Lonar : The Ancient Town

We completed our Lonar trip with a day spent in the town, exploring the Daitya Sudan Temple. The earlier two posts, about the Lonar Crater and the Lonar Crater Temples are also worth looking at. This ancient village/town has more to it than these two areas, and in our limited time, we tried to explore it.

Lonar is a tiny village/town in Maharashtra where, about 50,000 years ago, a giant meteor crashed into earth, creating a large circular lake of 1.4 km diameter, which has saline water. In the circumference of the lake are 10 ancient temples, perhaps from the 9th Century AD.

The Lonar MTDC Resort is the place to stay, although an old PWD Guesthouse is also available on prior notice. We recommened MTDC anytime, as here it was neat, clean and rather unoccupied.

The town has an ancient temple called ‘Daitya Sudan Mandir’. Legend has it, Lord Vishnu had killed a Daitya, Lavanasur, here. Next to the temple is a Bramha – Vishnu – Mahesh temple. The idol of Mahesh is missing and has been replaced by an idol of Garuda.

The temple of Daitya Sudan is considered a fine example of the Hemadpanthi style of architecture. The temple has three niches, each dedicated to Chamunda, Surya and Narasimha. Each niche feels like a complete temple in itself. The walls and ceilings of the temple are elaborately carved with various figurines depicting various scenes from the scriptures, scenes from everyday life and stories. Try and keep a day only for this temple.

Apart from the temple, we came across a fascinating ancient ‘step well’ from the times of the Chalukya Dynasty. Locally called the ‘Limbi Barav’, the well is in a state of dis-repair, but fenced by the Archaeological Society Of India. On each of the four walls is a niche for idols which are now missing. On the east side is a balconied pavilion. There are Saptamatrikas carved on the space inside the balcony, suggesting there must have been an idol of a goddess. These seven ‘mothers’ can be “Brahmani, Vaishnavi, Maheshvari, Indrani, Kaumari, Varahi, Chamunda and Narasimhi.”

 

PWD Guesthouse Lonar
The old Public Works Department Guesthouse is located favourably overlooking the Lonar Lake.

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Temples Of The Lonar Crater

Lonar Temples

Almost slipping down the steep path to the lake, we saw the first of the 10 temples inside the Lonar Crater. The dense monsoon vegetation gave way to glimpses of a gorgeous temple made of stone. We reached closer to take pictures. It’s a Shiva Temple, and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is working on its restoration. These temples were built during the Chalukya Dynasty’s rule, around the 8th/9th Century AD. What did the people think of the brackish lake waters? What did they do with it? Some say it has healing powers.

I tried to keep a track of the temples with the photographs, but failed, as time erased some memories. Too much information to keep track of! But here are my text notes:

1st temple in the forest trek : Shiv Temple : 9th Century by Chalukya Dynasty
2nd temple : Rama Temple : Chalukya Dynasty in the 9th Century AD
3rd Temple was full of bats. It was a Shiva Temple also 9th Century additions by the Yadavkalin Dynasty.
4th Temple : Shiv Temple 16 positions are shown carved in rock here.
5th : Padmavati Temple : It has regular Puja happening here. The goddess inside is Swambhu.
6th Temple : Shiv temple again.
7th Temple : Shiv Temple without the Shiv Lingam
8th : Shiv Temple
9th : Daitya Guru Shukra Acharya : He found Sanjeevini in Lonar Crater and would treat Daityas. This temple was his vaidyashala.
10th : Kumareshwar Temple also by Chalukya Dynasty. This is also a Shiv Temple.

The last temple on top is Gaumukh Temple made by Hoysala Kings. Later additions were made by Nana Saheb Peshwa and Ahilyabai Holkar.

Our visit to Lonar is posted here in an earlier article.

Shiva Temple at Lonar
Shiva Temple at Lonar

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Lonar Crater : Born Out Of Alien Impact

We were in Aurangabad, and nothing much happening on the work front which required us to turn back, were tempted to visit Lonar. About 60,000 years ago (they say around the Pleistocene Epoch), a meteor is supposed to have struck this place in Buldana district of Maharashtra, created a massive crater about 6.7km in circumference and 1.2km in diameter. The impact must have created huge tremors, fires, whatnot, but it has also left a very unique lake here. Lonar crater is the only known hyper velocity impact crater in basaltic rock anywhere on earth. In 2007 biological nitrogen fixation was discovered in this lake.

The drive from Aurangabad to Lonar takes about 4 hours at a normal pace. The roads are not too good. But the journey is beautiful with agricultural fields on both sides, and apart from Jalna, not much ugly industrial landscapes.

We stayed at the MTDC Lonar (there aren’t too many options here), and were pleasantly surprised. They cooked to our tastes, and rooms were fairly good. We were also lucky to get a good guide Ramesh. We decided to go for a trek of the entire crater the next morning.

The climb down is kind of steep, but not too stressful. The walk around the Lonar crater is around 7km, starting with a moderately steep descent and then through a trail in the thick forest. Through the trail we came across a total of 10 ancient temples around the lake.

The lake waters are a rich green due to some kind of algae. The outer circumference waters have a neutral pH of 7 and the inner waters are a high alkaline or around pH11. We had read the lake forest has chinkaras and gazelles, but only found traces of wild boar, a couple of hyenas, grey langoors, fruit bats, grey hornbills, grey tits, Indian koels, alexandrine parakeets, oriental magpie robins, Indian robin, black winged stilts, red wattled lapwings, collared doves, peafowl, and heard grey fantails, and perhaps a few other birds I am missing out. We had visited in August, so everything was fresh and green, and the weather cool and breezy.

So this is Part One of our Lonar visit, which covers the lake. Part Two will cover the temples around the lake and Part Three, the other temples in the city.

Lonar
The drive to Lonar from Aurangabad is beautiful and we fell in love with this gorgeous evening light.
Lonar Crater
Our first glimpse of the lake was in the dark, but with just enough light to get a shot.

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