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The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

Aurangzeb's Tomb

He was among the last of the powerful Mughal Emperors. He might not have been among the most popular, but for 49 years, he ruled over the bulk of the Indian Subcontinent. We remember him more today for the temples he razed and the mosques he built over them. And yet, we cannot but help lift an eyebrow in surprise and admiration when we learn that he refused to use the royal treasury at his disposal, choosing instead to knit caps and copy the Quran anonymously and use the proceeds from the sales for his personal expenses. Aurangzeb stands out from among the Mughal emperors in many ways – his fanatical zeal for Islam, his intolerance for all other religions, and above all, the simplicity of his lifestyle, which is reflected in his last resting place.

The board informing us of the Emperor's tomb is mounted on a wall with peeling paint and old posters

Entrance to Khuldabad

Aurangzeb spent most of his life conquering and securing the Deccan for the Mughal Empire. However, the victory was an expensive one, and left the army crushed in more ways than one. As he lay dying near Ahmednagar, he is believed to have said to his son, “I came alone and go as a stranger. I do not know who I am, nor what I have been doing.”

Aurangzeb is buried at Khuldabad, near the shrine of the Sufi saints, Sheikh Burhan-u’d-din Gharib and Syyed Zain-u’d-din Shirazi.

That he should choose his resting place near two saints seems to be apt, considering his fanatical beliefs, but the tomb is much simpler than one would expect for a Mughal Emperor. In fact, it is said that Aurangzeb had asked for a simple, open air grave, unlike the magnificent tombs of his forbearers, and so it remained, from his death in 1707, till Lord Curzon, shocked by the simplicity of the tomb, ordered a marble structure erected around the grave in 1911.

Also in the same complex are the tombs of Aurangzeb’s second son, Azam Shah, and his wife.

There are few who visit these tombs, except during special days commemorating the saints. The time we visited turned out to be a time for prayer, and there were a bunch of people paying their respects at the tombs, which is why I have not clicked photos of the tombs themselves. However, what caught my eye was this young man who stood by the side, reciting some verses, probably from the Quran. He stood in his corner, unconcerned by the throng of people, his rhythmic chanting adding a background score to the scene, making people quieten down. It was only a little while later that we realised that the boy was blind!

As we walked through the entire complex, the silence was so audible, that his voice echoed through the halls, making the experience an unforgettable one. And that is what I have brought back from my visit to Khuldabad – the memory of a young, blind boy’s chanting the verses from a holy book...over the grave of a king who ruled one of the biggest empires of the world! 


Location: Khuldabad is about 10 Kms from Ellora Caves and about 34 Kms from Aurangabad

How to Reach:
  • By Air: The nearest airport is at Aurangabad

  • By Train: The nearest railway station is at Jalgaon, which is connected to other parts of Maharashtra by train. However, Bhusaval, about 30 Kim from Jalgaon is well connected to all parts of India. There are also plenty of trains to Aurangabad from Mumbai and other cities.

  • By Road: Aurangabad is well connected by buses from Mumbai as well other cities in Maharashtra. Bus Tickets for Aurangabad by MSRTC buses can also be booked online.

Where to Stay: There are a few hotels at Khuldabad, but it is a better option to stay at Aurangabad, which has plenty of  hotels to suit all budgets.

Suggestions: A visit to Khuldabad can be combined with a trip to the Ellora Caves and Daulatabad Fort. 


  1. Beautiful post, wonderful pics.
    1 spent 17 years in Aurangabad. Love this city, and the tourism it attracts. Glad to hear of your visit.

    Daulatabad is even intrinsic, architecture of this fort spells out all detailed war planning Tughlaq Dynasty had.

    1. Thanks so much, Viyoma! We did visit Daulatabad too, though it was quite a quick and short visit... its such a beautiful place!

  2. Nice post. Wonderful shots and well written.

  3. I didn't had much time for seeing this when I visited Grishneshwar . Thanks for sharing.

    1. There is so much to see near Aurangabad besides Grishneshwar, Vishal! you must make a longer visit next time!

  4. Old memories of reading about the Mughals in Modern India books been refreshed...longing to revisit them...ur post has given the push....great piece:)

    1. Thanks so much, Radhika! we never paid much attention to history books in school... we are refreshing our memory with these trips now!

  5. Never even knew about this Tomb of Aurangzeb. All the wars seems to have taken a toll on Mughal Empire, as he is the last one people know about who was of any significance.

    1. Few people know about this, Desi Traveler... the wars and their lifestyle did take a huge toll on them... and their strength only lasted a few generations..

  6. I knew that Aurangzeb was buried in Khuldabad, but not the details of his tomb.

    Even Akbar's tomb in Sikandra was supposed to be simple and unadorned. It was Jahangir who added all the grandeur and flourishes that we see today. Akbar's burial chamber is open to the public and the starkness and simplicity is striking when you realise that he was the greatest of the Mughal Emperors.

    1. I have not yet been to Sikandra, Sudha... remember hearing about it from you... hope i can go there soon...

  7. Ms.Anuradha - Great post and but write-up needs review. I fear you do not realize that you have givenout false info about AurangZeb(AZ). For example, you wrote "We remember him more today for the temples he razed and the mosques he built over them". That is wrong info, pardon me for pointing it out. If you read unbiased history you will find that he actually donated huge sums of money to temples! While it is true that he built many mosques, he did so in open places, not over temples. He never razed any temple. He imposed Jizya as policy matter. He gave protection in return of Jizya unlike the britishers who would levy heavy tax and would also take away life at will(Jaliawala bagh). It is easy to paint someone's personality as evil with just a few keystrokes, but it's tough to do some honest searching and protray the truth "as it is". I hope you will do the background research and will correct your write-up with a "follow-up post". I know you dint do it purposefully but it will bring more credibility to your blog if you disseminate correct info backed with proper references.

    1. Thanks for the long and detailed comment, Mohd, but there are a few things I must mention, which I hope will reassure you, rather than another post on this.
      First, I am not a history expert, as I have mentioned numerous times on this blog. What I write is the common man's impression of a place, not as an expert, which I am not. i write of legends, stories, and history, as narrated by the people at places, not necessarily historical records, which I have no access to....
      Second, having said that I am not an expert, it is an accepted fact that Aurangzeb did raze many temples, foremost among which are the ones at Kashi and at Mathura. This is not disputed, and in fact, is something verified by historical records of that era. As to his donations to temples, I can not comment, since I do not know about such instances. As for the jiziya, it was something that was imposed on only non-muslims, and thus a religion based edict only meant to convert people, not simply a policy matter.
      Third, I am not justifying the British or any other ruler, because many of them have been fanatics in their own way.
      Fourth, I am not portraying anyone as 'evil'. In fact, as I have mentioned, I appreciate his simplicity and his refusal to use the royal coffers for personal use.
      Having said all this, i stand by my post. It is not hurtful to anyone in particular, and is simply a result of my thoughts and experiences at the tomb.

  8. Nice post. As for 'razing temples' Aurangzeb broke all records. That is a fact recorded in Mughal court chronicles. In fact it even brags how quickly they could destroy the idols and build mosques over them. History is a chronicle of what happened. Not what people would like to believe. Kudos to you Anuradha, excellent post. Have you also visited the forts nearby? These forts changed hands many times between Maratha and Mughal forces.

  9. Nice job!
    You are right, that is our 'history'. He was a King. History should be supported by evidence, Pls see the book by B N Pandey

  10. Hi,
    I really like your post.
    Thanks for sharing such great information. It is very informative and provides knowledge of Tombs in Maharashtra

  11. Hello Anuradha, I am planning to visit Khuldabad from Jalgaon next week. My hotel bookings are done at Hotel Kailash in Ellora. Request your advice on availability of transport to Khuldabad from Jalgaon and then to Ellora caves. Are there any local buses or Volvo facility available? Thanks a ton!


    1. Hi Anustup,, I am sure there are buses from Khuldabad to Jalgaon, but I doubt there are Volvos. In any case, since I didnt do that route, I have no idea.

  12. Hello Anuradha,

    I visited Aurangabad for Ajantha, Ellora.. finally we visited Alamgiir's tomb, one of the attendant had readout something from the tombstone which loosely meant 'you leave without nothing' or 'this is the final destination' .

    do you know what was written on it? can you help me with the translation of the tombstone?


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