The Arabian Sea borders Maharashtra along the West Coast of the state. As India's second most populous state, there are only eleven countries of the world with a population greater than Maharashtra.Within the borders of Maharashtra are architectural and artistic marvels such as the sacred bathing ghats and temples of Nasik or the old maharaja's palaces of Kolhapur. Other notable attractions are the World Heritage Sites including the Kailasa Temple in Ellora or the series of rock-cut caves in Ajanta.Monsoon season in Maharashtra runs from May to the beginning of September and the rest of the year is generally hot. The hill stations of the Western Ghats can provide some relief from the heat.
The Ellora Caves are famous monumental caves listed as a World Heritage Site. Between the 5th and 10th C, Buddhist, Jain and Hindu monks carved monasteries, chapels and temples. The 34 caves represent a synopsis of Indian rock cut architecture.The 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves at Ellora were built in close proximity to each other, which is reflects the religious tolerance during this period of Indian history.Buddhist monastery caves have shrines featuring carvings of Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints. These are the earliest structures from the 5th to 7th C. Cave 3 and 4 are unfinished and most likely the earliest undertakings while Cave 9 has a carved facade. Cave 10 is the Carpenter's Cave and considered one of the finest in India. Cave 12 of the Buddhist caves is three stories with a large Buddha on the top floor.The Hindu caves are much more complex and were carved from the top down so scaffolding was not necessary. Many are simple monasteries but a few The Kailasa Temple is one of the most courageous feats of architecture. This enormous rock-cut temple represents Mount Kailasa and involved removing 200,000 tons of rock.The Dasha Avatara cave is notable for the depiction of 10 incarnations of Vishnu.The Jain caves are not nearly as ambitious in size or as artistic but they are very detailed. They are richly decorated and have some well-preserved sculptures.
Ajanta is a World Heritage site of Buddhist caves that dates from 200BC. The cave art and architecture at Ajanta has been well preserved because the caves were abandoned and not rediscovered until 1819. The discovery happened when British officers were on a tiger hunt.The caves are located in an isolated wooded horseshoe-shaped ravine. The thirty temples at Ajanta are set into the rocky sides of the gorge. The complex of caves at Ajanta consists of halls of residence (the Vihara) and monument halls (the Chaitya).The sculptures and paintings in the caves detail the life of Buddha as well as a depiction of history through court scenes, street scenes, scenes of domestic life, animals and birds.
Daulatabad is the home of the famous medieval fortress of the same name. Built in the 12th century by Raja Bhillamraj, it was originally called Deogiri, 'the hill of the Gods'. The fortress was renamed Daulatabad (City of Fortune) in the 14th C by Sultan Tughlaq. He wanted to make the fort a new capital but after losing thousands of lives in the move and realizing his mistake, he moved residents back to Delhi after only 15 years.The fortification was extended to include ramparts and bastions, huge bronze cannons, and inner walls with heavy iron gates fitted with elephant spikes.Views from Daulatabad over the surrounding countryside are spectacular.
Lonar Meteorite Crater
The Lonar Meteorite Crater is among the world's five largest craters. A British officer first discovered the Lonar Meteorite in 1823 but it is mentioned in ancient scripts.A falling meteorite formed the crater over 40,000 years ago and scientists believe that the meteorite is still embedded in the ground.The edge of the Lonar crater is home to several Hindu temples and wildlife such as langur monkeys, gazelle, peacocks and abundant bird life.A shallow saline lake is located at the bottom of the crater. When Emperor Akbar was in power, there was also a salt factory at Lonar.
The city of Nasik stands on the banks of the Godavari, one of the holiest rivers in India. There are also hundreds of temples and bathing ghats along the banks in this colorful city.Nasik is noted for its natural beauty and pleasant climate. Many varieties of fruits and vegetables are grown in this greenbelt area adding to the scenery. The city is also a religious center - it is one of the four cities in India that hosts the massive Kumbh Mela festival, which attracts as many as 12 million pilgrims.A few of the highlights when visiting Nasik include Ramkund, the holy bathing tank; Pandavleni caves and numerous temples.
Ramkund is the sacred bathing tank that is said to have been used by Lord Rama while in exile. Mortal remains can be immersed in the kunda and once absorbed in the water, this is believed to bring about salvation.Ramkund is a focal spot for pilgrims making it a lively destination that also has a colorful market nearby. There is also a monument made of white marble that was raised in memory of Mahatma Gandhi.
Nasik is home to over 200 temples and a few of the more notable are mentioned here. The holiest temple is Kala Rama or Black Rama, this black stone structure dates back to 1794 and the building stands inside 96 pillars.Sundarnarayan Temple was built on the bank of the Godavari and features three black images of Vishnu.Muktidham Temple is a modern, white marble structure with lines from 18 chapters of Bhagavad Gita on the interior walls.
Sevagram, the Village of Service, is where Mahatma Gandhi established the Sevagram Ashram in 1933. The ashram consists of 100ha of farmland, residences and research centers.Gandhi lived without electricity and telephone as the villagers lived. He built the Ashram house himself. Sevagram has been left as it appeared in the 1930s. Mahatma Gandhi's hut includes his original bed and some of his personal items such as his spinning wheel and glasses.The Center of Science for Villages houses a photo exhibit that follows Gandhi's life. There are also multi-faith prayers daily under the pipul tree that Gandhi planted.
Forts, Mahabaleshwar, India
Mahabaleshwar is a popular and picturesque hill resort. Travelers can enjoy breathtaking views of the valleys or picnic at the scenic picnic spots with springs and waterfalls as the backdrop.Pratapgad Fort, built in 166, is a famous fort that houses the tomb of Afzalkhan. Shivaji killed Afzalkhan after the two met to end a stalemate. Pratapgad offers magnificent views!Raigad Fort can be reached by ascending on the ropeway or visitors can climb the 1,460 steps to the top. Raigad is located alone on a hilltop and provides stunning views of the countryside.
Vipassana International Academy, Igatpuri, India
Vipassana International Academy is the largest center of its kind in the world. Established in 1976, Vipassana Academy offers techniques to relieve mental stress and promote inner peace. Vipassana is the development of insight into one's own nature. Gautama Buddha first taught it in the 6th C during his 45-year ministry.A 10-day residential course is offered free of charge but students must remain on site and follow the regime of silence and meditation.
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