and Colleen Gantzer take an excursion to the world’s only
high-velocity meteor crater in hard basalt - Lonar
lake level, the crater towers 130 m above
for a getaway that offers more than the usual mountains-lakes-forests-and-beaches
scene? Weve found it. It is, quite literally, the only
one of its kind in the world. And, if youll permit us
to stretch a point a bit, its been created by, and for,
a star visitor.
Interested? So were we and, since we were in Aurangabad after
our visit to Ajanta and Ellora, we decided to drive out 165
km, and see things for ourselves. Our friend, philosopher
and guide was the very enthusiastic Capt Surendra Surve of
the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). We
also got a number of fascinating facts, about this unique
place, from researcher Ganesh Sonune. According to scientists,
about 50,000 years ago, something large, and very fiery, came
blazing out of the sky. It was an enormous rock from outer
space, a meteorite, snared by the earths gravity and
snatched out of its orbit.
small stream that feeds the lake
When it hit the hard, black, basaltic rocks of the western
ghats, the earth shook and cracked. Some of it vapourised;
much of it melted; a great amount of it was ejected as a pluming
fountain of lava and rocks and cascaded around the great hole
gouged out by the falling star. The early humans, who had
witnessed this titanic cataclasm, had it seared into their
memories. And out of their recollections, evolving into myth
and legend, was born the story of Lonasura. According to one
version, this terrible demon, who preyed on humans, hid himself
in the earth but was killed by Lord Vishnu. Taking pity on
this terrifying creature, however, the Preserver, named the
asuras excavated den, LONAR.
We came upon Lonar quite unexpectedly. At one moment, there
was the bumpy rural roads, undulating between scrubby dunes;
there next there was the cluster of red-roofed buildings of
the MTDC on our right. And
on our left was the huge crater of the meteorite.
Its enormous. We stood at the rim of the crater: almost
6 km around. From here, the ground slopes away at a 30 degree
angle to the bottom. There, a lake spreads, fed by rain-water
and small streams and springs trickling down the basaltic
rock of the crater. And since the only exit for this water
seems to be evaporation, it is strongly saline.
But no amount of statistical data can account for the almost
hypnotic presence of the lake. It stares up like a compelling,
cyclopean eye: alien and appealing at the same time. We decided
to give in to its spell and began to clamber down.
thrown out by the great explosion
not easy. Huge boulders, thrown out by the great explosion,
lie scattered around like a haphazard tumble of giant building
blocks. The sun thudded down on us and the bare boulders reflected
its heat. But, as we got deeper into the crater, shrubs and
bushes appeared, giving way to trees and welcoming shade.
The ground softened underfoot and there was the faint mushroomy
smell of wet earth. We paused and caught our breaths.
were 130 meters below the rim, at lake level. A cool breeze
blew and the lake looked like velvet brushed the wrong way.
Water-birds hunted in the shallows, flew in a flurry of spray
when we approached too close, peacocks mewed, monkeys gambolled
in the trees. It felt very much like an undisturbed Eden.
But that was deceptive. Old stone temples now appeared, many
of them ruined and abandoned, some of them partially submerged.
A few, however, were living places of worship, one was the
centre of an annual fair. In some places, the lush vegetation
had been cleared for fields and orchards. We walked much of
the way round the 3.5 km shores of the lake. Once, when a
particularly hot summer had lowered the level of the water,
people claimed that they had seen glittering, glassy crystals
revealed by the receding lake. These are probably shock-melted
glass created when certain rocks are subjected to a sudden
impact of great heat and great pressure. Moreover, over the
thousands of years of its existence, the lake seems to have
developed a unique ecology. All these, if studied carefully,
might reveal secrets which could have a major impact on theories
of the origin of life and of the formation of our solar system.
Lonar is also unique because its the worlds only
high-velocity meteor crater in hard basalt: it doesnt
erode or change its qualities easily. It is as close to being
a virgin crater as it is possible on earth. But, when we stood
at the bottom of this huge depression and looked around us,
we saw how human interference could change it rapidly. It
was like poisoning a genius because you wanted to steal his
of the crater’s living temples
however, Lonars intriguing Star Terminal is still unique.