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Maharashtra straddles the subcontinent, from the tropical coast to arid Deccan Plateau, from the fringes of the hot and hectic Gangetic plain to the palmier, balmier, more easy going south, and from isolated villages to Mumbai’s metropolitan modernity. About half of India’s foreign trade and a major part of its tax revenue flow from the state, yet almost two-thirds of Maharashtra’s population still survive on near-subsistence agriculture. While most Indian states can be fairly described as such mirch masala amalgams, what distinguishes Maharashtra is the bold intensity that binds the massive state together, exemplified by the rhythmic, whipping pulse of the Marathi language, the formidable tradition of martial independence embodied by the warrior-king and folk-hero Shivaji Maharaj; and the Shiv Sena party, which grips the state government in Hindu nationalism.

Most tourists experience Maharashtra in the ancient cave temples at Ajanta and Ellora and the ragged-yet-ritzy chaos of Mumbai. In these two places alone, the state subsumes the traditional, religious, meditative, and measured end of India’s cultural and historical spectrum with the up-to-the-minute, godless and careless cacophony of her commercial capital. Add the red-robed acolytes of the Osho commune in Pune, the white Mughal minarets piercing the skyline in Aurangabad, and the Hindu devotees immersing themselves en masse in the sacred Godavari at Nasik, and you can begin to comprehend the dizzying diversity of Maharashtra.

Map of Maharashtra

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