“Karavali” in Kannada, means ‘Sea Coast’. True to its name this stretch of land along the southwestern coast of India is dotted with golden beaches, ancient temples and picturesque landscapes. Rajan NS takes a tour of this sun-kissed coastline.
Karnataka in South India is blessed with a long coastline of 320 kms, commencing from Mangalore in Dakshina Kannada Dt (south) to Karwar (which lies barely 10 kms from Karnataka’s border with Goa) in Uttara Kannada (north). Hailed as “Karavali” in Kannada, meaning ‘Sea Coast’, it is the stretch of land situated along the southwestern coast of India, alongside the Arabian Sea. The region comprises three civil districts: Uttara Kannada, Udupi, and Dakshina Kannada.
The four lane, 1,608 Kms long National Highway 66 (NH 66) runs along the western coast of India, parallel to the Western Ghats. It connects Panvel (south of Mumbai) to Kanyakumari, passing through Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. With a track length of 900 kms, crossing 2,116 bridges and piercing 91 tunnels (total tunnel length: 82 kms), the Railway runs through Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. Its running length in Karnataka alone is 239 kms.
Construction of the Konkan Railway traversing the extremely hard terrain of the western Ghats was achieved in six years from 1992 to 1998. It was a tremendous feat and was acclaimed internationally.
For almost all of their length in the three states, the rail and road arteries run close and parallel to the west coast of India. Thus, any trip here is bound to be full of thrills and pleasant experiences. The famous and awe-inspiring Dudhsagar Falls on the Mandovi river in Goa, close to the Goa-Karnataka border, can be reached, on the Belagavi-Vasco-da-Gama route on the Konkan Railway (also by road with the help of Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife sanctuary, Molem). The 1017 feet tall and 100 feet wide falls cascading in five streams from the mountaintop and merging midway into one torrent are awesome.
The coastal Mangalore-Karwar stretch, has many spectacular places of interest for tourists and also those interested in visiting temples, a feast alike for the senses and sight. The port city of Mangalore itself has several beautiful beaches (Panambur, Surathkal, Ullal, Tannirbhavi and Someshwar) and many famous temples.
Sixty kms north of Mangalore on NH 66, lies Udupi, the town famous for its Sri Krishna Temple (founded in the 13th century by the Vaishnavite saint, Sri Madhwacharya), with its own ‘Udupi cuisine’ specialised by Madhwa Brahmins (there are ‘Udupi’ hotels almost everywhere in the world).
Udupi is also an educational center of world renown with the Manipal Academy of Higher Education at Manipal, only five kms away from downtown Udupi, boasting of 25,000 students and faculty from countries all over the world. Udupi also has several beautiful beaches (Malpe beach, Kaup beach, Kodi Beach and St Mary’s Island,10 kms into the sea).
Other prominent towns on this coast are Murudeshwar (midway on this stretch), with a huge temple complex on the sea with two large and comfortable hotels, and Gokarna (78 kms north of Murudeshwar), known for its Mahabaleshwara temple. This area is replete with a number of other famous temples.
Gokarna also draws a large number of tourists from abroad (many of them stay on for long periods) for its many beaches; one beach in particular, the “OM Beach”, is a great attraction. (The beach takes its name from the way it is shaped by nature in the form of ‘OM’). Thus, Gokarna is for both the sightseeing visitor as well as for the spiritually inclined.
A little to the east, and deep inside the thickly wooded Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary, but only 35 kms away from the NH 66 and easily reachable on excellent roads, is Sri Mookambika Devi Temple, located in the Western Ghats on Kodachadri Hills. It was set up by Adi Shankaracharya at Kollur and the presiding deity is the Goddess Shakti. The temple lies at the bottom of a bowl-shaped depression within the hills. River Souparnika flows serenely close to the temple and the area is very picturesque. It is visited all through the year by a very large number of devotees of the Devi. The temple is 1,200 years old.
This stretch (Mangalore-Karwar) of the West Coast of India is also endowed with an unending plethora of picturesque and long beaches. (The coastal area South of Mangalore in Kerala is equally spectacular. But this essay is only about the Karnataka coast).
Among the most famous beaches here is the Maravanthe Beach, well worth a visit and a dip. The highway to the north beyond Maravanthe is a captivating, charming drive for some distance. The waves of the Arabian Sea crash on the shore immediately close to the highway on one side, and the Souparnika River flows serenely close on the other side. The steep and picturesque Kodachadri mountains (part of the Western Ghats; 1,343 meters) rise high beyond the river to the East.
Only about five kms inland from Maravanthe lies the picturesque village of ‘Padukone’ teeming with Coconut groves, with the Souparnika river surrounding, and flowing on, three of its sides. This village is famous as it is the surname of Prakash Padukone, who in 1980 was the first Indian to win the All England Open Badminton Championships. Padukone is also the surname of ‘Vasant Kumar Shivshankar Padukone’, aka ‘Guru Dutt’, producer, director and actor. Prakash’s daughter, actor Deepika also carries this surname. Sanchitha Padukone, an actress in Kannada and Telugu films also hails from this village, although she is not related to the actors. (source: Wikipedia)
One place here that left me spellbound and desirous of visiting often is a hilltop close to the town of Byndoor, about 21 kms north of Maravanthe. The beach here goes by the name of ‘Ottinenne’ and is about 2 kms west from the highway. The Byndoor river flowing in the east turns towards the sea and makes a lazy turn to join the sea at the estuary. The beach itself is very pleasing and also attracts a varied species of birds, making it a Bird Watcher’s paradise.
From Byndoor on NH 66, a turn towards the beach and driving two kms to the West, takes one to ‘Sunset point’ on a tall hill, rising high above the beach to a vantage point, with a panoramic view of the Byndoor river joining the sea at the estuary down below.
The rolling and abundant greenery with a variety of trees all around attracts many species of birds which also adds to make the area a perfect spot for enjoying nature’s bounty. From the promontory on the hilltop, the sight of the river merging into the sea spread expansively before us for as far as we can see, is an especially striking view during monsoons. Being so close to the highway, this visual delight can easily be covered by anyone traveling either way, on NH 66.
A small cluster of buildings, the “Kshitij Nesara Dhama”, maintained by the Karnataka Forest Department on the hilltop has a few rooms where one may stay. Food is also provided on prior request. (Please check beforehand at the Kundapur Forest Office for stay and food).
The town of Karwar, close to Karnataka’s border with Goa, is another popular tourist spot, with the Kali river joining the sea here. Its beach is named after the Nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore, who stayed in Karwar as a 22-year old in the year 1882. He lived with his brother Satyendranath Tagore, who was the district judge of the city during that time.
Uttara Gangopadhyaya, in an article written by for “Outlook traveler” (October 12 , 2019), says: “…..the beach is relatively uncrowded compared to other popular town-side beaches of India. So it is not surprising that over a century ago, it must have been lonelier, with hardly a soul around. It was to this tranquil corner that a young Rabindranath Tagore was drawn to while he was visiting his elder brother Satyendranath Tagore, who was posted here as the district judge of Karwar (in 1882). The natural beauty of Karwar beach roused the philosopher in him.
Contemplating on the realities of life, he penned his first verse drama Prakritir Pratisodh (meaning the Revenge of Nature). Although Rabindranath had already embarked on literary writings, his communion with nature in Karawar (sic) had an intense effect on him, which was evident in his later writings. “This Nature’s Revenge may be looked upon as an introduction to the whole of my future literary work,” the Nobel Laureate poet said later, “or rather this has been the subject on which my writings have dwelt –the joy of attaining the Infinite with the finite.” (‘My Life in My Words’ by Rabindranath Tagore, selected and edited by Uma Das Gupta).
“The beach is also the venue for a number of cultural activities including the famous Karavali Utsav, which is held every year in the month of October. Also called the ‘Tagore Festival’, this socio-cultural event is an extravaganza which showcases local cuisine, art, culture and handicrafts. There are various stalls selling souvenirs, knick-knacks, jewellery, etc. Live performances by artists and a grand display of fireworks are some of the highlights of this annual fest.” (Source: ‘Rabindranath Tagore Beach’, dated Apr 27, 2017 by Rashmi Gopal Rao for ‘Times Travel’)
Karwar also has some other equally attractive beaches such as Devbagh beach and Majali beach,. It has a Warship Museum which is a 245-ton ship that played an active part in the Indo Pak war of 1971.
Sadashivgad fort, built on a hill, is a very picturesque spot, located about 6 kms from Karwar and a popular tourist destination next to the Kali river bridge, at the confluence of the river and the Arabian Sea.
Continuing north for about 10 kms on NH 66 from Sadashivgad Fort, one reaches the border of Karnataka with Goa, which has its own abundance of sights and attractions for tourists. Traveling either way on NH 66 along the Karnataka coast between Karwar and Mangalore is a very pleasant experience, particularly in the months of October to February, with numerous places to see and enjoy.
(All pictures used in this article are courtesy the author)
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