Ellora Caves and Bibi ka Maqbara Travel Guide
What does religion mean to you – A system of faith, an interest followed by great devotion or worship of a superhuman power? India is a land where people of different religions and cultures have tried to live in harmony for over centuries.
Our next travel city is an outstanding example that illustrates the spirit of religion tolerance in ancient India. Cradle of the Mughal Empire and home to two important UNESCO World Heritage Sites that were devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
When I first saw pictures of Kailasa temple, we immediately made a plan to visit this place. Our ancestors have left behind such marvels that the place evokes a true sense of wonder in you. Rock carvings with such intricate detailing, massive structures of Gods, Goddesses, elephants and pillars – this art speaks thousand words. A story that ancient people wanted to preserve, share and pass on for generations. I was totally mesmerised looking at the carvings – Buddha statue under a Pipal tree, Goddess Lakshmi sitting inside a lotus, elephants sprinkling water, snakes and lion faces. So much was carved inside each of the caves.
Since we had only a weekend to explore the city, we picked only two spots and spent maximum time here studying about it.
We have all heard about the Taj Mahal, a tomb built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. But very few of us know about the Taj built by a son for his mother. Bibi-ka-Maqbara was built by Prince Azam Shah (grandson of Emperor Shah Jahan) for his mother Rabia-ud-durrani. Although most people compare it with the Taj Mahal and get disappointed, I would say look at it as an individual monument with its own beauty from the Deccan.
I was really surprised and shocked to know the Kailasa Temple was actually carved from top to bottom with simple hammers and chisels (like what can you expect between 2nd and 10th Century BCE).
It is truly a breathtaking construction done on a single rock and brings ancient civilisation to life.
Aurangabad city is easily accessible by train or air from major cities in India. From Mumbai and Pune, the best route is by road(taxi). MSRTC buses have a good frequency but would not be a comfortable journey option.
Travel within Aurangabad can be done hiring a local cab mostly provided by the Hotels where you stay or try Ashoka Tours & Travel
Where to Stay
For stay, we would personally recommend 1) Vivanta by Taj 2) Keys Select Hotel Aures.
Hotel Kailas is walking distance from Ellora caves that provides standard rooms and this hotel usually gets filled up first.
Best Time to Visit
November to March, when it’s cooler and dry
Timings of Tourist Places
All tourist destinations in Aurangabad are open between 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Ajanta Caves are closed on Mondays & Ellora Caves are closed on Tuesdays. Best time to visit these Caves and Bibi-ka-maqbara are at 6.00 AM when there is fairly less crowd. Both caves are open on national holidays.
Entrance Fees for Indians is hardly INR 30 at each of the spot and for foreigners INR 500. There are Government authorised Guides here as well. Highly recommended if you are a history lover.
Other Places to Visit
Ajanta Caves (another 90kms from Ellora Caves), Daulatabad Fort (requires 3 hours of trekking but worth visiting if you have the time), Grishneswar Temple, Aurangabad Caves, Lonar Crater(created from a meteorite hitting on earth).
Things to Shop
Himroo and Paithani Fabric – rich in colour and design