Earth is in the middle of a meteor shooting gallery. Every year nearly 500 meteoroids enter the atmosphere of earth and land violently. However, most of these are as large as golf balls and some as large as footballs. All they do is damage a property or create a small pit in ground which is almost never discovered. However, the span of a year is a minuscule little moment in relevance to the age of the universe. And speaking in these magnitude of time, Earth is frequently hit by meteors with a potential to eliminate the life as we know. What happens when one of these meteors hits Earth? To see it for yourself, travel to the famous Lonar Crater, the only hypervelocity meteoritic impact crater in basaltic rock and the world’s third largest meteoritic impact crater, an overwhelming site.
Lonar Crater is the outcome of a violent impact that took place nearly 50,000 years ago when a 60 meters wide space rock traveling at the speed of 90,000 kilometers per hour struck the face of Earth. The impact released a massive energy of multiple mega nuclear bombs, rendering a 1.83 kilometers wide and 150 meters deep dent and forming a mysterious lake inside it with the diameter of 1.2 kilometers. Several decades later when lethal atmospheric effect of the impact finally waned, an intriguing ecosystem started developing inside the crater. Today, a forest, nearly 137 meters deep inside the rim of the crater, surrounds the lake.
Lonar, today, is one of the remarkable sites for travelers as well as astronomers. The salt water inside the lake has a high rate of alkali, that of 11 pH. Due to this hostility of the water, it has no aquatic life, nor is it supportive of flora. One can see various dead trees inside the lake which give it a grave, scenic look. However, the soil just a few feet outside the lake is highly fertile and full of sweet water. Resultantly there are patches of lush green farms in the forest. This extra-ordinary condition is caused due to zero seepage of water in and out of the lake through its walls. The only way in for the water is by rain and by the rain water flowed in, which also brings in salts. And the way out is by evaporation, due to which the salt level in the water gradually increases.
The forest around the lake is known for rare herbs, including Sanjivani, which has great medical values as well as mythological importance. It is also a home to hundreds of monkeys, monitor lizards, peacocks, chinkaras and gazelles. The lake attracts several aquatic birds such as brahminy ducks, black-winged stilts, shell-ducks, grebes, shovellers, herons, teals, blue jays, red-wattled lapwings, baya weavers, larks and robins.
There are several historical temples around the lake, all belonging to the Hemadpanthi style of architecture, in which the building is constructed by placing rocks upon rocks. Though most of these temples are now in ruins, the beautiful Daityasudan temple in Lonar town is in good health and worth a visit. The famous Dhara Mandir situated on the rim of the crater is also a historical monument and visited by several devotees every year.
Lonar is 145 kilometers from Aurangabad, a 3 hour drive. It is suggested that you leave early and reach the crater by 9.0 a.m. The climb down the crater requires minimal trekking skills and appropriate footwear. It is recommended that you carry water and eatables with you and take a peaceful walk around the full perimeter of the lake, which should take up to three hours. It is suggested that you carry a good camera. During Monsoon, the water level of the lake will be up and the forest will be very much alive and enjoyable.