AROUND 50,000 years ago, a nearly circular crater of 1800 m diameter and 150 m deep was created in Buldhana district of Maharashtra subsequently named as Lonar Lake. It was formed by an impact of meteoric 60 m wide and weighing two mega tons with world’s largest hyper velocity of 90,000 km per hour on the basalt (igneous type) rock. Initial appreciation of the crater to be of volcanic origin has now lagged behind.
Generally, 30,000 to 150,000 meteors are shot on the earth every year and so far, about 150 of such large and small craters are found over the land in the world. The craters in the seawater if any could not be recorded but the type of Lonar basalt (igneous type) rock crater is rarely found anywhere. The larger ones are Bosavati in Ghana 10,000m and Dai in Canada 3500m wide.
Geologists, Ecologists, Archeologists, Naturalists, Astronomers and NASA across the world keep keen interest on Lonar crater and its mysteries. British officer CGE Alexander confirmed in 1823 that the crater was formed out of meteoric impact. The amusing fact is that the Lonar Crater Lake has been described in several ancient Indian and historical text right from Rig Veda (3700 BC), many ancient Puranas and Pothis, Valmiki and Anand Ramayana, Kalidasa’s Raghuvaunsh (534 AD), Ain-i-Akbari (1600 AD), Sanskrit Ratnamala et al. The Lonar area was a part of the various kingdoms ruled successively by Ashoka, Satavahana, Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, Mughal, Yadavas, Nizams, Marathas and British.
The Skanda Purana legend states that a demon named Lonasur became insolent and devastated surrounding countries. He even challenged gods. The people appealed to Lord Vishnu to destroy him. He therefore assumed the form of handsome youth named Daityasudan and could find from demon’s sisters about demon’s hiding place, he removed the lid of den and destroyed the demon. The present Lonar Lake is claimed to be the den of the demon; the water was mixed with his blood and the salts occurred in the water through his flesh.
Many temples and monumental structures exist at Lonar but most are in dilapidated condition. The worth mentioning are Limbi barav kunda of Chalukya time. Some of them were of Yadav times and Hemadpant style of Architecture; the others are Ram Gaya temple, Vishnu temples, Mahadeva Temples, Goddess Kamalaja temple, Maroti temple, Brahma-Vishnu temple, Kartikeya temple, Jain temple and Daitya-Sudan temple (Khajuraho style), Shukracharya observatory. Lonar was called as Dakshina Dwar (Gate to south India) during Ashoka’s time. Some say that salt production was done there during Akbar time.
Mysteries at Lonar: The lake water is saline (sodium chloride, carbonate, fluoride) and highly alkaline (pH reported as 11) due to perennial streams. Sita nahani (it is believed Sita took bath there-at) has sweet water where pilgrims usually like to bathe. Two more small craters exist – Ambar (now in dilapidated state) and Ganesh lakes of 300 m diameter are believed to have originated from impact of small pieces of meteorite probably split from the main body which has probably gone 600 m deep in the earth but no evidence yet reported according to some scientists.
The rock has appearance like glass crystalline beads and chalks as were found by voyager on moon surface. Glasslike appearance developed because of initial huge heat and subsequently cooling took place. Outermost surface is with ejecta blanket with mineral spread over probably unto 400 m deep. Some stones float in water while some have magnetic property.
Polythene plastic dissolves as is reported and some stones of the structures are damaged because of saline waters. A rare mineral muskelinite has been found near the crater. The salts of the water have different names like dalla (white crystalline), khuppal (mixture of carbonate & chloride), pipadi (frequently tinged pink) and bhuski (flaky powder).
The forest-like area has varieties of flora and fauna and they could survive in spite of saline water of the lake. It has fourteen types of ‘Shaival’ (algae). The plants include custard apples, eucalyptus, lemon grass, bamboos, and teak while animals like peacock, crane, rabbit, deer, monkeys, snake, lizards, mongoose, fox and colored birds and its pleasant chirping, bharadwaj, cuckoo, dombari, chandol, and crunch are found.
The area has many herbs of medicinal value: white dorli for animal eye disease, bhoi rigni for skin disease, kal rajhans for gonorrhea and inflammation, arjun saroda or red katra for wound healing are found. Adulsa leaves for whooping cough, bitter naita on fever, ramkati on headache, white or red vasu for anemia or leukemia or jaundice, white rui for asthma, thorny korati for hair problem, black pithori for conceiving, night-blind flower for poison antidote and many others too found in plenty.
The state has declared on June 8, 2000 that the Lonar Lake will be treated, as ‘Abhayaranya’ (sanctuary or important heritage) and it has to take full responsibility to protect and preserve its scenic beauty and its specialised properties. With this, it is likely to attract large number of visitors including scientists and pilgrims. The state would construct certain barriers surrounding the lake so that the area near and inside the crater will not be intruded on or damaged.
Every year a grand festival of Goddess Kamalaja is held by lakhs of pilgrim along the rim of crater during Navaratri time. The place is connecting ancient, medieval and modern events and has useful eco-systems covering mysterious phenomena. Various scientists may like to carry out studies in respect of astronomy, geology, archeology, medicinal fields and others may like to visit the place for scenic beauty and for religious reasons. Man can build Taj like structure but Lonar Lake is really a miracle. The state now intends to provide more funds for preservation of this goldmine like lake. Arizona crater is dry but US has made it as very popular tourist attraction.
By road: Mumbai – Aurangabad – Jalna – Lonar is 600 km, Buldhana – Lonar is 95 km. Nearest airport is Aurangabad 122 km; Mumbai -Bhusaval rail’s Jalna station is 90 km from Lonar. MTDC resort near Lonar is comfortable to stay.
(The author is a former ‘Project Management Consultant’ for local and abroad civil construction activities. He can be contacted at ’11, Sameepan, Bamanwada, Sahar, Vile Parle (E), and Mumbai 400 099’ E-mail: [email protected])