Lonar Lake of Maharashtra

Nestled inside the Deccan Plateau, Lonar lake is India’s best kept secret . Located in Buldhana district of the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra (around 500 Km from Mumbai), Lonar lake is one of its kind in the world .

Its origin can be traced back to around 52,000 years ago as a result of an asteroid collision with Earth creating a crater 1.8Km wide and 450 feet deep . This ‘impact’ crater fed by natural springs and monsoon precipitation formed a natural, saline lake called the Lonar lake. Almost circular in shape, this unique salt-water lake has no outflows to rivers and its high alkalinity (pH more than 10.5) makes the water un-usable for drinking, agriculture and industry.

Why is Lonar Lake so different ? It is a crater formation …

Lonar lake is different from other lakes in the world . It is the only crater lake on Earth formed out of basaltic bedrock (like craters found on Mars, Moon and other planets) that has both high alkalinity and salinity with rich microbial diversity.

The lake has two parts with different chemical composition. The inner part is alkaline (with pH 11) and the outer part is neutral (with pH 7) and each has distinct flora, fauna , and the most striking microorganisms among which is its blue green algae and bacteria. These microscopic forms have adapted to thrive in an extremely alkaline medium, where normally no life forms could hope to survive.

Around June 2020 , Lonar Lake turned pink for more than a month . Due to the presence of  salt loving bacterial population called ‘Haloarchaea’  that produces a pink pigment and elevated temperatures , the entire lake surface changed from blue color to pink.Once the monsoons arrived the lake water was diluted, and the lake returned to its normal blue-green color.

Lake story :

The locals in the area relate to several stories that make the Lonar lake so historical and mysterious . The ancient scriptures (Puranas) state that the demon Lonasura while hiding in the lake was killed by Daitya Sudan, an avatar of Vishnu. The blood scattered by the demon formed the water of the lake and his decomposed body contributed to the high salt content in the water . And that makes Lonar lake a one-of-its-kind salt-water lake where unique micro-organisms thrive.

Historical references :

Surrounding the Lonar wetlands today are numerous temple ruins that indicate high archaeological, cultural and spiritual significance to the crater lake. Inside the crater are 3 inscriptions referencing 27 temples, 3 monuments and 7 temple tanks.

Some of the temples that need a mention are the Shankar Ganesh temple that is partially submerged in the water and has a rectangular shaped Shiva idol. The Sita Nahani or the Dhara temple is a place where goddess Sita is believed to have bathed during the Ramayan exile .

Vishnu Temple – Lonar Lake

Lonar Lake is now added to the Ramsar convention list of wetlands:

The Ramsar treaty (first adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971) is an intergovernmental treaty adopted by most of UN member countries ( including India) that strives to conserve wetlands and ensure the effective management and protect their diverse ecosystem .

Lonar lake and its surrounding wetlands were added to Ramsar protected wetland list in October 2020 and this will help preserve the water , the countless species of plants and animals whose survival depends on the lake’s environment . Lonar wetlands preserves the Indian sandalwood tree that is vulnerable to exploitation as well as animal species like the grey wolf, jungle cats, hyenas, cobras , water snakes and several beautiful migratory bird species.

If this lake is on your list of tourist places to visit, let’s remember the uniqueness of this crater lake as we admire its beauty, and do you think the lake would turn pink again next summer ? Time will tell…

Red-wattled lapwing bird at Lonar lake

Published by Meena Iyer

Sustainability champion and naturally committed to support the cause of healing our planet impacted due to climate change.

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