Maharashtra – Overview
Maharashtra, the land of the great Marathas, was known as Rashtra in the Rig Veda, Rashtrik in Ashoka’s regime and Maharashtra afterwards. Geographically, most of the part of Maharashtra stands on the high Deccan plateau and historically the state was the main centre for the Maratha empire, which defied the Mughals under the rule of great warrior Shivaji. Spread over 307,713 sq. kms land, Maharashtra is the third largest state in terms of area. With a population of 96,752,247, Maharashtra is the second largest state in terms of population. Maharashtra shares boundaries with the states of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. While the lovely, cool Arabian Sea, makes up the state’s 720 kms long coastal line.
Mumbai, India’s commercial capital is the capital of Maharashtra. In fact, Mumbai not only makes Maharashtra one of the important states economically, but it is also a major arrival point for overseas visitors. From Mumbai, you can head off into Indian subcontinent in a number of directions. In addition to Mumbai, Maharashtra has several other tourist destinations like Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad. While you visit Maharashtra, massive temples, magnificent forts and monuments, rich art & culture, delectable cuisine, colourful fairs and festivals, picturesque hill stations, shimmering lakes and rivers, mystic caves, beautiful beaches, varied wildlife and exciting shopping, mesmerize you.
Maharashtra – History
Maharashtra’s history is not a modern one, little information is available about the region’s early history which dates back to the 3rd century B.C. In earlier days, Maharashtra was known as Dandakaranya and later it became a part of the Mauryan empire, under the rule of Buddhist emperor Ashoka. With the downfall of the Mauryan empire, Satavahanas came into power in Maharasthra and ruled from 230 B.C to 225 AD. During the Satavahanas rule, Maharashtra witnessed the biggest cultural development.
In the early 3rd century, the Satavahana empire gradually disintegrated and power came under Vakatakas, who ruled over Vidarbha, the eastern region of Maharashtra from 250 AD to 525 AD. In the 6th century, Maharashtra came under the kingdom of Chalukayas of Badami, later in the 753 AD the region was ruled by Rashtrakutas.
By 973 AD, the Chalukayas of Badami seized the power and ruled over the region until 1189. Later Maharashtra came under the regime of Yadavas of Deogiri, who ruled till 1294. After the Yadavas, the control of the empire went into the hand of the Muslim rulers of the Delhi Sultanate, Alauddin Khilji and later Mohammed Bin Tughluq.
In 1347, the Tughlaqs collapsed and the Bahmani empire of Bijapur took over the regime, ruling the region for the next 150 years. Till 16th century, central Maharashtra was governed by several autonomous Islamic kingdoms, while the coastal region was annexed by the Portuguese. After the two hundred year of Muslim rule, Shivaji (1627-80) united the Marathis and formed the Maratha kingdom. But the Mughals captured Daulatabad in 1633 and the very next year, Aurangzeb defeated Shivaji in battle and kept him imprisoned in Agra. After the death of Shivaji, Aurangzeb re-established Mughal influence in Maratha kingdom centering at Pune.
In 1707, after defeating the Mughals, the Marathas became the dominant rulers of India. In 1712, Bajirao I, became the king and established the Peshwa dynasty with Pune as their capital. In the third battle of Panipat in 1761, the Maratha Empire was totally defeated at the hands of Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali. After the loss, Maratha Confederacy was reduced to a small regional kingdom.
Next the British East India Company arrived in India and started interfering in Indian politics. Due to stiff resistance from the Marathas, the British fought three battles with Marathas between 1777 and 1818. In 1819, the Maratha empire came to end and British formed the Bombay Presidency. In post-independent India, the princely states were incorporated into the Indian Union and the Deccan States, were combined with Bombay State, which was created from the Bombay Presidency in the year 1950. On the 1st of May 1960, on the basis of Marathi language, the new state of Maharashtra was formed.
Maharashtra – Tourist Destinations
Maharashtra, one of the largest industrialized states of India, attracts thousands of tourists from across the globe every year. Situated in the western and central parts of the country, Maharashtra extends over the Sahayadri mountain ranges and a vast coastline of 720 kms of the Arabian Sea. A land of rich art & culture and traditions, Maharashtra is known for its outstanding architecture, serene beaches, imposing forts and monuments, museums and picturesque temples. With its wildlife sanctuaries and parks, Maharashtra attracts large number of nature lovers as well as wildlife enthusiasts. Mumbai, the state capital city is the foremost tourist destination, other popular destinations are Pune, Nagpur and Aurangabad.
Maharashtra – Temples
Maharashtra, renowned as a major centre of Indian Temple architecture, has a wealth of venerable pilgrimage centres. The region soaked in the tales of valour of Marathas, is home to several exquisite temples. Some of the popular temples are Elephanta Cave Temple Kailashnatha Temple, Ajanta Caves Temple, Ellora Caves Temple, Siddhivinayak Temple, Mumbadevi Temple, Balaji Temple, Bhimshankar Temple, Grishneshwar Temple, Tryambakeshwar Temple, Mahalakshmi Temple and Bhivani Temple.
Maharashtra – Forts & Monuments
Maharashtra, the state with a history dating back to the 3rd century B.C, has witnessed the rule of various dynasties, who built several forts as a part of their defence mechanism. Over the years many forts have diminished or destroyed, but you will still find over 350 forts in Maharashtra. Apart from the massive forts, you can see large number of magnificent monuments in Maharashtra. Popular forts and monuments of Maharashtra are Bassein Fort, Daulatabad Fort, Gavali Fort, Ghobunder Fort, Murud Janjira Fort, Murud Harnai Fort, Panhala Fort, Raigad Fort, Mumbai Fort, Vijaydurg & Sindhudurg Fort, Sinhagad Fort, Gateway of India, Victoria Terminus, Aghakhan Palace, Khuldabad and Flora Fountain.
Maharashtra – Arts & Culture
Maharashtra, a region with a diverse and rich geography, varied colourful people and customs, boasts of a rich culture and age-old tradition of art and crafts. Since time immemorial, Maharashtra has been the home of varied artistic techniques which have flourished under the rule of many rulers, including the great Mughals and the Marathas. From the centuries old wonderful paintings at Ajanta and Ellora caves, to today’s Warli paintings, Maharashtra has long connection with art and crafts. Popular art and crafts forms of Maharashtra are Mashru and Himru Fabrics, Bidri Ware, Paithani Sarees, Sawantwadi Crafts, Kolhapuri Chappals and Narayan Peth Sarees.
Maharashtra – Cuisine
For Maharashtrians food means God, so they believe in offering their food first to the God as a thanksgiving ritual. In Maharashtra you can savour a wide range of delicious cuisine, which give distinctive flavours. Maharashtra cuisine can be broadly divided into two types such as Konkani and Varadi. Although these cuisines are quite different from each other, but both extensively use seafood and coconut. Almost all the vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes in Maharashtra is served with cooked rice and soft breads. Vada or Amboli, is a special rice-puri served as a part of the main meal in Maharashtra. Some other specialties of Maharashtra include Chaat, Pani Puri, Bhelpuri, Paw Bhaji Dosai, Kebabs, Baida Roti, Tandoori Chicken and Fish Koliwada.
Maharashtra – Adventure
With cool blue Arabian Sea, serene beaches, shimmering lakes and rivers, the mighty western ghats, thick forests and rich wildlife, Maharashtra offers suitable conditions for undertaking a variety of adventure sports. An exciting adventure sport, Para Gliding takes you above the ancient forts, caves, hills and several other unexplored region of Maharashtra. Trekking is another popular sport of Maharashtra which provides you a good chance to conquer the mighty peaks of Maharashtra and experience the nature at its best. Other famous adventure sports are rock climbing, mountaineering, windsurfing, speed boating, kayaking, water scooters, sailing and wildlife safari.
Maharashtra – Fairs and Festivals
Maharashtra, a land of many religions and culture, abounds in various fairs and festivals. In fact, in the towns and villages of Maharashtra, life revolves around colourful fairs and festivals. Most of the Maharashtra festivals are associated with different religions, but a few festivals are secular in nature and people of all religions celebrate them with similar enthusiasm. Some of the popular festivals are Makar Sankranti, Holi, Gudhi Padwa (Maharashtra New Year), Mahavir Jayanti, Good Friday, Buddha Purnima, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Ganesh Chaturthi, Nag Panchami, Dussehra, Diwali, Kala Khoda Fair and Festival, Banganga Festival, Elephanta Festival and Ellora Festival.
Maharashtra – Hills
Blessed with natural beauty, Maharashtra also shows evidence of a divine hand in its mountains and hills. The Western Ghat range running parallel to its coast from north to south, at an average height of 1,200 metres. With its foothills sometimes approaching the sea-coast and sometimes moving 50 to 60 kms away, Maharashtra Hills seem to be playing the hide and seek game with the beautiful Arabian Sea. Within these mountains, lies the hill stations of Maharashtra. Popular hill stations of Maharashtra include Mahabaleshwar, Khandala, Panchgani, Amboli, Bhandardara, Chikhaldara Hills, Jawahar, Lonavala and Karla, Malshej Ghat Matheran, Panhala and Toranmal.
Maharashtra – Lakes and Rivers
The Western Ghats which houses the hill stations of Maharashtra, also form the source of several major rivers of the state. Godavari one the five major rivers of India, flows through the state of Maharashtra. Maharashtra rivers, along with their tributaries, flowing into the Bay of Bengal, irrigate most of the part of the state. Apart from Goadavari, other main rivers are Krishna River, Tapti River and Narmada River. In addition to rivers, Maharashtra is also home to a number of lakes such as Talao Pali Lake (Masunda Talao), Upvan Lake, Rankala Lake, Ramkund Lake, Ambazari Lake, Pashan Lake, Koyna Reservoir, Powai Lake, Venna Lake, Vihar Lake, Tansa Lake and Lonar Lake.
Maharashtra – Caves
Built artistically several centuries ago, some dating to the 2nd B.C, the Caves of Maharashtra offer an exceptional appeal and aura. Situated amidst the formidable Sahayadri ranges, the caves housed the monks of different religions in olden days. Known for their excellent paintings and sculpture, the Maharashtra Caves will leave you spellbound. While you visit Maharashtra don’t forget to pay a visit to these caves. Most popular caves are Karla Caves, Kanheri Caves, Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves, Elephanta Caves, Junnar Caves, Bhaja Caves and Aurangabad Caves.
Maharashtra – Beaches
With its 720 km long coastline, extending from Dahanu and Bordi in the north up to the tiny state of Goa, in the south, Maharashtra is home to some of the finest beaches of the country. If you have a penchant for sand, sea and surf, the beaches of Maharashtra provide you plethora of opportunities. Apart for enjoying exciting water sports and sun bathing on golden sands, you can explore the massive forts, temples, churches and remote areas of the state. Some of the popular beaches in Maharashtra are Juhu Beach, Marine Drive-Chowpatty Beach, Bassein Beach, Dahanu-Bordi Beach, Daman-Silvasa-Vapi, Ganapatipule Beach, Harnai Beach, Madh Island Beach, Mandwa-Kihim, Marve-Manori-Gorai, Murud-Janjira Beach, Shriwardhan-Harihareshwar, Tarkali Beach, Velneshwar Beach, Vengurla Malvan and Vijaydurg-Sindhudurg.
Maharashtra – Wildlife
Maharashtra, the land rich in natural beauty, is a paradise for nature loving people. Boasting of a varied topography, Maharashtra is home to several wildlife sanctuaries and parks, with a wide variety of vegetation. In these wildlife sanctuaries and parks, you can see domestic as well as rare migratory birds and wild animals like Tiger, Wild Deer, Sambar Crocodile, Bisons, Neelgai etc. Most famous wildlife sanctuaries and parks include the Borivili Wildlife Park, Mahim Nature Park, Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary, Melghat Tiger Reserve and Karnala Bird Sanctuary.
Maharashtra – Shopping
Although Maharashtra has several places for shopping, but Mumbai is the ultimate shopper’s paradise. Mumbai offers exciting shopping opportunities under the sun as well as under the moon. In Mumbai, Chor Bazaar, Zaveri Bazaar, Breach Candy, Kemps Corner, Colaba Causeway, Fashion Street are the famous shopping areas. In these bustling markets, you can shop a wide range of products. Maharashtra has also a rich heritage of handicrafts, while shopping you can buy handicraft items in the shopping centres of the state. Apart from Mumbai, Aurangabad is also a good destination for doing some shopping. Aurangabad region is renowned for 2000-year-old craft of weaving Paithani Sarees. Popular items which you can check out in Maharashtra are Paithani and Himroo Sarees, Narayan Pethsaris sarees, Lacquer ware, Bidri Ware, Warli Tribal Paintings and Kolhapuri Chappals.
Maharashtra has a moderate climate, typically monsoonal in character, with hot and humid rainy season and cold winter season. Maximum heat is experienced during the months of March and May, when the temperature raises to a high of 40°C. The south-west monsoon arrives in the state in June and lashes some parts of the state with good rainfall, whereas a large part of inner Maharashtra remains dry. By the end of September the south-west monsoonal current weakens and the winter arrives by the end of October. Winters are moderate and temperature drops to a minimum of 16°C.
Best Time to Visit
Best time to visit the coastal areas is September to April, while for the hilly areas the best season is September to June.
Airlines : Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra has one international (Sahara International Airport) and one domestic (Santa Cruz Airport) airport. From Sahara International Airport, flights are available for important cities of the world, while from the Santa Cruz Airport flights ply to all the major cities of the country. A number of airlines such as Air India, Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, Air Sahara, Spice Jet, Air Deccan, operate regularly flights to and from Mumbai. Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad also have their own airports.
Railways : Mumbai is the main railhead of Maharashtra. A number of express and super fast trains connect the city with other cities of the state and India. Other cities like Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad also have their own railway stations.
Roadways : An exceptionally good network of National Highways and State Highways criss-cross the state and link it with rest of the country. Intra and Inter city bus services make it convenient to travel to any part of Maharashtra and nearby states.
By Ship : Mumbai has an international naval port, so one can reach Maharashtra by ship too. Damania Shipping Private Ltd. operates a catamaran service between Mumbai, Ratnagiri and Goa. The catamaran service remains suspended during the monsoon season.