After visiting the World Heritage Sites of Ellora and Ajanta, we decided to take a peek at the nearby medieval historical town of Aurangabad. Once a part of the Mughal empire, this city is based in the heart of the Deccan plateau. We decided to start our journey from the famous memorial of Emperor Aurangzeb’s queen that is situated about 12 kms from the quaint Aurangabad railway station. Arriving at this place, one is completely surprised to see a replica of the Taj Mahal.
An edifice intended to rival the world famous Taj Mahal, the Bibi Ka Maqbara falls short of expectations as one gets the feeling that it is a smaller carbon copy even though it is made of pure white marble. Historical accounts say that there were a lot of financial and architectural constraints while building this monument and therefore, it could never rival Taj Mahal. It is said that Emperor Aurangzeb had provided a mere `7 lakh for its construction in the 17th century. Although it was commissioned by Aurangzeb, it was actually built by his eldest son Prince Azam Shah in memory of his mother.
Nestled in a Mughal-style garden, the backdrop of the mausoleum is spectacular with imposing mountain ranges. Ponds, fountains, water channels with stone screens are part of this garden. Just like the Taj, this mausoleum has four lofty minarets standing freely in the corners of the terrace. Two mosques have been added to this complex at a later date.
Built in memory of his first wife Dilras Banu Begum, the Bibi Ka Maqbara should be seen as a monument in its own right for any comparisons are bound to fall short. The mausoleum is a very imposing structure constructed in the best of Mughal styles. Pillared pavilions, arched recesses, the jali enclosures, carved pilasters, stucco decorations and tall minarets are some of the notable architectural features of this mausoleum.
The mortal remains of the queen have been placed below the ground level enclosed by exquisitely designed marble screens and to see this one has to go down a flight of steps. The huge dome of the tomb too abounds in trellis work while the panels are embellished with floral motifs.
Aurangzeb’s father Shahjahan built a monument that has remained a symbol for everlasting love through the centuries, while his son Aurangzeb followed the same model in a smaller scale which denoted his simple lifestyle and beliefs. It is said that he had detested the decadent and opulent lifestyle of his father. Make it a point to visit this monument that is known as the poor man’s Taj Mahal or the Deccan Taj. However, one thing that is distressing about it is that this monument is poorly maintained, the guides are ill-informed and even the gardens are badly maintained.