Maharashtra is India's third largest state in area and second largest in population after Uttar Pradesh. It is located in western India and is bordered by the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The Arabian Sea makes up the state's western coast. Mumbai, India's most populous city is the capital of Maharashtra. The people are generally referred to as Marathis or Maharashtrains. Maharashtra is India's most industrialized and urbanized state.
Maharashtra encompasses an area of 308,000 km² (119,000 mi²), and is the third largest state in India. Maharashtra is bordered by the states of Madhya Pradesh to the north, Chhattisgarh to the east, Andhra Pradesh to the south-east, Karnataka to the south, and Goa to the south-west. The state of Gujarat lies to the north-west, with the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli sandwiched in between. The Arabian Sea makes up Maharashtra's west coast.
Several wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and Project Tiger reserves have been created in Maharashtra with the aim of conserving the rich bio-diversity of the region. As of May 2004, India has 92 national parks, of which 5 are located in Maharashtra. A large percentage of Maharashtra's forests and wildlife lie in the Vidarbha region.
Chandoli National Park, located in Sangli district has a vast variety of flora and fauna. The famous Prachitgad Fort and Chandoli dam and scenic waterfalls can be found around Chandoli National Park.
- Gugamal National Park, also known as Melghat Tiger Reserve, is located in Amravati district. The park is 80 km away from Amravati.
- Navegaon National Park, located near Nagpur in the eastern region of Vidarbha is home to many species of birds, deer, bears and leopards.
- Pench National Park, in Nagpur district, extends into Madhya Pradesh as well. It has now been upgraded into a Tiger project.
- Sanjay Gandhi National Park, also known as Borivali National Park is located in Mumbai and is the world's largest national park within city limits.
- Sagareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, a man made wildlife sanctuary situated 30 km from Sangli. Ancient temples of Lord Shiva and the Jain Temple of Parshwanath located in Sagareshwar are major attractions.
- Tadoba Andhari Tiger Project, a prominent tiger reserve near Chandrapur in Vidarbha. It is 40 km away from Chandrapur.
Apart from these, Maharashtra has 35 other wildlife sanctuaries spread all over the state. The Nagzira (Bhandara district), Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary are the important ones.
Apart from the above, Matheran, a Hill station near Mumbai has been declared an eco-sensitive zone (Protected area) by the Government of India.
Favourable economic policies in the 1970s led to Maharashtra becoming India's leading industrial state. However, regions within Maharashtra show wide disparity in development. Apart from Mumbai, Pune and western Maharashtra are the most advanced. India's largest stock exchange Bombay Stock Exchange, the oldest in Asia, is also located in the city. After successes in the information technology in the neighboring states, Maharashtra has set up software parks in Pune, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Nasik.
Mumbai is also the centre of India's Hindi film and television industry (Bollywood). Ralegaon Siddhi is a village in Ahmednagar district that is considered a model of environmental conservation.
Marathi is the language of Maharashtrians. There are many temples in Maharashtra some of them being hundreds of years old. These temples are constructed in a fusion of architectural styles borrowed from north and south India. The temples also blend themes from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cultures. The temple of Vitthal at Pandharpur is the most important temple for the Varkari sect. Other important religious places are the Ashtavinayaka temples of Lord Ganesha, Bhimashankar which is one of the Jyotirling (12 important shiva temples). The Ajanta and Ellora caves near Aurangabad are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and famous tourist attractions. Mughal architecture can be seen in the tomb of the wife of Aurangzeb called Bibi Ka Maqbara located at Aurangabad. In 1708, the year following the death of Aurangzeb, Guru Gobind Singh the tenth spiritual leader of the Sikhs came over to Nanded, his permanent abode. He proclaimed himself the last living Guru and established the Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. This elevates the reverence of the Granth to that of a living Guru. A monument has been constructed at the place where he breathed his last. Maharaja Ranjit Singh's endowment saw the construction of a beautiful Gurudwara at Nanded around 1835 AD. The Gurudwara features an imposing golden dome with intricate carvings and breathtakingly beautiful artwork. It is known as Shri Huzur Abchalnagar Sachkhand Gurudwara.
Facts at a glance
Time zone – IST (UTC+5:30). Area – 307,713 km² (118,809 sq mi). Capital – Mumbai. Largest city – Mumbai. District(s) – 35. Population – 96,752,247. Density – 314.42 /km² (814 /sq mi). Language(s) – Marathi. Established – 1960-05-01. Legislature (seats) Bicameral (289 + 78). ISO abbreviation IN-MH.