A STATE THAT REDEFINES INDIA’S MAGNIFICENCE
Maharashtra – Nation within a Nation is the third largest state in the country, both in terms of population and area. The state capital city of Mumbai, one of the largest and most vibrant cities in the world is also the financial and entertainment capital of the country. Maharashtra is one of the few regions in the world which offers multiple types of destinations for its tourists. It has long coastline of 720 kilometres along the lush green Konkan region. The Western Ghats and the Sahyadri mountain range offer hill stations and water reservoirs with semi-evergreen and deciduous forests. And, the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, with its dense forests, is home to several wild life sanctuaries and nature parks.
The state is also blessed with rich history, tradition and culture, which is evident through its world class ancient forts and monuments, ancient cave temples and pilgrimage centres. The state is the leader in the country with respect to foreign tourist arrivals (20.8%) into India and one of the leading states for domestic tourist visits (7.2%). There have been widespread, interrelated global developments and advancements, which have had a strong bearing on the Tourism sector in India (and in Maharashtra).
These include, amongst others:
1. Increased desire and financial mobility for travel of the middle classes (domestic and international)
2. Steep-change increase in air access (airlines, airports and route development) in tandem to decreases in the cost of travel
3. Growth in the quest of travellers for immersive experiences rich in cultural and natural exposure
4. Path-breaking innovations in the field of Information Technology, including mobile usage, digital content creation and sharing 6 C/Rebecca/2016/Tourism Policy 2016 Final 4.5.2016
5. More importantly, appreciation of the tourism economy amongst heads of state and policy makers and,
6. Increasing tourism-related infrastructure investment All of these together present a promising possibility of substantially increasing the Tourist attractiveness in the State, both, for International as well as Domestic tourists.
Development Corporation (MTDC) has been established under the Companies Act, 1956, (fully owned by Govt. of Maharashtra) for systematic development of tourism on commercial lines, with an authorized share capital of Rs. 25 crore. The paid up share capital of the Corporation as on 31st March 2013 is Rs. 1538.88 lakhs.
The Corporation receives from the State Government financial assistance in the form of share capital and grants. The State Government has entrusted all commercial and promotional tourism activities to this Corporation.
MTDC has, since its inception, been involved in the development and maintenance of the various tourist locations of Maharashtra. MTDC owns and maintains resorts at all key tourist centres and having more resorts is on the plan.
Over the years, the tourism industry has witnessed steady growth and has become a crucial cog in the soci oeconomic progress of any country. Today, the sector offers far more diversified services than ever before, and it has become imperative to incorporate th ese services in the mainstream industry. As a consequence, these new and traditional tourism services are closely linked with the development of new destinations. Tourism has become one of the major sectors in international commerce, and represents, at the same time, one of the main income sources for many developing countries. Today, the sector contributes to 9% of the world GDP – through direct, indirect and induced impact and accounts for USD 1.6 trillion of world exports (6% of th e world exports). In addition, the tourism sector has the potential to generate high employment opportunities and at the same time, the spending of both domestic and foreign visitors produces a cascading effect of new money through the economy via the multiplier effect. The multiplier for Travel & Tourism is 3.2 that is for every dollar spent, 3.2 dollars are generated (including indirect and induced impacts). Travel & Tourism is one of the top two job creators with an average of 50 jobs generated per USD 1 million in sales.
The beneficial economic impacts can be summarized as below:
1. Generation of foreign exchange
2. Creation of new job and employment opportunities
3. Stimulation of trade, income and entrepreneurship – especially in the service sector and SMEs
4. Provision of new infrastructure for non-tourism use
5. Increased regional development – particularly in isolated areas
6. Greater tax revenues permitting greater government spending – or reduced taxes on other activities
7. Cascading of new money through a multiplier effect
Thus, keeping the global as well as local developments in perspective, the Government of Maharashtra understands the importance of the Tourism Sector and the opportunity it presents. The state has identified Tourism as a priority sector. Government of Maharashtra proposes to launch the New Maharashtra Tourism Policy which will replace the existing Tourism Policy of Maharashtra released in 2006. This policy will be a part the state’s over arching strategy to attract private sector investments in the tourism Sector. Further, this policy will help the state in creating a progrowth, pro-environment and pro-jobs ecosystem in the state of Maharashtra.
Highlights of the 2016 Maharashtra Tourism Policy are as follows:
1. Designate Tourism as a priority sector since it holds the potential to usher in economic development and generate high employment opportunities in Maharashtra – change—the policy will establish.
2. Achieve sector growth of 10% per annum and share of 15% in GSDP through tourism and tourism related activities.
3. Generate fresh investments in the tourism sector to the tune of INR 30,000 crore by 2025
4. Create 1 million additional jobs in the tourism sector by 2025
5. Incentivize tourism units in the state by linking it to the Package Scheme of Incentives, 2013 of Industries, Energy and Labour Department or any modifications thereafter. The incentives under this policy are designed as per the needs of the tourism sector in the state.
6. Key strategic interventions are identified and special incentives for respective intervention have been laid out.
7. Strengthening of tourism infrastructure especially in the form of PPP model, special tourism infrastructure Tourism Infrastructure development fund, CSR, etc. are defined in this policy.
The state has several tourist destinations including the popular Hindu places of pilgrimage, Pandharpur, Dehu and Alandi. Other places that attract pilgrims from other parts of India and beyond include Hazur Sahib Gurudwara at Nanded, and Sai Baba shrine at Shirdi. Maharashtra is the second most urbanised state in India, after Tamil Nadu, with large cities besides the capital Mumbai such as Pune, Nagpur, Nashik and Aurangabad.
Maharashtra is one of the wealthiest and the most developed states in India, contributing 25% of the country’s industrial output and 23.2% of its GDP (2010–11).
Let us explore the various places and attractions of Maharashtra at length.
On land and ocean, the strength of stone stands mighty over years. The Maratha heartland is fortified by over 350 forts – the largest number in any state in India. Here, the crimson-edged sword of the Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s gleams with the pride of a victorious warrior.
The once-proud bastions of army, today stand silent and dignified. Battered by the weather gods, often plundered, walls crumbling in sections and roofs blown away, yet the forts of Maharashtra exude power and inspire awe. Maharashtra’s forts speak of vision and authority. Whether it’s the mountains that call out to you or the ocean, Maharashtra has a fort for all seasons.
Hills beckon The Ajinkyatra Fort, Satara, stands tall at 3,300 feet, offering visitors a sprawling view of the city. The Daulatabad fort around Aurangabad dates backs to the 12th century hilltop fortress era. In the Harishchandragad fort famed for its height, remnants of Mesolithic man have been discovered. While the Lohagad and Visapur forts, are trekkers’ delights.
Mahabaleshwar offers views of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s famous . Shivneri the birth place of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s is sacred for his followers and one of the best maintained forts in Maharashtra today. While Raigad, the capital of the Marathas, has an enchantingly quaint but technically sound ropeway to pull you up to its taunt peak
Fortresses of the seas
The Arnala islands around Vasai are sheltered by the Jaldurgs, as the sea forts are fondly referred to. Janjira the invincible fort near Murud sits majestic lashed by the churning ocean on all sides. Take a little boat and make a trip like the locals: bags full of fish, chickens in cane baskets and even motorcycles consider the ferry a daily ride home.
Maharashtra’s coastal splendor is magnified by Sindhudurg, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s ocean fort on a rocky island makes a lovely picnic spot as you imagine horses and armies marching forward. Built in the 12th century Vijaydurg fort was named Gibralter of the East by the British for its sheer invincibility.
Forts that built cities
Whether it’s the 500-year-old Ahmadnagar Fort or the Portuguese Bassein that had a European city within it, forts have built localities. And an old British fort, lent Mumbai’s fort district its name. Kandhar in Nanded District was the seat of power of the Rashtrakuta dynasty in the 9th century CE. Maharashtra’s many forts speak of supremacy, command and muscle combined with intellect. Visits that remind you of the legacy you have been passed on to use and preserve for future generations.
Deep, dark and mysterious — there is a secretive lure to ancient caves that eludes the brightness of sunbeams and radiates ancient history. Maharashtra, home to the largest number of caves in India, snuggles within its awe-inspiring Sahyadri Range caves of all sizes, shapes and hues. From ancient rock-cut ones to ones with intricate sculptures that have housed reigning deities since time immemorial, these caves are fascinating archeological legacies.
Walk into the aura of times forgotten, eras lost in the passage of rites of yore. Testimony to the fact that the land has always been benevolent to a variety of different religions, whose monks made these caves their homes and shrines.
The Elephanta caves, on an island 11 km from Mumbai, are proud to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site as also those of Ajanta and Ellora near Aurangabad which boast of the glorious architectural experiments for Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks and devotees. The creation of the World Heritage Monuments at Ajanta, started in 2nd century BCE and was completed only in the 5th – 6th century CE, tracing the entire journey of the evolution of Buddhist architecture.
The Kanheri caves, around the outskirts of Mumbai, hidden in the lush green hills, are considered to be very important to understand the development of Buddhism in Western India. The interesting sculptures of Yaksa figures on the walls of the Pitalkhora caves in Aurangabad also pay tribute to the master craftsmanship of legends.
The Bhaja and Karla caves date back to the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE too. Just like the Pandavleni caves near Shahada which were created for the Jaina monks and devotees. Today, the Maharashtra state government is in a continual process of preservation of these historic deep, dark rock –cut caves.
Maharashtra is blessed with tapering mountain ranges, raging rivers and deep oceans. What more does an outdoor adventurer need? Though the state is still in the germination phase for adventure sport, the authorities are spin-balling the procedures. For the adrenalin rush junkie, Maharashtra already has a bundle of joy.
Water babies: Tarkarli, the Konkan’s oceanic gem makes the postcard-perfect water sport capital of Maharashtra. Here, the state government is encouraging you to come discover the unique marine life under the pristine waters of the gentle Arabian Sea. Whether you are a first-timer or a professional, the Sindhudurg coast with its warm clear waters, is inviting. Try snorkeling or scuba diving with professional trainers for assistance. You will be mesmerized by corals, the wide Sargassum forest, the rockscape and the sheer colourful diversity of marine life. Apart from Tarkarli, Ganpatipule too offers a range of adventure marine sports from water-scooters to jet-skiing.
If it’s the rush of the rivers that beckon, you don’t need to go the Himalayas to raft. At Kolad, when the Bhira dam opens up each day, the serene Kundalika river transforms itself magically into full-blown river rapids. Apart from the breath-taking river-rafting here, companies also offer waterfall rappelling and trekking.
For the airborne: If you like to spread your wings and fly, Maharashtra’s hills and skies welcome you. The Sahyadri ridges such as Panchgani, Kamshet, Bhandardara and Chikhaldara make for perfect lift and landing sites – with panoramic views. There are trained professional fliers to your free flights to abandon.
If touching the skies seems too much, try parasailing. Here you are airborne with a balloon but leashed to a moving jeep. Parasailing is a common sport across most Konkan beaches. Come along, spark the adventure bug!
Bordered by the Arabian Sea on its west, Maharashtra has as many beaches as the colours of the ocean. Here, the translucent waters of the Konkan gently lap onto pristine white sands. There, the azure blue-green of the Shreevardhan belt encourage the adventurous to plunge in. While Mumbai’s plush waters dictate real estate prices even as they turn an angry grey and lash the city with salt waves during the monsoon. The state’s 700 km stretch along the Arabian Sea, makes you experience love at first sight.
If you respect your peace but, need doses of energy, Vasai, Dahanu and Bordi are perfect weekend getaways. Lined with chickoo orchards and buzzing with the energy of coastal commerce. The Konkan which is picturesquely cradled between the Arabian Sea and the Sahyadri range, offers the best beaches. Harnai, for example, is calm yet busy with its famous loud fish auctions every evening.
If you wish to completely escape the chaos, Maharashtra’s beaches will soothe city-weary souls. Kihim, Marve and Madh are just an hour’s drive from big-city Mumbai but, they transform the landscape. Breathe in fresh, pollution-free oxygen. Take a de-stressing languid stroll amongst dense coconut trees on Vengurla’s fine white sands with cashew, jackfruit and mango orchards. Indulge in village banter over crisp, fried fish at Shivaji’s Sindhudurg or Murud-Janjira.
The adventurous could water-scooter or snorkel in the clear waters of Tarkarli to watch sea creatures. Or swim in the sandy, calm Velneshwar’s picturesque beach for hydro-therapy.
For those who find spirituality in the rhythmic movements of the ocean, Maharashtra offers pilgrim-centric beaches: lush green Ganapatipule and Shreevardhan’s divine presence.
If it’s glamour you desire, Mumbai’s beaches befit. The star-spangled sands of Juhu shimmer. The glitterati at Marine Drive make the Queen’s necklace come alive. Don’t miss the young buzz of Bandra taking in the cool ocean breeze.
Whether you enjoy bustling promenades or the serenity of secluded alcoves, Maharashtra has them all.
HERITAGE SITE & PALACES
A nation is known by its history. To that extent, Maharashtra has some of the most well-preserved ancient heritage sites which continue to provide a link to the past. The caves at Ajanta and Ellora near Aurangabad, for example, are a striking reminder of an age of Buddhism at its peak. There are about 800 caves spread across various districts but of these the 32 caves at Ajanta stand out distinctively because of their architectural splendour, legacy, and artistic masterpieces. The caves include paintings and sculptures representative of Buddhist religious art with figures of the Buddha and depictions of the Jataka tales.
So is the case with the caves of Ellora which date back to the Rashtrakuta dynasty, about 1,500 years ago. The 34 caves are actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the hills of Charanandri and you will find here evidence of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain ‘viharas’ and ‘mathas’ that tell the story of how social and economic order was often represented through religion. Elsewhere, there are as important heritage sites, including the huge crater at Lonar which is ranked among the world’s five largest craters and the third-largest salt water lake in the world.
But if it is a profusion of colour and natural beauty that you wish to see, head to the Kaas Plateau, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nestled in the Sahyadri range of mountains, this unique ecosystem bursts into a landscape of flowers during the monsoon season. And if its peace you seek, there can be nothing better than a visit to the Global Vipassana Pagoda near Gorai in Mumbai, which also has Asia’s tallest stone structure rising majestically against a background of the shimmering waters of the Arabian Sea.
And just off the city of Mumbai is the Elephanta Island, which is not only an island playing host to a bounty of nature in the form of lush plantations of palm, mango and tamarind trees but is also home to ancient cave temples carved out of rock. In fact, the heritage sites of Maharashtra will leave you spellbound and have you turning the pages of history tomes to know more.