Tourism in Maharashtra

Maharashtra is a state located on the western coast of India. It is India's third largest state by area and second largest by population.

Maharashtra is bordered by the Arabian Sea to the west, Gujarat and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli to the northwest, Madhya Pradesh to the northeast, Chhattisgarh to the east, Karnataka to the south, Andhra Pradesh to the southeast, and Goa to the southwest. The state covers an area of 307,731 km2 (118,816 sq mi) or 9.84% of the total geographical area of India. Mumbai, the capital city of the state, is India's largest city and the financial capital of the nation. Marathi is the official and most widely spoken language.

In the 17th Century, the Marathas rose under the leadership of Shivaji Raje Bhosale against the Mughals who were ruling a large part of India. The Maratha Empire expanded to cover most of northern India and existed for more than a century. After the third Anglo-Maratha war, the empire ended and most of Maharashtra became part of Bombay state under a British Raj. After Indian independence, Maharashtra Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti demanded unification of all Marathi speaking regions under one state. The first state reorganization committee created the current Maharashtra state on May 1, 1960 (known as Maharashtra Day). The Marathi-speaking areas of Bombay state, Deccan states and Vidarbha (which was part of Central Provinces and Berar) united to form the current state.

Maharashtra is the richest state in India with highest per capita income, contributing to 15% of the country's industrial output and 13.2% of its GDP in year 2005-06.

History

Pre Medieval history
Not much is known about Maharashtra's early history, and its recorded history dates back to the 3rd century B.C.E., with the use of Maharashtri Prakrit, one of the Prakrits derived from Sanskrit. Later,{needs date} Maharashtra became a part of the Magadha empire, ruled by emperor Ashoka. The port town of Sopara, north of present day Mumbai, was the centre of ancient India's commerce, with links to Eastern Africa, Mesopotamia, Aden and Cochin.

With the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire, a local dynasty called Satavahanas came into prominence in Maharashtra between 230 B.C.E. and 225 C.E. The period saw the biggest cultural development of Maharashtra. The Satavahana's official language was Maharashtri, which later developed into Marathi. The great ruler Gautamiputra Satkarni (also known as "Shalivahan") ruled around 78 C.E. He started the Shalivahana era, a new calendar, still used by Maharashtrian populace and as the Indian national calendar. The empire gradually disintegrated in the third century.

During (250 C.E. - 525 C.E.), Vidarbha, the eastern region of Maharashtra, came under the rule of Vakatakas. During this period, development of arts, religion and technology flourished. Later, in 753 C.E., the region was governed by the Rashtrakutas, an empire that spread over most of India. In 973 C.E., the Chalukyas of Badami expelled the Rashtrakutas, and ruled parts of Maharashtra until 1189 when the region came under the Yadavas of Deogiri.

Islamic Rule
Maharashtra came under Islamic influence for the first time after the Delhi Sultanate rulers Ala-ud-din Khalji, and later Muhammad bin Tughluq conquered parts of the Deccan in the 13th century. After the collapse of the Tughlaqs in 1347, the Bahmani Sultanate of Gulbarga took over, governing the region for the next 150 years. After the breakup of the Bahamani sultanate, in 1518, Maharashtra was ruled by the breakaway in to 5 Shah's, namely Nizamshah of Ahmednagar, Adilshah of Bijapur, Kutubshah of Govalkonda, Bidarshah of Bidar and Imadshah of Berar.

Rise of the Marathas
By the early seventeenth century, the Maratha Empire began to take root. Shahaji Bhosale, an ambitious local general in the employ of the Mughals and Adil Shah of Bijapur, at various times attempted to establish his independent rule. The attempts succeeded through his son Shivaji Bhosale. Marathas were led by Chhatrapati Raje Shivaji Bhosale, who was crowned king in 1674. Shivaji constantly battled with the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and Adil Shah of Bijapur. By the time of his death in 1680, Shivaji had created a kingdom covering most of Maharashtra today (except the Aurangabad district which was part of the Nizam's territory) and Gujarat.

Shivaji's son and successor Chhatrapatti Sambhaji Bhosale became the ruler of the Maratha kingdom in 1680. He was captured, tortured and brutally put to death by Aurangzeb.

Rajaram's nephew & Sambhaji's son, Shahu Bhosale declared himself to be the legitimate heir to the Bhosale throne. In 1714, Shahu's Peshwa (chief minister) Balaji Vishwanath, helped him seize the Maratha throne in 1708, with some acrimony from Rajaram's widow, Tara Bai.

Peshwas
The Peshwas (prime ministers) played an important role in expanding the Maratha Empire in Northern and Central India. They were also decisive in many battles, like Moropant Pingale in 1670's Dindori battle against the Mughals, Ramchandra Amatya in 1690's Satara Battle against the Mughals and, the Pant Pratinidhi Peshwa. By 1760, the Maratha Empire spread across parts of Punjab (in today's Pakistan), Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Karnataka.

Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath, of the Bhat family, and his son, Baji Rao I, bureaucratised the Maratha state. They systematised the practice of tribute gathering from Mughal territories, under the heads of sardesmukhi and chauth (the two terms corresponding to the proportion of revenue collected). They also consolidated Mughal-derived methods of assessment and collection of land revenue and other taxes. Much of the revenue terminology used in Peshwa documents derives from Persian, suggesting a far greater continuity between Mughal and Maratha revenue practice than may be politically palatable in the present day.

At the same time,the maritime Angre clan controlled a fleet of vessels based in Kolaba and other centres of the west coast. These ships posed a threat not only to the new English settlement of Mumbai, but to the Portuguese at Goa, Bassein, and Daman.

On the other hand, there emerged a far larger domain of activity away from the original heartland of the Marathas, which was given over to subordinate chiefs as fiefs. Gwalior was given to Scindia/Shinde, Indore to Holkar, Baroda to Gaekwad and Dhar to Pawar. Bhonsles remained in power in Nagpur under Peshwas.

After suffering a stinging defeat at the hands of Afghan chieftain Ahmad Shah Abdali, in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, the Maratha Confederacy broke into regional kingdoms.

Post-Panipat, the Peshwa's ex-generals looked after the regional kingdoms they had earned and carved out for themselves in the service of Peshwas covering north-central and Deccan regions of India. Pune continued to be ruled by what was left of the Peshwa family.

British Rule and Post-Independence
With the arrival and subsequent involvement of the British East India Company in Indian politics, the Marathas and the British fought the three Anglo-Maratha wars between 1777 and 1818, culminating in the annexation of Peshwa-ruled territory in Maharashtra in 1819, which heralded the end of the Maratha empire.

The British governed the region as part of the Bombay Presidency, which spanned an area from Karachi in Pakistan to most of the northern Deccan. A number of the Maratha states persisted as princely states, retaining local autonomy in return for acknowledging British sovereignty. The largest princely states in the territory of present-day Maharashtra were Nagpur, Satara and Kolhapur; Satara was annexed to Bombay Presidency in 1848, and Nagpur was annexed in 1853 to become Nagpur Province, later part of the Central Provinces. Berar, which had been part of the Nizam of Hyderabad's kingdom, was occupied by the British in 1853 and annexed to the Central Provinces in 1903. A large part of present day Maharashtra called Marathwada remained part of the Nizam's Hyderabad state during British rule. The British rule was marked by social reforms and an improvement in infrastructure as well as revolts due to their discriminatory policies. At the beginning of the 20th century, the struggle for independence took shape led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and the moderates like Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Agarkar, Pherozeshah Mehta and Dadabhai Naoroji. In 1942, the Quit India Movement was called by Mahatma Gandhi which was marked by a non-violent civil disobedience movement and strikes.

After India's independence in 1947, the princely states were integrated into the Indian Union, and the Deccan States including Kolhapur were integrated into Bombay State, which was created from the former Bombay Presidency in 1950. In 1956, the States Reorganisation Act reorganized the Indian states along linguistic lines, and Bombay Presidency State was enlarged by the addition of the predominantly Marathi-speaking regions of Marathwada (Aurangabad Division) from erstwhile Hyderabad state and Vidarbha region (Amravati and Nagpur divisions) from Madhya Pradesh (formerly the Central Provinces and Berar). On May 1, 1960, Maharashtra came into existence when Bombay Presidency State was split into the new linguistic states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Cities of Maharashtra

Mumbai
The eastern equivalent of New York City and the financial capital of the country, is constantly abuzz with activities. It has a very active nightlife for those inclined towards urban modes of entertainment. Some places of interest to include on the must-watch list are: Gateway of India, The Prince of Wales Museum, Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus - previously known as Victoria Terminus, a humongous architectural stone structure built by the British more than 200 years ago, Girgaon chowpati (beach), Downtown Mumbai - reminiscent of the 19th century British architecture. Some pristine beaches can be found towards the south of Mumbai, for eg. Madh island beach. Elephanta Caves, carved out of a giant stone on an island are a short ferry away into the Arabian sea. Ferries can be rented from The Gateway of India. There is no dearth of luxury hotels that dot the city near all important tourist places. The city has one of the most active public transport system rivaling the best in the world in terms of density and reach.

Pune
Undoubtedly the cultural capital of the state of Maharashtra, is said to be the educational center of India. Forts from the 17th century, built by the revered (King) Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj can still be toured from the inside giving tourists a look and feel of life at that time. Shaniwarwada, a weekend residence of the Peshwas, Lal Mahal (the red palace), residence of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Fergussion College, a 200-year old college built by the British. Lakshmi Road, the avenue for buying all things Maharashtrian. These are just some of the places that register high on the tourist's agenda.

Aurangabad
This city lies in the central parts of Maharashtra and is one of the most popular cities that figure on the international tourist map. On the outskirts lie the caves of Ajanta and Ellora. Both are internationally renowned for their intricate carvings of Lord Buddha in stone. Buddhist life of the xxx century has been depicted in delicate stonework. Guided tours are readily available. Summers are not advisable for touring as temperatures can reach up to and above 40 degrees C during the day.

Nagpur
The winter capital of the state senate is a wonderful city. With a tradition of producing the best Oranges, this city would be a great place to visit during the winter. Summer along with Aurangabad, would not be a good time to visit with temperatures hovering in the low-to-mid 40s.Bhimashankar Temple is a Jyotirlinga shrine located 50 km northwest of Khed, near Pune. It is located 127 km from Shivaji Nagar (Pune) in the Ghat region of the Sahyadri hills. Bhimashankar Temple is 954.3 km via National Highway 4 and National Highway 4 from Bengaluru, Karnataka and takes 14 h 25 min. From Pune, Maharashtra it is 110.2 km and takes around 2 h 27 min via NH 50 and MH SH 54. Distance from Mumbai to Bhimashankar, Maharashtra is 213.0 km and takes around 4 h 7 min via Mumbai-Pune Expy and MH SH 54.

Nashik
This city is a holy pilgrim city. It is the place where Lord Rama spent 14 years of his exile. It is also a city of temples. It is known for its picturesque suurounding and a pleasant climate. It can be visited any time except in rainy season. Trimbakeshwar near Nashik is a jyotirling. Godavari river originates from here. In recent times, this city has developed a lot and is rapidly developing into a metro.The "Wine Capital of India", or the "Grape City", as it is popularly known in recent times, is located in the Western Ghats, on the western edge of the Deccan peninsula on the banks of the Godavari River. The city is known for its picturesque surroundings and pleasant climate. The Godavari River flows through Nashik from its source, which lies to the southwest of the city, in Trimbakeshwar. It is a rapidly developing city with a population close to 1.4 million.

Bhimashankar Temple

Bhimashankar Temple is a Jyotirlinga shrine located 50 km northwest of Khed, near Pune. It is located 127 km from Shivaji Nagar (Pune) in the Ghat region of the Sahyadri hills. Bhimashankar Temple is 954.3 km via National Highway 4 and National Highway 4 from Bengaluru, Karnataka and takes 14 h 25 min. From Pune, Maharashtra it is 110.2 km and takes around 2 h 27 min via NH 50 and MH SH 54. Distance from Mumbai to Bhimashankar, Maharashtra is 213.0 km and takes around 4 h 7 min via Mumbai-Pune Expy and MH SH 54.

Bhimashankar is also the source of the river Bhima, which flows southeast and merges with the Krishna river near Raichur. The other Jyotirlinga shrines in Maharashtra are Vaidyanath near Parli Dist Beed, Trimbakeshwara near Nashik and Grishneshwar near Ellora around Aurangabad,Nagnaath in Aundh built by Pandav brothers in one night during their exile.

The Bhimashankara temple is a composite of old and the new structures in the Nagara style of architecture. It shows the excellency of the skills achieved by ancient Vishwakarma sculptors. It is a modest yet graceful temple and it dates back to 13th century and the sabhamandap developed in the 18th century by Nana Phadnavis. The shikhara was built by Nana Phadnavis. The great Maratha ruler Shivaji is said to have made endowments to this temple to facilitate worship services. As with other Shiva temples in this area, the sanctum is at a lower level.