FACTS & FIGURES
|Area||3,07,713 sq km|
|Religion||Hinduism (81.11%), Islam (9.66%), Others (9.23%)|
|Maximum Temperature ||35°C|
|Languages||Marathi, Hindi, English|
|Best time to visit||October to March.|
Maharashtra, one of the most industrialized states of India, occupies the western and central parts of the country and extends over the Sahyadri mountains; a vast stretch of 720 kilometers of the Arabian sea coast providing it a beautiful backdrop.
The present state of Maharashtra was formed on May 1, 1960 on unilingual principle by carving it out of the erstwhile Mumbai state, which included the predominantly Marathi-speaking areas as the former princely state of Hyderabad as well as the Central Provinces and Berar.
Maharashtra is the third largest state and the second most literate state in the country, according to 1991 census.
Located in the northern center of peninsular India, Maharashtra is surrounded by the Arabian sea in the west, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh on the north, Madhya Pradesh in the east and Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh on the south. The state extends between the latitudes 15.6° North and 22.1° North and longitudes 72.6° East and 80.9° East.
As far as the geography of Maharashtra goes, much of the state consists of the high Deccan plateau, which is separated from the straight Konkan coastline by 'Ghats'. The Ghats are a succession of steep hills, periodically bisected by narrow roads, and which are often crowded by medieval forts; Given their altitude, it is not surprising that the Ghats are home to the state's hill stations.
One of the three major regions of the state is the Sahyadri range with an elevation of 1000 meters. The unique feature of this region is a series of crowning plateaux.
Lying between the Arabian Sea and the Sahyadri Range, Konkan is narrow coastal lowland, just 50 km wide and with an elevation below 200 meters.
The third important region is the Satpura hills along the northern border, and the Bhamragad-Chiroli-Gaikhuri ranges on the eastern border form physical barriers preventing easy movement. These ranges also serve as natural limits to the state.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The climate of Maharashtra is moderate, with variations in temperature ranging between 16°C and 35°C. July to September are the months when monsoon lashes this state with good rainfall. This does not mean that the whole state gets uniform rainfall; a large part of inner Maharashtra remains dry in comparison to other areas under the rain shadow of the Sahyadri.
The first instance of human settlement in the regions of Maharashtra was in the lower Paleolithic age when the early men wandered around the river basins of Ghod, Bhima, Pravara, Godavari, and Wainganga. They were mainly hunters, living a nomadic life.
The Mesolithic age forced these people to settle at one place and shift to agriculture for sustenance. They moved towards other river valleys from Tapi where first evidence of agriculture is found to be of around 1700 BC. Jorwe in the Ahmednagar district has many evidences of the people residing in the region at that time. Between 1000 BC and 500 BC, the megalithic culture started to develop in this region. With the advent of the Iron Age in 500 BC, the gradual process towards urbanization started in this region and it was greatly helped by the many trade routes that connected it with north India.
The Chinese traveler Hiun Tsang visited this region in 640-641 BC and was very impressed with the prosperity of this region. During third and fourth centuries BC, the region of Konkan remained under the control of the Mauryans, whose policies led to great advancements in the fields of trade and Buddhist learning in the region. After the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire, the Satwahanas (230 BC - AD 225) came to rule this region. Pratishthan or modern Paithan was their capital. This great empire crumbled because of internal feuds in the ranks of vassals.
In succession came the great rulers of the Vakataka, Chalukya, and Rashtrakuta empires making Maharashtra a great center of culture and art. Yadavas were the last of these kingdoms that lost their power in the early 12th century and a long period of Muslim rule started in Maharashtra. Allauddin Khilji was the first ruler to understand the value of the Deccan as the key to extending influence over south India and consecutive rulers from Delhi till the 17th century tried their best to keep this region under their control.
From the middle of the 17th century, a new group of warrior people came to dominate the scene in Maharashtra and elsewhere in India called Marathas. The origin of Marathas is still debatable, but what is known is that they stole the limelight from the great Mughals and at one point of time even captured Delhi. It was only after defeating the Marathas that the English could establish their hegemony on India. Shivaji was the first great ruler of Marathas and it was he who paved the way for future Maratha influence on India. The heroism and greatness of Shivaji is still remembered by the people of this country and his stories are now part of the great Indian folklores.
Maharashtra remained at the forefront of the Indian struggle for independence and Pune was the center of most of the revolutionary activities taking place in the region at that time. Even in the Congress, most of the radicals were from Maharashtra and Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the undisputed leader of this group.
Mumbai is the largest metropolis in India and also its financial capital. Major sites in the city include the Gateway of India, Elephanta Island, Prince of Wales Museum, Flora Fountain, Haji Ali's Tomb, Kamla Nehru Park, Hanging Gardens, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or Victoria Terminus, Kalbadevi Temple, Bhuleshwar Temple, Jama Masjid, Mumbadevi Temple, Nehru Planetarium, Nehru Science Center, and its famous Marine Drive. Other places of interest are Taraporewala Aquarium, ISKCON temple, amusement parks like Essel World and Fantasy Land, beaches like Madh Island, Manori, Versova, Goral, Marue, and Juhu.
Pune is the second largest city of Maharashtra and was home for a long time to the Maratha leader, Shivaji. One of the city's most famous residents was the self-proclaimed guru, Bhagwan Rajneesh, later known as Osho. Other tourist spots in the city are the Shanwarawada Palace, Raja Kelkar Museum, Gandhi National Memorial, Samadhi, and Pataleshwar Temple.
The city of Aurangabad is known for its medieval monuments and cultural heritage. It was also the seat of the Mughal Empire for a short span. The city boasts of the Bibi-ka-Makbara, a tomb that has some resemblance to the Taj Mahal. The importance of Aurangabad is great, owing to its proximity to the world heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora. These sites have Buddhist, Jain and Hindu temples. Aurangabad is also famous for it's silk and cotton textiles.
Fifteen kilometers from Aurangabad is one of Maharashtra's many impressive forts, Daulatabad. This is the same place where Mohammed Bin Tughlak built his capital only to return back to Delhi after some time.
The site of the Ajanta caves is located to the northeast of Aurangabad, with the caves a little way off the main road. The 29 caves are built in a horseshoe shaped curve of the steep rocky gorge that rises above the river Waghore. The caves date from about 200 BC to 650 AD, but soon after, the site was abandoned, at roughly the time that Ellora was built and the Ajanta caves were slowly forgotten. They remained unknown for centuries, till, in 1819, soldiers from a British hunting party re-discovered them.
The Ellora caves are about 30 kilometers northwest of Aurangabad, cut into the hillside, and are famed for their sculptures. The earliest caves are Buddhist, but the later ones are Hindu and Jain cave temples. It is difficult to say with any degree of absolute precision when the various groups of caves were built, but archeologists feel that some of the building was simultaneous, with the early Hindu temples being carved at the same time as the later Buddhist caves. There are 34 caves, of which 12 are Buddhist, 17 are Hindu and five Jain.
Overlooking the Krishna and Koyna valleys, Mahabaleshwar, at an altitude of 1372 meters, opens up a whole world of picturesque delight. With an air of unspoilt beauty, it is a paradise for nature explorers and peace lovers, as also for filmmakers. The summer capital of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency, Mahabaleshwar retains its quintessential old world charm, despite the increasing crowds that visit the town. Numerous majestic mansions built during the days of the British, still stand as monuments of the Raj.
Lonavala is a famous hill station and a popular getaway from the cities of Mumbai and Pune. A special candy made of peanut and jaggery is a specialty of this place and popular all over the country.
FAIRS & FESTIVALS
Held in September/October, Ganesh Chaturthi is a ten-day event akin to Durga Puja in Bengal, and is celebrated with as much zeal. For this is the time when the routine in the state comes to a grinding halt. Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, has a very special place in every Indian heart as he is the god propitiated before all other gods, and at the start of any new task, plan or project.
Gudi Padva (March/April) is significant as it marks the beginning of the Maharashtrian New Year. It is dedicated to Sahaliwan, the son of a humble potter who overthrew the reigning Guptas of Malwa to become an important monarch guiding the fortunes of a new dynasty. This day marks the beginning of the Hindu solar year.
Best observed from Mumbai's Chowpatty Beach, Nariel Purnima or the coconut day in August marks the end of the monsoons and is celebrated by Maharashtra's fisherfolk with much enthusiasm.
Pateti in August is the Parsee New Year, significant because it was on this day that the Shahenshahi Zoroastrian community landed in India while migrating from Persia. The Parsees celebrate at the agiary or fire temple, and the community bonds are strengthened through feasts and the meeting of friends and relatives.
Mount Mary's Feast is celebrated in Mumbai for a week beginning on the Sunday closest to the birthday of the Virgin Mary (September 8). Held in the predominantly Catholic area of Bandra in Mumbai, thousands throng to the Basilica. A fair is held with huge Ferris wheels, amusement rides, bands and shows.
In Mumbai, with a large Catholic population, Christmas is a fun event. Trees are decorated and lit in tropical city, midnight masses are held and huge amounts of Christmas pudding consumed. Enormous stars of colored paper are lit and suspended across streets. Miniature cribs are crafted for Jesus recreating the Nativity scene.
The Ellora Festival and the Elephanta Festival attract the country's finest talent to perform amidst a surrounding that must surely be fit for the gods alone. These illuminated cave sites are the appropriate muse for the rendition of classical music.
Mumbai lights its Holi bonfire at Chowpatty, pays obeisance at Shiva temples with bael leaves during Shivratri, and observes a unique event for Janmashtami. On this day, which is Lord Krishna's birthday, earthenware pots full of curds and coins are suspended on ropes across the streets of the city. Then young men form a pyramid and the man on the top breaks the pot while the crowd around cheers and applauds.
HOW TO REACH
BY AIR - Maharashtra has five domestic airports and one international airport at Mumbai. Most of these airports have regular connections through the Indian Airlines and other domestic airlines. Mumbai is the most connected international airport in India and most of the important international destinations are connected with this place.
BY RAIL - Mumbai is the hub of the railway network in Maharashtra having three major railway stations and the headquarters of two Railway Zones in India. Most of the important places in India are connected by rail to Mumbai. Many important tourist spots in the state are directly connected to Mumbai by regular trains.
BY ROAD - Maharashtra has the best road connection in India and all the places of importance are conveniently connected to each other. The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation as well as private operators provide good services connecting all the tourist centers in the state.
WHERE TO STAY
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