26-May-2011 A walk down into the only meteorite crater in India: 2 kilometer wide 150 meter deep mystic lake surrounded by ancient temples and natural beauty, at Lonar a tiny town in Central Maharashtra.
Lonar Meteorite Crater: The main crater which is two kilometer in radius and about 100 meter deep. Trek down into the Crater Lake, visit more than 12 temples inside and around the crater lake. Though not that significant, make a visit to Ambar Lake: a small lake near the main crater. Walk along the traditional villages around and enjoy a ride on bullock cart. Visit other popular destinations near-by Ajanta caves and Ellora Caves.
A Walk into the crater
The crater is a kilometer west of the town center. I started early morning for a walk into the Crater Lake along the sub road opposite to the bus station from the main junction at the bus station. A narrow road with either sides tightly packed by small houses and shops; sliced by several narrow streets. Most of the houses were old enough and made using wood and mud. A few of them were multistoried with wooden ceilings separating the floors.
After walking a kilometer, I reached the entrance gate to a group of temples called Dhara. Dhara located at the brim of the crater is said to be a source of pure and holy water: a small stream, from where water gets collected into a four meter wide shallow artificial pool constructed at the center of a five meter high fort like rectangular structure with steps all sides. Believed to have medicinal values this water is almost like the lifeline of Lonar. Many of the pilgrimage: visitors were happy to get a chance to bath in the water from the stream.
The water from the pool flows into the Crater Lake along a narrow stream with a cascade of waterfalls. A bird’s eye view of the mammoth crater: which is more than four kilometers in diameter and the lake deep down with green colored water, due to the presence of algae can be seen. This is the mouth of the only crater on Basalt rock on planet earth.
Concrete steps build down a narrow track leads down to the lake. Edge of the crater was dry, exposing the soil and fractured rock: almost no trees at all. It takes a little more than half an hour to walk into earth. A hundred meter wide silt deposit down the inner brim: though banned used for agriculture at some places. A narrow track along the circumference of the inner brim connects more than twelve temples inside the lake: though a few of the temples are abandoned. It is used by the pilgrims to visit the temples: pooja is performed everyday at a few of the temples.
Walk around the crater lake.
The track inside the lake is a few meters away from the lake water and just a meter above the water level: the track was submerged at some places. A strong smell of rotten egg: good sign of presence of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S): released by the lake water and the bird droppings. The lake looks green in color due to the presence of Blue Green Algae. There are hot water springs inside 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 hornbills fly across, but monkeys and peacocks are regular sights. This trek is interesting for bird watchers and one can easily spot more than 50 species of them.
Not many people move along this track: except a few aboriginals: gracing livestock and countable number of pilgrims visiting the temples. Of the many temples around the lake, a few of them is partially submerged in water and is home to monkeys and bats. Some of them have almost fallen off like the Mambarkhana Temple, which can be seen from the Dhar. There are several tracks leading to the lake from the rim used by visitors but the one from Dhar and the one opposite to MDTC hotel are the ones used frequently by visitors.
Most of the abandoned temples were empty: home to monkeys and bats. These stone built temple walls are decorated with sculptures and carvings. At some places the temple walls have fallen off into the lake. The silence of the forest is often fouled by peacocks and squirrel.
The only temple was visited by many was Kamlaja Temple: exactly opposite to the Dhar which is half an hour walk from the Dhar side. Pooja is performed here by a poojari who lives inside the temple. There is a huge bell and a wishing well near the temple.
The trek route continues further ahead circulating the lake : narrow and overgrown with bushes as it is not frequently used.
A little about Lonar
Lonar is town in the Buldana District of Maharastra and is famous for several stone temples and the meteorite crater. The crater is believed to have formed about 55000 years ago due to the impact from north direction velocity of 19.6 Kmph by a meteorite 60 meters in diameter weighing a million tons. This resulted in release of tremendous amount of heat, which melted the rock forming the crater.
It is believed that the meteorite is buried some 600 meters below the ground. Several unusual stones: magnetic, soft and porous rocks have been found here. Many local people could find transparent crystals which could have formed due to very high temperatures during the impact.
NASA(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and several other research organizations are working on Lonar Crater from 1823 after is discovery by a military officer C.G Alexander.
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.
How to reach Lonar
Lonar is easily accessible from Mumbai via Aurangabad (5 hours/ Railway Station) or Jalna (3 hours /Nearest railway station).
Mumbai to Aurangabad: Aurangabad is a prosperous city from the ancient times, named after Aurangzeb (Sixth Mughal Emperor of India, whose reign lasted from 1658 until his death in 1707), is located 370 Kms east of Mumbai. There are more than 20 trains running daily from Mumbai to Aurangabad via Manmad Junction (200 Kms east of Mumbai). The route from Mumbai to Manmad across the Western Ghats is interesting: with barren hills and deep valleys crossing several underground tunnels and amazing long bridges.
A trip after the monsoons will give stunting views of the Western Ghats or Sahyadris: misty mountains, green meadows, waterfalls and lots of flowers: moreover the pleasant climate and cool mountain breeze. This rail route usually gets blocked during monsoons due to landslides on tracks.
If the schedule is a relaxed one,an idea is to get down at Igatpuri (Between Mumbai and Manmad), a hill station with plenty of choice for trekking and cycling. The places beyond Manmad is dry with barren sandy hills of the Decan Plateau.
Aurangabad to Lonar: Move to Central bus stand of Aurangabad, which is about one Km from the station. From here there are buses to Lonar via Jalna: a journey which takes roughly 5 hours (113 Rs in 2011) crossing tiny traditional villages, in-between the never ending fields across valleys and barren hills. The road is smooth and comfortable: except for those lucky travelers who are gonna meet goats and hens as co-passengers.
Alternatively detrain at Jalna, which is nearer to Lonar (Buses to Lonar from Aurangabad halts at Jalna), but most of the buses to Lonar starts from Aurangabad and so availability of seat may be limited.
Lodging and Fooding at Lonar: There are several lodges at Lonar town: near the Bus Station with tariff ranging from Rs 100 to 1000 per night. The MDTC guest house near the creator is a kilometer away from town (During my visit at 9 AM the manager was busy banging the cook to wake up). The street food and fresh juice available in the market was tasty and good. There are plenty of Dhabas and tea stalls in the town.
ATM and Internet : There is an ATM counter, near the bus station and there are a few snail slow Internet Cafes in town.
GPS: 19.9851,76.5210 (Garmin Geko 201)
Books: Lonar - The Unique Indian Meteorite Crater in Basaltic Rock By Mr S.T.Bugdane (The Book is available at many shops in Lonar). The author lives at Lonas and has got an amazing collection of stones and knows good information on Lonar and Crater.
I love traveling and I have made the most of it while working in Bhutan.By traveling zig-zag all across India from North to South between Kerala and Bhutan for holidays. The mercy of many editors combined with my enthusiasm to photography and (re)creative writing has filled up the pages of several glossy magazines, newspapers and books...read more