Maharashtra may soon get its first city with UNESCO’s World Heritage City tag. The state government is working on nominating Aurangabad for the prestigious label, which will ensure restoration of heritage sites and boost tourism in the town.
So far, only Ahmedabad in Gujarat, which is an over 600-year-old walled city founded by emperor Ahmed Shah, has been given the status, making it India’s first world heritage city.
With a history dating backing to the 2nd Century BC, Aurangabad was part of a trade route linking Ujjain to Ter near Osmanabad. It has a rich heritage complete with fortifications and gates, palaces, caves, akhadas (wrestling schools), religious sites like dargahs, temples, gurudwaras, gram daivats (village deities), and hamams (public baths).
“This is the first such proposal from Maharashtra seeking the status of a World Heritage City for a city. We will send it to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for scrutiny, and it will, in turn, forward it to the UNESCO,” said Tejas Garge, Director, Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. He added that they had asked the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation for a list of heritage monuments and their conservation status, legal provisions and measures taken for their upkeep.
Called ‘Rajatadag’ during the Satavahana era, Aurangabad is also known as the ‘City of Gates’ because of the 52 gates built by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, of which only few survive today.
Dulari Qureshi, a local historian and a member of the divisional commissioner’s heritage committee, said that to get the status, maintenance of these monuments was as important as their heritage values.
Qureshi added that Aurangabad had monuments ranging from the palaces of Abyssinian general Malik Ambar, who is credited with founding Aurangabad, or Khidki, as it was known in the 17th century, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and his General Pahad Singh Bundela.
While the nearby Ajanta and Ellora caves, which are also UNESCO world heritage sites, are tourist attractions, Aurangabad city too has 12 ancient caves with sculptures located in the campus of the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, which were built between 1st century AD to 7 century AD.
Qureshi said that the gates in Aurangabad were surrounded by encroachments and stressed on the need to maintain and protect such monuments. “Industries can adopt each gate,” she suggested.
In October 2016, the state cabinet had approved the conduct of procedures for declaring Aurangabad as a World Heritage City. The state government will appoint a conservation architect to prepare a proposal in this regard.
The directorate is also working on an archaeological guidebook of Aurangabad district, which will be published soon.
Aurangabad fell on the trade route connecting Ujjain to Ter via Burhanpur, Ajanta, Bhokardhan and Paithan.
It was called ‘Rajtadag’ during the Satavahan era.
It consists of historic and heritage sites like Bibi Ka Maqbara and Panchakki. Malik Ambar, a high-ranking Nizamshahi nobleman, is credited for laying the foundations of modern day Aurangabad as ‘Khadki’
The city served as Aurangzeb’s capital in the Deccan for a while. Later, it was also the made the capital of the Asaf Jahi dynasty by the Nizam of Hyderabad. It has also been ruled by the Marathas
It was part of the Nizam of Hyderabad’s princely state before it was merged into the Indian union in 1948