Lonar Crater Lake - World Third Largest Crater

Lonar crater lake image
Lonar Crater Lake - World Third Largest Crater

Lonar Crater Lake is a saline soda lake located at Lonar in Buldhana districtMaharashtra, India, which was created by a meteor impact during the Pleistocene Epoch and it is the largest and only hyper velocity impact crater in ballistic rock, anywhere found on earth.
Lonar is one of Maharashtra’s best-kept secrets. Lonar is named after the demon, Lonasura, and is ringed by fascinating temples, including one with erotic sculptures reminiscent of Khajuraho. The crater was formed fifty-two thousand years ago, when a meteor crashed into the earth at an estimated speed of 90,000kmph, weighing 2 million tonnes. It gouged a hole that was 1.8km wide and 150m deep and this is the World Third Largest Crater.

Over time, the jungle took over, and a perennial stream transformed the base into a tranquil, green locale.

Lonar crater lake side view
Side View of Lonar Crater Lake 

According to historians, the Lonar Crater was initially discovered in 1823 by British executive, J.E. Alexander, although the site has several mentions in ancient scripts, which include the Skanda Puran, the Padma Puran and the Aaina-i-Akbari.
And yet, for all of its rareness, surprisingly few have heard of Lonar Lake apart from locals and occasional trekkers. From the pack of meteors that plummet towards the Earth  – anywhere from 30,000 to 1,50,000 each year –  this one managed to create the Earth’s largest and only hyper-velocity impact crater in basaltic rock. Lonar Crater Lake has triggered NASA scientists and officials from the Geological Survey of India to attempt answers to questions like: Why is the lake alkaline and saline at the same time? Why does it support micro-organisms rarely found elsewhere on Earth? Why do compasses fail to work in certain parts of the crater? And what lurks at the bottom?

Most tourists come to nearby Aurangabad to visit the Ajanta and Ellora UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but never make it as far as Lonar. The four-hour drive from Aurangabad runs through picturesque villages and fields of paddy, and ends at the Government guesthouse, an excellent place to start your astronomical adventure.The path down to the lake is slippery, the quicksand on the banks making this a truly treacherous trek. But you forgive the grazed knees and lost shoes for the sheer joy of trekking through the lush jungle, of finding curious minerals like the ancient glass formation maskelynite, and stumbling upon centuries-old, abandoned temples that are now inhabited only by insects and bats.

The town hosts a fair called Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami at Shegaon on Rama Navami during the months of March or April every year. The culture of the destination can be seen in its folk arts including Bhajan, Kirtan and Gondhal. The main languages spoken are Korku, Hindi and Marathi.

Places to visit near Lonar Lake
Shankar Ganesh Temple Near Lonar Lake

The forest itself is a haven for birdwatchers, with several species of migratory and local birds such as shelduck, black-winged stilts, brahminy ducks, red-wattled lapwings, blue jays, bayaweavers, hoopoes, barn owls, golden oriole, larks, tailorbirds, parakeet and peafowl. Gazelle, langur, bats, mongoose, barking deer and chinkara also inhabit the forest, along with snakes, scorpions, monitor lizards and brilliantly coloured insects and amphibians.

But it’s at the lake that sci-fi meets religion meets Indian folklore. Take a walk around the temples, each with a legend attached to its name: the partially submerged Shankar Ganesha temple, noteworthy for its rectangular Shiva idol; the Ram Gaya temple, named for Lord Rama’s departure; and the Kamalja Devi temple, which doesn't see much of a crowd, comes to life during Navratri. Your tiny pilgrimage ends with Gomukh, also known as Dhara or Sita Nahani temple (Sita is said to have bathed here), accessible only by an arduous climb. The architecture is unremarkable, but the temple houses a kund into which flows the mysterious, perennial freshwater spring that feeds the lake below. The most significant temple, however, sits in the town. The Daitya Sudan temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, slayer of the demon Lonasura (who also lent his name to the village). Locals claim that the crater was the demon’s den and that the lake’s murky water results from its spilled blood. The temple itself is reminiscent of Khajuraho, with erotic sculptures of copulating couples and ravaging beasts.

The views of this mighty crater lake, the only one of its kind in the world, are bound to give wings to your imagination. Images of ancient civilisations and mighty warriorson gold-plated vimaanas flying over the lake come to mind. Perhaps, there lies a brahmastra within the bowels of Lonar Lake? Perhaps some ancient, extraterrestrial treasure that holds the secrets to our universe?

How to reach Lonar Lake

Lonar Crater Lake Location: Lonar is a small town in Buldhana district of Maharashtra, about 140kms/4 hours east of Aurangabad. It is located 370kms/9 hours east of Mumbai. 

Route to Lonar: Aurangabad is the closest airport to Lonar, with direct, daily flights from Delhi and Mumbai. More than 20 trains run between Mumbai and Aurangabad via Manmad Junction. A post-monsoon rail journey offers stunning views of misty mountains, lush fields and waterfalls. The central bus stand in Aurangabad is about 1km from the train station. Buses to Lonar ply via Jalna and take about 5 hours. MSRTC, Shivneri and private buses run overnight services from Mumbai to Aurangabad (Rs650 for non AC, Rs750 for AC sleeper). Taxis can also be hired from Aurangabad.

Seasons - Best Time to Visit Lonar Crater Lake: 
Weather conditions remain semi arid in the destination, identical to Aurangabad. The best time to visit Lonar is during winters, as the months of November, December and January have a pleasant weather. 
March to May are the hottest months in Maharashtra, and temperatures can climb upwards of 40°C. Occasional thunderstorms however, provide respite from the heat. Winter (Oct-Feb) is mild, with clear skies, gentle breezes and average daytime temperatures that range between 12-25°C. Monsoons begin in June and can go on up to September. The maximum amount of rainfall is expected in July. 

Places near Lonar Lake: Lonar’s main attraction is the lake and the temples that surround it. Aurangabad city, 140km away, has several historic monuments such as Bibi ka Maqbara, the oft-ignored Aurangabad caves and the medieval watermill Panchakki. Within Aurangabad district are the UNESCO World Heritage caves of Ajanta and Ellora; Daulatabad, also known as Deogiri, the famous capital city set up by Mohammad bin Tughlaq; Khuldabad, also known as the Valley of Saints; the famous Grishneshwar temple; and the Pitalkhora caves.

Accommodations near Lonar crater Lake: The MDTC Holiday Resort is one of the few options in the area, and is decently located 1km from Lonar town centre. (Paryatan Sankul, Lonar; 07260-221602/ 07260-221602; Rs1,800 for an AC double room (maharashtratourism.gov.in). A better option would be to stay in Aurangabad and drive to Lonar Lake for a day trip. Hotel Manmandir Executive is a decent budget option (C5, Manmandir Terminus, Adalat road, Aurangabad; Rs1,800 per day for an AC double room. See (www.manmandirmotels.com/tariff.html). For a mid-range budget, choose Windsor Castle, which serves good food, and has modern amenities (Town Centre, Jalgaon Road, CIDCO, Aurangabad; 0240-2484818, 2484177, 2486011/ 91-98500-08222; Rs3,900 per day for an AC double room. See (hotelwindsorcastle.com)

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