The ‘mysterious’ step-well at Lonar

Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else. ~ Lawrence Block

I first saw the step-well on my way to the hotel from Lonar bus stand from the auto rickshaw.

A sunken structure in black basalt, I think I was lucky to notice it in the first place as the step-well is not on the road itself, but a little inside. I also think I noticed it because of the sudden break between the rather drab looking houses on the road and because it was so different from everything around it. From the quick look that I had in a passing rickshaw, I guessed it to be a water body of some sort. Maybe a step-well or at least an old  water tank?

I immediately asked the driver of the auto rickshaw I was travelling in. “What’s that place we passed just now?”

“What place?”

“The place with the black coloured stone and the one that looks really old.” (Yeah, I know, a very clever and lucid description indeed :-P).

“That thing? It’s a water tank. Nobody uses it or goes there.” These words were uttered with such a tone of finality that I didn’t dare ask him anything more.

Later that evening, after a day spent exploring Lonar, I told the guide about the step-well  / water tank that I had seen earlier that day. The guide was equally dismissive saying that it was a broken down structure, and not really interesting and why should I want to see something as boring as that?

That did it. The word “boring”. I decided that I wouldn’t leave Lonar till I had paid a visit to the step-well / water tank. So next morning, before I left for Aurangabad (my next destination), that’s what I did.

And the first thing I realised when I saw it is that it was not a water tank, but a step-well. Not an elaborate one, but a step-well nevertheless.

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Lonar: Geology, mythology, history and today

I eyed the steep and stony descent with some trepidation. The trail, or what passed off as one, appeared to be made for goats, not humans.

“It’s okay. The path is perfectly safe. Nothing will happen to you,” said Rajesh, my guide.

“That’s easy for you to say,” I told him, as I placed my camera in its protective case and put it in my backpack. As an afterthought, I also put my cellphone in as well, not willing to take any chances with it while climbing down..

“Are you sure this trail is safe?” I asked.

“Not only is it safe, it is also the quickest way to descend.”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” I muttered to myself, as I looked around to see the vista spread out before me. Beyond the goat trail that is.

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The orange flags of the Kamalja Mata Temple can be seen as a speck

An almost circular lake, tranquil and pretty as a picture — ringed with a thick green cover and dotted with temples around its periphery — stretched out below me. This is the Lonar Crater Lake, which was created when a high-speed meteorite slammed into the basaltic lava flows about 52,000 years ago. The meteorite is believed to be buried deep within the lake.

Though the Lonar Crater was ‘discovered’ in 1823 by a British military officer, C.G. Alexander, it wasn’t until 1973 that it was found that the Lonar Crater was a one-of-its-kind. It remains the only meteorite impact crater in basalt in the world.

Continue reading “Lonar: Geology, mythology, history and today”