Few visitors reach the crater at LONAR but those who do find this meteorite-formed lake an amazing and tranquil place. Referred to as “Taratirth” in a Hindu legend that correctly claimed it was created by a shooting star, the gigantic hole in the ground was formed about 50,000 years ago when a lump of space rock survived its fiery descent through the atmosphere to bury itself here. As the only such crater formed in basalt rock in the world, the site is not just a geological curiosity but also highly valuable to scientists – NASA has made extensive studies due to its apparent similarity to some lunar and Martian landscapes – though many of the lake’s mysteries, such as the extreme alkalinity of its thick, sulphurous water, continue to baffle.
Numerous steep paths lead down to the lake from the rim, the principal one starting around 500m from the MTDC Holiday Resort and emerging in the basin near a twelfth-century temple dedicated to Shiva. A complete circuit of the lake, surrounded by forest and home to a rich array of birdlife, takes around three hours. En route you will discover numerous other seemingly lost Shaivite shrines. While huddling along a ravine etched into the crater’s northeastern slope – an alternative path back up – is a fascinating cluster of temples, fed by a spring, or dhar, supposedly originating from the Ganges. Before leaving, it’s well worth searching out the tenth-century Chalukyan Daitya Sudana temple in Lonar village, its walls inside and out crawling with a profusion of exquisite carvings of mythological scenes.