Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lonar Crater Lake!

One of its kind phenomena on the planet is the Lonar Crater Lake with geological, geographical, mythical, scientific wonders - all served in one platter. The only hyper-velocity crater lake in the world formed from basaltic rock was created by a meteor impact some 52000 years ago and is the third largest salt water lake in the world. The mystery behind the aftermaths of the meteor impact as to why a compass fails to work in some parts of the crater, how it is able to support some rare micro-organisms that are hardly found at any other place on the planet, why is the water alkaline and saline and what lurks at the bottom of this lake make it even more intriguing.

The lake has been mentioned in some ancient scriptures such as the Skanda Purana, Padma Puran and Aina-i-Akbari. Locals believe that the town got its name Lonar after Lord Vishnu defeated the demon Lonasura. Scattered around the periphery of the lake are fifteen exquisite temples giving us a feel that they stand guard to protect the lake, barely the remains of which now stand to tell the tale of the glorious past. 

We were left awestruck when we caught the first glimpse of the green water surrounded by thick forests all around the lake and the steep slopes made us aware of the significant impact of the meteor. It was time to begin our trek and we started our descend but little did we realize that the descend would be fast, steep and slippery. Once we descended, we were greeted by Ram Mandir and Shiva Mandir. Of course, these temples are all in ruins now, a few of them even bat infested but these structures now covered in moss got us thinking of the purpose behind their existence. 

Walking around the circumference of the lake through the forest, thick shrubs, wetlands and rugged rocky terrain, we visited each of the temples. They had a magnetic charm and drew us towards them either due to their forgotten past or the architecture, both equally fascinating. The walls and pillars had exquisite carvings and sculptures some even erotic reminding us of the similarity it shares with the Khajuraho style of temples, the intricacy in all of it even when ransacked stands out speaking volumes of ancient times.

Post monsoon, a few of them are said to be partially submerged in water. Due to the salt content of the lake with PH levels at 10.7, the temple structures have faced lot of erosion and continue to do so. Only one of the temples is in great shape and the religious rituals happens everyday. 

It is not just for the crater that people visit this place. It is great place for trekkers and bird watchers. The area around the crater is rich in flora and fauna and it is indeed surprising to see birds and wildlife thriving in this vicinity. Apart from resident birds such as Indian roller, magpies, grey hornbill and others it also is a haven for a lot of migratory birds. It is also home for thousands of peafowls and chinkara, so don't be surprised if peacock calls keep you occupied during your trek. We ended up spotting a porcupine carcass and snake skin hidden behind one of the temple's pillar. While the place is void of people but for a few trekkers, once a year the locals gather here to celebrate Kamala Devi festival. 

After the trek around the lake, you start your climb and you are greeted by a waterfall and a mysterious perennial source of fresh drinking water, the source of which has never been established. Then comes the toughest part of climbing up a fleet of rock cut steps and on reaching the top you are greeted by the most striking Dhar. This is an ideal spot to end the tiring trek and it was a lovely moment to see the sunset with stellar views of the Lonar Crater Lake. 

Do keep in mind that this is not an easy trek, first we had to trek down 650 mt and then walk around the lake which is  roughly about 5 km. For the trek, you need a pair of perfect trekking shoes and a day pack with water and snacks. Once you start your trek there are no shops en-route. Safety is paramount, it is highly advisable to hire a guide as the route is tricky and at times the pathway is hidden behind thick shrubs. For hiring a guide, we highly recommend the services of  Mr. Rathore- a fine, knowledgeable, kind, patient and honest man. He is very informative and can be reached on- 9158925048.

A kilometer away from the crater and in the middle of the town, is another stunning structure- Daitya Sudan Temple. This Hemadpanthi style of temple is dated to the Chalukya dynasty that ruled parts of India between 6th and 12 century. Inside the inner sanctum do glance at the corner of the ceiling to be blown-away. It was breathtaking to see every nook and corner of the temple being decked up with stunning art. This temple is a stunning monument and reminded us of the great vibrant past this part of the country had.

Stay options in Lonar are very limited with a handful of very basic hotels. Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) runs a full fledged resort that is in fine form. This is one of the best properties to stay in Lonar. Also, this is the only place in town that serves good food. Autos are available easily and charge a reasonable amount to commute within the town. The resort people are very helpful and they arranged an auto for us to get back to our lodge post dinner. 

We checked into Krushna Lodge opposite the Bus Stand. It is a very basic lodge with spacious, clean rooms and is centrally located with easy access to autos that take you to the Crater Lake. The service at the lodge is pretty good. 

The best way to reach Lonar would be to reach Aurangabad first, and then a bus ride from CIDCO Bus terminal drops you directly at Lonar town for Rs.158 per person . If you happen to miss the direct bus, you can hop on to any bus heading to Sultanpur. From here, there are plenty of autos that ply to Lonar as it is just 11 km from Sultanpur.  The journey from Aurangabad to Lonar is very pleasant and we got to see the country side of India that is blessed with green pastures and the occasional brightly painted homes. 

Lonar Photo Blog.

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