: +91 240 2337212
Located at :Station Rd West
Price: single Rs 150; double Rs 200
As basic as basic gets and with a truly memorable aroma (think long-dead roadkill), but at least it’s cheap and the staff are cool.

Hotel Shree Maya
Tel: +91 240 2333093
Located at: Bharuka Complex
Price: double with/without AC Rs 495/345
Presentable and welcoming budget accommodation close to the train station. The plain rooms have TVs and hot showers in the morning, but the real plus is the outdoor terrace where breakfast and other meals are
served. It’s a good spot to tap into the travellers’ grapevine.

MTDC Holiday Resort
Tel: +91 240 2331513
Located at: Station Rd East
Price: double low/high season Rs 650/750, with AC Rs 800/900
Set in its own shady grounds, this slightly disorganised (in the nicest possible way) hotel is one of the better MTDC operations, offering spruce, spacious rooms. Some rooms suffer a bit from road noise. A restaurant, bar and travel agency are on site.

Classic Hotel
Tel: +91 240 5624314
Located at: Railway Station Rd
Price: single/double from Rs 1000/1200
Internet available. This sparkling new hotel next to the Goldie Cinema has very clean rooms, but is let down by pushy staff.

Hotel Amarpreet
Tel: +91 240 6621133
Located at: Jalna Rd
Price: single/double from Rs 1410/2100
A chintzy, glitzy lobby leads to slightly less impressive rooms, but it’s much cleaner and more professional than any other hotel in its class.

President Park
Tel: +91 240 2486201
Located at: R-7/2, Chikalthana, Airport Rd
Price: single/double from Rs 2300/2800
Internet, swimming pool. On the road to the airport, this classy hotel needs a bit of a polish but the setting around the half-moon pool makes this a good top-end option. Nonguests can use the pool for Rs 175 per hour.

Taj Residency
Tel: +91 240 2381106
Located at: Ajanta Rd
Price: single/double from US$75/85
Internet, swimming pool. Set in 2 hectares of pleasantly landscaped gardens, the Taj is an oasis of well-appointed rooms on the northern fringes of Aurangabad. Most rooms have romantic Mughal-style swings on the balconies.

Getting There & Away
The Chikalthana Airport (IATA Code: IXU) equipped with all modern facilities is 10km east of town. En route you’ll find the offices of Indian Airlines and Jet Airways. Indian Airlines has daily flights to Mumbai (US$54, 45 minutes) and Delhi (US$129, 3½ hours). Jet Airways flies daily to Mumbai (US$116, 45 minutes). Air Deccan offers dirt-cheap daily flights to Mumbai.

Local buses head half-hourly to Ellora (Rs 17, 45 minutes) and hourly to Jalgaon (Rs 90, four hours) via Fardapur (Rs 74, two hours). The T-junction near Fardapur is the drop-off point for Ajanta. Buses leave regularly from the MSRTC bus stand located at Station Rd West to Pune (Rs 140, five hours) and Nasik (Rs 110, five hours). For longer-distance journeys, private luxury buses are more comfortable and better value.

The private bus agents congregate around the corner where Dr Rajendra Prasad Marg becomes Court Rd, and a few sit closer to the bus stand on Station Rd West. Deluxe overnight bus destinations include Mumbai (Rs 180, with AC Rs 250, sleeper Rs 550, eight hours), Ahmedabad (Rs 350, 15 hours) and Nagpur (Rs 320, 12 hours).

On the southern edge of town is Aurangabad train station. It’s not on a main line, but two direct trains daily (often heavily booked) run to/from Mumbai. The 2.30pm Tapovan Express (2nd class/chair Rs 94/344, eight hours), from Mumbai, leaves at 6.10am, and there’s also the 11.25pm Devagiri Express (sleeper/2AC Rs 158/641, nine hours). To Hyderabad (Secunderabad), the Manmad Express departs daily at 7.20pm (sleeper/
2AC Rs 236/954, 10 hours). To reach northern or eastern India by train, take a bus up to Jalgaon and board one of the major trains from there.

Distances from major Cities in Maharashtra and the places of Tourist interest:
Mumbai – Aurangabad: 400 Km.
Pune – Aurangabad: 237 Km.
Nasik – Aurangabad: 190 Km.
Shirdi – Aurangabad: 144 Km.
Ajanta – Aurangabad: 107 Km.
Ellora – Aurangabad: 29 Km.
Daulatabad – Aurangabad: 14 Km.

Getting Around
Autorickshaws are as common as mosquitoes in a summer swamp. The taxi stand is next to the bus stand; share jeeps also depart from here for destinations around Aurangabad, including Ellora and Daulatabad.
Hiring a bicycle from a stall near the train station (Rs 4 per hour) is an option for a pollution-filled day’s sightseeing around the city.

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