We clambered down from the bus, barely avoiding a collision with two kids who were merrily playing on the road unaware of the surroundings. We were excited as we were a few meters away from yet another historic monument of Incredible India.
We made our way through a crowded parking lot, gently declining the ‘advances’ of hawkers selling their wares which included candy, peanuts, picture postcards, and other trinkets.
We entered an arched gateway, animatedly talking about our bus journey. The sight that stretched out in front of us stopped us in our tracks, our conversation muted in mid-sentence. Both of us were overcome by a sense of deja vu as we gazed incredulously at the structure in front of us.
The Taj Mahal stood majestically in front of us! We pinched ourselves to make sure that we were not dreaming. After all, we were not in Agra! Or, could it be, by some miracle the Taj Mahal had been teleported from Agra to the town of Aurangabad?
This is the effect that the monument known as Bibi Ka Maqbara has when you first see it. But after a minute you realize that this monument is no way close to the exquisite poetry in marble that is the Taj Mahal, at best it is a poor shadow of the masterpiece. However, it is worth noting that the comparison to the Taj Mahal overshadows this structure’s own intrinsic qualities.
We had heard a lot about this Taj of the Deccan and so after our trip to the famous UNESCO World Heritage sites of the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, we found ourselves on the threshold of Bibi Ka Maqbara. We had been mesmerized by the beauty of the paintings and sculptures of Ajanta and Ellora. And the Mughal structure that stood in front of us was in a contrasting style to what we had seen. We will soon have a post dedicated to the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, but for now, let us focus on the enigmatic so-called replica of the Taj Mahal.
The Bibi Ka Maqbara was built by Azam Shah, son of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and this monument is an ode to love. Bibi Ka Maqbara stands as a paean to a son’s love for his mother. The Bibi Ka Maqbara rose from the earth in 1678 as a tomb to Azam Shah’s mother Dilras Banu Begum.
One very interesting noteworthy point is that an inscription at the main door mentions that this mausoleum was designed and erected by Ata-Ullah an architect and Hanspat Rai, an engineer. The interesting point is that Ata-Ullah was the son of Ustad Ahmad Lahauri who happened to be the main designer of the Taj Mahal in Agra. It must have indeed been an incredible sight as 300 carts laden with marble and each drawn by 12 oxen wound its way crossing more than a 1,000 kilometers from Jaipur in Rajasthan towards Aurangabad where they would be immortalized as Bibi Ka Maqbara.
The main entrance to the Bibi Ka Maqbara is embellished by exquisite foliage design on a brass plate on the wood which makes up the exterior covering. Just like the Taj Mahal, this mausoleum also stands on a raised platform and is surrounded by a garden with fountains. Four minarets at the four corners stand in obeisance to the mausoleum, which itself is a structure built of marble and basaltic trap covered by fine plaster. Below the ground level lies the mortal remains of the queen. An octagonal marble screen with intricate designs surrounds the tomb of Dilras Banu Begum.
There is a small mosque to the west of the mausoleum. This is a later edition and blocks the structure from the western side. This was built by the Nizam of Hyderabad. Legend has it that the Nizam was so enamored by the Bibi Ka Maqbara, when he annexed the region of Aurangabad to his kingdom that he mulled over the idea of dismantling the structure, slab by slab, and transporting it to his capital, Hyderabad. In fact, he had already given orders for the dismantling of the structure when he had an ominous premonition of impending disaster if he carried out his plans. He immediately reversed his orders and instead had the mosque built as penance for his thoughts.
How to reach Bibi Ka Maqbara
- Bibi Ka Maqbara is situated about 12 kilometers from Aurangabad city
- You can fly into Aurangabad airport which is well connected to major cities of India
- Aurangabad is also well connected by rail and road to all major Indian cities
- Aurangabad is 327 kilometers from Mumbai
When you are in Aurangabad
- WhiIe in Aurangabad, you cannot afford to miss the opportunity to visit the famous Ajanta and Ellora caves
- The Ajanta caves are situated at a distance of about 97 kilometers from Aurangabad City
- The Ellora caves are situated at a distance of about 29 kilometers from Aurangabad City
We were at the main entrance once again, on our way back to the bus, we turned around and took one last look at this lovely monument of love. We had now seen enough of this mausoleum to appreciate its beauty without the veil of comparison with the Taj. We strode out of the Bibi Ka Maqbara lost in deep thought, thoughts about the men of history whose love translated into magnificent structures in stone. The calm of our thoughts was pierced by shrill shrieks as the kids playing around again brushed and ran past us.
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