Burhanpur – The Gateway to Deccan

Burhanpur – the name I had come across while reading novels based on Maratha and Mughal history. There was something about this name that had tickled the curiosity in my mind. Somehow it took almost a decade for my visit to this historical place to come into reality.

Situated on the North bank of the Tapti River, the city always played an important role in history due to its strategic location. Though it was an important city under Rashtrakuta Dynasty, it gained prominence during medieval period. Malik Nasir Khan, the Faruqi dynasty Sultan of Khandesh, discovered and renamed the city after a well-known Sufi saint, Burhan-Ud-Din. The administration of city changed hands from Mughals to Marathas to British thereafter. The entire history of Burhanpur is too big to accommodate in this post. So, I’ll move on to my trip to this amazing city also known as “Dakkhan Ka Darwaja”.

PLACES OF INTEREST IN BURHANPUR

  1. Kundi Bhandara – Also known as “Khooni Bhandara”, it is a unique underground water management structure of Mughal era. It is a network of 103 “Kundis” (a well-like structure) which are inter-connected through an underground tunnel. The system ensures a smooth course of water from the first to the last Kundi, based on the law of gravity.
  2. Dargah-E-Hakimi – The burial place of the holy Dawoodi Bohra saint, Saiyedi Abdul Qadir Hakimuddin. The beautiful premises includes mosques, gardens, and accommodation facilities for pilgrims.
  3. Asirgarh Fort & Moti Mahal – situated about 20 kms from Burhanpur city in the Satpura range, Asirgarh was considered to be the starting point of Deccan region. Majorly influenced by Mughals, the architecture of this fort is an amalgamation of Islamic, Persian, Turkish and Indian styles. Moti Mahal is a palace like structure nearby Asirgarh which was built by Shah Jahan for his wife Moti Begum.
  4. Black Taj Mahal / Kaala Taj Mahal / Kaala Maqbara – It is a tomb of Shah Nawaz Khan, son of Abdur Raheem Khan-e-Khana. The monument was built using local black stone and hence the name. It is a very beautiful structure, though has hardly any resemblance to the actual Taj Mahal.
  5. Badshahi Qila & Zenana Hammam – Built under Farooqi Dynasty, the Badshahi Qila was ruled by Shah Jahan for a longer period of time. The Qila is famous for Zenana Hammam – a royal bathroom built for Shah Jahan’s beloved wife Begum Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz Mahal was buried for about 6 months in Shahi Qila; her body was moved to Agra thereafter once construction of Taj Mahal was completed.
  6. Jama Masjid – Located at the centre of the town, this place of worship is also called as “Bibi Ki Masjid”. The construction of the Masjid was started by Begum Rukayya, the wife of Sultan Adil Shah Farooqi II and hence the name.
  7. Ahukhana – Situated across Tapti river, the monument is a pleasure house which consists of a pillared hall in typical Mughal style.
  8. Raja ki Chhatri – A renowned monument located some 7 kms away from Burhanpur was built by Aurangzeb in honor of Raja Jai Singh, the Commander of the Mughal force in Deccan.

HOW I TRAVELLED TO BURHANPUR?

I boarded the 11057 Mumbai CSMT – Amritsar (Pathankot) Express from Dadar at 11:45 pm on 30th November 2017 and reached Burhanpur at 8:25 am next day (average delay of 45-60 minutes). The first and the foremost thing to do once you reach Burhanpur is to arrange for logistics for the entire day. Remember that the rental cab aggregators like Savaari, HippoCabs, ClearCarRental, etc DO NOT provide local sightseeing service in Burhanpur. The local agencies provide car on rent on a 80 kms/ 8 hours basis in the range of Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 2,500, depending on the places you wish to visit and your negotiation skills. Some of the names include Tathastu Tours & Travels, Hakimi Travels, Shree Balaji Travels, etc. The car will be a Sedan or an SUV. Small cars deem unfit to go up till the entry gate of Asirgarh.

  • Places of interest in Burhanpur on Google Maps
    Places of interest in Burhanpur on Google Maps

Just outside the Burhanpur railway station, I inquired for transport options at nearby shops and they all recommended me Piaggio Ape, a typical auto-rickshaw but with engine power more than that of a normal one. I struck a deal with the driver (Dilipbhai Bhavsar, an old guy but very talkative and trustworthy) for Rs. 1,000 for the entire day and he assured me that he would take me to all the places I told him. I decided to skip Ahukhana as he was asking for Rs. 200 more since it is located on the other side of the Tapti River and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to cover it by evening.

KUNDI BHANDARA

Due to its proximity to railways station, Dilipbhai took me first to Kundi Bhandara – the world famous water distribution system. The distance between the two is hardly 2 kms. On my way to the spot, I got to see the kundis installed on both sides of the road at almost equal distances and painted in white. Kundi Bhandara system was started during the rule of Abdur Raheem Khan-e-Khana around 1615 A.D. During this period as many as 8 such systems existed in Hindusthan. Presently this is the lone such system in existence in India. Such systems were prevalent in Iran & Iraq and found their way to Hindusthan.

  • History of Kundi Bhandara, Burhanpur
    History of Kundi Bhandara, Burhanpur

As you can see in the video, there’s a caged structure that has a lift. This lift is so small that it can accommodate max 2 persons. The lift can take you about 80 feet down where you can get to see the tunnel structure for supply of water to different kundis. To my misfortune, the lift wasn’t working on that day and I missed the experience. I was told at the site office that going down with the lift is not advisable for the claustrophobic people. Also, one should be prepared to get his/ her shoes and clothes wet.

DARGAH-E-HAKIMI

After Kundi Bhandara, Dilipbhai took me to Dargah-E-Hakimi – one of the holiest places for Dawoodi Bohra Muslims. The place is 6 kms away from Kundi Bhandara and it took hardly 15 minutes to reach there. Constructed entirely in white marble, it’s a must visit place. The complex houses accommodation facility for more than 300 pilgrims and a dining hall.

  • Dargah-E-Hakimi at Burhanpur
    Dargah-E-Hakimi at Burhanpur

I wasn’t allowed entry to that part of the complex. You have to keep your footwear and baggage at the counter outside. Taking photographs of the three beautiful domes is allowed. Ofcourse they don’t allow taking the camera inside the domes. Special buses ply between Dargah-E-Hakimi and railway station at regular intervals.

ASIRGARH & MOTI MAHAL

While on your way to Asirgarh Fort, there’s a detour for the Moti Mahal. It is about 2 kms away from the main road. Note that the road to Moti Mahal is very bad. But since it is just a 2 km patch, that factor can be ignored. Not many travellers know about Moti Mahal and hence there was nobody there when we reached. So I got ample time to explore the structure.

  • Eidgah near Moti Mahal, Burhanpur
    Eidgah near Moti Mahal, Burhanpur

While on the main road, ask people for Eidgah. It is just 5-10 minutes away from the detour for Moti Mahal. It is a very beautiful structure along the main road for mass prayer for Muslims. To enter it, you will have to climb and cross over the iron rod fencing.

I first visited Eidgah, then Moti Mahal and then moved to Asirgarh. From Moti Mahal, it took exactly 30 minutes for us to reach the entry gate of Asirgarh. Out of the entire route for this journey, 30% of the journey was smooth and rest was full of bumpy roads. There are two ways to reach Asirgarh – one for vehicles and other for trekkers. Hiking till the top would take approximately 2-3 hours.

  • View of Asirgarh Fort from the highway
    View of Asirgarh Fort from the highway

You may refer to the Asirgarh Fort map above. You may have a look at it to know the important places to see on fort. The significant ones are Jama Masjid, Church, Rani Mahal, Barrack, Mama-Bhanja Tank, British Cantonment, Phansi Ghar and Mahadeo Temple.

Legend has it that Ashwatthama, son of Drona offers flowers every morning to the Shivling inside the temple. I did not find any flowers inside the main dome though. And do not forget to see the Phansi Ghar situated next to Mahadeo Temple. Just be careful with your camera, mobile, chain, etc while looking down.

  • Mahadeo temple on Asirgarh Fort
    Mahadeo temple on Asirgarh Fort

Asirgarh is basically divided in 3 parts – “Asirgarh”, “Kamargarh” and “Malaigarh”. It also has a name “Ashwatthamagiri” because of the myth I stated above. It took me exactly one and half hour to explore the entire fort. By 1:30 pm, we were back to the entry gate. The tourists can visit the Fort between 9 am and 5 pm.

BLACK TAJ MAHAL/ KALA TAJ MAHAL/ KALA MAQBARA

We left from Asirgarh at 1:30 pm and reached the Black Taj Mahal/ Kaala Maqbara at 2:30 pm. You have to take Khargone-Burhanpur highway to reach this tomb of Shah Nawaz Khan. Shah Jahan was married to Shah Nawaz Khan’s daughter. The dome of the structure is blackened over the years. But due to that it stands out in the lush garden surrounding it.

  • Tomb of Shah Nawaz Khan also known as The Black Taj Mahal, Burhanpur
    Tomb of Shah Nawaz Khan also known as The Black Taj Mahal, Burhanpur

There’s another structure next to the Black Taj Mahal the construction of which looks incomplete. The entry to that section was restricted. I wondered if that could be a tomb of Shah Nawaz Khan’s daughter.

After Black Taj Mahal, I asked Dilipbhai to take me to the Tomb of Adil Shah and Nadir Shah but somehow we got lost and cancelled the pursuit. Dilipbhai told me that it would be no different than Hazrat Shah Bhikari which is nothing but a Dargah.

BADSHAHI QILA & ZENANA HAMMAM

The Shahi Qila is some 20 minutes away from the Black Taj Mahal. I reached the place at 3:30 pm. You will have to pay Rs. 15 as an entry fee. Once you enter the place, you are welcomed by a well maintained garden with lush greenery. The place is open from 6 am to 6:30 pm. 

You get to see Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of General Public) and Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) on the terrace of the palace. The construction of the palace is so confusing which is why Shahi Qila is also called “Bhulbhulaiya” (Labyrinth).

  • Diwan-i-Khas at Shahi Qila, Burhanpur
    Diwan-i-Khas at Shahi Qila, Burhanpur

The main attraction of The Badshahi Qila is “Zenana Hammam”. It is a royal bathroom specifically created for Begum Mumtaz Mahal. It is basically a Jacuzzi like pool. The only difference is that unlike underwater jets of water in Jacuzzi, here water flows from the side walls of the room. The security guard told me that hot water used to flow from left wall whereas cold water from the right wall. The interiors are completely made of white marble. The guard also showed me the famous patch on the honeycomb ceiling of Zenana Hammam which depicts a monument that is said to have inspired the Taj Mahal.

  • Zenana Hammam - A royal bathroom designed for Begum Mumtaz Mahal at Shahi Qila, Burhanpur
    Zenana Hammam - A royal bathroom designed for Begum Mumtaz Mahal at Shahi Qila, Burhanpur

I have included the video of Zenana Hammam in the video gallery. But, note that it doesn’t (and it wasn’t possible too) show the painting on the ceiling. Also remember that the particular patch on the ceiling is on the right side of the pool (hammam), when you enter the room.

It is said that many of the things in Shahi Qila are copied in construction of structures at Agra, including Taj Mahal.

JAMA MASJID

After leaving The Shahi Qila at by 4:30 pm, we reached Jama Masjid in about 20 minutes. Since I reached at the time for the Namaz, I didn’t go further inside the Masjid to explore it. But, you should definitely explore this beautiful place for the exquisite interiors and carvings on walls.

  • Jama Masjid, Burhanpur
    Jama Masjid, Burhanpur

Though I still had time to visit Ahukhana and Raja Ki Chhatri, I decided to go to my hotel due to fatigue. I had made my booking at Hotel Panchvati along Amravati Road.

Next day I left for Raverkhedi to visit Samadhi of Bajirao Peshwa I. The place is 142 kms away from Burhanpur and 87 kms away from Khandwa Junction.

Burhanpur is an amazing city with many places to see. From my experience, I would recommend covering this historic place in two days, instead of one day. There are many places which I had to skip or I wasn’t aware of. Some of them are:

  1. Ahukhana
  2. Raja Ki Chhatri
  3. Tomb of Adil Shah & Nadir Shah
  4. The seven gates of Burhanpur – Shanwara Gate, Nagziri Gate, Sindhupura Gate, Budhwara Gate, Itwara Gate, Lohar Mandi Gate, Shikarpura Gate
  5. Barah Dari
  6. Akbar Sarai
  7. Zakvi Haveli

Though many places in India give glimpses of Mughal Era, Burhanpur holds a special place in the history. Your journey of living the Mughal history can never be complete if you haven’t visited Burhanpur.

Best time to visit Burhanpur

October to February

How to reach Burhanpur

Nearest Airport is Indore (210 kms away). The ideal mode of transport to Burhanpur will be by train. Burhanpur has direct train connectivity with major metros and tier-2 cities. Travellers from Northern part can reach Burhanpur by road via Indore-Khandwa-Burhanpur route i.e. Khagone-Burhanpur highway. People from Maharashtra have good road accessibility from Jalgaon, Aurangabad, Bhusawal, etc.

Accommodation in Burhanpur

Restaurants in Burhanpur

  • Panchvati Restaurant
  • Gurukripa Restaurant
  • Rahmania Restaurant

Things to remember

  • Keep visit to Asirgarh Fort first thing in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat.
  • Wear full sleeves tops/ tshirts if you are going to Asirgarh Fort in the afternoon.
  • Typical rental for autorickshaw only for Asirgarh Fort is Rs. 500 but if you club it with other spots, they will offer it at Rs. 1,000. Try to negotiate better.
  • Kundi Bhandara lift timings are 10 am to 4 pm. If you are claustrophobic, please avoid going down in the lift.
  • There are not food stalls on top of Asirgarh Fort. Please carry food items and water with you but please DO NOT litter.
  • You may contact Dilipbhai Bhavsar on 9285488735 / 8305550415 and book his autorickshaw for local sightseeing.

Here’s a short video that I have made on Burhanpur:

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Till then…Happy Travelizing!!!