Aurangabad City

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This article has been extracted from



Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts.Many units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.

Aurangabad City

Head-quarters of the Division, District, and taluk of the same name in Hyderabad State, situated in 19 53' N. and 75 20' E., on the Hyderabad-Godavari Valley Railway, near the eastern bank of the river Kaum. In point of historical interest and size it is the second city in the State, and its population at the last three enumerations was as follows: (1881) 30,219, (1891) 33,887, and (1901), 36,837, including cantonments. In 1610 Malik Am bar, minister of the Nizam Shahi kings of Ahmadnagar, founded the city near the village of Kharki, and called it Fatehnagar. The Mughals and the Nizam Shahi troops under Malik Ambar were constantly at war during the early part of the seventeenth century. After the death of Malik Ambar in 1626, the power of the Ahmadnagar rulers declined, and in 1637 their territories were incorporated in the Deccan Si/bah of the Mughal empire. Aurangzeb was appointed viceroy of the Deccan in 1635, and again in 1653, and during his residence at Kharki changed its name to Aurangabad. It was from here that he directed his earlier campaigns against the Marathas and the Bijapur and Gol- conda kingdoms. In 1658 he dethroned and imprisoned his father, Shah Jahan. A few years later he undertook the subjugation of the Muhammadan kingdoms of the Deccan, and commenced his wars with the Marathas, in which he was almost continuously engaged until his death, at Ahmadnagar, in 1707. Bijapur fell in 1686, and Golconda, the Kutb Shahi capital, in 1687, these victories being followed by the annexation of the two kingdoms. During the confusion and internal dissension which followed the death of Aurangzeb, Asaf Jah, the first Nizam, came to Aurangabad, and having declared his indepen- dence, subsequently made Hyderabad his capital.

The city is bounded on the north and south by the Sichel and Satara ranges. During the reign of Aurangzeb its population is said to have been not less than 200,000, and the ruins still existing bear testimony to its former populousness. The modern city is situated to the east of Old Aurangabad, while the cantonment lies to the west, across the Kaum river. The garrison consists of two regiments of native infantry, and one of native cavalry, four squadrons strong, under the command of British officers.

In 1853 Aurangabad was the scene of a sharp conflict between the Hyderabad Contingent and a body of Arabs, who were defeated. In the eventful year 1857 some of the troops showed a spirit of disaffection, and an attack was meditated upon the cantonment. The authorities at Hyderabad had been apprised of this, and troops from Poona were ordered to mareh to Aurangabad. When the Poona troops arrived under General Woodburn, the disaffected cavalry were summoned to a dismounted parade. On the names of the ringleaders being called out, a jemadar ordered his men to load their carbines. A scene of wild confusion ensued, and some of the troops profiting by it mounted their horses and fled, and, though pursued by the 14th Dragoons from Poona, they escaped. Two-thirds of the regiment remained loyal ; a court martial was held and twenty-one of the condemned were shot, while three were blown away from guns.

At Aurangabad the Subahdar (Commissioner), the Nazim-i-Subah (Divisional Judge), the First Talukdar, and other officers hold their courts. The public buildings include a large Central jail, a college, an industrial school, and several smaller schools. The city is an important centre of trade ; and silk, gold and silver cloth, and lace of a superior quality are manufactured here and largely exported. A spinning and weaving-mill gives employment to 700 persons, besides an oil-press. The city has suffered severely from plague and from the famines of 1897 and 1900 ; and but for the opening of the Hyder- abad-Godavari Valley Railway, the country around would have been depopulated. The increase of population in 1901 is due to the immi- gration of famine-stricken people from the neighbouring villages. A system of water-supply was introduced by Malik Ambar, and completed by Aurangzeb ; and though it has largely fallen into decay, it still yields sufficient water to supply the needs of the people. A new system of water-works was opened in 1892, to supply filtered water to the canton- ment.

Many places of interest are situated in the city and its suburbs, among which may be mentioned the makbara or tomb of Aurangzeb's wife, the Jama Masjid built by Malik Ambar, the ancient palace of the Nizam near Borapal, and the Kila Ark or citadel, which was Aurangzeb's palace. About 2 miles north of the city are the Aurangabad caves, 12 in number. These are of Buddhist origin, and are among the latest known, while they present especially interesting features.

[Archaeological Survey Reports of Western India, vol. hi.]


Renamed Sambhajinagar


Zeeshan Shaikh, July 1, 2022: The Indian Express

Aurangabad was founded in 1610 by Malik Ambar, the Siddi general of the Nizamshahi dynasty of Ahmadnagar. The city was named Khirki or Khadki at the time, and its name was changed to Fatehpur by Malik Ambar’s son Fateh Khan following Malik Ambar’s death in 1626.

In 1653, the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb invaded the Deccan and set up his capital in the city, which he renamed Aurangabad. The city has borne the association of its name with Aurangzeb ever since.

Chhattrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, the son and successor of Chhattrapati Shiva ji Maharaj, was tortured and killed in brutal fashion on Aurangzeb’s orders in 1689.

What is the Sena’s connection with Aurangabad?

In the late 1980s, Aurangabad became one of the first major cities outside the Mumbai-Thane belt that the Shiv Sena set its eyes on. The city’s 30% Muslim population made it fertile ground for polarisation. Following communal riots that led to the killing of over 25 people, in 1988, the Sena won elections to the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation.

On May 8, 1988, Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray announced the renaming of the city to Sambhajinagar after Sambhaji Maharaj. In 1995, the Aurangabad Corporation passed a resolution to do so, and the then Sena-led government in the state issued a notification seeking suggestions and objections from people on this.

What happened after that?

The notification was challenged in the High Court by then AMC corporator Mushtaq Ahmed, who belonged to the Congress. While the plea was dismissed by the court stating that no decision had been taken, the renaming remained a contentious issue that resurfaced periodically.

With the Shiv Sena in power, both the BJP and Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have over the past two years criticising the party for failing to follow through on Balasaheb’s promise. The Sena’s MVA allies, Congress and the NCP, have not been keen on the renaming.

In March 2020, as a placatory gesture, the MVA government had cleared a proposal to rename Aurangabad airport as Chhattrapati Sambhaji Maharaj Airport. However, this has not yet got the go-ahead from the Centre.

The Sena has been using Sambhajinagar instead of Aurangabad in its political rhetoric and in the party newspaper Saamna, but the actual changing of the city’s name could never be done.

The Aurangzeb connection

Dulari Rafat Qureshi, June 30, 2022: The Times of India

The tomb, Bibi Ka Maqbara, was commissioned in the 1650s by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the memory of his wife Dilras Banu Begum
From: Dulari Rafat Qureshi, June 30, 2022: The Times of India
Entry gate to the palace fort Qila–e-Ark, which has suffered extensive damage (Pic courtesy- Zindabad Aurangabad-Facebook)
From: Dulari Rafat Qureshi, June 30, 2022: The Times of India
Aurangzeb’s tomb lies in Khuldabad, less than 30km from Aurangabad
From: Dulari Rafat Qureshi, June 30, 2022: The Times of India
The tomb of Sufi saint Sheikh Sayyad Zainuddin in Khuldabad. In its courtyard lies Aurangzeb's open grave
From: Dulari Rafat Qureshi, June 30, 2022: The Times of India

While Aurangabad shares a chequered relationship with Aurangzeb, the city had a profound impact on the legacy of the “last effective Mughal emperor”, who ruled India from 1658 to 1707. History tells us that Aurangzeb spent a great part of his life in the city. First, as a subedar (viceroy) and later as emperor. 
Be it palaces, deodis (mansions for the nobles), marketplaces, lakes, gardens, masjids, temples and imposing gates — his influence is evident even today. These remnants of the past are scattered all over Aurangabad, better known as the “City of Gates”. 
A major landmark of the city is Bibi Ka Maqbara (the tomb of Aurangzeb’s wife Dilras Banu). It was built by Aurangzeb between 1652 AD and 1660 AD, according to Badshahnama , which chronicles the reign of Shah Jahan, written by Abdul Hamid Lahori. While this monument is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, sadly, Aurangzeb’s own palace, Quila-e-Ark, an expansive and once fortified area, lies completely neglected amidst ruins and debris.

Life and times of Aurangzeb

According to official records, Aurangzeb was first dispatched to the Deccan as a subedar in 1636. He was here till 1644, until one day he found himself rushing to Agra upon hearing that his sister Jahanara had suffered serious burns due to an accident.

In setting off without the consent of his father, Shah Jahan, he earned the Badshah’s wrath and fury, and was immediately sent to Kabul and Kandahar, considered a punishment posting as the region was notoriously difficult to govern.

In 1651, Aurangzeb was finally summoned back, and in the following year he was reinstated as the subedar of Deccan. Seven years later, Aurangzeb would find himself again in Agra. This time to fight a war of succession between the sons of Shah Jahan after the badshah took ill.

Upon his recovery, as per historian Ishwari Prasad, in his book, A Short History of Muslim Rule of India , Aurangzeb imprisoned his father in the Agra fort, where the emperor lived with his daughter, Jahanara, for eight long years. It is said that Shah Jahan was so severely ill-treated by Aurangzeb that he was even denied trivial conveniences. (On January 22, 1666, Shah Jahan died a broken man in captivity and was laid to rest next to his wife, Mumtaz, in the Taj Mahal.)

Two decades later, long after Aurangzeb was crowned the sixth Mughal emperor, Raghunathrao Bhat — 11th Peshwa of the Maratha empire — attacked Aurangabad. This was a time when the Marathas, along with Adil Shah of Bijapur and Qutub Shah of Golconda, had gotten bolder, fiercer and stronger. This forced Aurangzeb to return to the Deccan, in 1682, where he remained till his death, fighting the Sultans and Marathas.

How Aurangabad influenced Aurangzeb

Most historians say that the rationale behind why his tomb lies in neglect today is because Aurangzeb is a name mired in contradictions and controversies. He is not only recognised as one of the most vilified rulers of India, but also “a ruthless tyrant who was an expansionist, imposed tough Sharia laws and brought back the discriminatory jizya tax that Hindu residents had to pay in return for protection,” as Geeta Pandey writes in a recent BBC piece.

Evaluating the Mughal emperor in this backdrop, however, proves tricky, especially in Aurangabad, because it was during his reign that the maximum number of temples and masjids were built. Dr Yamini Mubay, an eminent social development professional, highlights in her book, Water and Sacred Spaces: A Case Study of Ellora, Khuldabad and Daulatabad Region , how land to the tune of 100 acres was especially granted by Aurangzeb for the creation of the Grishneshwar temple.

Another fascinating association of Aurangzeb with the region was his attraction to the Ellora caves. The Unesco World Heritage site is one of the largest rock-cut Hindu temple cave complexes in the world, with artwork dating from the period 600-1,000 BC, and described in great detail by Saqi Mustaid in his 1710 book, Maasir-e-Alamgiri .

Aurangzeb, according to the nobleman, in his early days as subedar of the Deccan was entranced by the land and would wander all around Daulatabad, Khuldabad and Ellora for hunting. He would even take his wife, family and friends to the caves. “Ellora caves are not the work of ordinary mortals but djinns,” writes Aurangzeb. “It is a marvellous place for strolling, charming to the eye and unless one sees it no written description can correctly picture it. Here then can my pen adorn the pages of my narrative”.

Aurangzeb, during his governorship, also divided Aurangabad into 54 puras or colonies for better administration, and named each of them after the nobles and courtiers. Among these, at least 20 puras were named after his Rajput nobles to whom he had granted jagirs in these puras . (Some of these include Jaswantpura, Jaisingpura, Paharsinghpura and Kesarsingpura, Karansingpura, Bhavsingpura, etc.)

This, however, is not in any way an attempt to diminish the dark reputation of Aurangzeb. This was a period, after all, which also coincided with him ruthlessly expanding his territories. He attacked neighbouring states, irrespective of whether they were Muslims or Hindus. (A major part of the Deccan, during Aurangzeb’s governorship, was occupied by the Muslim rulers.)

What were his final years like?

During his long sojourn in the region, he was continuously engaged in warring against the many independent states of the five Muslims Sultanates that arose from the ruins of the Bahmani dynasty. They included Nizamshahi of Ahmednagar, Adil Shahi of Bijapur, Qutub Shahi of Golconda, Barid Shahi of Bidar and Imad Shahi of Berar.

While all these dynasties were defeated, destroyed and annexed by Aurangzeb after a protracted war, he also found himself fighting the Marathas, led by Chhatrapati Shiva ji Maharaj’s successors — Sambhaji (1681 to 1688) Rajaram (1689 to 1700) and Tarabai for seven years straight. Even though he won Purandar and several other forts, Aurangzeb was constantly frustrated and overwhelmed by the guerrilla warfare tactics of the Marathas.

The Maratha war not only drained him financially, it also left him completely disillusioned and vanquished. The remorse followed him to his grave. Audrey Truschke, in her book, Aurangzeb , writes: “The dying king rode around the Deccan and wrote letters to generals, imperial officials and family members about his insights and regrets about his life, his place in Indian history and the great experiment of the Mughal empire.”

In 1707, Aurangzeb died of natural causes in Ahmednagar. As per his will, he was buried at Khuldabad, within the Chishti Sufi shrine of Zainuddin Shirazi, his spiritual guru. Apparently, Aurangzeb paid for his burial place by stitching caps during his last years that amounted to 14 rupees 12 annas. 
 It is a simple tomb, completely unreflective of his life and times. For a century, it remained untouched in an enclosing ‘kachha grave’, but later Lord Curzon, the third viceroy of India, added a marble lattice screen to avoid defacement. Today, visitors and tourists pay a visit to Aurangzeb’s tomb more out of curiosity, while controversy keeps his tortured and brutal legacy alive.

The writer is a retired professor of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, Aurangabad

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