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Maharashtra is India's third largest state in area and second largest in population after Uttar Pradesh. It is bordered by the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The Arabian Sea makes up the state's western coast. Mumbai, India's largest city, is the capital of Maharashtra. Mumbai is an international city as well as the financial capital of the country.
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'.
In contrast to the agrarian economy that characterises India, Maharashtra stands out, with the highest level of urbanisation of all Indian states. The mountainous topography and soil are not as suitable for intensive agriculture as the plains of North India; therefore, the proportion of the urban population (38.69 per cent) contrasts starkly with the national average (25.7 per cent).
The state has one metropolitan city, two mini-metropolises and many large towns. Mumbai is the state capital, with a population of approximately 9.926 million people. The other large cities are Pune, Nasik, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Kolhapur.
The landscape of Maharashtra is dotted with many forts, like Raigad and Pratapgad which played an extremely important part in the establishment of the Maratha empire and also sea forts like the one at Sindhudurg. There are around 450 plus forts in Maharashtra. It includes hill forts, land forts and sea forts. An illustrative list of forts in Maharashtra in drop down box below.
Maharashtra is the centre of many religious and cultural traditions. In Maharashtrian villages, life revolves around fairs and festivals.
In early January people celebrate Makar Sankranti, the passing of the sun from Dhanu (Sagittarius) to Makar (Capricorn). The sky is ablaze with colourful kites. Sweets flavoured with sesame seed is an important item during this festival. In March, the festival of Holi is celebrated which is a winter harvest and the advent of spring. People throw coloured water over each other and have great fun on this occasion. This is an important festival celebrated all over north India.
Gudhi Padwa is the new year for the Maharashtrians. On this day people offer rituals, prayers, prasad of neem leaves, gram pulse and jagerry and they buy new clothes. Families erect a gudhi or bamboo staff, with a coloured silk cloth and a bright garlanded goblet is hung on top of it.
During April, Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated when thousands of Jains make pilgrimages to Bahubali, where two Jain temples have been constructed one for the Swetambara sect and another for the Digambara. Christians observe Good Friday and Easter Sunday around the same time. Buddha Purnima is celebrated in May. Muslims celebrate Bakrid in the same month and Muharram is witnessed in June in remembrance of the Prophet Mohammed on his death anniversary.
The full moon of Shravana is celebrated around August as Shravani Purnima, Rakhi Purnima and Raksha Bandhan. In the coastal areas it is celebrated as Narli Purnima to appease the sea gods. Fisher folk worship the sea and decorate their boats, sing and dance, and make offerings of coconut. Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the same day in different parts of the state.
The most important Mahrashtrian festival is Ganesh Chaturthi, in honour of Lord Ganesh. It is the birthday of Ganesh - the elephant headed son of Shiva and Parvathi. Ganesh is believed to be the harbinger of good luck who removes all obstacles to success. He brings prosperity and keeps natural calamities at bay in the lives of those who worship him. This ten day festival begins with the installation of the deity, who is then worshipped daily till the immersion on the final day. Small Ganesh idols are installed in homes. Idols can tower 10m high and weigh several tonnes. On the tenth day, serpentine processions fill the streets and with the accompaniment of drumbeats and music the image of Ganesh is immersed in the water. Devotees chant 'Ganapati Bappa Morya' which means Ganesh, Daddy, please come back soon next year.
Nag Panchami, the snake festival, is observed at the village called Battis Shitale in the Sangli district towards the end of August or early September. The devotees collect hundreds of cobras, place them in earthen pots and worship them to the accompaniment of folk dances and song. Later they are carried in processions of bullock carts and chariots. On the following day they are released into the fields from where they were captured.
Dussehra and Diwali are celebrated in October and November. Dussehra which is the celebration of good over evil is an auspicious day for new ventures. Tools of trade, vehicles and machinery are worshipped on this day. Diwali which is the festival of lights marks the end of one commercial year and the beginning of another. Homes are decorated with oil lamps. A unique Maharashtrian touch is seen in the akash kandeels or lanterns that are hung outside homes. Bhaubij, the last day of Diwali, is similar to Raksha Bandan and deals with the relationship between brother and sister.
Beaches in Maharashtra
Maharashtra is another coastal state of India with a good number of seaside resorts and beach resorts. One of the major features of the beaches of Maharashtra is a fact that they live essentially safe waters, making them the perfectly ideal family beach sites. If one has a special interest in forts and their history, check out the costal fort sites of Maharashtra, the perfect place to start on an enlightening heritage tour.
Juhu is one of the largest and frequently visited tourist beaches of India on the shores of Arabian Sea. Mostly famous as the best hangout zone of Mumbai city this place mainly attracts people to get a taste of the famous Mumbai Bhelpuri and Kulfi.
Marine Drive - Chowpatty Beach
Chopwpatty beach is situated in the heart of Mumbai and has got rich historical link ups with the freedom movement. Presently this is the spot where Lord Ganesha's images are immersed after the conclusion of the Ganesha Chaturthi festival.
Madh Island Beach
Madh Island is a popular picnic spot, dotted with exquisite bungalows and an urban aura. This place has a reputation of being the spot to check out for the most lavish beach parties held outside Mumbai.
Lying to the north of Mumbai, are three beautiful and serene getaways, for those who are craving to take a break from the hectic and chaotic city life. Marve is a quaint little fishing village, the nearest and the quietest of the three. Gorai and Manori, a little further away, are more popular for their wonderful all night beach parties.
If one prefers a beach with a religious flavour, then Ganapatipulle is the best resort. Set along the western cost of Maharashtra, this place is one of the 'Ashta Ganapati' pilgrimage sites of India.
Murud - Janjira
Alibaug is the headquarter town of the Raigad district and a convenient base for the nearby beaches. A former capital town of the Siddis of Janjira, Murud today is popular for its alluring and spacious beach fringed with palm trees. Situated just a few kilometres away from here are two undiscovered beach sites of Kashid and Nandgaon.
Located 77-km away from Mumbai, during the 17th century Bassein served as an important shipbuilding center. In 1739, this was the site of the Portuguese defeat at the hands of the Marathas. Having a similar backdrop to that of Goa, this beach serves one of the best choices to take some time off from the hectic schedule of city life.
Dahanu-Bordi, with a beautiful seaside are situated in Thane district. A notable vast streach unspoilt beach and the coastline that's 17-km long. The unique feature of Dahanu is the Chickoo (fruit) orchids spread over a large area.
A very secluded beach site of Maharashtra, situated at a distance of about 200-km from Mumbai, Harnai is gaining tourist importance day by day and is usually the most visited hotspot for the people of Mumbai and Pune.
Kihim & Mandwa
About 20-kms from Alibaug and easily accessible from Mumbai, Mandawa is a beautiful and clean beach. Those searching for quite surroundings, the nearby Kihim beach with its unspoilt and isolated ambience is a lovely place.
Vijaydurg - Sindhudurg
Once tactes as the naval-bases of the reign of the Great Chattrapati Shivaji, these places gained importance because of their picturesque beaches. Other attractions are the Vijayadurg fort built by Shivaji in the 17th centu.
Shriwardhan - Harihareshwar
Shriwardhan Bay located in Raigad district makes an irresistible beach site as it's blessed with gentle winds, soft sands and inviting waters, which attracts beach lovers in large numbers. It's also a splendid place for seafood lovers where one can relish tempting seafood of numerous varieties.
Tarkarli is situated 6-km south of Malvan and 546-km from Mumbai on the west coast of India, at the confluence of the Karli River and the Arabian Sea. This place has a secluded golden beach with aquamarine waters.
Situated 170-km from Ratnagiri is the village of Velneshwar. It's adjoining beach is clean and natural and is lined with coconut trees. Swimming and other water sports are possible there as the beach is free from rocks.
Vengurla - Malvan
In the Southern part of the Maharashtra coastline is situated a beach famous for its long stretch of shimmering sand, lined with thick cashew, coconut, jackfruit and mango groves. Near the beach site are the Vengurla rocks, also known as Burnt Islands.
The geography of Maharashtra shows evidence of a divine hand. Running north to south, throughout its length are the steeply rising Western Ghats. The foothills sometimes approaching the seashore and sometimes withdrawing 40 or 50 kms away seem to be playing an eternal game with the Arabian Sea.
Nestling shyly in these mountains, some at an altitude of 2000 metres, are the hill stations of Maharashtra. These towns offer clean, calm and a thoroughly refreshing alternative to city life. They are probably the only places in India where you can observe the fall of the land all the way to the shimmering sea. Mumbai, India's commercial capital, and easily the most accessible city in this country, is the perfect gateway to Maharashtra's hill country, with convenient and comfortable links by road, rail, and air.
Dating back to the 2nd BC and artistically built over a few centuries, the Caves of Maharashtra have an extraordinary appeal and aura. Nestled in the formidable Sahayadri Mountain Range, these caves have been home to monks of different religions.
Be it the paintings in the Ajanta caves or the sculpture of the Ellora caves, or the divine presence in the Elephanta caves, the visitors have always and will always continue to be spellbound. These caves offer a visit that is truly unforgettable. A visit that will induce a sense of discovery, a discovery of the self, and of the divine.
Forts in Maharashtra, numbering around 350, are the sentinels of time. Built by the great warrior leader Shivaji of the Maratha Empire, these forts in Maharashtra have witnessed the rise and fall of dynasties, the struggle of independence, the vitality of the post independence era. They still stand tall, protecting the cities that were built within the fort walls and now are expanding outwards, from the unknown perpetrators that may strike from the otherwise placid shores.
Whether it is the island fort of Murud-Janjira or the Bassein (Portuguese) Fort guarding the sea, whether it is the Raigad Fort set on the Sahyadri Hills or the city fort of Panhala, all forts are unique in their architecture and common in their function. You can explore Maharashtra by way of its forts that will have you gloating with pride, on your tour to the forts in Maharashtra with the specialized tour packages for forts in Maharashtra offered by Tourism in Central India.