Maharashtra

Maharashtra was officially recognized as an autonomous territory of the Union of India in 1960. It was previously a part of Bombay Presidency which also included the other Indian state of Gujarat. Mumbai is the state capital and is also the financial capital of India. The region is one of the highest revenue generators for the tourism industry in India. Being the richest and most advanced state in the country, it is backed with state-of-the-art infrastructure and offers world-class amenities to tourists.

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The area is divided into 35 districts and the main administrative divisions are Mumbai, Nashik, Amravati, Pune, Nagpur, and Aurangabad. The state has a strong cultural and traditional base and woos tourists with its unique mixture of people belonging to different religions. Almost all the Indian festivals are celebrated here with great enthusiasm and fraternity. Some of the prominent places of interest include beaches, hill-stations, forts, caves, pilgrimage centers, and wildlife sanctuaries.

Geography and physical features

Maharashtra lies in the western part of the country and is bordered by the states of Gujarat, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. It has a long stretch of coastline on its western side which is primarily bordered by Arabian Sea. The region ranks third in India with respect to area and covers almost 10% of the total land of the country.

The prime mountain range of the state is Sahyadri (also known as Western Ghats). The range is located quite parallel to the coastline and Kalsubai is its highest peak, elevated at about 1200 meters. The Ghats are one of the three major watersheds in the country and pave way for the important rivers of Godavari and Krishna. Deccan plateau is situated in the eastern part of the Ghats.

The state is virtually divided into five major regions of Vidarbha, Khandesh, Kokan, Desh, and Marathwada. One of the major factors for the ever-green tourism industry in the region is the climatic conditions. Climate here is absolutely stable and quite conducive for tourism throughout the year. Seasons are uniformly divided into summer (February to May), monsoon (June to September), and winter (October to January). Also, the temperature difference is not so high. In summer, the temperature can be between 30-45 degree Celsius. The areas of Vidarbha, Marathwada, and Khandesh record highest mercury level. In winters, the temperature is between 5-25 degree Celsius. Monsoons are heavy in the parts of Kokan and Desh while moderate in the other areas.

The main rivers of the state are Krishna, Godavari, and Tapi. More than 20% of the land here is under dense forest cover. The common forest types here include southern tropical semi-evergreen, southern tropical dry deciduous, southern tropical thorn, southern tropical moist deciduous, and littoral and swamp. Mango has been given the status of state tree.

Demography

The region is primarily a Hindu territory dominated by Marathi speaking people and Marathi is the official language for communication. Hindus form almost 83% of the population and the percentage of Marathi-speaking community is almost 69% of the state population. Other religions practiced here are Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. Other languages spoken in the territory are Urdu, Kannada, Hindi, Telugu, Gujarati, English, and Sindhi.

The state ranks second in the country in terms of population and has an average population density of 370 persons per sq km. It has a good literacy rate of 83% and the sex ratio is roughly 946 females per 1000 males.

Discovering Kokan

Kokan divison of the state is packed with natural beauty. The prime locations in the area are Sindhudurg, Raigad, and Ratnagiri.

Sindhudurg is popular for the beaches of Kunkeshwar, Shiroda Velagar, Tarkarli, Nivati, Bhogave, Mochemad, Tondavali, Sagareshwar, and Vayangani. Some of the important Hindu temples here are Kunkeshwar, Sonurli Devi Mauli, Rameshwar (at Vengurla and Malvan), Bharadi Devi, Atmeshwar, and Bhagwati. The main forts here are Sindhudurg, Vijaydurg, Shivgad, Ramgad, Pargad, Devgad, Kille Nivati, Tiracol, and Rangnagad. Tourists also enjoy the ambience at Amboli Waterfalls and Hill Station, Dajipur Sanctuary, Sawantwadi Palace, and the waterfalls at Napne, Savdav, and Vyaghreshwar.

Ratnagiri is another splendid face of Kokan and is known for the beautiful and clean beaches at Ganpatipule and Arevare. The temples of Dhutpapeshwar, Marleshwar, Velneshwar, Parshuram, Kadyavarcha Ganpati, Dashbhuja, Ganpatipule, and Ganeshgule attract scores of devotees throughout the year. The two important forts in the region are Bhagavati (also called as Ratnadurga) and Jaygad. The waterfalls of Marleshwar and Dhodavane Tivre, and Thibav Palace and point are also worth seeing. Dapoli is a good destination for those who wish to spend a relaxed holiday.

Raigad is famous for the hill station of Matheran. The mini-train here is included in the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Elephanta caves, also known as Gharapuri, is another noticeable spot. The site dates back to 7th century and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The four renowned forts here are Raigad, Karnala, Alibaug, and Jangira. The beaches at Alibaug, Kihim, Mandwa, and Harihareshwar provide the bestb conditions to relax your mind and enjoy the natural beauty of seashore. Each year, millions of devotees visit the temples of Harihareshwar, Pali Ganpati (Ballaleshwar), Varad Vinayak Ganesh, Kankeshwar, Suvarna Ganesh (Diveagar), and Siddhivinayak (Nandgaon).

Hill-stations

Some of the major hill-stations of the state include Karjat (Raigad), Lonavala (Pune), Khandala (Pune), Mahabaleshwar (Satara), Wai (Satara), Panhala (Kolhapur), Lavasa (Pune), Panchgani (Satara), Igatpuri (Nashik), Toranmal (Nandurbar), and Chikhaldhara (Amravati). The locations of Malshej Ghat and Bhimashankar are also worth visiting.

Pilgrimage Special

The prime pilgrimage centers here are Sai-baba Temple in Shirdi (Nashik), Tuljabhavani Temple (Tuljapur in Osmanabad District), Vithoba Temple (Pandharpur in Solapur District), Gajanan Maharaj Temple at Shegaon (Buldhana), Mahalakshmi Temple (Mumbai), Haji Ali Dargah (Mumbai), and Siddhivinayak Temple (Mumbai).

Some other eminent sites are Saras Baug Ganpati (Pune), Parvati (Pune), Osho Ashram (Pune), Dagdu Sheth Halwai Temple (Pune), and Takht Sachkhand Shri Hazur Sahib Gurudwara (Nanded), Renuka Mata Temple (Mahur in Nanded District), Mahalakshmi Temple (Kolhapur), Khandoba (Jejuri in Pune District), Shani Temple (Shingnapur in Ahmednagar District), and Trimbakeshwar (Nashik). You can also opt for the legendary Ashta Vinayak Yatra.

Top cities

Mumbai is popular for the monuments of Gateway of India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station, and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. The beaches at Versova and Madh and the amusement parks like Esselworld, Water Kingdom, Kamla Nehru Park, and Pherozshah Mehta Garden (also called as Hanging Garden) woo a high number of tourists each year.

Pune is the educational hub of the state and is admired for the sites of Shaniwar Wada, Sinhagad Fort, Purandar, Chaturshringi, Kelkar Museum, Shinde Chhatri, and Pataleshwar. Aurangabad is another booming metro in the state and is acknowledged for Ajanta and Ellora Caves. The site of Devgiri Fort (also known as Daulatabad Fort) is a masterpiece of monuments belonging to medieval history. Kaas Plateau in Satara, nicknamed as the 'Valley of Flowers of Maharashtra', is a must watch.

For wildlife lovers

The state has a rich forest cover and is a house for more than 40 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. The distinguished ones are Navegaon National Park, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Project, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Nazgira Wildlife Sanctuary, Chandoli National Park, Sagareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Pench National Park, Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary, Melghat Tiger Reserve, and Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary.

Maharashtra has a very stable economy and ranks high in the country in terms of infrastructure. The tourism industry here is one of the finest in the world and you will definitely love to get familiar with the regional culture and traditions. So get set to explore the marvelous beauty of the state and make your tour a memorable one.