Maharashtra is a state in the western region of India. It is the second most populous state after Uttar Pradesh and third largest state by area in India. Maharashtra is the wealthiest state in India, contributing 15% of the country's industrial output and 13.3% of its GDP (2006–2007 figures).
Maharashtra is bordered by the Arabian Sea to the west, Gujarat and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli to the northwest, Madhya Pradesh to the north and northeast, Chhattisgarh to the east, Karnataka to the south, Andhra Pradesh to the southeast and Goa to the southwest. The state covers an area of 307,731 km2 (118,816 sq mi) or 9.84% of the total geographical area of India. Mumbai, the capital city of the state, is India's largest city and the financial capital of the nation. Nagpur is the second (Winter) capital of the state. Marathi is state's the official language.
Marathi is the official language of Maharashtra. Maharashtrians take great pride in their language and history, particularly the Maratha Empire, its founder Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is considered a folk hero across Maharashtra. About 60% of Maharashtrians are Hindu, and there are significant Muslim, Christian and Buddhist minorities. 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. A National Geographic edition reads, "The flow between faiths was such that for hundreds of years, almost all Buddhist temples, including the ones at Ajanta, were built under the rule and patronage of Hindu kings." 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). Ajanta and Ellora Caves near Aurangabad as well as Elephanta Caves near Mumbai are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and famous tourist attractions. Mughal architecture can be seen is the tomb of the wife of Aurangzeb called Bibi Ka Maqbara located at Aurangabad.
Lord Ganesha's devotion is celebrated by Ganesh Chaturthi in August–September of every year. Town of Pen in Raigad district is famous for Ganesh Idols made of special Shadu Clay. Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati, Lalbaugcha Raja, Shri Siddhivinayak Temple, Shri Ashtavinayaka's are the major holy places for Maharashtrians.
Popular forms of God are Shiva, Krishna and Ganesha. Lord Shiva's devotion is celebrated by taking part in Maha Shivaratri (Great Night of Shiva) festival. In modern times, the Elephanta Island in Mumbai, Lord's Shiva island in local mythology, originated the Elephant Festival.
Lord Krishna's devotions are celebrated in the state-wide Gokul Ashtami (or Krishna Janmashtami, Krishna's birthday) whereby many devotees fast on the entire day until midnight. The Dahi-Handi is also observed on this day at many places. Lord Krishna's devotion are also celebrated at Kaartik Aamawasya (or Diwali) and at Narak Chaturdashi as the killing of the demon Narakasura.
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 six are located in Maharashtra. A large percentage of Maharashtra's forests and wildlife lie in the Zadipranta (Forest rich region) of far eastern Maharashtra OR eastern Vidarbha.