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Aurangabad, the city where you can admire the Bibi-qa-Maqbara (the little Taj Mahal), the starting point for visits to the Ajanta and Ellora rock caves and the Daulatabad fort.

 

Arriving in Aurangabad at night, we were immediately "attacked" by tuk tuk drivers offering us their services. Moving away from the crowd of arriving travellers, we regained relative calm and found a "driver" who took us to the Panchavati hotel that we had selected and where we would spend 3 nights.

Panchavati hotel - Aurangabad

Aurangabad is the "base camp" from which we can set off for the Ajanta and Ellora caves, but it is also a city of 1,667,000 inhabitants, most of whom are Hindus, but where the Muslim community (21.25%) plays a very important role at election time.

Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal, made it his capital in 1653.

The city is famous for the Bibi-qa-Maqbara, built in 1679 by Azam Khan for his mother. This tomb is very similar to the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Bibi-qa-Maqbara

 

"On Monday 22 January, the Indian Prime Minister presided over the inauguration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. An event that marks both the launch of his campaign, just a few weeks before the start of the legislative elections, and the omnipotence of Hindu nationalism on the Indian political scene". (Courrier International headline, 22 January)

We were unaware of this event, and above all of its importance. A young couple on their honeymoon with whom we had a chat spoke of "a historic day" no less...

So that day we were exploring the city when our attention was drawn to a large gathering around a giant screen that was broadcasting the inauguration ceremony live ... obviously the whole city was decked out in saffron, the colour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has around 200 million members across the Indian sub-continent. (On this subject, read the excellent articles that Mediapart and Courrier International have devoted to the subject - by the way, thanks to Véro and Jean Michel).

We were in front of Ram's temple and a few people invited us to enter the sanctuary, where a crowd of devotees were hurrying to take part in the religious service in honour of the god Ram, which was taking place at all times. Young people took it in turns to embody the deity, while children in disguise represented different characters from the Ramayana - the deed of Rama - ...

A rather warm welcome and we had to accept a few bananas and sweets as we left wearing an orange cap …

in the Ram temple

There's jubilation everywhere, as motorbikes, cars and tuk tuk whiz around the city honking their horns and waving saffron flags ...