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Welcome to Maharashtra

With a coastline stretching 840 kms. along the Arabian Sea, a mountain range rising steeply from its coast running almost parallel along its entire length, and a proud, fearless ancestry that has held its own in battle and wit against any number of invading foreigners, Maharashtra has always justified its name- Maharashtra or ‘The Great State’.

Third largest in size, but easily its wealthiest and most industrialized, Maharashtra is the financial and entertainment hub of India. Its capital city Mumbai is India’s nerve-centre for business, cinema, television, music and cricket. One of the largest urban regions in the world, ever expanding, ever aspiring, Mumbai is poised to become a world city in the next decade. Yet on the other hand, Mumbai is also a charming, colonial town that some still call Bombay, with a colourful past that has for the most part been preserved.

Then again, Maharashtra is so much more than just Mumbai. As one leaves its city limits, a different Maharashtra emerges. The topography quickly changes, as astounding vistas open up along the Deccan plateau. Pune is Maharashtra’s second city, Mumbai’s cooler kid brother. Traditional yet young, this university town is most well known for the Osho Ashram, a unique commune practicing the teachings and meditation methods of spiritual leader Osho Rajneesh. Marvel at the old Maratha quarters of Pune’s Peths, before driving out Northwards towards Nashik to seep into one of India’s holiest cities-the setting for Ramayana, the great Hindu epic and the source of Godavari, India’s second longest river.

The gentle slopes around Nashik are also India’s main wine-growing region, where every major winemaker of the world is slowly yet surely converging. Stay at a wine estate and sample the best of Vitis Indica. You’ll be surprised. Nashik is also where the Sahyadri range is at its grandest. Climb the Kalsubai Peak to scale Maharashtra’s highest peak at 1646 metres. Or drive across inland to Aurangabad, the only Mughal-influenced city in the Deccan plateau. Discover the Mughal town that the last great Mughal emperor Aurangzeb built, when he shifted the capital here from Delhi during his reign in the 17th century. Close to Aurangabad, discover what are undoubtedly the greatest treasures of Maharashtra- the cave temples at Ajanta & Ellora. Marvel at the mastery of early man, and be touched by greatness.

For those seeking solitude and ocean, Maharashtra has much to offer. Its Konkan Coast is dotted with white sandy beaches, with rising escarpments that form spectacular medieval forts, each with its own grand story of unbelievable bravery and treacherous villainy. Most of its beaches are unspoilt, as large-scale tourist interest has always focused on neighbouring Goa, leaving these hamlets pristine and mostly untouched. The Konkan coast is truly magical, and well worth exploring for that intrepid traveller who seeks authenticity over gloss. The summer months yield the most coveted of all species of mango, the Alphonso. The Ratnagiri Alphonso is subtle, delicious and regarded as the very best in the world. A visit to one of the mango plantations would be a rewarding addition to any itenary. As would experiencing the local Malvani cuisine, surprisingly original in taste, using the freshest of marine catch. Malvan is also an excellent dive center, especially around Vengurla and Tarkarli.

When the rains finally lash down, Maharashtra will transform into a verdant paradise of waterfalls, mist and green slush. It is the best time to explore the Western Ghats, trekking along rain-soaked trails, gushing waterfalls and mist-covered mountains.

The monsoon in this part of the world is truly one-of-its-kind. Whether it’s the twin hill stations of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, wet and wild Malshejghat, pretty Bhimashankar Hills or quaint Matheraan, the Ghats are unique not for their altitude, but for the fact that they offer myriad adventure possibilities-paragliding, bungee-jumping, rappelling, keyaking, rock-climbing, angling, mountain-biking. it’s all possible here in Maharashtra.

In the end, the problem that will confront the visitor would be one of choice. To cover the great state, a single trip would never suffice. Fortunately, there is an easy solution to this problem. Be back soon.

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