The Taj Mahal has dominated the Indian tourism landscape to such an extent that it ends up overshadowing other and destinations more often than not. Bibi ka Maqbara is one such monument which gets a rough deal as it is often called the “Taj of Deccan” considering comparable Mughal architecture and considering the fact that this too is a mausoleum. But is it a mere replica? I needed to find out myself.
I was actually visiting the Ellora and Ajanta Caves and Aurangabad is the nearest big city for that purpose. It was already getting late after Ellora trip and I was doubtful about getting any good shots at all. But the good thing was that the full moon was approaching and so the combination of the moon and the golden hour seemed exciting. I took an auto rickshaw and reached the complex at around 5:30 pm. The moon was already out by the time I got tickets. The structure did look like a slightly thinner version of the Taj from a distance and the typical Mughal grandeur was visible everywhere.
Mausoleum of a wife… or a mother:
Bibi ka Maqbara is unique for many reasons. While it is credited to Aurangzeb and was meant to be the resting place of his wife Dilras Bano Begum, it is believed that their son Azam Shah was the person behind this. Aurangzeb himself was known for his religious austerity and frugal lifestyle. He did not inherit the architectural extravagance of his father and has very few other major constructions to his credit. Also, he drained his reserves on warfare and did not have enough funds left for such constructions.Aurangzeb’sown grave is a small and extremely unremarkable structure which is situated a bit far away from Aurangabad. So, it is more likely that the son took a personal interest and got it completed.
A Sumptuous Structure:
It can be considered one of the last major constructions by the declining Mughals. The compound follows the familiar quadrilateral structure with walkaways crisscrossing spacious gardens. Coming to the central structure, it did look like a replica of the Taj complete with high gates of entry and a canal at the front lined with fountains. But the hilly landscape of Aurangabad in the background offers a different feel compared to the Taj on the banks of Yamuna. The marble used here was brought from Rajasthan, probably dragged by elephants and oxen. That must have been a great spectacle for the onlookers and a nightmare for the draft animals.The fountains were not spraying water when I arrived, so I shot a few stable reflections of the structure on the water.
I strolled along the walkaways for a long time till it got completely dark and then came back, determined to visit its original inspiration as soon as possible. My curiosity regarding Bibi ka Maqbara was actually a bit ironic because I had not even seen the real Taj at that point. It had not intrigued me enough due to over exposure and extremely touristy nature. Nevertheless, I did correct that anomaly after a couple of months by actually visiting Agra. So, having seen both, now I can safely say that sobriquet is apt. But Bibi ka Maqbara is still worth a visit with its unique geography and culture of the region.
Aurangabad is a major city in Maharshtra. So, it is easily reachable by train, bus or flight and has accommodation for all budgets. Within the city, any auto rickshaw will take you to Bibi ka Maqbara.
Best time to visit:
Try to go make it in the winter or monsoons. This region is unpleasantly hot during summer and even during spring.
You can make it a long trip combining with Ajanta, Ellora, Daulatabad Fort. You can also go for a bit of traditional textile shopping at Aurangabad. Look for Himroo cotton shawls or Paithani silk sarees.