Bibi Ka Maqbara: The Poor Man’s Taj Mahal in Aurangabad, India
If you’ve ever drunk off brand cola, cheap coffee or watched one of those low budget movies that are similar to the latest big blockbusters (like Transmorphers or Snakes on a Train) then you’ll already have some idea what a visit to the Bibi Ka Maqbara (Tomb of the Lady) will be like. It’s pretty much what the Taj Mahal would be like if it was smaller and built on the cheap. So why even visit it? Well, you could probably fool people into thinking you’d been to the real one — if you squint your eyes a bit it’s kind of hard to tell which one it is in photos. It’s also a lot less crowded, cheaper and you won’t have to deal with dozens of annoying touts.
Bibi Ka Maqbara
I visited the Bibi Ka Maqbara as part of a tour, with the main event being the Ajanta Caves. For a tacked-on experience it was actually pretty cool. I started by walking around the outside of the tomb and it was completely silent. From there I skirted the pools which unlike the Taj Mahal were bone dry – Princess Diana wouldn’t have wanted a photo there that’s for sure.
The Bibi Ka Maqbara is impressive from afar and from up close. If it wasn’t so similar (and so inferior) to the Taj Mahal it’d probably be a lot more highly rated. You can step foot inside the tomb, which isn’t nearly as impressive as the Taj Mahal interior. You can look down through an octagonal hole in the ground and see the actual tomb below, but outside of that there isn’t a lot going on inside.
Who Built the Bibi Ka Maqbara and why did they skimp on materials?
The Bibi Ka Maqbara was built between 1668 and 1669 as the final resting place for Dilras Banu Begum, the wife of ruler Aurangzeb. She died in 1657, so it took them a while to get started! It was commissioned by her son, Azam Shah, but apparently, he had severe budget restraints imposed on him by his frugal father. It was meant to rival the Taj Mahal (which houses Azam Shah’s grandmother, Mumtaz Mahal) but obviously the cost cutting turned it into an inferior copy (mainly due to skimping on marble and semi-precious stones which the Taj Mahal has in abundance).
FURTHER READING: A Tale of Two Taj Mahal Experiences
Other things to do in Aurangabad
Chances are the Bibi Ka Maqbara isn’t the reason you’re considering a visit to Aurangabad, Maharastra (Central India). It’s better known as the launching point for trips to the Ajanta / Ellora Caves. You’ll want to visit these on separate days as they are a little way from town (or you could do them both if you rent a car /driver). So, you’ll probably spend a couple of days in and around Aurangabad – it’s not the worst city in India but there isn’t a lot going on. There are several gates to check out and some other caves closer to town. There’s also a cool fort (Daulatabad) which you’ll see if you do the Ellora Caves tour with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC)– it’s only around 215 INR ($3 USD not including entry tickets) and takes a whole day. You can catch the bus at the central bus station or the MTDC Holiday Resort, which is close to the train station. I’ll be writing posts about Ajanta / Ellora Caves soon so stay tuned for those!
Are you planning a trip to Aurangabad? Let me know in the comments below!