A Guide to Daulatabad Fort and The Fishy Case of The Lost Guidebook

“Put the guidebook in the bag,” I directed Sayan.

“Oh don’t worry it is safe with me,” Sayan replied back.

I knew he was right. Sayan is one of the messiest persons when it comes to organising stuff but it’s no less than magic how he never loses a thing. We know each other from 2009 and he has never lost anything.

“Eid- Mubarak.” We greeted our auto driver. As promised by him, he returned after performing the morning namaz in the mosque on the holy day of Eid. We had booked his vehicle, a three wheeler auto, to take us to the Daulatabad Fort and wait there while we visit the fort. When we were done he was supposed to drop us off at the Aurangabad railway station. We had a train to catch at 2.30 PM from Aurangabad station.

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Moving forward in the auto

Our plan was perfect but then I (Tania) heard the growling sound in my belly. I was hungry. We both were. The ‘complimentary breakfast’ served to us at the hotel was obviously insufficient. We wasted a solid half hour to satisfy our stomach before we could take on the challenge of reaching the top of the deceptive fort.

Daulatabad Fort’s Place in History – From the hills of the God’s to a fool’s paradise

Aurangabad is no place for a history hater. In order to get the most out of the ‘sightseeing’ there, you need to read up history.

Daulatabad was known as Deogiri (The hill of Gods) when the Yadava dynasty founded it. The Yadavas ruled from this very fort for more than a hundred year until it was annexed by Ala-ud-din Khilji, Sultan of Delhi. The Yadava king Ramachandradeva was allowed to rule from this fort as a vassal. But, Ramachandradeva did not obey the orders passed by the then Delhi sultanate and soon the army chief of Ala-ud-din Khilji attacked the city again. The Yadavas lost all power and the control passed to Harpaladeva, who was fighting for the sultanate. However, he later declared independence so another battle followed and finally the city and the fort were directly annexed by the Khilji dynasty.

The Tuqhlaq dynasty won the throne in Delhi by leading a coup. Mohammad bin Tuqhlaq, renamed Deogiri to Daulatabad. He thought Daulatabad was better positioned than Delhi; so he forced the entire population of Delhi to abandon Delhi and brought them to Daulatabad. However, affected by acute water problem the people were again forced to return all way back to Delhi. This event is very popular in Indian history as a classic act of foolishness.

Daulatabad and the fort saw much turbulence, wars, battles and change of royalty, but the citadel stands strong even today.

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Watchtower

Practical Information

Entry Ticket (Indians)- INR 15
Time- Sunrise to sunset

Required time to visit the entire fort – 3 hours

How to reach by public transport – Any MSRTC (Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation) bus leaving from the Aurangabad bus depot on the road to Ellora will stop at Daulatabad Fort. It will take around 30 minutes to reach the fort. Daulatabad Fort is clearly visible from the highway.

How to reach by tourist bus – AC tourist bus leave from the MSRTC Aurangabad bus depot for 1-day sightseeing tour. They ply on a fixed itinerary which includes Daulatabad Fort, Bibi- ka- Maqbara, Ellora caves and some other places.

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Daulatabad Fort – An exceptional example of defence mechanism

We started our exploration of the fort at 11.30 AM on the day of Eid, a national holiday in India. As expected people was everywhere. Squealing kids, yelling teenagers, chattering families, the young and old everyone was out to enjoy the holiday.

While entering the fort, we craned our neck up to check out what we thought was the top. In our minds we were fully prepared to scale that height. I was holding the guidebook in my hand.

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View of Daulatabad Fort from highway

The Daulatabad Fort is surrounded by three kots or fortifications. The first one is the Amberkot which was intended for the use of common people.

The next one is the Mahakot. The kots or fortifications have many gates and bastions. We identified the Mahakot. It has a huge courtyard surrounded by guardrooms. The guardrooms flaunt cannons.

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Mahakot gates

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Gaurdrooms with cannon

The cobblestoned yard surrounded by stone walls reminded me of scenes from Game of Thrones. It was not hard for me to imagine the ‘lifestyle’ that people must have had there.

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Courtyard

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Cannon

The gates are massive and have spikes on them. The spikes were installed to nullify the use of elephants for breaking doors.

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Mahakot gates

The Mahakot has eight gates. As we walked from gate to gate, we noticed, sometimes ordinary sometimes extraordinary cells built along the walls. The purposes of those are not known. We assume the ordinary ones were built for storage and the better ones probably served as meeting halls or shrines.

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Structure adjacent to Mahakot gates

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Cells

There are many bifurcations on the way from Mahakot to Kalakot. We avoided taking those routes as the fort is popular for having false routes. Not that we were scared but we did not have enough time to deal with being led astray. But, in one of these bifurcated routes lie the Saraswati stepped well (Saraswati Bawdi) and Hathi tank (Hathi Haud) – two structures that we missed seeing.

The Saraswati Bawdi is a step-well. A flight of stone staircases brings a person to the level of the water. When the water level is high, the number of steps one needs to cover to reach the water level is low. The step well was established to provide for the water requirements of the commoners. We have never seen a step-well and we hated missing this one.

The Hathi tank is basically a water tank built by a water management expert to store and distribute water to various parts of the city.

Another reason why we missed seeing these was that our guidebook never mentioned them. I came to know of their existence only while writing this article. What our esteemed guidebook screamed about was the Chand Minar– The iconic tower in the Daulatabad Fort which draws the maximum attention.

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Chand Minar

It is no wonder the minar gets the maximum importance. The structure is easily identifiable from afar. It lies on a bifurcation to the right on the path to Kalakot from Mahakot.

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Birds flying around Chand Minar

The Chand Minar has four storeys and the exterior is adorned with Persian blue tiles. Visitors are not allowed inside the minar.

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Chand Minar with blue tiles

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Persian blue tiles of the Chand Minar

We went back and forth around the minar photographing it. We suddenly realised we have never climbed a tower.

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The chand Minar and birds

Now that we were done with the Chand Minar, we started hunting for the Bharat Mata Temple. As per the guidebook it would be near the minar. And soon we found a temple of sorts with many pillars and no two pillars were similar.

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Bharat Mata Temple

Strangely, no one seemed to be bothered with this structure and we found some quiet time in the temple.

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Central shrine at the Bharat Mata Temple

The place is very photogenic with the Chand Minar by its side. The Bharat Mata Temple has a history of its own. It was built by the Hindus as a temple and later on converted into a mosque when the Muslims captured the fort. It was again re-converted back into its original form and the idol of Bharat Mata was installed after the formation of independent India.

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View of the Chand Minar from Bharat Mata Temple

The Archaeological Survey of India mentions there is a hammam (royal bath) somewhere within the Mahakot premises – a complex network of chambers all connected with each other by earthen pipes which used to carry hot water. Men and women had different chambers.

But, boy! Visiting historical places are least relaxing and so exhausting. Kacheri is a double storeyed building with a courtyard and arcades in the Daulatabad Fort which we failed to identify. If you ever visit the place and find out about it, do let us know.

We finally reached the gates of the innermost fortification- Kalakot. The inside of kalakot is extremely intriguing and every corner of this part roars of mystery and history. We couldn’t stop our minds from meandering hither and thither.

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Gates of Kalakot

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View of Chand Minar from gates of Kalakot

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The last ruler of Golkonda was kept as a prisoner till death by Aurangzeb in a palace called Chini Mahal within the Daulatabad Fort. It is supposed to be a two storeyed building within the bounds of Kalakot. We tried to find it, but unfortunately couldn’t identify it.

The most popular cannon of the Daulatabad Fort is found near the moat. The butt of the cannon has a carved ram’s head. The mouth of the cannon has inscription from the holy Quran. No matter how much we would have loved to see this ancient weapon of destruction, our wish was not fulfilled. A huge crowd of visitors already fought with each other at the cannon spot for a precious selfie opportunity.

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On the crowded elevation rests the most popular cannon of Daulatabad

We had seen moats in movies, we had read about moats in both historic and fiction books but we saw moats for the first time in our life at Daulatabad Fort. I remember underlining the word moat in the guidebook so that there would be no chance of us missing it. The deep rock cut moat encircles the citadel. The colour of the water in the moat is green and by the look of it we inferred it wasn’t very clean.

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The Moat

We were almost expecting a drawbridge; but the connecting bridge was just another wooden bridge which had been constructed for the convenience of tourists like us. In the erstwhile era, there was indeed a drawbridge. In the late 19th century the drawbridge was replaced by a permanent footbridge. We expect the moat was also home to crocodiles during the more glorious days of Daulatabad Fort.

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The footbridge to cross the moat

We passed the narrow paths around the walls of the citadel and reached the entry point to the most interesting part of the fort that we had been waiting for – the andheri. Andheri is the hindi word for darkness. So we could very well guess what to expect in Andheri.

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Way to Andheri

Guards posted outside the entry point will let visitors enter only if they have a proper flashlight. Guides can also be hired for the purpose. Andheri is yet another example of the fort’s immaculate defence system.

So we held each other’s hands, shone the torch, and entered into the darkness. The camera was dangling from my (Tania) neck. The tunnel was pitch dark indeed, bats screeched from all directions. The torchlight revealed flying bats. All the creatures inside that subterranean passage at that moment were dead scared of each other. We just don’t know if the bats were more afraid of us or we of them.

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Bats hanging from the ceiling of Andheri

Sometimes we saw a hint of light coming from a grilled opening. The grills were installed by government before allowing visitors in the fort. These openings were originally created by the royals to bluff the enemies into walking out of the opening and falling into a ditch below.

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Trap to deceive people

The staircases inside these great dark labyrinths are tyrannically steep. We concentrated on being alive and taking photos was the last the thing on our mind.

The view of the valley after emerging out of the tunnel was worth every bit of the effort.

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View of the valley

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View of the lower levels of the fort

We felt relaxed that the toughest part was done and we are just a few steps away from reaching the summit. We kept on walking with a heart full of pride; after all we are so close to scaling the summit!

But every single time we thought “ah! this must be the last staircase” we were proved wrong. The fort’s architecture is a blazing example of treachery. Our stature was soon reduced from “a proud couple” to “a panting couple”. Lol.

We finally came face to face with the Baradari. In front of us was an octagonal double storeyed building having an impressive veranda with twelve arches. We went inside the building and finally felt relaxed. No more staircases were visible, so this must be the top. The building has a central square courtyard which is surrounded on all four sides by chambers with arched veranda. We gleefully hopped around the veranda, posing and videographing our surroundings.

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Baradari

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Inside Baradari

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View of the valley from Baradari

Our short lived bubble of accomplishment didn’t last long, though. The husband found more staircases.

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Staircase leading to the top of Baradari

It was nothing but grit and arrogance which took me (Tania) to the top of the fort. My knees were literally shaking.

A cannon was mounted on the summit. It was clearly a modern selfie point. We stood atop for a while with the attitude of an Everest climber but our face gave away the agony of our aching muscles. The valley below was stunning and green.

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Traffic jam at cannon spot

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The revered cannon

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View from the top of the fort

Is this vertigo?

Climbing down was made all the tougher with an aching body. We lost all enthusiasm and packed our camera in the backpack. Once all the excitement was over I (Tania) realised I was in the strong grip of vertigo.

I froze midway while trying to climb down a staircase without handrail. I saw the sheer drop and it send a chill down my spine, and froze me in place. As I was nursing my bruised nervous system, a woman carrying a child casually passed by me on the narrow path. The sight terrified me. I couldn’t imagine risking the life of any child like that!

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A vantage point

Where is the guidebook?

Suddenly the husband asked for the guidebook. In a few moments it became clear that neither of us had it. We ransacked our backpack but it wasn’t there either. We had read every single page of that book multiple numbers of times and carried it under rain and sun without much care. Naturally, the book was almost in fossils. But having it by our side would be utterly important while sorting pictures.

For a moment I (Tania) felt like all the hard work I had done on this trip was wasted. The photos will be no good if we fail to distinguish them. The darkness, the bats, the steep climb, and the vertigo nothing made me cry, but a mere incidence of Sayan losing the soiled guidebook did.

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All along the path while climbing down we searched for our guidebook. We were sure we will find it. Afterall, it’s not gold or money; it is just a simple guidebook which was almost reduced to skeleton.

We reached the mouth of the tunnel or Andheri. By this time we were 100% sure we had lost it somewhere in the tunnel. Confidently we entered inside. With the torch we searched the entire pathway underground, we found a scrap of paper here and there but not what we were looking for.

I (Tania) was so desperate that I even searched the two dustbins placed near the terminal end of the tunnel. Nothing.

It was 2 PM and we had a train to catch at 2.30 PM. We almost ran the entire way from the moat to the Mahakot gates. What happened to our beloved guidebook will forever be a mystery, when asked we say – The Andheri of Daulatabad Fort has it now!

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Did anything mysterious happen with you while visiting a historical building? Comment below and let me know! Do you want more information on the fort? Fire away your questions in the comments below!

***Happy Journey***

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A Guide To The Bibi-ka-Maqbara- The South Indian Twin of The Taj Mahal

“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.

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.

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Bibi-ka-Maqbara

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.

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Trying photo-ops at Bibi-ka-Maqbara

Reaching Bibi-ka-Maqbara

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.

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The facade of Bibi-ka-Maqbara

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.

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Enclosure at the Bibi-ka-Maqbara premises

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Closer view of the exterior of the enclosure at the Bibi-ka-Maqbara premises

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.

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Interior of the enclosure

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Ceiling of the enclosure

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.

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The facade of the Bibi-ka-Maqbara

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. 😉

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Awesomeness 😀

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The popular Taj Mahal pose

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.

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The husband clicks the wife directs 

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A door on the wall- definitely not for security purpose!

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.

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Notice the square base

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Why do I look so dead here?

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Ascending up

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An abandoned set of staircase

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.

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Notice the discoloured features

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Discoloured features at the Bibi-ka-Maqbara

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.

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The western part of the tomb has a pillared mosque the entry to which is restricted.

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Mosque at the Bibi -ka- Maqbara

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Interiors of the mosque at the Bibi -ka- Maqbara

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.

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One of the minars – Shamefully overedited photo

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Balcony at the top of the minar

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!

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Tomb of Rabia-ud-Daurani

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Offerings cover the tomb of Rabia-ud-Daurani

We noticed a floral pattern on the octagonal dome shaped ceiling.

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Ceiling of the mausoleum 

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.

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Eastern side windows of the mausoleum

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Eastern side windows of the mausoleum

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The southern door of the mausoleum

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. 

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The garden to the east

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The garden to the west

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The garden to the north

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The garden to the south – A view of the enclosure

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!

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Inspired by the windows

Goodbye

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!

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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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Hotel Review : Treebo Admiral Suites Aurangabad

When Yatra.com offered us a discount coupon, we used it as quickly as possible to book our Aurangabad stay. We were aware that Aurangabad would be very demanding a place. After whole days of exploring the UNESCO World Heritage sites and absorbing loads of historical data we were sure to need a calm place to retreat in and sleep the nights away without spending a bomb.

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Aurangabad Diaries: A Travelogue-cum-guide to the Ellora Caves of India

The sleeper bus dropped us off at Baba Petrol Pump, a bus stop in Aurangabad at 7.15 AM. It was an eight hours long journey but we were not complaining! For both of us it was our first tryst with a ‘sleeper bus’ and the ‘luxury service’ received in reality exceeded our expectation.

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