Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake

23rd Aug 2014
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 1/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
The Jungle trail after Gomukh Temple
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 2/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 3/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
The Lake
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 4/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
The eerie temple
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 5/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
KamalJi Devi Temple
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 6/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
KamalJi Devi temple seen from the the crater
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 7/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
The view from the steel watch tower
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 8/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
Daityasudan Temple
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 9/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
Outer architecture of the Daityasudan Temple
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 10/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
The front entrance of the Daityasudan Temple
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 11/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
The present deity at the Daityasudan Temple
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 12/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
The palanquin
Photo of Lonar-Travelling to India's only Meteorite Lake 13/13 by Arunabha Majumdar
Daityasudan Temple

Lonar isn’t your typical picnic lake. Lonar is unlike anything you have seen before. No amount of prior research really prepares you for it. After about a week of devouring close to everything the web had to offer on Lonar, I decided that I was no wiser than I was a week back. Sure, it’s got its own Wikipedia page and heavy sounding geological terms thrown at you every third line but the fact remained that this was the only meteorite lake in India. Technical information on Lonar is extensive though information from a trekker’s perspective and other logistical information about how to get there was surprisingly low. Maybe I just sucked at Google. The fact that really got me intrigued was the fact that there weren’t many meteorite lakes in the world and here we had one, right here in Maharashtra, about 160 kms from Aurangabad. Pics looked inviting enough and in the last week of August I headed out to Aurangabad via an overnight Bus.

Monsoons are like a mixed blessing in Maharashtra. Having spent 2 months alone in a village called Gudwanwadi (Let’s just leave the question marks for later on this one!); I squirmed and cursed the sun. The period from May to July is perhaps one of the worst in the entire country in the arid Maharashtra sun. The heat is severe and unrelenting and it’s not surprising that I waited for the rains more than the farmers there! The rains came and I realized my folly. They are lashing and don’t seem to stop. Anybody who has experienced Mumbai rains would know what I mean. So it wasn’t particularly surprising that by late August the entire state was covered in green and going by the meager amount of info I could garner about the lake and the crater, I expected a fair amount of trekking in the wild and foolishly decided my floaters would be enough. (Tip: Get trekking shoes if you are heading out to Lonar in the monsoons).

Aurangabad is a bustling town (The world-heritage Ajanta and Ellora caves are a little distance away) and I could comfortably find a decent hotel (Hotel Karthiki) near the main bus stop. The hotel was cheap and pretty good for the tariff (Rs. 600 per night). I freshened up and then headed out to the main bus stop to figure out how to get to Lonar. Turns out Lonar wasn’t very much frequented by tourists and was more or less an off-beat destination. I guess researchers and geologists were the ones enamored by the place. So here was the deal with buses. Private buses leave at around 2.30 am to a place called Sultanpur which is about 15km from Lonar. Sultanpur lay enroute to Pune so all buses heading towards Pune might as well stop there on request. There are state transport buses from Aurangabad to Lonar as well but their availability is meager compared to the private buses. One can also take a state transport bus from Aurangabad to Jalna and then head off to Lonar. Jalna is around 100 kms from Lonar and the availability of buses to Lonar from Jalna is more than in Aurangabad. I weighed my options and decided to take a private bus at 2.30am to Sultanpur. Sultanpur is 135km from Aurangabad. The bus promptly did turn up at 2.30 am. It was an uneventful ride to Sultanpur. Reached Sultanpur at about 5.30am. Sultanpur operates private autos to Lonar Village. I parked myself in one of these and amidst “Baazigar” reached Lonar at 6.30am.

Post a little bit of asking around (Being village, people are up and about pretty early) I headed off to the trail. There is the very conspicuous Gomukh temple at the entrance which has a perennial stream spouting out of one its crevices. Pilgrims jostled for space as they struggled to promptly get under the spout and put their heads there. Being the overt agoraphobic, I fled the place. There are steps leading down from the temple towards the Lake. This was where I realized I wasn’t really equipped for the trek through the jungle. The jungle was not very dense but lack of proper trekking shoes can be a hindrance. The trails are dirt tracks and it wasn’t particularly amusing to see little streams running everywhere making the trek through mud and slime particularly difficult with floaters.

The jungle is beautiful and I spotted a fair number of insects, particularly the dung beetle. It is advisable to be on the lookout for snakes during the monsoons. The trail is a little over 4 kms long and it looked like the trail was running around the perimeter of the Lake. And then, I saw this eerie temple right there in the middle of the jungle!

An old desolate historic temple right there in the middle of the jungle. This was pretty psychedelic. And yes, I desisted from being consummated by the inky and dark inside. The vast number of screeching bats inside made their presence apparent and I had no desire to play Batman particularly not a floater –clad Batman. The walls had been ‘adorned’ with love by people who can’t seem to get enough of vandalizing historical monuments. I seem to spot these white “raja-loves-priya” timeless love stories on almost all archaeological monuments these days; ASI or no ASI. I guess there exists these band of tourist couples who roam about the country with white paint with a “Hey, There’s a historical ruin, let’s show the govt. who’s boss” motive.

A small 15-minute walk and I came to an open space. This was it. India’s only meteorite lake. A wide vast expanse of greenish-blue water, still, lifeless save a few birds. It was eerie. And deathly silent. The jungle sounds made it all the more dramatic. This was a brilliant time to come here. I had caught the early morning rays of the sun peeping over the edge of the crater. The place was desolate. This was trippy. India’s only meteoritic lake. Here I was.

The lake is more or less circular. The trail covers almost a half of the circumference before we come to the open space. A small temple stood directly across the lake. I resumed the trail to get to the temple. It is a small ancient temple dedicated to the local village goddess. This is the KamalJi Devi temple and offered unhindered spectacular views of the lake and the crater. The architecture of the temple is very similar to the Daityasudan temple at Lonar.

A half-hour trek up the crater from the temple takes you at the edge of the crater where a rickety steel sight tower is perched precariously at the rim of the crater. Getting to the top does seem worth it for the spectacular panoramic view of the lake.

Lonar is also famous for the Daityasudan Temple – A temple strikingly similar to the Khajuraho temple in Madhya Pradesh; it was built by the Chalukya dynasty. The temple is rich with carvings and the present deity was brought into the temple in a palanquin. A very astounding trivia about the place are the stones scattered around the Daityasudan Temple. They make a metallic sound when hit. Similar to an iron block. This is characteristic of most stones in the area.

There is a Hanuman Temple too in Lonar famous for the fact that it houses one of the few idols of Lord Hanuman in a reclining pose. Most idols of Hanuman are built standing up and it is rare to see an idol built lying down. The idol was apparently covered with the traditional saffron (“kumkum”) powder by over-enthusiastic pilgrims before the authorities decided to intervene and scraped the powder off the idol and installed a barricade around the idol to prevent further unofficial coloring works.

Lonar is a beautiful town. The people are more than happy to show you around and are a simple lot. I was accompanied by a particular Nasser, a local who showed me the other attractions in Lonar in his Auto. They know the history of the place and you could probably glean more info off them than any guide book. This was one off-beat destination which will remain a treasured memory. Till next time…