“Allah-hu-Akbar-Allah”. “Allah-hu-Akbar-Allah”. The sound blared somewhere outside. I rubbed my eyes and pulled myself out of bed. The ticking hands of the wristwatch reminded me it was our last few hours in the hotel, and in the city. We were scheduled to visit the Aurangabad Taj Mahal.
My sleepy head husband looked at me with beady eyes. “Come on get ready, we can’t give in to sleep” I said.
In a few minutes we were both ready to set out on the auspicious day of Eid to see with our own eyes what ‘a bad copy of Taj Mahal’ (as described by the internet) would look like.
Time For History
The existence of Bibi ka Maqbara was revealed to us in 2016. We must have been living under a rock not to know an asymmetrical twin of the Taj Mahal can be found in the Deccan.
Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s son, prince Azam Shah is credited to be the driving force behind the Bibi ka Maqbara. It is a mausoleum dedicated to his mother Rabia-ud-Daurani. Inscriptions found on the mausoleum mentions Ata-Ullah to be the chief architect of the edifice. Ata-Ullah happens to be the son of the chief architect of the Taj Mahal.
Aurangzeb is popular in history for being a king who never patronised any art form and made illegal all forms of enjoyment and entertainment. He disliked his son’s idea of spending money on building a beautiful tomb. Constrained by money, the party was forced to use poor quality construction materials while erecting the building. So instead of getting another Taj Mahal, our country India scored just a poor copy of it.
Reaching Bibi-ka-Maqbara — The Aurangabad Taj Mahal
The streets of Osmanpura neighbourhood were empty. The city was getting its extra hour of beauty sleep. Thankfully we found an auto which agreed to drop us off at Bibi ka Maqbara for INR 100 . In our minds we had plans to explore the Daulatabad Fort post breakfast by public transport (bus) and catch the afternoon train back to Mumbai.
In our previous post, we talked about how deft the auto drivers of Aurangabad are in selling their service. We bragged about how we avoided them. Well, this time we got sold and we have zero regret. The deal was a win-win for both the seller and the buyer! The auto driver offered us a pre-breakfast trip to Bibi-ka-Maqbara and back, then a post breakfast trip to Daulatabad Fort, which would end with dropping us off at the Aurangabad railway station. His package was worth INR 500.
Our other option was hiring random autos to make one way trips to and back from Bibi-ka-Maqbara which would have set us back by INR 200. Visiting Daulatabad fort and returning to railway station by public transport would have cost us another INR 200 atleast (INR 60 for auto from hotel to bus depot, INR 100 for to and fro travel from Daulatabad Fort in MSRTC bus, INR 40 for auto from MSRTC bus depot to station). So the total cost would have been around INR 400. By paying just INR 100 extra we got the luxury of a private vehicle, which we also used to keep our luggage in after checking out of the hotel. Later, we realised we couldn’t have scaled the high Daulatabad Fort if we had carried our heavy backpacks all the time with us.
Appreciating the Crooked Beauty of the Taj of Deccan: Bibi-ka-Maqbara
Entry Price (for Indians) – INR 15
Time taken to explore the place- 1 hour (including plenty of photo breaks)
Timing- 6 AM to 10 PM
As usual our “go early morning to avoid crowd” strategy worked. It generally does, unless it’s a popular sunrise point in question. At 7 AM when we reached the ticket counter, we noticed just one other small group of visitors.
We came face-to-face with the beautiful edifice after passing through an octagonal (or was it hexagonal?) enclosure.
The enclosure has minor embellishments on its exterior walls but its interior is grand. Finely cut out niches of different patterns adorn the interior. The ceiling and upper end of the wall is decorated by line patterns which surrounded a central circular design, intricately carved. As per the website of Archaeological Survey of India, the designs are done on brass plate with wood covering.
The Bibi-ka-maqbara undoubtedly resembles the Taj Mahal. The dome shaped mausoleum is flanked by four towering minarets. The pathway leading to the tomb is beautified by a series of fountains which were not functioning when we visited.
The seat just outside the enclosure, facing the mausoleum is a perfect vantage point to try out photo ops.
The husband is generally shy to face the camera, but he gives in when the wife shoots out those lovely requests. 😉
Since the only set of visitors who accompanied us were nowhere in view, we decided to spend some more time in the pathway trying artistic ways of shutter locking our experience here. The walls which guarded the pathway sometimes had interesting doors which teleported us to the Mughal era.
The lower level of the building is a square platform upon which the architectural splendour stands. We reached the base of the mausoleum by ascending up a flight of steps.
Unlike the Taj Mahal, this building is not entirely made up of marble. Most of it is in lime mortar. The obvious traces of weathering were clearly visible in many parts of it.
We stared at each nook and corner on all four sides of the mausoleum trying to figure out which is the best. We are no expert but all the four sides had more or less the same quality of relief work.
The western part of the tomb has a pillared mosque the entry to which is restricted.
The soaring minarets have balconies on top. Some portions of the wall of the minarets have patches indicating the decay. We could only imagine what brilliant view of the city those balconies can guarantee.
We entered the arch shaped entry gate of the mausoleum. The floor has a huge octagonal opening in the centre with a very low railing. Through that opening the tomb is visible.
On the green cloth covering the tomb we found the offerings that visitors must have made. The sanctum was covered with money. I think we also saw a couple of mobile phones, probably those were not meant to be offerings!
We noticed a floral pattern on the octagonal dome shaped ceiling.
What we loved best were the windows here. The way these artistic windows allowed light to pass through can be a very interesting subject to photograph.
We also noticed the mausoleum is surrounded by sprawling green lawns or garden. Though we wanted to visit the gardens, the lack of time did not allow us to do so.
We hung around in this Mughal era creation, trying to feel how a person would have felt in the Aurangzeb regime. A regime which banned art and entertainment cannot feel good after all!
We got back to our precious vehicle and chatted with the driver while returning back to the hotel. He took us through the congested alleys of the old town of Aurangabad. Men wearing white caps and long shirts had taken over the streets; the festival of Eid had started!
Have you been to the Taj Mahal in India? Does the Bibi -ka- Maqbara interest you? Comment below and let’s get talking!
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