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Maharashtra is a large, populous and economically important state. From Mumbai most travellers head south to the beaches of Goa, south-east to Pune and its famous ashram, or north -east to the World Heritage-listed cave temples of Ajanta and Ellora.
Jayakwadi (Paithan) was formerly a prosperous trade centre called Pratishthan. It was once the capital of the famous Satavahan dynasty and was also home to the poet-saint Eknath. Today it's the favourite haunt of archaeologists and is particularly well known for it paithanis, the beautiful silk sarees with elaborate zari work. While in Paithan, make sure to visit the beautiful garden and try your hand at the exciting water sports.

The Western Ghats run parallel with the coast; the rest of the state stands on the high Deccan plateau, stretching some 800 km east.

Maharashtra. The Great Land. As the name itself suggests, Maharashtra has a great diversity of riches to offer to the tourist. Before you begin to sample these, however, first an invocation to Ganesh, the god of good beginnings and knowledge. The 11-day festival dedicated to this lovable, elephant-headed god in the lunar month of Bhadrapad, is one of the most popular cultural events in Maharashtra. Similarly, Krishna-Janmasthami with its potsmashing human pyramids is one the most colourful events of Maharashtra. So is the Mohurrum festival, with its colourful tabuts and horses.

Two of the meet well incave handicrafts of Maharashtra are Kolhapuri Chappals and the Paithani sari in silk, bordered with opulent zari. These have won aficionados from all over the world. To those who come to India, often it is Bombay, the New York of the East and "Gateway to India", that offers a pulsating introduction to the sub-continent. With its admixture of Gothic and skyscraper styles, its cosmopolitan "Bhelpur" of elements, Bombay prepares you for the more esoteric pleasures of the Maharashtra hinterland - treks in the rugged hill forts, so-journs along the 720-km-long coastline and forays among the cave temples. Eighty percent of India's cave temples are in Maharashtra. Seventy percent of these temples - more than a thousand monuments-were created in about sixty centres as early as 250 B.C. and 300 A.D.

On second thoughts these achievements seem some what inevitable. Since ancient times, Maharashtra has been known ……………. Rugged people. While geologists may refer to "the trappean formations in the Sahyadrian belt", poets like the Jnanpith award-winner, Kusumagraj use the image of hard, unyielding rock to evoke this land.

That is not to signify a lack of resilience, refinement or gentleness. On the contrary, as a 14th century Mahanubhavi poet says: "So special, so 'satvic', is this land of Maharashtra that even heavy things like stones there are imbued with a lightness". (Milan Kundera would call it the unbearable lightness of being). That blend of gravity and lightness, of earliness and transcendence explains why masterpieces like the Kailas temple at Ellora or the wall paintings at Ajanta or the Maheshamurti at Elephant-which Andre Malraux called the world's greatest stone sculpture-could be "made in Maharashtra

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