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A visitor from far away: The story of Lonar Crater Lake

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.

Roadtrip!

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.

Another Bike Trip was in the offing. I just packed my bags and left

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.

Ready for the morning trek to the lake

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.

All along the banks of the lake I could see these antilion traps, which must be how the crater must also be looking from above.

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.

Leopard Pug Marks found on the way down

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.

Saas Bahu Well: This well, though dug on the banks of the lake itself has sweet water unlike the lake, which is highly alkaline (pH 11)

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

A Lapwing at the banks of the crater lake

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.

Daityasudan Temple in the village is a classic example of Chalukyan architecture in the Deccan. It features many sculptures similar to the ones found in Khajuraho

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

Sangeetha_Shankar

A Musical Night with Sangeetha Shankar in Nagpur

Famous Hindustani classical violinist Sangeetha Shankar happened to be in town. She was accompanied by her younger daughter Nandini Shankar on the violin and Pandita Anuradha Pal on the Tabla.

It was a delight seeing three women musicians together on stage. It was also a rare sight. I, for one, have never seen a classical stage performance where every artist was a woman .The programme which was conducted in Suresh Bhatt Auditorium, Mahal, Nagpur was organised by Kalidas Samaroh and the theme of the programme was Naree Shakthi.

I was not able to figure out the first raga which she played. Nevertheless it was beautiful. I slowly closed my eyes and within some time was transported to some other serene place. She followed this with a Dadra in Khamaj and then a Natiya.

A Classic Case Study of Outliers

Ms. Sankar’s family tree is a good case study of what Malcolm Gladwell calls outliers. Her daughters Ragini and Nandini are renowned violinists while Ms. Shankar herself is the daughter of legendary violinist N. Rajam. N Rajam’s brother T.N Krishnan is another violinist who is well revered in the classical music circles. If you keep digging, this family has seemed to have music in their genes. Or do they?

As Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book Outliers, all of these “prodigies” have had the right exposure and right environment to have absorbed music into themselves. Most of them seems to have been initiated into music around the age of three and to have given their first solo performance around the age of 13-15. This seems to strengthen the 10000 hour rule popularised by Gladwell, given that 10 years is around the time where most people seem to hit the 10000 hour mark. Given that they already are experts by 13, by the time they reach their youth, they are maestros.

Deliberate Practice

It is not just the 10000 rule that these artists seem to get correct. They seem to be doing deliberate practice where the sessions spent on music are intense and self aware. This is also very essential to make sure that you improve in a particular activity.

Remembering Balabahaskar

While listening to Ms. Shankar, I kept remembering the violinist from Kerala who recently passed away in a car accident, Mr. Balabhaskar. Not only was he a gifted vioinist, but also a family friend.

Overall, kudos to Kalidas Samaroh for putting up such an excellent musical night in Nagpur. These kind of experiences make me love the place more. I will be in Nagpur for just 4 more months. Till now, nothing much has come by to make me fall in love with the place. I sure hope that the coming four months will be different.

Mominpura

Mominpura: Where the Night is young in Nagpur

I should be frank with you. Nightlife in Nagpur is woeful. The city goes to slumber by 11 PM. You will be hard pressed to find a hotel or shop that is open. As a nightowl who loves roaming around during the wee hours of the dark, this was something that I couldn’t at all digest about Nagpur. The only respite from this is Mominpura.

Mominpura during the Eid Night

Mominpura is a muslim neighbourhood. The whole street is full of shops selling Athar, Shurma clothing, Pan, Biriyani and meat items. I would not say that it is the most hygenic place out there, but if you find eating in Chandni Chowk or Girgaum Chowpatty okay, then Mominpura also will not fail you.

Even at 3 in the night, you can find biriyani or a kathi roll here. My favorite places here are Baba Tea and the small shops that sell chicken fry. The amount of oil that is present in each item can make you cringe. However, the food being tasty makes it a forgivable sin.

Baba Tea at 1

Don’t fret if you find them closed

The shop timings in Nagpur are police enforced and therefore after 11 you will see patrol vans doing round in and around Mominpura. For this exact reason, you may find the front curtains of these shops to be closed. However, dare to go behind the curtain and you will be able to find delicious food being cooked.

Safety checks: You can find the Police Patrol Van doing rounds

Jama Masjid

Mominpura also has a huge Jama Masjid. Try to visit during the day time if you are looking to go inside.

If you are visiting Nagpur and are into enjoying the local culture of the place, then I do recommend a night time stroll in Mominpura and the neighbourhood.