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Bibi Ka Maqbara-The untold story

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When I received the mail it is like bolt from the blue. Within 48 hours I have to reach Aurangabad, Maharashtra for official purposes. The Head office also sent 4 sets of air tickets. 2 sets for Kolkata to Mumbai return and 2 sets for Mumbai to Aurangabad return. From Kolkata, departure time of my flight is at 8.30am in Jet Airways. I reached Kolkata domestic airport T2 around 6.30 am. After all formalities my check-in procedure completed around 7.35 am. I boarded my fleet at 8.10 am and reached Mumbai just on time. On board, I was going through Bibi Ka Maqbara historical facts which I saved earlier.

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Bibi Ka Maqbara

Again after collecting my luggage from a belt I rechecked in once again. This time my connecting flight is from Air India at 3.30 pm. I have enough time in my hand and too hungry too. So I ordered 1 plate chole bhature along with 1 glass Lassi. Around 1.30 pm I finished my Lunch and started searching for an electrical point from where I can connect my Laptop. Thanks to God I found one, connected my laptop and started writing. Around 3 pm I boarded my Aurangabad bounded Air India flight. I reached Aurangabad within 1 hour.

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Why Not Fly Free

Aurangabad airport is a public airport. It is located about 7 km east of the city center, and 10 km from Aurangabad Railway Station, along the Aurangabad-Nagpur State Highway. The airport has one passenger terminal. The airport ordinarily only has domestic destinations; however, its operators seasonally run Haj services also.

After booking one cab I reached my pre-booked Hotel Windsor Castle. On the way, I found the roads are good but the city is not well maintained. Many self-proclaimed leaders hanged their own hoardings. While waiting I collected a few information about the city.

Aurangabad is one of the largest cities in India, and as a result of its many colleges and universities, Aurangabad is emerging as a prominent location for IT and manufacturing. Electronics giant Videocon has its producing facility in Aurangabad wherever it manufactures a variety of home appliances. The city was a serious silk and cotton textile production Centre. A fine mix of silk with regionally fully grown cotton was developed as Himroo textile. Paithani silk saris are also made in Aurangabad. Hinduism is that the majority religion in Aurangabad town at 52%. Islam is the second most popular religion in the city with 31% following it. Buddhism is followed by 15% of people. After checking in I freshen up myself as fast as possible and booked one auto and rushed to visit Bibi Ka Maqbara.

Bibi Ka Maqbara

P.C. ASIM PAL

History

Aurangabad city is also a tourism center, surrounded by many historical monuments, including the Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as Bibi Ka Maqbara and Panchakki.

Why Not Fly Free

Khadki was the first name of the village that was created a capital town by Malik Ambar, the Prime Minister of Murtaza Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar. Within a decade, Khadki grew into a crowded and impressive city. Malik Ambar died in 1626. He was succeeded by his son Fateh Khan, who modified the name of Khadki to Fatehnagar. With the capture of Daulatabad by the royal troops in 1633, Fatehnagar came under the possession of the Moghals.

In 1653 once Mughal prince Aurangzeb was appointed the Viceroy of the Deccan for the second time, he made Fatehnagar his capital and renamed it Aurangabad. In 1795, the town came underneath the Maratha rule. However, Maratha rule lasted solely eight years before town came underneath the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad, under the protection of the British East India Company. Aurangabad was a neighborhood of the Princely State of Hyderabad throughout British rule, until its annexation into the Indian Union after the Indian Independence in 1947.

Aurangabad is a historical city along with its adjacent towns and villages. It receives tourists and surveyors from everywhere the globe.

1.    Ellora and Ajanta Caves: The world-famous Ellora and Ajanta Caves are situated at 29 km and 107 km respectively from Aurangabad.

2.    Daulatabad Fort: The Daulatabad Fort (also known as Devgiri Fort) located about 15 km north-west of Aurangabad was one of the most powerful forts during the medieval period.

3.    Panchakki: The 17th-century water mill (Panchakki) situated at a distance of 1 km from the city is known for its underground water channel.

4.    Gateways: The city is also famous for the 52 gateways built during the Mughal era which gives it the name of “City of Gates”.

5.    Aurangabad Caves: These are situated at a distance of 5 km, settled within the hills are 12 Buddhist caves dating back to 3 A.D.

6.    Grishneshwar Temple: It is one of the 12 jyotirlinga shrines in India.

7.    Salim Ali Lake & Bird Sanctuary: Popularly known as Salim Ali Talab is located in the northern part of the city near Delhi Darwaza, opposite Himayat Bagh.

8. Tomb of Aurangzeb: The tomb of the last great Mughal emperor Aurangzeb is located in the village of Khuldabad, 24 km to the north-west of Aurangabad.

9. Kachner Jain Temple: This is a 250 years old temple dedicated to Parshvanath. The idol here is called Chintamani Parshvanath.

10. Siddharth Garden & Zoo: Siddhartha Garden and Zoo is a park and zoo situated in near the central bus station in Aurangabad. This is the only zoo in the Marathwada region.

Why Not Fly Free

11.    Bibi Ka Maqbara: This is the only place I have visited this time. Situated about 3 km from the city which is the burial tomb of Emperor Aurangzeb’s wife, Dilras Banu Begum also known as Rabia-ud-Daurani. It is a replica of the Taj Mahal at Agra and due to its similar design. Grey-green in the background, the lofty Sihyachal ranges (part of the Deccan plateau) embrace the Queen’s Memorial in their protective arms. The sophisticated and beautiful monument, dressed in white, can be viewed from a distance on the road between Daulatabad and Aurangabad. This structure, more popularly known as Bibi-Ka-Maqbara, is the most noticeable landmark of the city, emphasizing its historicity.

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History of Bibi Ka Maqbara

Maqbaras are Muslim qabars or graves and were more popular during the Mughal period. They were monuments erected to entomb bodies and preserve the name and memory of the dead. The Bibi Ka Maqbara was built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s son Azam Shah in the memory of his mother (posthumously known as Rabia-and-Daurani). Due to the strong similarity with The Taj Mahal, it is also called the Dakkhani Taj (Taj of the Deccan). The Bibi Ka Maqbara is that the principal monument of Aurangabad and its historic town. An inscription found on the main entrance door mentions that this sepulture was designed and erected by Ata-Ullah, an architect and Hanspat Rai, an engineer respectively. Ata-Ullah was the son of Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, the principal designer of the Taj Mahal.

Dilras Banu Begum was born a princess of the Safavid dynasty of Iran (Persia) and was the daughter of Mirza Badi-uz-Zaman Safavi (titled Shahnawaz Khan), who was the Viceroy of Gujarat. She married Prince Muhi-ud-din (later called Aurangzeb upon his accession) on 8 May 1637 in Agra. Dilras was his first wife and chief companion, as well as his favorite. They have five children: Zeb-un-Nissa, Zinat-un-Nissa, Zubdat-un-Nissa, Muhammad Azam Shah and Sultan Muhammad Akbar.

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After giving birth to her fifth child, Muhammad Akbar, Dilras Banu Begum maybe suffered from a fever caused by uterine infection, due to complications caused by the delivery and died a month after the birth of her last son in 1657. Upon her death, Aurangzeb’s pain was extreme and their eldest son, Azam Shah, was so mourned that he had a nervous breakdown.

In 1668, Prince Azam Shah specially made a tomb at Aurangabad to act as her final resting place, known as Bibi Ka Maqbara (“Tomb of the Lady”). Here, Dilras was buried beneath the late title of ‘Rabia-ud-Daurani’ (“Rabia of the Age”). The Bibi Ka Maqbara bears a striking resemblance to the famous Taj Mahal, the tomb of Dilras’ mother-in-law, Empress Mumtaz Mahal, who herself died in childbirth. Aurangzeb, himself, is buried a couple of kilometers far away from her mausoleum in Khuldabad.

Bibi Ka Maqbara is believed to own been engineered between 1668 and 1669 C.E. according to the “Tarikh Namah” of Ghulam Mustafa. The marble for this sepulture was brought from mines close to Jaipur. According to Tavernier, around three hundred carts laden with marble, drawn by oxen, were seen by him during his journey from Surat to Golconda. The tomb was intended to challenging the Taj Mahal, but the decline in architecture and proportions of the structure (both due to the severe budgetary limitations forced by Aurangzeb) had resulted during a poor copy of the latter.

Controversy

The issue of the proprietorship of this sophisticated memorial has been tensed with controversy. Historians and scholars, as well as travel writers, seem divided on this. Some have credited Aurangzeb with its creation while others have identified Mohammed Azam Shah, son of Aurangzeb, as being the one who commissioned the structure in memory of his beloved mother. The Archaeological Survey of India’s information board displayed at the entrance to the site credits Mohammed Azam Shah with the building of this tomb. The Aurangabad Gazeteer (1997)( online link viewed on 02.02.19 ), as well as the book, Glimpses of the Nizam’s Dominion (Campbell 1898), attribute the monument’s creation to Azam Shah. Their contention is that Aurangzeb was opposed to the building of monuments and hence there are very few significant structures belonging to his time. The few that Aurangzeb commissioned as per historical records are the white marble mosque in the Red Fort confines in Delhi, the Badshah Mosque at Lahore and a mosque in Benaras (Srivastava 1964). However, Srivastava credits Aurangzeb with the building of the Maqbara for his favorite wife Rabia-ud-Durrani.

Why Not Fly Free

However, now with the support of factual historical data, it is easier to arrive at some sort of consensus. As per historical records, Aurangzeb was married to Dilras Banu Begum, the daughter of Shahnawaz Safavi in May 1637 at the Agra Fort. This was during his first governorship of the Deccan which spanned 1636 to 1644. He came to the Deccan with his wife in 1637. In 1644 Aurangzeb’s sister Jahanara Begum met with an accident. When Aurangzeb and his wife heard about the mishap they immediately traveled to Agra without Emperor Shah Jahan’s permission. Shah Jahan punished his son for this law-breaking by sending him to Kabul and Kandahar, considered in those days difficult and challenging regions (Kagal 1994). They were finally permitted to return to Agra in 1652, the same year that the Taj Mahal was completed. Both Aurangzeb and Dilras Banu saw the Taj and were impressed to such an extent that Dilras persuaded her husband to construct a similar edifice for her in Aurangabad with the Emperor’s permission. In the Mughal Raj, a parwana or license was required from the Emperor for the transport of building materials such as marble or red stone from Makrana and Agra (Qureshi 2005).

The construction of the Maqbara was started in 1653 as confirmed by the accounts of the foreign traveler Jean Baptiste Tavernier. As per most references, the Maqbara was completed between 1653 and 1660. When Monsieur de Thevenot, a French traveler, visited Aurangabad in 1667 he described the monument thus, ‘King Aurangzeb built a lovely mosque for his first wife whom he dearly loved and who died in this town. The mosque was covered with domes and minarets.’ This provides ample evidence that by 1667 the monument had been completed.

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Again, as per recorded history, Dilras Banu had five children, Zeb-un-Nisa, Zinat-un-Nisa, Zabt-un-Nisa, Mohammed Azam Shah and Mohammed Akbar. Mohammed Azam Shah, the fourth child, was born in 1653. The last son, Mohammed Akbar, was born in 1657 and Dilras Banu died during childbirth. Mughal records to confirm these dates. It is thus hard to imagine that a child of four could have commissioned the Maqbara. So why do so many scholars and historians continue to give credence to this theory? Perhaps, these claims may have arisen due to the fact that when Mohammed Azam was the governor of Deccan in 1680 he undertook intensive renovation work of the Maqbara (Srivastava 1964). This could be the reason that some travelers or scholars visiting the site mistakenly assumed that he had commissioned the monument. Be that as it may, it is definitely a major error that needs urgent correction. Surprisingly, despite being aware of the facts even the Archaeological Survey of India has not taken any action and rectified this mistake.

Structure

The tomb is laid out in a Charbagh formal garden. The tomb is built on a high square platform with four minarets at its corners, which is approached by a flight of steps from the three sides. Entry to the tomb is through the main entrance gate on its south. The screened pathway has a series of fountains at its center.

The principal building of the Maqbara, in which lies the Queen’s tomb, is at an elevation of 19 feet. Much of the Maqbara’s beauty and brilliant elegance is attributable to this factor, as a royal elevation creates an immediate impact on the beholder, just as it does in the case of the Taj Mahal. The dome of this plinth, main chabutra and the octagonal minars on all four sides are made of marble. In the main mausoleum, on the upper floor are marble jalis on all four sides, with a height of 7 feet and a width of 6-7 feet. From here we can see the tomb of Rabia-ud-Durrani. There are staircases leading to the tomb, which is surrounded by exquisite marble screens with beautiful floral designs, which are octagonal shaped.

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The symmetry of this elevated platform with its four minars was perfect till 1803, the year that the Nizam Sikandar Jah decided to transfer his capital from Aurangabad to Hyderabad.

From the entrance to the interiors, various decorative elements are employed. Besides architectural and aesthetic elements like arches, domes, minarets, kiosks, and architraves, these ornamental devices were used to add to the beauty and elegance of the Mughal structures. Even if at the Maqbara very rich elements like mosaic, inlay, glass mosaic, inlaid marble screens and Pietra Dura were not used, a few simpler and some highly ornamental decorative devices were used.

How to reach

Bibi Ka Maqbara is 5km far away from Aurangabad that is connected to several cities by road, rail, and air transportation. People can visit the sepulture by the local transport like autos and taxis that are offered from the town.

The approximate distance of Aurangabad to Mumbai is as follows −

Mumbai to Aurangabad

o    By air – 270 km

o    By rail – 255 km

o    By road – 330 km

Aurangabad has an airport that is 10km from the town. The airport is well connected to city, Jaipur, Udaipur, and Delhi. People can reach Aurangabad through flights and hire a cab/auto or take a bus to Bibi Ka Maqbara.

Aurangabad is connected to major cities of India through railway network. Many trains of long and short routes have a stoppage here and folks from varied cities will come back to Aurangabad by train and so take a bus or taxi to visit Bibi ka Maqbara.

Aurangabad bus terminal provides buses to several major cities. The bus stand is found on Jalgaon road before of lemon tree hotel. The buses connect Aurangabad to the city, Pune, Nagpur, and other major cities.

Visiting time of Bibi Ka Maqbara

Bibi Ka Maqbara is open on all days of the week between 8 in the morning till 8 in the evening which are the visiting hours for the tomb.

Entry fees for Bibi Ka Maqbara

Rs. 15 per person for Indians, SAARC and BIMSTEC visitors and Rs. 200 per person for foreign tourists.

Bibi Ka Maqbara has included in a number of documentaries and films. A part of the song Jab Tak from the film M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story was shot in Bibi Ka Maqbara and encompassing hills in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India.

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It looks promising from the outside of the tomb but when you enter inside you see that the building and lawns require a lot of attention. This happened due to poor maintenance.

References

Sahapedia

Gazetteers Department, Government of Maharashtra. 1977 [1884]. The Aurangabad Gazetteer, ed. Munir Nawaz Jang (revised edition). Mumbai: Government Publication. Online here (viewed on April 3, 2017).

Nath, R. 1970. Colour Decoration in Mughal Architecture. Bombay: Taraporevala Sons and Co.

Naseem, Waheeda. 1993. Malik Ambar Se Alamgir Tak. Aurangabad.

Campbell, Claude A. 1898. Glimpses of the Nizam’s Dominions. Bombay: C.P. Burrows.

Kagal, Carmen.1994. ‘On Masjids and Maqbaras’. The Taj Magazine 23. 2.

Also read DELLA ADVENTURE PARK-LONAVALA

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