Several dynasties have ruled Aurangabad leaving it a rich legacy of art and culture.
The earliest known dynasty was, of course, the Mauryas, which incidentally also marked the arrival of Buddhism in Maharashtra. It was around the second century BC that Pratishthana, the present day Paithan, rose to become an important centre of trade. Then came the Chalukyas, great patrons of Buddhism, under whose reign several viharas (monasteries) and chaityas (chapels) came up. Following on were the Rashtrakutas, with quite a few temples to their credit, notable among them being the Kailas Temple, often cited for being an architectural marvel. Present day Aurangabad is no less a hub of Marathwada culture and history than its ancestral avatar. It is also an educational center, and one of the fastest growing industrial towns in India.
The city of Aurangabad was founded in 1610 by Malik Ambar - Prime Minister of Murtaza Nizam Shah II - on the site of a village called Khirki. Almost 50 years later, when Prince Aurangzeb became Viceroy of the Deccan, the city gained ascendancy in the Mughal court - becoming Aurangzeb's capital. He gave it its' name, Aurangabad.
Located on the city's outskirts, these nine caves, mainly viharas, came to be known to the world somewhere between the second and the sixth century AD. The tantric influences in their iconography and designs are interesting.
The sole representative of Mughal architecture in the Deccan Plateau, this mausoleum was built in 1679, by Aurangzeb's son, as a tribute to his mother Begum Rabia Durani.
This 17th century water-mill derives its name from the mill which used to grind grain for pilgrims.
A mere 100 kms from Aurangabad , are the 30 rock-hewn caves at Ajanta . Going back to the second century BC, these caves took around 600 years to create.
There's a whole lot more on the Ajanta Caves in our World Cultural Heritage section
Even closer are the caves at Ellora, just 30 km from Aurangabad . The 34 rock-hewn temples and monasteries of Ellora are dedicated to three faiths - Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism. A must-see is the Kailas Temple , chiselled by hand from a single massive rock. There's a whole lot more on the Ellora Caves in our World Cultural Heritage section
Just 24 km from Aurangabad , these large artistically laid out gardens have at their center the tomb of Bani Begam - consort of one of Aurangzeb's sons. Built in varied styles, the fluted pillars, massive domes, and fountains exhibit the splendid architecture of the time.
Erstwhile 'Devigiri', this is a 12th century fortress built on top of a hill 12 km from Aurangabad . The fortress was initially a Yadav stronghold, passing through several dynasties before finally landing up with the Mughals. The name, meaning "city of fortune" is a legacy of Muhamad Tughlaq, Sultan of Delhi. What made this fortress difficult to conquer was a sturdy wall stretching for 5 kms, with a complicated series of defences. The 30 metre high Chand Minar, built much later with three circular galleries, also played a defensive (and religious) role in the fortress.
56 km south of Aurangabad , the township of Paithan was once the Satvahanas' capital which conferred on it a position of pre-eminence in trade circles. Today, however, it is best known for its Paithani silk sarees. It also boasts of a spiritual heritage - Eknath, the Marathi poet-saint, lived here centuries ago.
The culture that Aurangabad so strongly adheres to originates from its crafts, most of them coming from a particular district or town, which also gave them their name. Himroo and Mashroo, terms for fabrics made of cotton and silk with the lustre of satin, come from the district of Himroo. Paithani silk sarees, woven from pure silk and zari (threads drawn from pure gold) take anywhere from six months to one and a half years to weave and are heirlooms. Bidriware comprises of intricate workmanship of pure silver, either embossed, overlaid or inlaid on surfaces.