Lonar Lake is a lake of salty and very alkaline water. It was formed in the crater left by a meteorite that crashed, it’s believed, about 52,000 years ago. However, more recent investigation from 2010 has concluded that the impact probably happened at least 500,000 years ago.
Still today, Lonar Lake is object of scientific research trying to analyze the chemical composition of the water streams and the life that is in it. NASA has also been reported to have visited the lake on a regular basis.
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Among the interesting characteristics of the water of the lake, it has been confirmed that there are two different streams of water flowing in the lake. One more superficial and the other one deeper. Each one was a different level of alkalinity, and some other special characteristics. But these two streams don’t mix, neither does the particular type of life that lives in each one.
Another interesting discovery from the lake is that, although most of the lake is salty water, on the south shore the water is fresh and drinkable. These are some of the reasons why so many researchers regularly go to that site to take samples and continue their investigations.
In addition to the scientific importance, this is a site of amazing beauty and mystery, as well as cultural, geological and religious history. However, due to the lack of knowledge that foreign tourists have of the place, because of lack of international promotion and mainly because of the bad road infrastructure to get there from Aurangabad city, it’s a place that is virtually empty of tourists, mainly foreigners.
The nearest big city from Lonar Lake is the city of Aurangabad (the capital of the province of Maharashtra, India). Nevertheless, it’s 137 km. away from the city, and it usually takes 3 hours by car to get to the lake. This is due to the disastrous state of the road that communicates both places. For Western standards, the trip to the lake is a Russian roulette. Well, perhaps I’m exaggerating, but believe me! The traffic on the road is dangerous! The road is just wide enough for two vehicle to pass, and it is a two-way road, and it has more craters than the Moon. And, if this is not enough, the road is used by many trucks, busses, cars, scooters, bikes, and even pedestrians (who need to walk along the road, for lack of a sidewalk). And too frequently, every few minutes, I froze while watching the driver stepping on the gas aiming straight at a bus, car or truck. Then, at the very last moment, just a few meters from crashing, he or the other vehicle would violently shift to the side and avoid the collision. And the reason for this is that the road is so badly damaged that very often two vehicles going in opposite directions have to share the same lane.
But once we have survived this crazy trip, we arrived at a very ancient village. I don’t know the real name of the village, but the place is known as Lonar.
The crater is 1,8 kilometers wide in diameter, and 137 meters deep. Somewhere I remember having read that it is the biggest basaltic rock crater in the world. Seen from above, you can see that it is perfectly round.
Around the lake, inside the edge of the crater, grow many teek-trees, which produce probably the most durable wood, and one of the most expensive in the world. Inside the crater, between the edge and the lake, there are also several natural waterfalls, and some few ancient hindu temples and shrines, most of them in ruins, that add to the feeling of mystery.
You can hike down to the lake along rocky and bushy paths. Sometimes you will find easier paths maintained by the locals who cultivate some areas near the lake. However, the last trek is a marshy one. From the distance you cannot see it, but you start walking on grass and water. The way down is a labyrinth, and you have to pay attention to know your way back. I lost my way back, and ended-up rock-climbing, until I realized I could go no further, and had to take a dangerous way down, until I eventually found a safe way out.
The Kamalja Devi Temple, that is located inside at the edge of the crater, is very interesting. It has a huge pool where the locals go to make their ablutions and religious purification baths. In addition to that one, there are some other ancient temples inside and outside the crater. Outside the temple, in the village, there are mainly the famous and very ancient Daitya Sudan Temple. This temple has a very atypical star-shaped architecture, and was built over 1,000 years ago. This is definitely a place you ought not to miss if you visit Aurangabad and and can spare a full day.