I stared at the starry sky from my hotel, roughly a kilometer away from where the meteor had struck. In this universe, endless and immaculate, we occupy such a minute place, I felt. Very often, this thought pops up in my mind when I stare at the night sky. However, tonight it filled me with a profound sense of humility. Lonar can do that to you.
I decided on this trip with no prior planning. Vidarbh region, except for a few wildlife sancutaries sprinled here and there, is empty of interesting places compared to other regions of Maharashtra. For me, time is a luxury, given that training is a residential programme and wishing for more than three days at one shot is blasphemy. I wanted to venture out of the comfortable 250km radius ( because of the time factor) and just ride into the horizon. Thus Lonar manifested in my mind.
Without contemplating much, I packed my bags, kicked off my Bullet and rode away. I stopped in Amravati, the first night and then rode the rest of the distance the next day. When you stand in the bustling local market of Lonar It is not possible to fathom that such an unassuming taluk would be the site of a cosmological event like this.
Crater Lake and its story
The crater lake in Lonar is the third largest in the world, and the only impact crater that has been formed in basaltic rock. Since it was formed in the great Deccan Traps, the crater still stands without large scale denudation. Its age is estimated to be around 500000 years as per the latest studies. The lake is saline and alkaline at the same time, and on the banks of the lake you feel as if you are standing on the banks of a sandy beach. The white sand and the salty nature of the air at stands at odds with the surrounding Deccan milieu.
As everywhere else in India, myths have been woven around the crater lake. The cruel Lonasura who unleashed his acts had to be vanquished by Lord Vishnu in the form of Daityasudan. The village has a temple dedicated to DaityaSudan which was constructed during the Chalukya times. Around the lake itself 14 temples and one dargah has been built at different times by various dynasties including Yadavas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas.
Ain-i-Akbari also mentions the lake and the use of the water therein. The high sulphur percentage of the water rendered it useful in making of soap. These soaps were sent to Delhi for use by the Emperor himself.
Even though the lake doesn’t support much marine life, except a few algae and bacteria, the forest that has grown in the fringes of the depression is thriving with wildlife. Leopards, Langurs, Wild Boar all roam wide and free here. The place is also a magnet for birds.
After a walk around the lake, photographing the landscape and wildlife and reliving the history of the temples built around it, my guide and I venture to Amber Lake, which was formed by a splinter that fell of the meteor. This lake has fresh water unlike the main lake. There is a Maruti temple near this lake where the idol is believed to have magnetic properties and is probably made of the rock that came with the meteor. However, this property is now under the possession of a Kanitkar family which refuses to subject the idol to scientific studies.
Bird Photographer’s Paradise
Lonar lake is visited by numerous birds. The MTDC board says that even flamingos can be spotted. However, my guide says this is not true. Past few years no flamingos have been spotted. I could spot birds like Bulbull, bee eater, jungle babblers, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Pond herons, parrots etc. But then to a trained eye, the list may be even bigger
Undisturbed by Tourism
Lonar has not been disturbed by tourism and the place largely remains pristine. However, as I walked along the banks of the lake I could see some idols made of plaster of Paris, which I was told was used for immersion during one of the festivals. Here and there I find small plastic bottles, and such wastes. Elsewhere in the world such places would be celebrated and preserved. Our celebration of Lonar is confined to religion and preservation is confined to appropriation by the forest department. Quite a sad state of affairs, I feel.
Plan a visit to Lonar if you are in Aurangabad or Amaravati. This place can never disappoint you. Here are some of the things that awaits you