The third day we went on the Aurangabad city tour. Our first stop was at the Daulatabad Fort. Originally founded by the Yadavas as Deogiri later became Daulatabad during the Mughal regime.
The fort is in ruins, but the fascinating thing about is the fact that it is a fort that has never been penetrated and captured in battle. The only way to capture this fort was to lay siege to it and starve its inhabitants.
It has 7 or 8 layers of defence built into it. At first, the invaders are confronted with crossing a series of huge iron-clad doors with built-in spikes to defend an attack of elephants.
Once the invaders cross these barricades, they reach the part of the fort that is covered by a moat and there was a bridge made of leather across the moat (now the bridge has been converted to a wooden one). When the invaders reach the middle part of the bridge, the bridge itself was thrown down, making the invaders fall into the moat teeming with killer crocodiles.
If the invaders cross this, they are led into a dark alley – at the end of the dark alley is a pathway seeming to lead into the main part of the fort, but actually leads the invaders into a free fall into the moat. If they escape that and proceed further, they reach an area with an opening above them through which hot oil is poured on the invaders.
If they escape that, they then are led into the real entrance to the main part of the fort, but now the defenders have erected a wall of fire which repels the invaders back into the alley with the opening above. I am sure you know why this fort is impenetrable now.
After that, we went to the Aurangabad caves – legend has it that after finishing their work at Ajanta caves in the 7th century A.D., the cave artists went to work at the Aurangabad caves. But soon they found that the rock was not to their liking and they abandoned these caves and moved to the Ellora Caves. But before they abandoned the Aurangabad caves, they had carved 13 caves. We managed to see caves #7, 8 and 9. Caves #1-6 were a bit afar and our guide said it was risky to go see them due to the wet conditions.
If you follow Buddhist history, around the later part of 7th Century A.D. Mahayana Buddhism had taken over completely. Additionally it had started becoming elitist as well by borrowing some ideas from Hinduism like switching to Sanskrit as the key language in place of Pali/Prakrit they were using earlier.
The influence of Hinduism must have reached record levels – we found a cave with Lord Ganesha and Buddha on the same pedestal. I have included a picture of this in my trip album that I have uploaded.
After that, we visited “Bibi Ka Maqbara” – sometimes called the poor man’s Taj Mahal. Its a mausoluem dedicated to Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb’s wife (“bibi”). It resembles the Taj Mahal in many ways in look and feel. However, they did not spend as much money, so only the facades are made of marble and the semi-precious stones that are there in the Taj Mahal are not there here.
Overall, we felt that like every other tourist spot, it was under-leveraged. Given some focus, this could be turned into a nice tourist spot. We then moved to the Panchakki “Water Mill” – this is a mill that is operated by the gravitational flow of water brought from a 5 km distance via a dedicated canal. This force of the water operates a mill that is used to grind cereals, grains into flour. A muslim saint ran this place and the funds from the operations was used to finance the religious activities.
After that we spent some time at a saree weaving center where the famous paithani and himroo style saris were being made and sold. Paithani style is over 2000 years old. That completed our city tour as well as the Ajanta Ellora tour itself.
Now we had one more day to spend, which we had reserved for contingency purposes in case it rained. Since it did not rain at all, we were able to finish the tour in 3 days.
The 4th day, we went back to the Ajanta Caves – we were so enamored by the paintings. Also our fear that next time we come here the paintings may be completely gone drove us to visit the Ajanta caves again. This time, we spent a lot more time looking at the paintings and were able to decipher a few more Jatakas thanks to the guide book we were carrying.
Overall, the tour was memorable and a dream come true. If you are making the trip avoid the travel agent Travelguru which put us in a dump called Benzy Palace in Mumbai and Hotel Classic in Aurangabad for a variety of reasons.