Lonar – A gift from Heaven.

Some 50,000 years ago a meteor came crashing down on earth. The impact created a massive depression on the earth’s surface, and resulted in the formation of a huge crater. The crater soon got converted into a lake.

The place where all this action happened is Lonar, in Buldana district of Maharashtra, and the lake in question is the famous Lonar Lake.

Lonar lake.

Lonar lake was formed during the Pleistocene epoch. The lake is both saline, and alkaline. The pH of the lake is around 12. This is the only meteoric impact crater formed on basaltic rock. Due to the high pH level of the lake  nothing can survive in the water, except the algae. The lake has a thick layer of algae on the surface.

The thick layer of Algae

There is a mention of Lonar lake in the Skanda Purana as well.

[As per Skanda Purana, a demon named Lonasur who lived in a subterranean abode used to devastate the surrounding country and even challenge Gods. Lord Vishnu, on an appeal by the people of the region, assumed the form of a handsome youth named Daitya-sudan, charmed the giant’s two sisters and discovered the giant’s abode and then removed the lid of the den where he was hiding and destroyed the giant. The present lake is claimed to be the den of the giant, and a conical hill near the village Datephal, some 36 miles to the south-west, is said to be the lid of the giant’s den. The water of the lake is likened to the blood of the giant and the salts that it contains as the decomposed flesh of the giant. It is also believed that a perennial spring, at the head of the path which leads down to the lake is linked to the Ganges river.]

There’s this place of such geological importance, right here in my backyard. Lonar had always been there in my ‘Travel bucket list’ and I was determined to strike it off the list as soon as possible. I got the opportunity to visit this place in October 09. Yes, long back, but always expect late posts from me!

I took advantage of a long weekend, and combined a trip to Ajanta, Verul (Ellora) with Lonar. More on the world famous caves later. This is about Lonar. This was to be a fun + informative trip with friends.

I don’t remember much of the journey. We boarded the train at Dadar. As soon as I entered the compartment, and after the initial Hello’s, I claimed the top berth and entered zzzland.

So, all I can say about the journey, is that it was .. well.. good! 🙂

The trip was well organised, and all the places that we visited were well planned in terms of time taken to travel. The trip itinerary was,

Ajanta -> Lonar -> Verul + Aurangabad day trip (Grishneshwar temple etc).

The next morning we got down at Jalgaon, and immediately proceeded towards Ajanta. This is a world heritage site, and worth a visit. We spent the entire morning, and a major part of the afternoon exploring Ajanta caves. After a rather late lunch, we set off towards Lonar. After innumerable tea breaks, we reached Lonar late in the evening.

Lonar, in spite of being an important destination, doesn’t look like it. As we entered Lonar, we didn’t see any signs, information posters, or directions about the lake. Nothing! The place looks like any other small town in rural Maharashtra.

Our accommodation at Lonar was pretty basic, but CLEAN. I don’t care much about having 5 star comforts, a clean room is all I need. That’s all. There is a MTDC, and a PWD rest house at Lonar as well. MTDC has the best location. It’s bang opposite the lake. In fact the road towards the lake passes through the MTDC premises. The rest house is in an appalling condition. Sad, but true state of matters in this country.

I was too excited to sleep that night, as the next morning was the much awaited trip to Lonar lake. Everyone was up early, and everyone was excited about the trip. We planned to start before sunrise. Our mini bus was sandwiched between a house, and a Volvo bus. There was no option but to walk to the lake. An early morning walk, the idea seemed awesome, and we were all looking forward to a pleasant walk. The sight (and smell) of early morning ‘squatters’ made it anything but pleasant. The road to the lake looked like it had been hit by countless meteors. We reached our destination after a short walk through stinky streets.

The POA for the day was a walk along the lake’s boundary, ‘Lonar Pradakshina’. We had to descend to the lake, and then start the walk. It was a lovely walk along the lake. The trail passed through a forest, and that made the walk even better.

lovely trail

The trail

We saw, and heard a variety of birds, and some insects along the trail. The most common ones were the Dung beetle, and the millipede. During the walk we also saw the ugly face of ‘Incredible India’. Ancient structures defaced by graffiti.

Incredible India!

Incredible india

All the temples (there are 22 of them) along the lake are constructed in the Hemadpanthi style.

The speciality of these structures is that they are divided into 3 regions, Sabhamandap, Antaryaal, and Gabhaara.

Sabhamandap is the area where devotees can assemble, or pray. Gabhaara is where the deity is present. This is the sacred place in the temple. Antaryaal is in between the two regions, somewhat like a no mans land. There isn’t any carving, or religious structure in the Antaryaal.

An important feature of this style is the carvings at the entrance of the Gabhaara. There are 7 layers of which the innermost is called the ‘Toran’, which has flower designs. There is a layer called as ‘Anand sthar’, and this depicts people celebrating. The ‘Anand sthar’ is the most important layer of the 7.

The 7 layers ..

Another feature of the temples in this region was the presence of an animal called ‘Vyaal’. This animal is believed to be an ancestor of tigers, and looks somewhat like the sabretooth (of Ice Age fame).

Vyaal

The pleasant walk soon started to get a bit taxing. The reason was the appearance of rain clouds. The presence of clouds made it too humid and muggy, and by the time we reached the mini bus, it had started to pour.

But that wasn’t the end. We still had one more temple to visit before we left Lonar. The temple, Daityasudan mandir, is situated right in the middle of the village. This temple has carvings similar to the ones seen at Khajurao. The temple was locked, so I didn’t get an opportunity to check it. By now it was raining hard, so I didn’t want to risk taking my camera.

We stopped at a village dhaaba for a delicious lunch, and hit the road for the next destination, Aurangabad.

Couple of pointers for visiting Lonar,

  • A trip to Lonar involves a lot of travel, so it’s better to combine it with Ajanta, Ellora, and a day trip in Aurangabad. There’s plenty of things to visit in and around Aurangabad, like Grishneshwar mandir, Deogiri fort etc.
  • There aren’t a lot of facilities in Lonar. So be prepared to rough it out. Accommodation is basic, without any frills.
  • Carry plenty of water if you are planning the ‘Lonar Pradakshina’. The walk along the lake isn’t tough, but one does get dehydrated
  • Don’t forget to carry extra batteries and memory cards for you camera.
  • Best time to visit would be September-February. You can visit during the summer, and rainy season too. But it gets unbearably hot during summers.
  • And, last but the most important thing “LEAVE ONLY FOOTPRINTS, TAKE ONLY MEMORIES”
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