Away from rows, a piece of Aurangzeb history brought to light in Maharashtra

FROM THE renewed row over the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi built by him, to the disturbed quiet around his spare tomb near Aurangabad, Aurangzeb finds himself back at the heart of controversies. However, one piece of history involving the Mughal Emperor is slowly coming to life in Maharashtra.

For the past six months now, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has been excavating a 400-year-old hammam located opposite the ‘Bibi Ka Maqbara’ built by Aurangzeb in Aurangabad.

Bibi ka Maqbara had been constructed by the sixth Mughal Emperor in 1660, in the memory of his first wife and chief consort Dilras Banu Begum, as a replica of the Taj Mahal, which had been built by his father Shahjehan, for his wife.

The excavation began after the ASI came to know of the existence of such a hammam (public bath), forgotten and buried under a plot of land located opposite the Bibi Ka Maqbara for over half a century.

So far, the ASI has discovered a 36×36 metre structure, and cleared out a part of the area. ASI officials said the hammam is located exactly opposite the Bibi Ka Maqbara, and might have been meant for use just before entering the monument.

Officials said that in the Mughal period, such hammams would exist in front of monuments such as tombs or mosques or other places of worship.

ASI officials believe that the hammam got covered up in soil sometime after the 1960s, when a road was laid between it and the protected monument. Over the years, it was forgotten.

An official, who did not want to be named, said: “It came to the notice of the ASI only recently when a person whose father worked with the ASI and was an attendant at the monument met some officials.”

He informed them that when he was a child he would come to the site to deliver tiffin with his father, and would always see the hammam, and that it was now covered by debris. He also showed the exact location to the ASI staff.

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“He told us that if you excavate the site and remove the soil, you will find a door and an entry point. Accordingly we got approvals and started excavating. We indeed found a door and, on further excavation, the remaining structure.”

The official said that the process began over a year ago, and they were hoping to complete it as soon as possible.

The ASI’s Aurangabad Circle Superintendent, Milan Kumar Chauley, said: “We are doing scientific clearance (of the soil) currently. Once it is completed, we will restore the structure and conserve it, and open it to the public.”

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