The word Maharashtra, the land of the Marathi speaking people, appears to be derived from Maharashtri, an old form of Prakrit.
Some believe that the word indicates that it was the land of the Mahars and the Rattas, while others consider it to be a corruption of
the term ‘Maha Kantara’ (the Great Forest), a synonym for ‘Dandakaranya’.
History of Maharashtra
Maharashtra was inhibited since the Palaeolithic era, as indicated by the archaeological evidences. This port town was situated just
north of the present day Mumbai. As the Mauryan Empire degraded, Maharashtra was overpowered by the Satavahanas between 230
BC and 225 AD.
The Period of Unstability – 1680 to 1707
Shivaji was succeeded by his son Sambhaji. He showed the same vigor as his father, but was taken prisoner and executed by the
Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, in 1689. Rajaram, Sambhaji’s younger brother then took the throne, since Sambhaji’s son, Shahu was still a
minor. The death of Rajaram in 1700 seemed to end the power of the Marathas, but Tarabai, the elder widow of Rajaram, put her
young son Shahu on the throne, at the tender age of ten, and continued the struggle against Aurangzeb who had come to south with
the sole purpose of destroying Maratha kingdom. Between 1700 and 1703, Aurangzeb captured the fort of Sinhagad, near Pune.
During the siege, his son prince Muhuil-Mulk died; so Aurangzeb changed Pune’s name to Muhiabad, in the prince’s honor. Shahu
continued to fight against the Mughals and captured Rajgad, the former capital of the Maratha territory. The fight against the Mughals
ended with the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 which was another turning point in Maratha history. After Aurangzeb, Mughal power
never regained its status as main power in India and Balance of power shifted towards Marathas, which was soon to be controlled by
The Peshwe Dynasty – 1712 to 1818
Balaji Vishwanath – 1712 to 1721
In 1712, Shahu died of smallpox and his minister or peshwa, Balaji Vishwanath took over the throne.
Negotiations between the Mughal court of Delhi and Balaji Vishwanath enabled him to send a large Maratha delegation to Delhi to
assist the Mughals. The year 1718 marked the beginning of the Maratha influence in Delhi, to which they remained closely acquainted,
till 1803. Balaji Vishwanath’s health had suffered considerably, and he died in 1721.
Bajirao Peshwa ( Pahila Bajirao ) – 1721 to 1740
Bajirao, his elder son was awarded the title of peshwa after the death of his father . It was Bajirao’s dream to extend the Maratha
empire to North India. By this time, Pune had regained its status as capital of Maratha Kingdom from Rajgad. Rajgad was made
capital by Shivaji beacuse it was a safe place, high in the moutainous, wooded area. As Pune was in plains, it always had a threat. By
1720′s, Maratha power was spreading in large areas and the threat of local battles fought over forts did not exist much. Pune
remained the capital till the end of Maratha empire in 1818.
In 1734, Bajirao captured the Malwa territory in the north, and in 1739, his brother Chimnaji drove out the Portuguese from almost all
their possessions in the northern Western Ghats. Bajirao diedi in 1740 and left three sons behind him. It was Bajirao who built the
‘Shanivarwada’, the residence and ruling place for the Peshwas.
Nanasaheb Peshwa - 1740 to 1761
Nanasaheb succeeded Bajirao as Peshwa in 1740. He had two brothers, Raghunathrao, who later betrayed the Marathas and joined
hands with the British, and Janardan, who died in his early youth.
Nanasaheb was ambitious and a multifaceted person.In 1741, when his uncle Chimnaji died, he returned from the northern districts
and spent nearly a year improving the civil administration of Pune. The period between 1741 and 1745 was of comparative calm in
the Deccan. Nanasaheb encouraged agriculture, protected the villagers and brought about a marked improvement in the state of the
The scene changed in 1751, when the Mughals, supported by the French, advanced towards Pune, totally destroying every village in
their way. The Marathas fought with great determination, and nothing but the French artillery saved them from total defeat. In 1754,
Raghunathrao, Nanasaheb’s brother started on an expedition to conquer Gujarat, the state north of Bombay. In 1756, Nanasaheb
marched south to attack Karnatak. In the meantime, news spread that the war had broken out between the English and the French, in Europe.In 1756, the fall of the formidable navy formed by Shivaji gave British their chance to regain importance in the region. The navy was headed by Kanhoji Angre and its destruction was a cruical blow to Maratha sea power. It was a sad outcome of neglect of navy by Marathas which turned out to be a horrible mistake. Marathas never regained control of the sea after that.In 1761, the Marathas were defeated at the third Battle of Panipat against Ahmadshah Abdali , a great warrior from Afganistan. Marathas were fighting to save Delhi Sultanat and consequently their power in the north. NajibUddowla was the person responsible for calling Abdali. 14th January, 1761 was the D-Day. This was a cruical blow to the rising Maratha power from which they never
recovered. They lost more than 100,000 men and dozens of important Sardars in the battle. Nanasaheb Peshwe ( Balaji Bajirao ) lost his brother, Sadashivrao ( After whom the Sadashiv Peth in Pune is named ), and also his first son, Vishwasrao, in this battle. This news shattered Balaji Bajirao, who died shortly afterwards, in the temple on Parvati hill in Pune. The Maratha power was at the zenith of its glory during Balaji Bajirao’s (also called Nana Saheb Peshwa) reign. It never fully recovered from the crushing defeat at Panipat.
Thorale’ Madhaorao Peshwa – 1761 to 1772
Madhavrao, his second son then took over, but had to constantly face administrative disputes with his uncle, Raghunathrao. Despite of this, he achieved many remarkable victories and restored the shattred Maratha kingdom to a large extent. His outstanding
achievements included defeat of Nizam (Hyderabad), Hyder (Karnataka) and Bhosle of Nagpur. He also had to fight wars with Raghunathrao whose greed for power never waned. Ultimately, Madhavrao took Raghunathrao prisoner in 1768; the same year when the Nizam attacked Pune.He was eventually defeated. Madhavrao, also called ‘Thorale’or Greatest Madhavrao, is entitled to special praise for supporting the poor and for his sense of justice. Ramshastri Prabhune, the chief justice, has become a legend for his work. The people who rose to power in his rule were Mahadji Shinde, Nana Phadnis and Haribhau Phadke who became the key figures in the power structure after his death. He took ill in 1771 and died in 1772 at an early age of 27, causing yet another blow to recovering Maratha power.
Narayanrao Peshwa - 1772 to 1773
Narayanrao, Balaji Bajirao’s third son succeeded the throne at Shaniwarwada as the next Peshwa. He neither had the courage to take any bold decisions nor administrative skills and soon became very unpopular among the people. In 1773, Raghunathrao, who had been imprisoned by Madhavrao, in a room in the palace in Pune, escaped with the help of the Gardi people . Narayanrao was murdered at the Shaniwar wada , owing to a conspiracy by Anandibai, Raghunathrao’s wife.
‘Sawai’ Madhaorao Peshwa - 1774 to 1795
Raghunathrao was proclaimed the next peshwa, although he was not heir to the title. Narayanrao’s widow gave birth to a son, Sawai Madhavrao, who was legally the next peshwa. Raghunathrao tried to maintain his kingdom by signing treaties with the English , and relied on them for manpower in exchange for money and territory. However his plans did not succeed. Raghoba was displaced from power by a clever plot by the 12 Maratha sardar’s ” Barambhainche karasthaan” ( Plot by 12 people ) including Nana, Holkar, Phadke
Shinde . Sawai Madhavrao was then declared the next Peshwa. As he was only one year old at that time, Nana Phadnis became the main administrator with Phadke,Shinde,Holkar taking care of Military duties. These people handled the Peshwai well and with great unity till the premature death of Sawai Madhaorao in 1795. They defeated the rising British Power in 1784, near Pune and halted their advancements, temporarily. Sawai Madhaorao’s death was the last blow to the Maratha empire and all the unity among its leaders vanished after his death causing a downfall of Peshwai in a short time.
‘Second’ Bajirao Peshwa - 1795 to 1802
Raghunathrao died in 1782, leaving behind him, two sons; Bajirao, who in 1817 confronted the British at the Battle of Kirkee, in Pune; and the younger, Chimnaji Appa. Bajirao became the next Peshwa after Madhaorao’s death. Nana was still the administrator and the
Peshwai remained in stable condition till his death owing to his superb administrative skills. Nana died in 1800 and Pune fell into the hands of the Sindia’s ( Shinde) ; the former chiefs of Nana’s army. They remained in power for a short while and in 1802, Bajirao reestablished himself in Pune, by signing the treaty of Bassein with the British. This essentially ended Peshwai , establishing British supremacy in the region. The capturing of the Ahmednagar fort in 1803, proved British supremacy in the Deccan. In 1804, General
Wellesly proclaimed the Deccan in a state of chaos, established military rule and the Peshwas remained rulers for name’s sake.Vidarbha, the eastern region of Maharashtra was also conquered by the Vakatakas (250 AD-525 AD), who were then the rulers of the state. Art and religion developed and technology flourished, during this period. By the 6th century, Maharashtra came under the reign of the Chalukyas. Later, in 753, Rashtrakutas ruled the region. This empire spread over most of the Indian peninsular.This region was
ruled by the British, as a part of the Bombay Presidency. The Bombay presidency included an area from Karachi in Pakistan to most of the northern Deccan. The British Raj saw many social reforms, infrastructure improvement and many revolts due to their prejudiced policies. As the 20th century began, a non-violent struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi started taking shape. The Quit India Movement started by Gandhi in 1942 was marked by a non-violent civil disobedience movement and strikes.Many independent princely states in central India joined the Indian Union, after India’s independence in 1947. Bombay state was established in the year 1956, which merged the princely states of central India into Bombay Presidency. The state of Maharashtra was established on 1st May 1960, this state included the Marathi-speaking territory of Bombay state. Maharashtra became India’s leading state after the favorable economic policies in the 1970s.
Places to visit in Maharastra
Visit the Bibi-ka-Maqbara, an imitation of the Taj Mahal, built by the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb as a tomb for his wife. The Himroo factory produces beautiful cotton and silk fabrics. Panchakki is a water-mill within which there is a tomb of a Muslim Saint. Ghrishneshwar Temple is one of the five Jyotirlinga sites in Maharashtra where Lord Shiva is worshipped. Of special interest to art and culture buffs are the Buddhist caves. Paithan, an ancient taluka town 56 kms to the south of Aurangabad, is famous for its’ exquisite saris. The splendid cave paintings of Ajanta and the rock-cut caves of Ellora are World Cultural Heritage sites
Take the toy-train ride up to this hill station in which every form of motorized transport is banned
This hill station, situated at an altitude of 1372 metres, was the summer capital of Bombay Presidency during the British rule. It is famous for its scenic beauty, splendid views, Venna lake, and strawberries.
Just 38 m below Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani gets its’ name from the 5 hills around it. The way to Panchgani is absolutely spectacular. Panchgani has some lovely architecture and houses a boarding school which is almost a century old.
10 km northeast of Mumbai, lies the Elephanta Island, known for its great cave shrine excavated in the 6th century. The island was named by the Portuguese, after the majestic carved elephant on the island. A flight of 100 steps takes you to the top of the hill where
the cave temple of Elephanta stands. The temple houses large pillars that seem to hold the ceiling which is made of cross beams. The sculptures display the changing moods of Lord Shiva, and reflect the immense faith of the unknown architects. In the month of February, the island hosts the Elephanta Festival. Artistes perform outside the caves in the open, filling the atmosphere with dance and music
Marve – Manori – Gorai
These 3 beaches lie to the north of Mumbai.
An important ship-building centre in the 17th century, the Marathas defeated the Portuguese here in 1739. The Portuguese fort now stands in ruins amidst the dense palm grove. The Vajreshwari temple, Akloli hot springs, Sadguru Nityanand Maharaj Samadhi
Mandir at Ganeshpuri, Bhimeshwar temple and other ashrams are at a short distance away from Bassein.
Murud – Janjira
The majestic fortress of Janjira is three centuries old. Set on an island, it can be accessed by boats. Murud, which houses this famous fort, is also popular for its enchanting beach and stretches of coconut and palm groves. A little further away are the two
beaches of Nandgaon and Kashid.
Mandwa – Kihim
These beaches are easily accessible from Mumbai. Kihim, a slightly unusual beach, is a treat for nature-lovers, and was a popular haunt of Dr. Salim Ali, the famous ornithologist. Also of interest is the Kolaba Fort.
Dahanu – Bordi
The 17 kms long coastline offers up these unspoilt beaches. Dahanu has a plethora of fruit orchards and is most famous for its chickoos. Udwada the most famous shrine of the Zoroastrians is accessible from Dahanu. The sacred fire in this splendid temple has been kept alive for almost a thousand years.
Shriwardhan – Harihareshwar
The sun kissed sands of the spectacular Shriwardhan beach open up to the endless span of Shriwardhan Bay. The town of Harihareshwar, is known mainly for its splendid beach, and the magnificent Harihareshwar temple.
Vijaydurg – Sindhudurg
Once-upon-a-time, these were naval bases. Both have splendid beaches. The Sindhudurg or Ocean fort spans over 48 acres. Within its premises are temples dedicated to Bhavani, Mahadeo, Jarimai, Mahapurush and Shivaji, the last being the only shrine of its kind in India.
Vengurla – Malvan
Vengurla, on the southern part of the Maharashtra coastline, boasts of a long stretch of shimmering sand. It also houses the famous Shri Devi Sateri temple and the Rameshwar temple. Nearby are the Vengurla rocks, also known as Burnt Islands. The Sindhudurg
and Padamgad forts are housed in the old township of Malvan, a former trading centre. Today, Malvan houses salt pans and is famous for the China clay pottery and mouth-watering Malvan cuisine.
Ganapatipule, one of the ashta (eight) Ganapatis of India, houses the popular Svayambu Ganapati Temple. Pawas a nearby village has the ashram of Swami Swaroopanand
The Tilak Smarak, believed to have been the home of the great freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, is the landmark here. The Patit Pawan Mandir was the first temple built for non-Brahmins by another great freedom fighter, Swatantryaveer Savarkar. Ratnagiri also has the Bhatye Beach, the Coconut Research Centre, Ratnadurg Fort, Bhagwati Bunder (sea-port) and the seafood processing centre at Mirya. The Thebaw Palace, built for the king and the queen of Burma in 1910-11, is also worth a visit.
This is a completely different kind of spa, where you can learn Vipassana, the 2500-year-old art of meditation. This cloistered world offers frequent ten-day residential courses in which no contact with the outside world is permitted. A demanding daily schedule is
followed which includes about ten hours of sitting meditation, complete silence and no communication with fellow students. Additionally, special courses and long courses of 20, 30 and 45 days are periodically offered for advanced students
Ajanta & Ellora Caves
One of the most outstanding specimens of ancient Indian heritage are the Ajanta & Ellora group of caves. Maharashtra state treasures this mesmerizing caves which were accidentally discovered in the 19th century by the British. Ellora houses 34 caves while Ajanta houses 29 caves. Each cave depicting a tale from the Jatakas or depicting stories of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism.
The Elephanta island is known for its great cave shrine, excavated in the 6th century. The island lies 10 km northeast to Apollo Bunder or Gateway of India. The island which was known as Gharapuri earlier is the glorious abode of Lord Shiva. This is land was renamed, Elephanta by the Portuguese who landed here, after the majestic carved elephant on this island.
Sea Forts like the Siddi fort of Murud Janjira and Jaigad near Ganpatipule, the famous pilgrimage place belong to the Maratha period.Many other prominent forts of the Maratha period still exist- Panhala, Purandhar where Baji Prabhu laid down his life holding back the forces of Siddi Johar at a narrow pass, since christened Pavankhind, and Lohagad
Lonavala and Khandala
On the way to Pune from Mumbai come the two pleasant hill stations of Maharashtra, Lonavala and Khandala. Set at a height of 625 m they are located on the western slopes of the Sahyadri mountain range. The two hill stations are 5 kms apart. Fascinating panoramic beauty adorns these places. Khandala being the smaller of the two is relatively calmer. The lush greenery of the mountains especially during the monsoons and the misty paths attract tourist like honey bees here. The silver waterfalls amidst the lush greenery are extremely magical. Lonavala’s bazaar is filled with surprises. The beauty of this place is a refreshing experience
Located just 55 kms. (a 90 min. journey) away from Bombay, is Bassein, one of the most important sea forts of Maharashtra. The last bastion of the first sea-faring foreign power in India, the Portuguese. Built by Bahadur Shah -Sultan of Gujarat from 1526-1537, it was initially one of a chain of forts intended to guard the coasts against the Portuguese and pirates. The Portuguese however captured it and remodelled the fort, building a citadel inside.
Raigad also known as Durgadeshwar is the lord of all the 360 odd forts in the state of Maharashtra. Now you may wonder why is Raigad the king of all forts – but there is a very good reason behind Raigad being crowned thus. It is because Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who roused the patriotic fervour by his guru mantra, Hindavi Swaraj, which later, became his war cry, chose this fort as his capital. The fort was originally named Raigiri. It was renamed Raigad by Shivaji who was coronated on June 6, 1674
This place was discovered in 1850 and due to its greenery & shade it was immediately taken as the nearest hill station from Mumbai. Matheran is sightly above the plains so it is cool and provides respite from the heat of Mumbai. The place provides very nice views of the near by places, particularly on a clear day one can even see Mumbai from the Hart point. Though the local population of Matheran is very less but the visitors pour at this place frequently. Matheran has maintained the tranquility and peace by banning any kind of motor vehicle. The best season to visit this place is between November to June but the place is worth visiting any time of the year. During the monsoon the trails become very dirty and the place virtually shuts down.
Situated at an altitude of 1334 mts it lies just 38 m below Mahabaleshwar. It gets name from the 5 hills around it. The way to Panchgani from Mahabaleshwar which is 18 kms is absolutely spectacular. The Krishna river that meanders through the farms, ravines and hamlets on one side and the coastal plains on the other side has a mesmeric charm. Panchgani has been a retreat for a long time. It displays architecture of Old British building. Parsi houses and the boarding school which would be almost a century old.
Sinhagad, is one of the important Maratha forts having a colourful history linked with it. A history that echoes with the bravery of the Maratha conquest of Kondana fort by Tanaji Malasure. Today. 24 kms. south-west of Pune, battle-scarred, it rises intimidating, amidst the Bhuleshwar range
Fair & Festivals In Maharastra
The Maharashtrians are a vibrant, earthy people for whom life itself is a celebration. Small wonder then that all festivals in Maharashtra are celebrated with abundant fervor and enthusiasm. These times provide a unique opportunity to absorb Maharashtrian culture, with all its colorful customs, rituals and traditions. The song, music and dance that accompany almost every festive occasion add joy and excitement to the lives of the people from every walk of life.
These festivals attract world-renowned artistes – musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors, weavers – who come together to pay tribute to Maharashtra’s rich culture and legacy.
The Maharashtrians are a hearty, festive people. The love for celebration is deeply ingrained in their culture and it finds expression through the various occasions on the Maharashtrian calendar. There is festivity all round the year and people cherish the good times with music, dance and delectable food.
In Hindu mythology, the cobra has a special significance and the earth, it is believed, rests on the head of ‘Shesha’ – the thousand-hooded cobra. Snake worship is an important ritual of the Maharashtrians, and on the festival of Nag Panchami, clay icons of cobras are venerated in homes. People offer sweets and milk to the snake deity and the day is celebrated with folk dances and songs, especially in the countryside. Snake charmers carry cobras in baskets and collect offerings from the public in the streets. A small village near Sangli, Battis Shirale, is famous for its snake catchers, and people throng the streets to watch the thrilling performances of expert snake charmers.
The full moon day of the month of Shravan is celebrated with characteristic fervor in different parts of Maharashtra and is known variously as Narali Pournima, Shravani Pournima, Rakhi Pournima or Raksha Bandhan. ‘Naral’ means ‘coconut’, and Narali Pournmia is thus called because offerings of coconuts are made by people to the sea-god on this day. Narali Pournima also marks the advent of the new fishing season and fishermen appease the sea-god before sailing out in their gaily-decorated boats. The festival is a day of singing and dancing.
Raksha Bandhan is also observed on this day. Sisters tie ‘rakhis’ or beautifully decorated threads on their brothers’ wrists. The ritual renews the bond of affection between siblings and signifies the brother’s responsibility of protecting his sister all her life.
The birth of Lord Krishna is celebrated on Gokul Ashtami or Janmashtami. Most devotees fast till midnight and when the birth of Lord Krishna is announced, they eat a festive preparation of rice, butter, yogurt, puris and potatoes. This meal, according to Hindu mythology, was relished by Lord Krishna and his playmates in Gokul. Another fun-filled ritual performed on this day is dahi-handi – clay pots filled with curd, puffed rice and milk are strung high up above the streets and groups of enthusiastic young men (and even women) form human pyramids to reach these and break them open, the way Lord Krishna and his friends would, after sneaking into the houses of gopis (milkmaids) to steal and eat butter.
Lord Ganesh, the patron deity of Maharashtra, is the God of wisdom. Come August, preparations to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi – the auspicious day when Lord Ganesh was born – begin with great enthusiasm all over the state. The 11-day festival begins with the installation of beautifully sculpted Ganesh idols in homes and mandaps (large tents), colorfully decorated, depicting religious themes or current events. The Ganesh idols are worshipped with families and friends. Many cultural events are organized and people participate in them with keen interest. After ten exciting days comes the time to bid farewell to the beloved God. People take Ganesh idols in procession to the accompaniment of music and dance for immersion in the sea or nearby river or lake. Emotions run high as people chant ‘Ganpati bappa moraya, pudhachya varshi lavkar ya’ (Oh Lord Ganesh, please come back soon next year).
‘Gudhi’ – the bamboo staff with a colored silk cloth and a garlanded goblet atop – symbolizes victory or achievement. Maharashtrians erect gudhis on Padwa, the first day of the Hindu new year. People welcome the new year with gudhi worship and distribute prasad comprising tender neem leaves, gram-pulse and jaggery. Gudhi Padwa heralds the advent of a prosperous new year and is considered as a shubh muhurat – one of the most auspicious days – by Hindus.
The harvest festival is celebrated by farmers all over Maharashtra. On this day bullocks, which are an integral part of the agricultural chores and consequently the village economy, are honored. They are bathed, colorfully decorated and taken out in processions across the village, accompanied by the music of drumbeats and lezhim (a musical instrument made of a wooden rod and an iron chain full of metallic pieces). Pola brings out an important facet of Hindu culture, which does not look upon cattle as mere beasts of burden, but treats them with dignity and gratitude.
According to the great Hindu epic Ramayan, Dussehra is the day on which Lord Ram killed Ravan, the evil king of Lanka. It is considered as a shubh-muharat – a very auspicious day – to start a new venture. It is a symbol of the victory of good over evil. People decorate the entrances of their homes with torans, flower studded strings, and worship the tools of trade, vehicles, machinery, weapons and even books. As the evening falls, the villagers cross the border, a ritual known as Simollanghan, and worship the Shami tree. The leaves of the Apta tree are collected and exchanged among friends and relatives as gold.
Diwali or Deepawali means a row of lights. The most beautiful of all Indian festivals, Diwali is a celebration of lights. Streets are illuminated with rows of clay lamps and homes are decorated with rangoli (colored powder designs) and aakash kandils (decorative lanterns of different shapes and sizes). People rise at dawn, massage their bodies and hair with scented oil and take a holy bath. Diwali is celebrated with new clothes, spectacular firecrackers and a variety of sweets in the company of family and friends.
Dhanatrayodashi; Narakchaturdashi, Amavasya (Laxmi poojan), Balipratipada and Yamadvitiya (Bhaubeej) are the five days which comprise Diwali, and each day has a peculiar religious significance. This joyous celebration is, on the whole, symbolic of dispelling the darkness of misery and bringing the light of prosperity and happiness into human life.
Sankrant means the passing of the sun from one Zodiac sign to the other. People exchange greeting and good wishes on this day, which marks the Sun’s passage from the Tropic of Dhanu (Sagittarius) to Makar (Capricon). Sweet and crunchy ladoos made of sesame and jaggery are the favorite treats.
Each year, after a successful winter harvest, people get ready to welcome the spring with Holi – the festival of colors. Holis or bonfires are lit in the night and people gather to worship the fire-god, who is believed to burn away all evil. On the next day, people of all ages come outside and playfully drench each other with colored water. Brightly colored powders are applied on faces, and there is plenty of music, dance and sweets to fill the rest of the day. The exuberant display of colors symbolizes the advent of a colorful and prosperous spring season.
Modern Festivals of Maharashtra
Every year, MTDC seeks to present the myriad facets of Maharashtra’s rich heritage of the performing arts through a series of festivals held at important cultural centers. The years have added a mesmerizing allure to these events, now avidly awaited by lovers of Indian music, art and culture, who appreciate the artistry of India’s leading exponents of classical music and dance who come from all over the country to perform at the festivals.
The Pune Festival
Lord Ganesh, or Ganpati as He is popularly called in Maharashtra, is among the most beloved of Hindu Gods. As Ganesh Chaturthi – his day of birth – approaches every year in August-September, so does the Pune Festival, a celebration of art and culture, song and dance, custom and tradition.
Originally conceived as a localized cultural event, the Pune Festival has, over the years, gained national and international stature and evolved into one of India’s landmark cultural happenings. It is one of the few festivals that has been consistently and actively promoted abroad by the government of India, as a major tourist attraction.
Some of the country’s internationally renowned artistes have gathered at Pune, and regarded it as a privilege to be invited to perform at the festival. While it has provided a unique platform for exponents of classical music and dance it has, keeping pace with changing times, also helped to promote modern trends in the performing arts, notably the dramatic arts and the traditional art of rangoli.
A rare treat, the week-long Pune Festival provides a feast of entertainment for visitors who can participate and revel in traditional and modern sports events, shop for exquisite textiles and handicrafts, relish the delectable cuisine and rejoice in the colorful customs of Maharashtra.
The Banganga Festival
Legend has it that Lord Ram, on his way to Lanka in search of his wife Sita, stopped on the hillock of Malabar Hill. His followers were worshippers of Shiva and they fashioned a shivalinga from sand and called it Walluka Ishwar – ‘walluka’ meaning ‘sand’ and ‘Ishwar’, ‘the God’. Though surrounded by water, the people could not find fresh water to quench their thirst or perform daily puja. Seeing this, Ram shot a ban (arrow) into the ground and the fresh waters of the holy Ganga sprang from that spot. Centuries later, the Shilahara kings built a large and beautiful tank in stone, to store the water of the Banganga. Settlers through the ages built numerous, beautifully sculpted temples to various deities around the tank.
Every year, in January, a cultural extravaganza is organized at Banganga, where top artistes from around the country perform live classical music concerts. Cultural enthusiasts attend the festival and feast the soul as well as the mind as the sun sets.
The Elephanta Festival
In February Elephanta, a small island near Mumbai, is a favored destination for culture lovers. It is the site of the Elephanta Festival, the tranquil abode of Lord Shiva, just one-and-a-half-hour’s journey by motor launch from Mumbai. Once known as Puri or Gharapuri, the island was the proud capital of a powerful coastal kingdom. It was named Elephanta by the Portuguese, who took possession of it several centuries later, and found a monolithic stone elephant at the place they first landed.
The Elephanta caves are a showcase of legends created around Lord Shiva, beautifully presented here in all his splendor in the rock cave temples. Every year, renowned dancers and musicians perform outside the caves, beneath a star-studded sky, to a select and appreciative audience. Special launch services and catering arrangements are provided for visitors.
The Ellora Festival near Aurangabad
There was a time when the Gods grew bored in their celestial abode. They asked the Lord if they could visit the earth. That evening, He said they could, but on condition that they returned by dawn. The Gods set up a city at the place they fancied and, lost in their pleasures, they let time pass by. Since they failed to return by dawn, they were turned to stone – in the magnificent monolith called Ellora, the heavenly abode of the Gods on earth. MTDC organizes the Ellora Festival here in December, inviting in renowned artistes who display their virtuosity in music and dance. Surrounded by 1,400-year old caves and rock carvings, artistes perform in this magnificent ambiance to enchant the gods, goddesses and human lovers of art. The Kailas temple, sculptured out of one huge rock, is one of the most beautiful backdrops for an event such as this.
The Kalidas Festival at Nagpur
Kalidas was a great Sanskrit poet and dramatist, famous for his historical drama, Shakuntalam, and for the epic poem, Meghdoot. The Kalidas Festival brings back memories of the golden period of the Vidarbha region. Ramgiri, or Ramtek as it is popularly known today, is the place that inspired Kalidas and its beauty features predominantly in his literary work.
Every year, in November, some of the greatest exponents of music, dance and drama perform in the picturesque setting of Ramtek, celebrating its glorious heritage over two exciting days and nights.
How To Reach Maharastra:–
There is basically one major international airport in Maharashtra i.e. the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport of Mumbai. Apart from that, the city also has a domestic airport – Santa Cruz Domestic Airport. The airports at Nagpur and Pune also operate a few international flights, apart from the usual domestic ones. The cities of Kolhapur and Aurangabad also have a domestic airport of their own.
The largest as well as the most important railway station of Maharashtra is situated in Mumbai and is known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. From there, you can get trains to almost every part of India. Apart from that, there are railway stations in Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, AMravati, etc. In short, Maharashtra is well connected with the other states via railways.
There are a number of National Highways and State Highways crisscrossing Maharashtra, which make it easier for any visitor to visit the state by road. Infact, through these highways, you can easily approach the state from any and every part of the country. Apart from that, you can easily get buses and taxis from the numerous cities in Maharashtra to travel within as well as outside the state.
Since a number of cities in Maharashtra are situated on sea banks, you can also go there via ship from the neighboring countries. Apart from the international naval port at Mumbai, there are a number of other minor ports in the state. Thus, reaching Maharashtra by presents no problems for the tourists.
Hotels in Maharashtra
The Oberoi Hotel
Run by “Oberoi Group”, this Maharashtra hotel is conveniently located in the heart of Mumbai being at a distance of 35kms from the airport. This dazzling luxury hotel in Maharashtra which stands tall at Nariman Point with an overview of the Arabian Sea comes with luxurious stay at the 337 rooms of the hotel. The hotel caters to the dining needs of its guest through ‘Brasserie’, which serves informal dining, “Kandahar”, known for Indian cuisines, ‘Rotisserie’ & ‘Sea Grill’ offering Mediterranean food while the well stocked bar, ‘Bayview Bar’ serving all kind of drinks. Some of the other facilities in this Maharashtra hotel are spa, swimming pool, fitness and recreation centre, business facilities etc.
The Taj President in Mumbai
Another 5 star Maharashtra hotel is the Taj President situated in Mumbai which is also a popular business hotel. It is at a distance of 3kms and 35kms from the railway station and the airport respectively. This star hotel in Mumbai is replete with 300 exclusive rooms and suites. This Mumbai hotel also comes with an Italian eatery, Trattoria, Thai pavilion, Konkan Caf?, poolside Barbeque and a bar. Other amenities at the Taj President, Mumbai, includes Banquet rooms, Business Centre, Shopping arcade, Bookshop, Souvenir shop, Fitness Centre, Swimming pool, Spa etc.
Budget hotels in Maharashtra:-
Hotel Suba Palace
Ideally in closeness to the Arabian Sea and also the famous Gateway of India, Hotel Suba Palace is one of the sought after Maharshtra hotels situated near Nariman Point. It has 50 AC rooms equipped with modern amenities. The hotel also comes with dining facilities at its restaurants, coffee shops and the lounge. Conference room, Laundry, Doctor on call, terrace for programmes are also available at the hotel.
Gordon House Hotel
Gordon House Hotel located in Mumbai is made in a contemporary, swish style, which makes it stand apart. There are ample accommodation options in the form of luxurious rooms. “Tides” and “All Stir Fry” are the restaurants of the hotel while “Three Flights Up”" is a bar and a club at the hotel. This Maharashtra hotel also comes with facilities like Conference, Banquet, and terrace for social gatherings etc.
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