March 1, 2017 | Sanjay S. Dhekane (Sr. Manager (Publicity&PR,MTDC)
Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation has decided to give it, its rightful place under the sun, by celebrating first Lonar Fest that aims to boost domestic and international tourists to this amazing place on 3rd 4th and 5th of March 2017. The idea behind this endeavour is to showcase this unique destination to adventure loving tourists across the globe because Lonar has the charisma to become the most sought-after destination.
The festival aims to unveil the enigma of the crater, with special day and night treks planned around the lake. There will be astronomy experts coming over to share important bits of information with the tourists. Various workshops on biodiversity of the region will also be a part of the festival. This fest will not turn around the tried and true song and dance routine but will known as the celebration of biodiversity.
Tourism and biodiversity are closely linked both in terms of impacts and dependency. Many types of tourism rely directly on ecosystem services and biodiversity (ecotourism, agri-tourism, wellness tourism, adventure tourism, etc.). Tourism uses recreational services and supply services provided by ecosystems.
Biodiversity is very important in the tourism sector. Furthermore tourism depends on natural resources as food, clean water or other services of the nature. It also provides tourism with free ecosystem services, like provisioning services (e.g. food, materials etc.), regulating services (e.g. climate control, pollination by insects etc.), habitat services (e.g. genetic diversity etc.), cultural services (e.g. recreation and tourism, education etc.). All those services can make touristic sights much more attractive. People go to places with a great biodiversity, because they want to have new and exotic experiences, they have never seen before. Maharashtra is a great example of how they use their biodiversity for their benefits. It has a great wealth of biological diversity in its forests, its wetlands and in its marine areas.
More and more tourists are travelling independently and are looking for natural and cultural experiences. The beauty and uniqueness of a region's terrain and landscape is what attracts tourists from a far.
Maharashtra’s mystical and most well kept secret is the Lonar Lake is an extremely beautiful place situated at around 160 kms from Aurangabad. The place also has an importance of its own as it is the only Hyper-Velocity Crater on the earth!! Geological studies have revealed that the lake is more than 52,000 years old. Low hills which surround the lake are covered with jungle. Dense tree cover about a mile broad surrounds the crater.
Lonar is situated around 550 kilometers from Mumbai and 160 kilometers from Aurangabad, a little more than a four-hour drive from the famous Ajanta Caves. Most tourists come here to see the crater, now considered a rich heritage site. Ranked among the world’s five largest craters and the third-largest salt water lake in the world, the crater was first discovered in 1823 by a British officer, C J E Alexander.
For ages there was much debate over whether the crater had been created by a meteor or whether it has a volcanic origin because of its perfectly round basin-like structure with definite edges. Geologists, for quite some time, were in favour of the volcanic theory but recent research has proved that it was definitely created out of the impact of a meteor due to the typical glassy material found around the crater, created due to the heat generated at that time.
The mystic lake surrounded by ancient temples and natural beauty and rich biodiversity and the town is filled with colourful ancient tradition and lifestyle. The destination is home to several species of wildlife including peafowl, chinkara and gazelles. Migratory birds also flock to the lake during winter months making it an ideal place for bird-watchers and wildlife enthusiasts.
The crater and lake has also been mentioned in the Skanda Puran, the Padma Puran and even the Ain-i-Akbari. Apart from tourists, the Lonar crater also attracts scientists who come to study it. The crater is one of the unique natural formations in the world.
The lake within the crater is both saline and alkaline in nature. The lake water contains various salts or sodas. When the water level reduces due to evaporation during dry weather, large quantities of sodas are collected.
Resident and migratory birds include the brahminy ducks, shell-ducks (European migrants), herons, red-wattled lapwings, baya weavers, parakeet hoopoes, larks swallows are found on the lake.
Except for the small agriculture land, the inside rim is mostly shrubs and short.The forest department have planted exotic species like pine and eucalyptus trees to make a better forest and give an exotic experience to the visitors. At times lapwings and horn bills fly across, but monkeys and peacocks are regular sights.
Amber lake which is adjacent to the main lake: also called little Lonar is a small crater lake near to the main lake and must have been created by the impact of a sub particle from the meteorite. Some of the temples that tourists can visit near Lonar are Shegaon temple, Gomukh temple and Daitya Sudan temple to name a few. Earlier known as Shivgaon because of the presence of a temple of Lord Shiva, Shegaon mainly draws the faithful to the ‘samadhi’ of Sant Shri Gajanan Maharaj. A holy man, he brought about tremendous change in the lives of many people with his spiritual knowledge and power within a short period of 32 years. The temple is now a source of inspiration and spiritual insight for millions of devotees.
The Gomukh temple lies near the crater rim and the water stream here is believed by devotees, to be holy. Animals such as snakes, langurs, deer, foxes and mongoose can be spotted in the vicinity.
The Daitya Sudan Temple is quite similar to the temples of Khajuraho, in its structure and the ancient carvings on the temple walls. The ancient idols of the temple have been constructed using a unique metal that seems similar to stone. The sanctum of the temple is quite dark, which is why the travellers have to use a torch to see the carvings inside and on the roof. This ancient temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and belongs to the Chalukya Dynasty that ruled the region between the 6th and 12th centuries AD. The shape of the temple resembles an irregular star.
During local festivals such as the Kamala Devi festival, large numbers of pilgrims enter the crater. Small shops and food-stalls are often established near the crater or along its rim. For those drawn to study how temples were built in the old days, the ones in Lonar may be of special interest because they used the Hemadpanthi style of architecture i.e. constructed without the use of cementing agents. At the lake itself, one of the amazing sights is that of the hundreds of peafowl which live inside the crater.
Winter is the ideal time to visit Lonar. Climate between November to January remains pleasant. To get the best view of the lake, one should visit before 9am or just before the sun set.
Lonar in itself is a beautiful place, just ideal for a short break to get away from urban pressures.