During India 360, we travelled all the way to Buldhana district’s Lonar town to visit a ‘hole in the ground’. Yes, that’s literally what the Lonar crater is. A large hole in the ground formed by a meteor several millenia ago. The effects of monsoon have filled this hole with a large lake today. Here’s why the Lonar crater makes a good destination during your visit to Maharashtra, especially as a stopover if you are travelling from Aurangabad to Nagpur.
What is Lonar crater?
In Buldhana district in Maharastra, but closer to Jalna town of Aurangabad district, is a town named Lonar. This town has settled around a large crater that is significantly deeper than the plateau on which Lonar town is. This crater was formed by a meteor impact around 50,000 years ago. The effects of monsoon have led to the crater being filled by a lake. The water trapped inside the crater has no way out other than sinking as ground water. But the volume of water that the lake receives every year is more than the amount of porous rocks on the lake bed. So the Lonar lake never fully can sink in as ground water. The lake is permanent.
Along with rain water, there has been constant volcanic activity in the crater, resulting in discharge or minerals. As a result, the Lonar lake is saline, despite being filled by rain. A research conducted by IIT Bombay found that the minerals found are similar to those found on the moon. This could be due to the meteor that caused the crater in the first place.
The diameter of the crater is 1.8 km, while it takes an 8 km walk for a full circular route around it. The height of the crater is 290 metres or 970 feet. So when you stand on the watch tower provided at the lip of the crater, you look down nearly 300 m or 1000 ft.
The Lonar crater was discovered and first studied in 1823 by a British geologist named C.J.Alexander. Now the crater is a subject of interest for several geological, archeological and physics institutes around the nation. The archeological studies study the temples that were later set up at the floor of the crater. These temples are accessible between November and June, when the water retreats and exposes part of the floor surface. The temples are under water during monsoon, when the lake takes up the entire floor and rises halfway up the height of the crater.
Also interesting is that to the west of the crater is an emerging forest that is now under the effort of conservation. Trap cameras in the forest have spotted leopards and tigers.
What can I see at Lonar?
Here are some things that you get to see at Lonar crater.
- A view of the entire crater from the trail to the watch tower. The tower offers an unobstructed view of the crater lip and the lake on the floor. You can see the temples along the banks of the lake. These temples are really old stone structures.
- There is a way to get to the floor of the lake from an entrance to the east of the crater. This is only possible during November – June, when the lake recedes, exposing the temples.
- Lonar was ruled by the Mauryas, Chalukyas, Yadavas, Kakatiyas, Mughals and Nizam. Every ruling dynasty has left its mark here, in the form of stone temples, such as a Shiva temple, a sun temple, a Ram-Seeta temple, a Hanuman temple and a dargah. But the temples are all relics and not in continuous use.
Getting to Lonar
Lonar is well-connected, but not readily accessible. One needs to switch two to three modes of transport to get there. Self-driving is the only way to get directly from your city to Lonar crater. Let’s explore all the options.
The nearest airport to Lonar crater is at Aurangabad. From Aurangabad, one can take Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) buses (distinct by their red colour) to Buldhana or Jalna, followed by another bus trip to Lonar.
The nearest railway station from Lonar is Jalna, which is in Aurangabad district. Jalna is on the railway route Mumbai – Igatpuri – Nashik – Manmad – Aurangabad – Jalna – Parbhani – Nanded – Nizamabad – Hyderabad. From Jalna, you can catch an MSRTC bus to Lonar.
Public transport by road
Road transport is inevitable for Lonar, since it neither has an airport, nor a railway station. One can catch MSRTC buses, either direct ones or with one switch, from important towns and cities with 200 km of Lonar, such as Aurangabad, Jalna, Buldhana, Washim, Parbhani, Akola, Amravati, Wardha and Nagpur. Jalna, Buldhana, Washim and Parbhani are the only towns with direct buses to Lonar.
If you are driving from the west or north of India, such as from Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Gujarat or Rajasthan, New Delhi or Chandigarh, then it’s best to reach Aurangabad first. A trip to Ajanta and Ellora caves can be combined with a drive to Lonar. If you drive from Aurangabad city or Ellora, then you can reach Jalna, from where a state highway goes east straight to Lonar. But if you are driving from Ajanta caves, then it is best to reach Buldhana city and then use the south-bound highway to Lonar. If you are driving from the east of Maharashtra, i.e. Chhatisgarh, West Bengal, Odisha or Jharkhand, then you should drive along Nagpur – Wardha – Washim – Lonar route. From the south of India, such as from Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala or Tamil Nadu, you should reach Solapur, Bidar or Hyderabad, and from there drive to Latur. The national highway from Latur to Parbhani then leads to the state road Parbhani – Selu – Lonar.
India has several wonders made by the artistic hand of nature. Everyone is familiar with the famous ones like the Himalayas or the Rann of Kutch. But hidden gems like Lonar crater are known to few. It makes sense to study the maps, ask your friends, watch documentaries and of course read our blog to know about hidden places tucked away in remote places in the country. When you stand at the edge of the crater and look into the massive expanse, you’ll know just how unique this country is.