The diligence with which IRCTC manages to delay the trains is just mind-boggling. Chit-chatting and munching on junk we sat through the eventful thirty-odd hour journey. In recent times, travel meant a road trip on the bike. Instead of the speed and frantic nature of riding, it was a welcome change to unwind and enjoy the slow pace of backpacking.
Alighting at Ahmednagar, we were welcomed by pleasant weather with drizzle. Ahmednagar is a small town, with a heavy military presence. At the train station, it is no trouble to get a shared auto to transport bus stand – most buses stop at both Maliwada and Tarakpur bus stand. Boarding an ordinary state transport bus (Rs.145, 2.5 hours) to Aurangabad, we soared on the smooth four-lane highway. State-run buses have Fastag installed - that is the only luxury bus has seen in the recent past. Misleading milestones will put your arithmetic skills to test.
The city of Aurangabad is very lenient and tolerant with flies, you’ll see them everywhere in bunches. The main and best way to get around the city is the ubiquitous auto-rickshaw. To get a feel of down-town and experience the local culture, head to Aurangapura, Gul-mandi or Nirala bazaar markets. Nirala bazaar is the uptown market area and has some good vegetarian restaurants. Nearby is the Tilak road, housing one of the historical landmark - Paithan gate – the best place to shop footwear and clothing. A couple of shops offer Handloom Sarees. Bear in mind that not all sarees are locally woven, many come from other states. The speciality of Aurangabad is silk, so if you want something local, look for Himroo or Paithani. These are handwoven with intricate designs and best quality material used. Respect the effort and time spent for weaving, before whining about the price.
Himroo fabrics give you a chance to watch live weaving – if you are lucky – and a decent selection of sarees, shawls and bedsheets. The store is opposite to another landmark “Jafar gate”. Out of fifty-plus gates, sadly a mere fifteen or so are remaining in the city. Many factories line the road towards Ellora offering to watch the weavers at work and many options to buy from. Within the city, choices might be scanty.
A mausoleum built for his first wife - Bibi ka Maqbara- is the largest structure Aurangazeb had to his credit. Interestingly the architect is the son of the principal designer of Taj Mahal. It is then no wonder that Bibi ka Maqbara bears a striking resemblance to the Taj. The garden around the structure is a nice place to stroll, however, it will be busy with the selfie-capturing populace. Aurangabad is a good option to keep as a base to visit the remarkable Ajanta and Ellora caves.