Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 1

Pune - Aurangabad (240 kms)
We started at around 6.30 PM from Pune with Mandar's car. Although our initial plan was to make it on motorbikes, we dropped the plan to avoid hassles due to time constraints and most of our journey was night travel. Our first destination was Aurangabad via Nagar. There is a well laid 4 lane road all the way till Aurangabad. So, the road journey was good. We reached Aurangabad at around 11.30 PM including dinner break on the way. Finding the hotel was not a big trouble, it being near central bus station. We had done advance reservations at Hotel Kartiki, Aurangabad to avoid late night troubles. The hotel is located at center of the city. However I would not really recommend it as it is not so good as far as cleanliness is concerned.

Day 2
Plan for the next day was to visit Bibi Ka Maqbara, Panchakki, Aurangzeb tomb, Pariyon ka talaab and Ellora(Verul in Marathi) caves.
We left the hotel at around 10 am for Bibi Ka Maqbara. It's a really nice place to visit. It is also known as "Garibon ka Taj" due to replication of similar architecture as that of "Taj Mahal". It was built by Aurangzeb's son Azam Shah in the memory of his mother, Dilras Bano Begam. It required an expenditure of 7 lakh rupees in that era. The structure has it's own peculiarities as compared to Taj Mahal. 
Architecture wise, we can see that the structure uses marbles for only particular part and rest part is constructed using other materials to save on cost. Also, we can notice that the minarets of the structure are higher than the middle dome on the contrary to Taj Mahal.

Next we moved to Panchakki. It represents good example of engineering work in those days. It uses air suction method to uplift the water coming from natural descent. This water flow was used to run a grinding motor. There is a durgah in the surround area. 
After spending half an hour, we moved for Devgiri (Daulatabad) fort which is around 13 Kms from Aurangabad. This fort is well known for its superior defense architecture. The fort is surrounded by 2-3 levels of defensive walls. Major attraction is the 90 degree carved sides of hill surrounded by water. This fort was built in the period of Yadav kingdom. Later it was conquered by Allauddin Khilji which brought Yadav empire to an end. Other attractions at the fort are Chand minar, Mendha cannon and Andhari. 
Chand Minar was built in the Turkish style in 1435 by Ala-ud-din Bahmani to celebrate his occupation of the fort. This minaret is an outstanding example of Islamic art.
Climbing up till the top of fort and sight seeing takes around 2-3 hours. Daultabad is certainly a great place for those who keep interest in History and architectures. 
After descending down around 1 PM, we headed to Khultabaad to visit Aurangzeb's tomb. Although Aurangzeb is not well known for any of his good acts, he was a true follower of Islam. His tomb is a symbol of his true faith in Islam religion's beliefs. It was built from the money he earned by knitting caps and copying the Quran in his last part of life. Later we moved towards Pariyon ka Talab which was a mere disappointment. I dont know why it is so much acclaimed in some travelogs. Anyways we had a quick stop and started for our last destination, Ellora caves. 

Ellora caves are located around 25 Kms away from Aurangabad city. It's an archeological sight, created between 5th till 8th century and it took around 300 years to build all the sculptures. There are caves devoted to 3 different religions Hindu, Buddism and Jainism showing the harmony of religions in those days.
Major attraction at Ellora is Kailash temple which is worlds biggest rock carved temple. The sculptures at this temple are still in pretty good shape. Although paintings of the sculptures are damaged. One can easily visualize the beauty of the place in its peak period.

We visited almost all major caves. There are 34 of them. Next we visited Ghrishneshwar temple which is just one km away from Ellora. The temple is devoted to lord Shiva. Then we headed towards Ajanta for night stay. We left around 6 PM. Ajanta is around 80 kms from Ellora. We reached Fardapur at around 8 PM. We could easily find a hotel, Hotel Padmapani with descent rooms and economic rates. Double bed - single room cost 500 rs. After a small refreshing break, we had some delicious food at a small restaurant nearby. It was almost 11.30 PM by the time we went for sleep. It was a really cold night but it was adding fun to our discussions.

Day 3

On day 3, we had plan to visit Ajanta caves. Since we had whole day in hand, we started relatively late around 10.30 am. Ajanta is a world heritage site and pretty much well maintained compared to any other tourist spots. Private vehicles are not allowed till the actual site. There is a shuttle bus station around 1 Km from Fardapur. We had a short breakfast at the bus station. It was already 11.30 am when we reached the bus bay. MSRTC runs a bus service till Ajanta caves. There are buses running every 5-10 mins. In next 10 mins, we were at the base location of the caves. One has climb up a small distance to reach to the caves. Unlike Ellora caves, all Ajanta caves are devoted to Buddhism. 
Ajanta is famous for it's paintings. The most popular among all is that of "Panigrahi Bodhisatva". 
The paintings in the caves depict different stories from Buddha's life. Also, some of the paintings depict the lifestyle and customs being followed in those days. Overall it's an amazing experience to get to know about such a rich ancient era. It was almost 4 pm when we started descending down to bus bay. On the way we saw school kids greeting some foreign tourists and we could see that the tourists were really overwhelmed. Later we had a small snacks break before getting into the bus. 
After reaching to the car parking, we kicked off for Lonar. From Ajanta, we took the way towards Buldhana. Some small patches of road are not in good shape otherwise the route is fine. The distance is about 50 kms. Then we took a turn towards Chikhali. This is a state highway connecting Buldhana to Jalana so it is in nice shape. Here onwards the road till Lonar is also good with some small bad patches. We reached Lonar around 8.30-9 PM. It's around 170 Kms from Ajanta. Lonar is relatively big town although not that popular tourist destination. We decided first to have a look at the MTDC rooms. We could find one non AC room available and decided to go ahead with it. We had our dinner at the restaurant run by MTDC. The food was good enough to make our stomachs full after such a long day. It was another chilling night adding joy to our discussions. We went asleep around 11 PM, dreaming to get first glimpse of the crater the next day.

Day  4

Major attraction on day 4 was Lonar crater. Lonar crater is the second largest crater in the world formed by a meteor collision. 
The outer rim diameter of the crater measures around 1.8 Kms while the diameter at the lake shore is around 1.36 Kms. The salt water lake is surrounded by thick forest. Also, there are numerous temples in the area but most of them are in ruins. Atmosphere around the  lake is wonderful and pleasant. We wandered around the lake for an hour taking a closer look at it. One has to climb down to reach at the lake from the outer ring of the crater. It took us around 2 hrs in total. At around 12 pm, we were back to the hotel after experiencing the serenity of nature. Then we moved for other attractions at Lonar. One can visit other places like Dhar tirth, Motha Maruti temple and Daityasudan temple.
Motha Maruti is known for the Lord Hanuman's idol. It is said that the idol is a part of meteor and it has magnetic characteristics in it.
After a quick visit we headed further to Daityasudan temple. It is renowned for its ancient architecture. We spent some 15-20 minutes having a closer look at the sculptures inside and outside the temple. It is pretty amazing although the temple is damaged at some parts. Afterward we left Lonar towards Paithan instead of taking the route via Aurangabad as we wanted to visit the Naathsagar backwater formed by Jayakwadi dam on Godavari river. The decision proved to be very hectic as the road between Jalana and Paithan is in very bad shape. We reached Paithan at around 5 pm. We spent some time at the dam and then went to Sant Dyaneshwar garden nearby. Around 7 pm, we started to proceed towards Pune and reached around 11.30 PM with some memorable moments.