Maharashtra is India's third largest state in terms of area and second
largest in terms of population after Uttar Pradesh. It is bordered by
the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh,
Karnataka, Goa and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and
is home to 96 million people.
Mumbai, India's largest city, is the capital of Maharashtra.
Maharashtra has a
population of 96,752,247 inhabitants making it the second most
populous state in India, and the second most populous country
subdivision in existence. The Marathi-speaking population of
Maharashtra numbers 62,481,681 according to the 2001 census. This
is a reflection of the cosmopolitan nature of the state.
Only eleven countries of the world have a population greater than
Maharashtra. Its density is 322.5 inhabitants per square kilometre.
Males constitute 50.3 million and females, 46.4 million
307,713 km (118,809 sq mi)
Hindus form the majority of Maharashtra
population and the culture of Maharashtra reflects that. 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 Vitthala at
Pandharpur is the most important temple for the Varkari sect. Other
important religious places are the Ashtavinayak (eight temple sites of
Ganesha), Bhimashankar which is one of the Jyotirlinga (12 important
shiva temples). Amongst the cave art and architecture is the famous
tourist attraction of Ajanta and Ellora Caves near Aurangabad. A
famous example of Mughal architecture is the tomb of the wife of
Aurangzeb called Bibi Ka Maqbara also located at Aurangabad.
Maharashtra's diversity of physical features and geography is
reflected in her people and culture. Virtually every major is
represented in the state. The Deccan Plateau in Central Maharashtra is
largely populated by tribal groups. The Bhils, Mahadeo Kolis, Gonds
and Warlis are the largest tribal communities. On the northwestern
coast, the Warlis continue their frugal, reflective existence,
worshipping the mother goddess. Warli myths reveal that death came
upon the human race as a result of the humiliation of Mother Earth.
The Warlis appease this goddess of creative energy, the corn goddess
and the goddess of trees and plants. Their death songs attempt to
unravel the mysteries of life and death, revealing their simple awe of
nature in all its innocence.
The Warlis, aboriginal settlers from the foothills of the Sahyadris,
in Thane district, north of Mumbai, live in a small cluster of huts
called padas. These houses generally have one door and no windows at
The Gonds, a people of central India, are spread between the forested
areas of the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and
Orissa. They have distinctive customs and speak a Dravidian language
called Gondi. Today, many Gond youth have taken on the dominant
language of their regions and cultural variations between tribal
communities is expanding. Where their forest homes are still intact,
however, their lifestyles remain unchanged and such communities
provide anthropologists with a window into a past.
Although Maharashtra has a distinctive Hindu flavour, it has always
had a tradition of secularism. Jewish communities have established
several synagogues which are still active in Mumbai, Pune, Alibag,
Pen, Thane and Revdanda. Mosques and dargahs, churches and Zoroastrian
fire temples, all find the space to function. A sprinkling of Jain and
Buddhist temple cover the region.
The climate of Maharashtra
is typically monsoonal in character, with 'hot' rainy and cold weather
seasons. The months of March-April and May are maximum heat. During
this season, especially in April and May thunderstorms are a common
feature all over the state. The first week of June is the time for the
onset of the south-west monsoon. Rains spread out from the south
western and western sides all over Maharashtra. July is the wettest
month and August is substantially rainy, by September the south
west monsoonal current weakens. October marks the transition from the
rainy season to winter. The general drying up of the land and greater
sunshine, accompanied by high humidity, produce familiar phenomenon of
'October heat'. From November to February there is a cool dry spell,
with clear skies gentle breezes and pleasant weather, though the
eastern margins of Maharashtra receive some rainfall.
In the general March of
seasons in Maharashtra, the dominant natural factor that affects
basically the life and economy of the peoples is the rainfall in its
regime amount and variability. In regime quite major part of the rain
is received during the four months from June to September. This
concentration is particular to the Konkan and Sahyadrian Maharashtra.
In central Maharashtra, though the total precipitations is much lower,
there is a wider spread over the months of June to October with a
noticeable maximum in September. From Maharashtra, the total rainfall
steadily increases towards the east under the influence of the Bay of
Bengal monsoon and hence eastern Vidarbha receives its major rains in
the month of July August and September. The heaviest rainfall in
Maharashtra occurs in the main Sahyadris. Different regions have
different rainfalls. These regional difference in the total annual
rainfall help in distinguishing three zones of Maharashtra; the wet,
the intermediate and semiarid zones. The variability of monsoonal
rains is common all over Maharashtra. This unpredictable monsoonal
rains affect the agriculture and this will impact economic distress
and human suffering. The rainfall in Maharashtra is not fully utilised.
A major portion goes waste to the sea in torrents during rainy season.
While in the summer months many of these areas suffer acute shortage
even of drinking water.
Temperature variations in
Maharashtra are not of that consequence as those in rainfall. Tropical
conditions are common all over and even the hill stations are not that
cold. But lower winter temperature on the plateau do help the growth
of some important crops like wheat, gram, linseed and grapes. High
summer temperatures induce local thunder showers. Dew, frost, hail and
other local weather phenomena are not absent from the climate.