The name Maharashtra means 'a great state' in the vernacular. The name originated probably from 'rathi' meaning 'a chariot driver,' referring to drivers and builders of chariots who were called 'Maharathis' or 'fighting force.' It is one of the largest states in India, both in terms of area and population. Maharashtra spans an area of 308,000 sq km. The state language is Marathi.
Maharashtra occupies a substantial portion of the
Deccan plateau in the western peninsular part of the subcontinent. Its shape roughly resembles a triangle, with the 725 km western coastline. The state is bounded by the Arabian Sea in the west, Gujarat in the north-west, Madhya Pradesh in the north, Andhra Pradesh in the south-east and Karnataka and Goa in the south. The capital, Mumbai, is an island city which has been called the
Gateway of India. Mumbai is one of the most vibrant commercial and cultural centers of India.
Maharashtra, predominantly a Hindu society with
Ganesh as the principal deity, is also home to a host of other religious groups, including the enterprising Parsi community. Marathi,
Hindi and Gujarati are widely spoken. The other important languages are Telugu, Kannada, Sindhi, Urdu, Bengali, Malayalam and English. There are also many local dialects such as Konkani on the west coast and Gondi, Varhadi and Mundari in the eastern and northern forests.
Maharashtra is a region of distinct culture. Its artistic and cultural heritage is best manifested in the numerous ancient cave paintings found at Ajanta and Ellora, in a number of medieval architectural masterpieces, in its classical and devotional music and in its theater. Cotton textile industry is the largest and the oldest industry in Maharashtra.
The important tourist centers in the state include Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta, Kanheri and
Jawhar, Malshej Ghat,
Amboli, Chikaldhara and Panhala hill resorts and various religious places.