While wildlife and beaches are the star attractions of Maharashtra, very few venture out to discover the rich heritage and historical history of the state. And with so many historical places in Maharashtra that merit both your time and attention, we have made your task easier by picking up a few that you can check off your list during your next visit to the state.
Rock Legends of Aurangabad
The current claim of fame for Aurangabad is its closeness to the Ajanta and Ellora caves. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is known worldwide for its incredible sculptures and wall paintings. Both sets of caves were excavated from rocky mountainside and carved from front to back with the use of only chisels and hammers. The immaculate artistry of these temples is truly incredible. In fact, at Ellora you can gaze and wonder at the immensely tall sculptures of Buddha, Shiva, Durga and Brahma that date back to the 5th and 11th centuries.
It is advisable to spend at least one entire day exploring Ellora; if you have more time, try to spend at least two or three days at the same place. Guides are generally milling about the entrance and outside the mammoth Kailāsa temple (From INR 750 for a 2-3 hour tour of the major caves).
On the other hand, the Ajanta caves have limited entry at a particular time and this is why we recommend you visit these caves in the morning or during week days. Ajanta caves are Buddhist and can be classified into two structures namely viharas (dormitories) and chaityas (prayer halls).Both are decorated with intricate paintings of the many avatars of Buddha – these include his journey to enlightenment, and the kings and demons that attempted to disrupt his meditation, using distractions ranging from sensual dancers to trumpeting elephants. The chaityas at Ajanta belong to two schools of Buddhism: Hinayana and Mahayana. The Hinayana school features stupas, while Mahayana features idols as well as stupas which are worshipped. Although Ajanta requires less time than Ellora, it is good to spend an entire day there to really immerse yourself in the artwork & sculptures.
Caves, Forts, Waterfalls & Dams of Karjat
A group of 16 rock-cut Buddhist caves and an architectural magnificence, the Kondana Caves dates back to first century BC. The construction of these caves on wooden patters, underneath a huge mountain is truly incredible. The intricate carvings on the caves are a work of wonder as they showcase the ancient lifestyle of Buddhist monks. The interiors, although in ruins, consist of vihara, chaitya and stupas with tall pillars, spectacular high ceilings, beautiful inscriptions and quaint cells. Highly recommended!
If trekking is more in your alley, then head to Karnala Fort & Sanctuary which is ideal for a short trek and provides a spectacular views of the valley. After you have conquered the fort, don’t forget to visit the Karnala Bird Sanctuary. If you have more time, head to Sondai fort where you can spend some time with the water gushing down with force at Morbe Dam and soaking in the gorgeous views.
Ancient stories at Pune
Not only the capital of the Peshwas, Pune is also a major cultural centre in Maharashtra. And the first place to tick off your list here is the Aga Khan Palace built in 1892, which continues to be a testament to the architectural wonders of a bygone era. In 1892, Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III commissioned the building, set in a 19-acre plot, so as to help the local community which was battling a famine. This monument also played a very important role during the freedom struggle of India as Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi, his secretary Mahadev Desai, and Sarojini Naidu were imprisoned here. With Italian arches, spawning green halls, huge hallways, and rooms with photos and portraits of freedom fighters, this is indeed a monument that has stood the test of time.
Another important historical monument that merits a visit here is Shaniwar Wada that is located on the Muthu river. Although there are rich tales of magnificence and opulence of Shaniwar Wada, this monument was unfortunately reduced to ashes in 1828. Among the few remaining structures are the fortified boundary walls and the Dilli Darwaza or Delhi Gate—named because it faces Delhi directionally. Take a walk in the gardens and recreate the era when kings ruled this region.
PS: Only a few minutes’ walk from Shaniwar Wada is the reconstructed Lal Mahal. It is official residence of Chhatrapati Shivaji and a place you should stop by, if you have some time on your hand. Also there are many resorts near Pune, making it a perfect getaway for a weekend.