I’ve been quite fascinated by incidences of astronomical importance. Eclipces, Supermoons, Meteor Showers, Passing Comets and much more. However out of these I’ve only witnessed a lunar eclipse that too partial and the Hale-Bopp comet which was visible in the sky to the naked eye. But, I do keep reading about important astronomical happenings such as India’s Chandrayaan, Mangalyaan, and Nasa’s Curiosity, along with the photos being made available by these missions. The subject is something that I can keep on reading and finding more information. This is one more reason why I had always been interested in visiting the Lonar Crater Lake in Buldhana, Maharashtra. So, when we decided to go to Aurangabad, first thing that I did was searched about places to see in Aurangabad and the following names popped up on Google among the top names:
- Bibi ka Maqbara
- Daulatabad Fort
- Ajanta Caves
- Ellora Caves
- Girineshwar Jyotirlinga Temple
- Lonar Crater Lake (160kms from Aurangabad)
I soon realized the possibility of a visit to Lonar, we decided that this is one place we wouldn’t want to give a miss and so we included this place in our itinerary along with Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves and Bibi ka Maqbara for a visit. We had booked one night stay at Lonar’s MTDC resort and as soon as we reached there, the manager introduced us to Shailesh Sadar, a guide who would take us to see the lake, the next day morning. However the evening when we reached we saw places like Daitya Sudan temple, Gomukh Temple, Zhoplela Maruti (Sleeping Hanuman) Temple. The next day morning we started our trek down to the lake as guided by Shailesh. Upon reaching there, Shailesh explained to us in details about how the Lonar Crater Lake was formed, the PH levels of the water, salinity and more properties about the lake’s water. He also explained the significance of the temples which have been built along the bank of the lake. You definitely need 2 days to fully explore all the temples and trek the full circumference of the lake and visit each of the 12 temples.
How was Lonar Lake formed?
Our guide Shailesh Sadar has explained in this video about how the Lonar Crater Lake was formed. I have added English subtitles for global audience to understand what our guide is trying to communicate in Marathi. Do watch the video to understand more details about Lonar Crater Lake.
What’s in the the Lonar Crater Lake video
Copying the complete transcript here too, as spoken by our guide Sailesh Sadar.
“Welcome to Lonar Crater Lake. People really long to actually see the this lake. And here you are today, actually in front of the lake. You must have heard that Lonar lake was created due to a meteor impact. Actually it was created by impact of an asteroid or a comet. There is a big difference between a meteor strike and an asteroid strike. Meteors are much smaller in size and get destroyed as soon as they enter earth’s atmosphere. Asteroids are huge in size. Despite setting ablaze due to the friction with atmosphere. They cause an impact on the earth and create such lakes. This impact took place approx 50,000 years ago. Asteroid must have been at least 60 meters wide and more than 10000 tonnes in weight. Speed of the asteroid must have been a at least 22 kms per second. The impact created an explosion of approx 6 mega tonnes. This kind of explosion is super powerful. The most powerful explosion that humans have witnessed so far was that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those were around 0.2 mega tonnes. According to experts impact of the asteroids would have created a shock wave across earth. It possibly even moved the earth a bit from it’s orbit. Because the rock found here is completely Basaltic. Basaltic rock is known to be the hardest rock found on earth. And it is amazing that the asteroid could create this huge crater despite the basaltic rock. The 6 mega tonne explosion resulted in a temperature of 1800 degrees Celsius. Such high temperature resulted in melting and evaporation of the rock. The asteroid also melted and evaporated eventually. The experts couldn’t find even a small piece of the asteroid. The max depth is around 170 meters. The diameter is 1852 meters. This makes Lonar rank no. 3 crater lake in the world. Ranked one crater is in Africa. It doesn’t contain any water. You can only view this African crater from far using binoculars. Lonar is world rank 3 impact crater lake and the only one formed on basaltic rock. Lonar also gets a mention in Mythology. Ramayana, Mahabharata. Lonar gets a mention even in Rigveda. The water in this lake contains salt. Its saltier even more than the sea water. Sea water can sustain life. But this water contains so much salt that existence of animal life is impossible. The lake contains blue-green algae. Which is why the color of the water appears green. The blue-green algae contains a lot of protein. It also contains spirulina. Spirulina is used to make tablets/medicines for diabetic people. Other specialty of this water is that if you take a bath in this water, it can cure many skin diseases. Ain-i-Akbari has a mention about the soaps created at Lonar and the same being used by Akbar. We now use soaps with capabilities of killing germs. Earlier soaps from Lonar were used in similar manner. Even today we have a colony name Sabunkar. Here people are still manufacturing these kind of soaps. Now lets do a PH test. When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon he had brought back some crystals and sand. The properties of those and the sand here at Lonar are similar. There are constant asteroid impacts taking place on moon. There are many craters formed due to this. One of the craters on Moon bears the same shape as Lonar crater. There is a research being conducted. The lake contains a bacteria that consumes methane gas. The research is being conducted by scientists from Goa. A scientist named Shaun Wright from Australia is conducting a study on this lake. According to his study, the bacteria found on Mars are the same as the ones found in this lake. Nasa’s Mars Mission…….. Curiosity!! Team from Curiosity had come and collected samples and data from Lonar in 2007. Now lets do a PH test. This is a PH paper. PH paper has a range printed on it. Drinking water is in a range of 6 to 6.5. PH of sea water comes to 9. With PH of 10.7 water from this lake is saltier than the sea water. Currently the color of this paper is yellow. I’ll dip this in PH paper in the lake water and it will change color. The range is 10.7. So it’s that much salted. Range of sea water is 9.0. Lets perform another experiment. As you know the lake water is alkaline. Something similar to your laundry soap. Also known as soda-water lake. Here what I have is turmeric powder used in the kitchen for cooking purpose. When you add turmeric powder to the lake water it will turn completely red, instead of yellow. Lake is thus also called as soda-water lake. The sand here has very high iron content. Lets conduct another small experiment with a magnet. Here’s a small piece of magnet. I will roll this piece of magnet on the ground. Mud particles will cling to the magnet because of the iron content. This content is from the asteroid that hit the earth. It must have been iron-rich. All the black colored particles you see is iron.”
We traveled from Mumbai to Aurangabad and from Aurangabad to Lonar. [Aurangabad-Jalna-Hadap-Wai-Mantha-Lonar] around 163km. This place is a must visit. There are quite a few temples to visit such as the Daitya Sudan temple, Kamalaja Mata temple, Motha Maruti temple and a few temples of Lord Shiva. All of them are ancient and made of stone. Despite quite a few of them being in dilapidated state, you marvel at their design and beautiful architecture.
When exploring the crater lake, we started from an entrance that is right opposite to the MTDC Resort lonar. Looked like that was the only way to go down but our Guide, Shailesh Sadar told us that it was one of the easiest climb downwards. The trek was actually difficult but no too much. Especially because Shailesh helped us with personally guiding my kid Devansh to the way down to the lake. It took us around 40 minutes to an hour to reach down. On the way we were waiting at the temples. There are these very old temples built in around 11th/12th century.
The first one was Shankar Ganesha Temple which has a Shiva Lingam that is similar to the Shiva Lingam at Rameshwaram. The temple was built by the Yadav Kingdom and the style of building is known as Hemadpanthi structure.
The second temple was Ram Gaya temple. Literally it means Rama left. In Ramayana, there is a mention of Lonar Lake with name “Panch-sarovar”. In this temple there is only an idol of lord Rama and the statue also has its shadow falling in three different directions. It is said that lord Rama had left this place and went to Nashik from here during his 14 years exile period.
The third temple along the banks of the Lonar Lake is Vaagha Mahadeva Temple. Among the 12 Shiva temples that are present along the banks of Lonar Lake, this temple is the biggest and most beautiful. However, this temple also houses a large flock of bats which reside inside and are very noisy. From a distance itself you’ll start getting this peculiar smell of bat urine. You may enter this bat infested temple from the north side, to see the pillar that has a carving that depicts a fight between a lion and an elephant.
The fourth temple is the Mora Mahadev Temple. Mora as in Peacocks. As per Shailesh, our guide, the name is due to the peacocks that used to stay near this temple. To view the Shiva Lingam in this temple you will require to climb down by about 2 feet. This temple also has some Kama-Sutra sculptures.
Although there are more temples along the banks of Lonar Lake, due to time constraints, the last one that we visited was Kamalja Devi Temple. The goddess Kamalja is the village deity of Lonar. She’s actually an avatar of goddess Lakshmi. When lord vishnu fought and killed a demon named Lavanasur. Here Lavan means salt and Asur means demon. At that time, godess Lakshmi also was present. It is said that Goddess Lakshmi liked the place so much that the decided to stay there as Kamalja. During the period of Navaratri (nine nights) festival the villagers organize a fair at the Kamalja Devi Temple and people pray for what they want. An age old tradition here is that if a couple is blessed with a boy, they would come to this temple and place bangles as a gift. There is also a temple called Gomukh temple which has a non-stop stream of fresh water that has been flowing for over 50 years. It is said in mythology that when Lord Vishnu killed Lavanasur, he was stained with Lavansur’s blood and to wash that the fresh water stream an avatar of Ganga was created. As per mythology, during the fight, Lavanasur was pushed into the earth ultimately creating the salt water lake which is now known as Lonar.