SAP­PHIRE COAST OF IN­DIA

Airports India - - CONTENTS - TEXT: ANIL MULCHANDANI

Aroad trip along the Kar­nataka coast of­fers beau­ti­ful beach hol­i­days, wa­ter sports, spec­tac­u­lar scenery, lush green­ery, su­perb coastal food and cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences. Yet this stretch of coast has not yet be­come as touristy as those in some other states. We flew into Man­galuru Air­port, which is lo­cated on a hill­top at Ba­jpe, out­side the city of Man­ga­lore, now of­fi­cially called Man­galuru. From this in­ter­na­tional air­port, we drove to Man­ga­lore which is one of the largest cities of Kar­nataka, an im­por­tant port and a cen­tre for in­dus­tries – from man­u­fac­tur­ing to in­fotech – but of­fers good scenery be­cause of its lo­ca­tion

along the back­wa­ters of Ne­tra­vathi and Gu­rupur Rivers, with the Ara­bian Sea to its west and some of the wettest sec­tions of the Western Ghats to its east. Amid the bus­tle of the city, we could see rolling hills, co­conut palms, streams and old fash­ioned red tiled-roof build­ings.

Known for its pep­per, Man­ga­lore had trade links with the mid­dle-east­ern and western coun­tries from the sixth cen­tury. It grew to be­come a vi­tal port city in the 14th and 15th cen­tury when it was vis­ited by mer­chants from Ara­bia and the Per­sian Gulf. Ibn Batutta in 1314, Per­sian am­bas­sador Raz­zak in the 1400s, and Duarte Bar­bosa in 1514 AD, noted that Man­ga­lore, then bet­ter known as Man­ju­ran, was a land rich in rice and spices, ex­port­ing to mid­dle east­ern and Mediter­ranean coun­tries, and vis­ited by over­seas traders in large num­bers. As tales of the port’s riches spread, the Nayaka princes of Man­ga­lore found their king­dom cov­eted by for­eign pow­ers. The Por­tuguese suc­ceeded in con­quer­ing Man­ga­lore in the 16th cen­tury and set up fac­to­ries here in the 17th and 18th cen­turies. The Sul­tans of Mysore laid siege on Man­ga­lore in the 19th cen­tury and it was ruled for some­time by Tipu Sul­tan, who set it up as a ship-build­ing cen­tre.

Fi­nally, the Bri­tish took Man­ga­lore and since then it re­mained a colony of the Raj un­til In­dia’s in­de­pen­dence in 1947 AD. The city has de­vel­oped into one of the im­por­tant ports of In­dia, and is the main ex­port­ing cen­tre for cof­fee and cashews of south­ern In­dia.

Thanks to its eclec­tic his­tory, Man­ga­lore

is cos­mopoli­tan in more ways than one. Not only does it have di­ver­sity, with a Hindu ma­jor­ity and a healthy pop­u­la­tion of Ro­man Catholics, sev­eral Mus­lim fam­i­lies, and a Jain Basti, its build­ings draw from var­i­ous ar­chi­tec­tural styles, and it also has streets bear­ing names in­flu­enced by cen­turies of Por­tuguese, Bri­tish, Mus­lim and Hindu in­flu­ences! Roam­ing around Man­ga­lore, you will en­joy see­ing bun­ga­lows with large gar­dens, trel­lis­work, arches and por­ti­coes, and a num­ber of old struc­tures rem­i­nis­cent of the days when the city was a Euro­pean colony.

We started our city tour at the St Aloy­sius chapel, built in 1885 AD on Light­house hill. The in­te­ri­ors of the chapel are painted with a va­ri­ety of scenes by Ital­ian priest Moscheni, in the fresco tech­nique pop­u­larised by the fa­mous artist Michelan­gelo. The chapel is now part of the St Aloy­sius col­lege cam­pus, which has an in­ter­est­ing mu­seum that started as a re­search and ref­er­ence cen­tre for bi­ol­ogy stu­dents, with stuffed an­i­mals, anatom­i­cal nat­u­ral his­tory, bi­o­log­i­cal and other ex­hibits. The mu­seum also has an in­ter­est­ing set of uten­sils and house­hold im­ple­ments, and a num­ber of other ex­hibits that of­fer an in­sight into life in Man­ga­lore in the 1930s and ’40s. The mu­seum has a 1906 AD De Dion, do­nated to the col­lege by Sald­hana, a cof­fee-cur­ing ty­coon of Kar­nataka. From here, we went to the Fa­ther Muller Hos­pi­tal, which has a re­hab unit for pa­tients which pro­duces beau­ti­ful block printed bed­spreads, silk shawls, wall hang­ings with batik work, hand­made toys, and let­ter­heads, in­vi­ta­tions, en­velopes and sta­tionery, printed at the hos­pi­tal. We bought greet­ing cards, cal­en­dars, bed linen, ta­ble linen and other prod­ucts made by the pa­tients. Nearby is the Rosario Cathe­dral, orig­i­nally the 16th cen­tury church be­long­ing to the old Por­tuguese fac­tory which was re­con­structed after be­ing dev­as­tated by Tipu Sul­tan’s in­vad­ing army. In 1851, the Church of Our Lady of Rosary, Man­ga­lore, was de­clared a Cathe­dral. In 1910, it was beau­ti­fied and to­day it is an im­pres­sive build­ing with a dome, col­umns and arches.

We drove out of the cathe­dral to see Shri Man­ju­nath Mandir, one of the old­est tem­ples of Man­ga­lore. The tem­ple has a lingam, a 10th cen­tury bronze sculp­ture

(the Lokesh­wara bronze is rated among the finest in Kar­nataka) and 11th cen­tury Bud­dhist im­ages. The tem­ple is in the Ker­ala-style with a tiled roof and pago­da­like shape but re­cent ren­o­va­tions in­trude on the orig­i­nal ar­chi­tec­ture of the tem­ple. The tem­ple grounds have nine wa­ter tanks, sub­sidiary shrines and a her­mitage. A cave cut into rocks is as­so­ci­ated with the Pan­davas. The tem­ple is an im­por­tant cen­tre for the Natha-pan­tha cult. We drove to the Man­galadevi tem­ple, dat­ing to the 10th cen­tury, which is named after Man­gala Devi, a princess from Man­ga­lore. It has tra­di­tional Man­ga­lore tiled roof­ing.

Then it was on to Mi­ra­jkar Mu­seum, do­nated by the sons of Mrs Mi­ra­jkar, about 10 years after she passed away in 1944, which has an in­ter­est­ing col­lec­tion of 15th to 18th cen­tury bronzes, 13th and 16th cen­tury stone sculp­tures, a 17th cen­tury Nepalese statue, and some eth­nol­ogy ex­hibits, wood carv­ings, paint­ings and porce­lain. An­other im­por­tant mu­seum is the Ma­hatma Gandhi mu­seum in Ca­nara School. Its col­lec­tion in­cludes sculp­tures, art, coins, stuffed an­i­mals, etc.

We then trav­elled south to Ulal, where we saw the dar­gah of Sayyed Mo­hammed Sha­ree­fulla Madani and the Nir­mala Con­vent. The beach at Ulal is a good place to en­joy the sun­set. We dined on rava fry kanne (la­dy­fish), prawn pul­limulli and fish curry, be­fore head­ing out to The Gate­way Ho­tel, on Old Port Road.

After break­fast­ing on mude, pathrode and shemige at GAD, the ho­tel’s all day din­ing res­tau­rant, we set out for Udupi, the pil­grim­age city known for the Sri Kr­ishna Tem­ple lo­cated on Car Street in the town. There are a num­ber of `mathas’ or monas­tic struc­tures around the tem­ples, most of them es­tab­lished by Mad­hvacharya, a 13th cen­tury Hindu philoso­pher and the chief pro­po­nent of the Dvaita school of Vedanta. At­trac­tive arches, col­umns and colour­ful char­i­ots can be seen around the Sri Kr­ishna tem­ple which fronts a tank. The tem­ple is most fa­mous for its food – the cooks make more than 14 dishes daily, us­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents and fol­low­ing tra­di­tional prin­ci­ples. After be­ing of­fered to Lord Kr­ishna, the food is then served to devo­tees in the com­mu­nity hall.

There are also restau­rants that serve

Udupi cui­sine on a plan­tain leaf. Typ­i­cally, a meal would in­clude pickle, kosam­bari (a sea­soned salad with gram or pea, a spiced rice dish called chi­tranna, hap­palla, Saaru (curry), Rasam, Me­naskai, Kod­delu, Ma­jjige Huli, Puli ka­jippu, sweets like laddu, holige or Ke­sari bhath, fried snacks like bonda, chakli or vada, para­manna, payasa or milk pud­ding, and other dishes.

After lunch, we con­tin­ued to Bhatkal, which has the Kheta­pai Narayana Tem­ple, an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of the 17th cen­tury west coast ar­chi­tec­tural style. The tem­ple has a front wall with beau­ti­ful lat­ticed stonework and a mag­nif­i­cently sculp­tured Vjayana­gara style en­trance, but uses a pro­fu­sion of wood in the con­struc­tion, which dis­tin­guishes it from most other tem­ples of Kar­nataka that are made en­tirely from stone. The Chan­dranatha Basti is a 17th cen­tury Jain tem­ple in the town, and there are many other Jain bastis in the old parts of Bhatkal. Bhatkal taluka also has one of Kar­nataka’s pop­u­lar beaches at Mur­desh­war. The Mur­desh­war Tem­ple is built on the Kan­duka Hill, which is sur­rounded on three sides by the wa­ters of the Ara­bian Sea. It is ded­i­cated to Shiva, and a 20-sto­ried gate­house called Raja Gopura is at the en­trance. From the top of the gate­house, you can get a view of the 123-feet Shiva idol which is one of the largest Shiva stat­ues in the world. The tem­ple is largely new and en­dowed by a lo­cal busi­ness­man’s son named Mr Shetty.

The coastal stretch from Man­ga­lore to Mur­desh­war has be­come fa­mous for its surf spots, spe­cially after an ashram near Man­ga­lore started pro­mot­ing surf­ing. Many other wa­ter sports can also be en­joyed on this stretch.

From Mur­desh­war, the Shaivite trail

con­tin­ues to Gokarna. It has a stun­ningly pic­turesque beach. This town owes its re­li­gious im­por­tance to the At­ma­lingam given by Lord Shiva to Ra­vana, who had per­formed penance and sang in hon­our of Shiva. Ra­vana, be­ing a Brah­min, wanted to of­fer his evening re­li­gious prayers, Sand­hya­van­danam, and he re­quested Gane­sha, who had ap­peared be­fore him as a Brah­min boy, to hold on to the At­ma­linga till he re­turned; with strict in­struc­tions to Gane­sha not to place it on the ground un­der any cir­cum­stances. How­ever, Ra­vana could not come within the spec­i­fied time. Gane­sha called out thrice rapidly for Ra­vana and then placed the At­ma­linga on the ground, and tricked Ra­vana by van­ish­ing from the scene with his cows. Ra­vana chased the re­main­ing cow and only man­aged to get hold of the cow's ear, as the rest of cow's body had dis­ap­peared un­der­ground. It is this ear now seen in the rocks in pet­ri­fied form, which has given it the name "Gokarna" which means "cow's ear."

Ra­vana then tried hard to lift the Shiv Linga here but failed and he fainted from the ef­fort; there­after he gave the name "Ma­ha­balesh­war" (meaning all-pow­er­ful) to the At­ma­linga. The place now boasts of three di­vine en­ti­ties – Gokarna, the cow's ear; the At­ma­linga or Shiva Linga de­i­fied in the Ma­ha­balesh­war Tem­ple; and the God­dess Bhadrakali – all places of wor­ship now in­te­gral to Gokarna. The tem­ple is a key place of pil­grim­age. Gokarna may also have been named for the ear shaped con­flu­ence of rivers at the site. The place of con­flu­ence called Tam­bra­parni Teertha has much rit­u­al­is­tic im­por­tance. The Ma­ha­balesh­war tem­ple is built from gran­ite and a small hole of­fers a view of the lingam. Around the tem­ple we saw Gouli women sell­ing flow­ers and other re­li­gious of­fer­ings.

The tem­ple town comes to life dur­ing im­por­tant fes­ti­vals such as Shivara­tri and Ganesh Chaturthi. Its lively bazaar is an in­ter­est­ing place to visit.

We trav­elled along the beaches to en­joy the sun­set views. The Om Beach is named for its twists and turns that form the Om sign. Ku­dle Beach, Half Moon, and Par­adise Beach are all worth vis­it­ing. A reg­u­lar nom­i­nee among for­eign trav­ellers’ favourite beaches in In­dia, Gokarna at­tracts the crowds for its lowkey, chilled-out beach ex­pe­ri­ence and not for the full-scale par­ties of its neigh­bour, Goa. Most ac­com­mo­da­tion is in thatched bam­boo huts along its sev­eral stretches of bliss­ful coast and are fa­cil­i­tated with cafes, re­laxed hip­pie hang­outs, and quaint bud­get ac­com­mo­da­tion.

After a night stay in a small re­sort at Gokarna, we took the road north to Kar­war. A cen­tre for farm­ing, in­dus­try and a naval base, Kar­war also has some lovely beaches. Its pop­u­lar beach­front is as­so­ci­ated with Rabindranath Tagore, who eu­lo­gized it in his writ­ings. On Rabindranath Tagore Beach, the ship, INS Cha­pal (K94), stands as a War­ship Mu­seum. Beaches here of­fer scuba div­ing near wrecks and snorkelling, and pop­u­lar dive sites in­clude Devbagh is­land and Pi­geon is­land. After a long ocean ride from Kar­war, we reached the rocks of an un­in­hab­ited is­land in the mid­dle of the sea, home to the an­cient Oys­ter Rock Light­house. With great pride we climbed right to the top of this lov­ingly pre­served struc­ture. It was thrilling be­ing to­tally alone, on top of the world, with a blind­ingly blue sea un­furled around you.

The beach at Mu­rudesh­war

PHO­TOS: DI­NESH SHUKLA

Gokarna is a sa­cred town for Shaivites Man­ga­lore is named after Man­gala Devi Mur­desh­war in Bhatkal Taluk of Ut­tara Kan­nada dis­trict is a pop­u­lar tem­ple town Around the Shri Kr­ishna tem­ple of Udupi

The St Aloy­sius col­lege cam­pus at Man­ga­lore

The Shri Kr­ishna tem­ple at Udupi fronts a tank

Man­ga­lore is fa­mous for its Ma­halingesh­war and Man­galadevi tem­ples

Man­ga­lore gets its name from God­dess Man­galadevi

Colour­ful char­i­ots at Udupi

Rosario Cathe­dral at Man­ga­lore

Devo­tees wor­ship Lord Hanu­man in Udupi

Ulal beach

Udupi coast­line

Wild­woods is a botan­i­cal re­sort near Mu­rudesh­war

Study­ing plants at the botan­i­cal re­sort

Man­ga­lorean seafood

Colour­ful Ban­jara women in Udupi dis­trict Vi­brant flower in Wild­woods

Sufi Dar­gah at Ulal

The colos­sal Shiva statue at Mu­rudesh­war

Row­ing a cor­a­cle near Mu­rudesh­war beach

Rid­ing a jet ski at Mu­rudesh­war

Devo­tees at Mu­rudesh­war

Shop­ping in Mu­rudesh­war

Paddy fields and plan­ta­tions add to the beauty of Kar­nataka’s coast

Mu­rudesh­war beach

Shiva tem­ple in Mu­rudesh­war Ma­ha­balesh­war tem­ple in Gokarna

Mu­rudesh­war is a tem­ple town named after Lord Shiva

Gouli woman sell flow­ers

The twists and turns of Om Beach at Gokarna give this beach its name

Om Beach

Gokarna has many good places to stay

The War­ship Mu­seum at Kar­war

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