Thursday, May 27, 2010

Malpe beach rated as best beach in India

Malpe beach is one of the finest beach in India.  The golden sand, peaceful waves, safe swimming surface, camel rides, kite flying, etc along with Paradise resort is a total package for the tourist visiting Dakshin kanara.  The distance of Malpe beach from the main town is around 6 kms.  It is well connected with all modes of transport, autorikshaw return fare would cost 150 to 200 bucks depending on the waiting time spent on the beach.  Buses ply between the port and city and from there the beach is 1 km away.  The Malpe port is the entry point to St Mary's Isle too.

I remember my dad took me to Malpe beach when our Late PM Indira Gandhi was brutally assasinated on 31st October 1984.  The enitre town was barricaded with curfew because of riot like situation.  My dad wanted us to enjoy the unscheduled holidays of 3 days.  Our daily routine was to visit the beach in the morning, with a black flag installed on our car, to avoid being arsoned by the crowd. 

The water was greenish blue, and less salty.  My dad took me neck deep into the water boldly despite knowning that we did not learn to swim.  That was a great feeling with 5 cousins giving us company.  This experience became firmly etched in my memory even after 26 years.  Today the scenario on Malpe beach has vastly changed from a rustic environs to broad roads and well designed parking bays for vehicles.  The crowd is very sober with hardly any foreigners seen loitering around.  The beach is total family package and fun spot for an evening.  The Sun set hues is magnificient, the photography can be mind blowing with a good digital camera.

Malpe happens to be a fishing harbour, the stink can be abnoxious for vegetarians, if one prefers to stay away from the foul smell one of the best option is to visit paradise resort beach of Malpe and avoid St Mary's Isle.  The ferry point for going to St Mary's Isle passes through the fishing harbour.  The cusines particularly sea food is excellent.  One can have an excellent cusine of South canara sea food at Panchratna paradise near High court, Keydioor near Udupi bus stand, Karavalli and Sharada international on the highway.  Even Paradise Resorts have put a sign board that they offer accomodation @ Rs 1500 above per day.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Adventure unfurls @ Alibaug and Murud Zanjira

For whom the bells toll, Time Marches On………….so goes the Lyrics of Metallica. Well when is working in high pressure organization which is filled with activity taking a break almost is a luxury, taken at a risk of displeasing one’s boss. I did manage to club the Diwali holidays, to move away from Mumbai, and thus escaping the sounds of deafening crackers being exploded in the apartments.

We decided to drive early morning to Alibaug via the Panvel, and take a detour to NH17 Mumbai-Goa route. Enroute through a winding route one reaches Karnala bird sanctuary, where there is a refreshment stop over. If one reaches early enough one can spend an hour exploring the thickly forested terrain and hillock to spot some birds such as vulture, koel, robin, kingfisher, Owl etc can be spotted. . As one treks for one hour, through the karnala bird sanctuary which is home to monkey, hares, mongoose, monitor lizard etc….Further ahead there is a ruined fort of Karnala, as one reaches the peak one can have a glimpse of Matheran and a blurred view of Bhimashankar from a distance. These spots are trekkers delight since the peak is the shape of Thumbs up sign. If one has the right equipment and expertise, one can scale the peak, it is not for novice climbers like us. This thumbs up formation is supposed to be a volcanic plug measuring 1538 feet height from the Hillock.

From Karnala we moved via Pen towards Alibaug, and reached the destination around lunch time, we took up an accommodation on the promenade facing the sea. We filled our belly with nice konkan fish curry preparation along with fried Bombil. After that we checked out the beach front which was filled with high tide water. One should be aware of the high tide and low tide cycle inorder to cross over to Kulaba Fort. The blackish soil gives a different tinge than the normal beach sand. The Sunset profile on the beach front can be scenic landscape for photo buffs.

The famous ornithologist Salim Ali did his bird watching in the locales of Konkan coast, Alibaug serves as a weekend getaway for many a corporate executives from Mumbai.

One can take a ride on the horse drawn carriages towards the Fort, by walk it might take around 20 minutes brisk walk. The horse carriages wait for 30 minutes for tourist to take a detour. There are two temples Jai Bhavani, which is the family goddess of Shivaji Maharaj and Hanuman temple. There are two cannons installed by the British after the fall of the Marathas, which is manufactured at Yorkshire, home town of Geoff Boycott. One has to quickly finish their tour return before the high tide sets in other wise one has to wait for the second low tide cycle to return.

Beaches Galore : One gets to witness plenty of beaches along the coastline, Akshi, Nagaon, Kihim, Versoli beach are some of the popular ones. One can explore the twin forts of Khanderi and Undheri from Nagaon beach. One has to hire a boat and cross over, and one of the forts has a military check post where one can be frisked and questioned for ascertaining the genuine ids to avoid illegal activities.

Enroute to Rewas danda which is jetty for transporting cargo, one can come across Kanakeswara temple which can be reached vide 750 steps, which calls for top physical fitness. Kanakeswar forest is attached to the temple where panthers are supposed to be scott free along with snakes. One needs to venture into the terrain in a group for personal safety.

The next day we took a blinder of a decision to cover Murud Zanjira and Harehareswar temple. We traveled through Rewas Danda jetty and reached a junction with Banyan tree adding to the enigma. We just enquired the route to Murud Zanjira and were guided rightly so. Enroute traveling through the hillock we came across a barricaded enclosure which had an ASI symbol of protected monument. It aroused some curiousity in us, so we moved the car on a muddy terrain away from the main road into the hillock. We did for safety reason so that nobody can tamper with the car. We parked the car at a vantage point and broke into the fenced boundary. We found a neatly laid stairway towards a hillock. We did not know what to expect, it was an impulsive decision. As we moved on we enjoyed the scenic beauty of nature and reached the peak to find a stunning series of caves of Buddhist origin. Alas we did not have any knowledge of its history, but the errie silence was adding to the suspense. We quickly covered the main caves 6 in nos out of the 34 caves. We took some pictures for posterity. We returned back to safety of our car and proceeded towards Murud Zanjira.

After a lot of painstaking search like a history professor on the internet I atlast could spot the historical significance of the cave. The link is furnished below for those who are interested in it s heritage. The cave is known as KUDA caves.

We moved around 25 kms from Kuda caves and found there was Dam on one side, which seemed quite huge, the paucity of the time we avoided going towards the Dam, instead we stopped on a hillock from where we could see the beautiful fort of Murud Zanjira, on the hillock it seemed to have ruined walls of a Fort and we found an ancient kings palace which was barricaded from prying visitors. We took some photographs of some stray horses grazing and the ruined fort and than we quickly droved towards Murud Zanjira.

Outlook Clue :
This great weekend travellers guide published by Outlook gave us some insight into the history of the out of bounds Nawabs palace. The Siddis ruled this terrain guarding their fortress and palace fiercely. They claim descent originally from Abyssinia in Africa. The Ahmedganj Palace belongs to the Siddhi Nawab, which is spread over 45 acres of Land, which contains moque and buried remains of two past rulers.

The Palace is now under the Nawabs descendent and it is closely guarded for the fear of miscreants ransacking the premise in search of the fabled treasures. Folklore popular among the people claim that untold wealth lies buried like the pharaohs tomb in Egypt. The inscriptions on the tomb point to prevalent, Mori an ancient language spoken and lost to posterity. Nevertheless one will be lucky to study the rich heritage of the Nawab of Siddhis, if one obtains the permission.


This impregnable fort is also known as AJINKYA, the Fort has survived the constant attacks from Marthas, Moghuls, Dutch, Portuguese and the British. The word Jazeera means in Arabic an isle. The Siddis acted as feudatories of Vijayanagar, Marathas, Moghuls and Bahamani Sultans. The fort can be safely assumed to have been built during the Vijaynagar Empire by the local Koli fishermen community. Later the Fort seemed to have been usurped by Habashi soldiers who acted as merchant vessel dockers at the Fort. They intoxicated the local fishermen and captured the Fort and subsequently the Siddhis took over the Fort. From thereon they fiercely guarded the Fort against all invaders. In 1676 Shivaji unsuccessfully tried to capture Zanjira, later he built forts surrounding Murud such as Vijaydurg, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Padamdurg, Kasa Fort, etc. The Siddhis signed a treaty with the British to safeguard their interest against the Portuguese.

If one wants to reach the fort, one has to set sail in a catamaran across the sea, which is guided by wind sail. It is a beautiful experience to set sail in an ancient contraption which moves in sync with the velocity of the wind. Many a bollywood rustic movies seem to have been shot on this locale.

Inside the fort, there is a huge tank to collect fresh water from the rainfall, a ruined palace and watch posts located across the fort. Cannons were originally deployed and now we can get only glimpse of the past with 2 cannons in place. It is quite hot and humid during most part of the year, better to carry plenty of drinking water, salt and sugar candies along with umbrella. It is fabled that Charles Shobraj, serial killer was imprisoned inside the Fort for a short duration, away from the prying media.

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The fort raises nearly 90 feet above sea with a deep foundation of 20 feet. Some claim it was built in honour of Siddi Johar to protect his guru. It took 22 long years to construct the massive fort spread across 22 acres. The fort seemed to have contained a granary to store supplies during the rainy season. Till 4 decades a school was functioning with 550 families stationed inside the Fort. The queen Zubeida used to grace the palace and bathe nearby the pond along with her consorts. Slowly after independence the entire fort was vacated to retain it as a national monument. Now it is firmly under the safe hands of the ASI as protected monument.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Gokarna, abode of Atmalinga

Gokarna is one of the seven Muktistals ( soul freeing place as per Hindu tradition ) in India. Hindus believe that one has to perform the last rites ceremony in Gokarna and their dear one’s will attain Moksha ( salvation ). The logic behind is the confluence of river, sea and land amidst the hillock serves as a idyllic setting for deliverance of spirit. I remember distinctly that we had performed the ceremony at Gokarna on the 15th day of my fathers demise in Oct 1996. By bathing in the morning chilly sea waters. First time in my life on empty stomach till lunch time, I being the eldest went through all the ceremonies. The priest chanted the mantra and took us around the temple of Mahalingeswara and Kotiteerta to spill the ashes. Next he chanted the garuda purana in an epic manner amidsts the homa. The fumes filled my burning guts and thus killing the pangs of hunger. After the ceremony was over we had one of the heartiest lunch served at the bhatji’s residence. I am sure my dad in heaven would have been pleased to the core that his family undertook all the pains to ensure he attains salvation.

Talagunda incriptions provides some clue that the Gokarna temple was most probably expanded from a small and unknown place into Mahabaleswara temple. The kadamba dynasty founder Mayursharma ( 345-365 AD ) proceeded to Kanchipuram to gain knowledge of the vedic rites and Ashwameda yagna. Mayursharma was insulted by a guard. Insulted Mayursharma swore vengeance and promised to defeat the Pallavas, which he did ultimately at Srisailam, with a small group of supporters in a guerilla warfare in the forest infested terrain. The Pallavas accepted his domination of the Malaprabha region. Mayursharma seemed to have invited priests from banks of Godavari, from Triambakeswar to perform the yagna at Gokarna to establish his suzerainty over the region. He ordered the construction of a temple in honour lord Shiva after getting to know the myth of Gokarna.

Gokarna Mythology :

Ravana wanted to appease Lord Shiva with his prayers after obtaining atma linga and therefore requested Lord Ganesh to safeguard the Atma Linga. Atma Linga, had immense power over the universe and Ravana became invincible due to its possession. It had its checks and balance system, Ravana is supposed to have received the atmalinga with a condition that it should not be kept down on the ground by anybody, and it should be installed in the place where he resides. Ravana wanted to carry the atma linga to Lanka, but fate had it otherwise. Enroute he encountered a boy Ganesh who was sent to trick Ravana. An eclipse was created by the Lord, Ravana as usual wanted to perform Sandhyakala pooja with reciting Gayathri Mantra. He handed over the atmalinga to Ganesh, who promised to hold on to the Linga, but if he felt fatigue he would beckon Ravana thrice and if he did not turn up he would place the Atma Linga down. Ganesh after holding the Linga for sometime, called out thrice to Ravana, but before he could respond he placed the Linga down smartly. Thus the power of Atma Linga was retained at Gokarna. Ravana in disgust hit Ganesh and tried to uproot the linga but was unable to do so. But however he managed to splinter the atma linga and its pieces were thrown in different directions. One portion fell in karwar known as Sajjesvaralinga, next portion is revered as Gunveswar linga, another cloth covering fell in Murdeswar, other portion feel in Dhareswar, near Kumta, and the remaining embedded portion at Gokarna was known as Mahabaleswar Linga. All these formed the Pancha Linga and now it is Pancha Kshetra associated with Atma Linga.

Another legendary story reveals that Lord Shiva emerged from Cow’s ear. That is how Gokarna got it s fabled name born out of Cow’s ears. ( Go Karna ).

The legend of Godavari too has similar lineage. Sage Gautama who lived on Bramhagiri hills along with his wife, found one day a cow entered into his granary and was polishing off all his stored rice. In rage he went chasing the cow, which fell dead out of shock. This was considered a major blasphemy of Gohatya, ( killing of a cow ), and the sage wanted to redeem his sin. He prayed to Lord shiva to cleanse his sin and his hermitage by bringing ganges river. Lord pleased with the sincerity of the sage blessed and appeared before him as rishi Triambaka. He appeared with the river and it was named as Godavari in appeasement of Sage Gautama penance. Go lineage is associated with both places.


The mention of the myth of Gokarna is found in Kalidasa’ epic poem Raghuvamsha which is a treatise on Ramayan rulers. Kalidasa lineage ( 370-450 AD) matches with the timeline in history under the Chandragupta Vikramaditya reign.

Dasaratha saw many beasts as he was hunting.
Although, he saw a peacock fly very close to his chariot, he did not shoot his arrow.
For, as the peacock spread its tail feathers before him, it reminded him of his wife's
hair adorned with flowers of different kinds and how it would become
disarranged during their lovemaking.

Translation Raghuvanmsha souce wiki

Kavi kalidasa bestows lavish praise of Gokarna while describing the lineage of the Kings. He describes the blashemy of Lord Shiva’s prasadam falling from the hands of the emperor Aja, which might bring forth bad luck to his progeny. On hindsight the story of Lord Rama’s tryst with destiny.

Harsha Vardhan ( 590 – 647 ) who himself was a budhhist was tolerant towards hinduism and Jainism. He had a truce with Chalukyas and visited the holy place of Gokarna as per reliable reports to pen his novel Nagananda. This is fine blend of Buddhist and Hindu theme which displays his religious blend with politics. The land of mysticism in Siddha is cleverly plotted as backgroud with fairy tale romance and conspiracy. The fourth act of the play gives a clue to the serpant worship culture practised in parts of North Kanara. It is weaved into the play and ultimate triumph bodhhisattva, by goddess Gauri which brings back to life the hero of the play.

Source :

The major portion of the temple were built during the Vijaynagar period from Bukkaraja to Krishnadevaraya ( 1509 – 1529 ) and under the feudatory queen Chennamma Bhairavidevi ( 1552 – 1604 ) of Salva dynasty. The assoication of Vijaynagar emperors is obvious due to the fact the symbol of Ugranarshima which is family goddess of the vijaynagar emperors is embedded in the pillars of Mahabaleswar temple. Further the trading connection of the Vijaynagar emperors through the coastal belt is well known in the annals of history.

Visvesvaraya of Halasunadu-Kundapura built the Chandrasala and Nandi pavilions when Queen Chennammaji and her son Somasekharanayaka were ruling Keladi (1653-1671). In 1665, Shivaji came here to worship the deity. He donated some wealth and land for the maintainence and upkeep of the temple.

The well-known British traveller, Fryer, who visited Gokarna in 1676, wrote: “This place is of such repute for its sanctity and meritoriousness that, for a pilgrimage hither, all sorts from the remotest parts of India come in shoals.” The golden beaches that adorn this place are an added attraction for pilgrims. There is also a strong belief that unflinching faith and sincere devotion to Lord Shiva at Gokarna elevates the moral plane of the worshipper.
Source : Outlook Traveller.

The evidence of Gokarna temple being rebuilt due to the structure collapse is evident if one has a look at the temple façade. Majority of the hindu temples during the vijaynagar era had figurines or god and goddesses on the temple façade. This is missing. In all probability when the Portuguese destroyed some temples in around Gokarna in 1714 before retracing their steps towards Goa. Sadishavghad seemed to have become the boundary, which was well fortified and guarded by the British.

The wiki source provides a comprehensive evidence of the Portuguese invasion of Gokarna

A sect of Brahmins fled from the Gomantak to escape forcible conversions by the Portuguese and British and settled in and around Gokarna in the 15th century. It was part of the Sodhe and Vijayanagar kingdoms. Later, when the Konkan region - including Goa - was occupied by the Portuguese, it became part of their rule. A few temples were destroyed by the Portuguese in 1714 and then rebuilt later in the 18th century and also under the supervision of Guru H. H. Shrimat Anandashram Swamiji in 1928.

Currently Gokarna temple is handed over to a Ramachandrapura Mutt trust, Hosanagar. We are beginning to see some development in terms of pavement and other infrastructure. The legacy of the temple needs to be preserved to project the bygone era. The trust plans to have a huge stable for breeding cows.

World of Beaches of Gokarna : These are few of the exclusive beach terrains in India . Foreigners prefer these beach shacks which provide them serenity far away from the maddening crowd and beaches of Goa. Gokarna beach expands upto Dhareswar, Honey Beach is visible from the hillock by the side of the Ganapathi temple. One can get to Gokarna beach from the back exit of the Mahabaleswar temple. The best beach is the OM beach which can be approached by road on own vehicle or by autos. Otherwise adventure seekers have to cross over a hillock approx two kms to reach Kudle beach and 1 km beach stretch one can cross over another hillock to reach Om beach. Beyond Om beach there are other beaches in the form of half moon beach and paradise beach. Om beach is famous due to it shape. It is shaped in the form of OM religious mantra uttered by the Hindus.

We decided to experience the trek as youngsters would. The signs of inclement weather was ominous. We had to trek nearly 6 kms to reach the OM beach. A prepared mind is better than unprepared. I spotted a plastic haversack, which are used in the fields by farmers to protect themselves against monsoon while sowing. Even though we had one umbrella, we decided to buy one more protection as standby, and to our intuition it was a wise decision. On the hillock while we traveling it was just drizzling and the noon time was almost looking dark. We followed some school children and walked amidst the rocky laterite ridden surface. With rubber slippers it was more risky or sorts with us twisting our ankles now and then. We are determined to reach the beach. The climb was steep & tiring but with photo clicks I did not feel the pain of a long trudge to the Kudle Beach. The downhill walk after 1 and half km was refreshing. We found some shacks and guest houses in between which serves as guest houses for visitors. I was tempted to the core to stay put in one of those guest houses. But we had already taken up lodging near Gokarna Bus stand. We did not feel the humid weather at all and we reached Kudle beach at 5.15 pm, and the dark clouds were gathering quickly. The beach was inviting but it was muddy and the waves were ferocious. The rocks on the sea was fully drenched and slippery. There was absolutely no souls, on the beach, other than father and daughter playing on the waves for sometime. We found boys too had wound up playing cricket on beach fearing heavy rainfall. I found a dog and clicked a photo, it got scared with a flash and moved away. After sometime it realized we were only friendly tourist. It came and sat besides us. It was signal that we part with some eatables, which we never carried. Luckily my wife had some chocolates in her purse. We took a chance and gave it to the dog, and he lapped it up gleefully.

Oh enroute on the edge of the beach there was a small restaurant, which we decided to skip since rain clouds were getting thick. Suddenly I spotted a fisherman had come to the shack to sell his catch. He held out two live fishes. One live fish deal he brokered with the shack owner for 70 bucks and the other fish he pocketed into his gloved bag. I just took a video of the flipping fish out of water. The buyer was happy with the fresh catch, which he could cook for his families night dinner. In coastal areas a lunch or dinner is never considered complete without a fish curry or fry. We began our trudge back after aborting the plan to cross over to Om beach. Enroute we we were trapped with hurricane type of rainfall, the first signs of monsoon beginning. My wife safely put on the plastic haversack and myself struggled with the umbrella against lashing rain. We quickly spotted a guest house and took shelter in the verandah for 15 minutes. It was a great relief, and we saw the heavy rainfall tapered down to a drizzle and we decided to take a chance to get back to our lodging, since it was getting dark, with no lights enroute we would found it difficult. However this route is filled with residents walking to and fro, we safely reached our den enjoying the nature’s fury.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gods Own Country

Cochin is the colonial name for Kochi. It boasts of A world class port city, and International airport @ Angamalli, connected to almost all parts of the globe. The roads are better networked when compared to the capital, and being centrally located it is also known as gateway of Kerala. Ernakulam is the business district of Kochi, and practically Fort Kochi,Angamally, Cherai, Ernakulam all form a part of the greater Kochi. One should not be surprised by so many other names of the suburb township such as Alwaye, Parur, Nayarambalam, Edapally, Town, etc which all refer to the base town.

The genesus of the word Kochi is subject of speculation some claim since the chinese had trading connection with Kochi, it was named after their homeland away from China as KO CHI or the reverse of CHI KO which phoenetically sounds chinese. Another theory in malayalam lingo Kachi means harbour which is chritianed as Kochi.

Kochi Harbour : Cranganore is the original port town of which was destroyed by massive flooding of Periyar river in 1340, most of the foreign travellers had connection with Kochi due to this old port town. Kochi became a part of the British empire in 1814 after the defeat of the Dutch and a new port town of Wellington was created. The magnificient remanents of the Dutch Fort point to the systematic destruction to accommodate the new British empire. Now it is part of the naval base, airport and command.

Kochi Fort :
The permission to build the first european Fort was given by ruler of Kochi to Portuguese around 1530 AD and the Fort built was known as Fort Emmaneul or Maneul Kotta in local lingo. The Dutch built their own Fort known as Fort Williams and they succeeded the Portuguese in occupying the town.

Trading : When Vasco de gama landed here he came primarily for trading of spices which was grown in plenty in these parts with virgin soil. Pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves are all standards of spice world over. They still hold a high brand value in world market. Foreign travellers, Fa-hien, Huen Tsang, Vasco-de-gama, & Nicolos Conti have sung praise for this land of spices. ‘ In china one makes money and in Kochi one ends up spending ‘ No wonder Gods own country is the place to splurge.


The entire backwaters and beach front around Kochi is filled with ancient heritage of Chinese fishing nets. The majority of these nets are found in Fort Kochi and Vypeen area. Apart from china, Kochi is the only area where these peculiar fishing practise is carried out. Most of the fishes trapped in these nets are curry mean, sardines and other smaller varities.


This church was originally built in 1503, which happens to be the oldest European church built by the Portuguese. Francisco De Almeida was permitted by the Raja to reconstruct the wooden church into a massive church with masonary. In 1516 the current church was completed and dedicated to Saint Anthony. Portuguese were catholics and Dutch were Protestants, when the Dutch took over the territory, they destroyed certain traces and converted the church into a govt one. Later it was handed over to british in 1814 and dedicated to St Francis. On this third visit Vasco de gama fell severly ill and died in 1524 and he was buried inside this church. His body was repatriated to Lisbon on popular request by the natives to honour such a great adventurer. The gravestone marking of Vasco’s burial is still retain for heritage purpose. A centoph is erected as a war memorial for those who died in World war 1 erected in 1920. Today the church is under the control of ASI but managed by CSI for masses. Majority of the artifacts seems to be placed in the museum obviously.


This palace was orginally built by Portuguese and handed over to the local Raja Veera Kerala Varm ( 1537-1565 ) in 1555. The Dutch carried out renovations in 1663 and from thereon the it became popular as Dutch Palace. In 1951, ASI took over and it was declared a protected monument and undertook full scale restoration to maintain the original flavour. Still some renovation work is scheduled to be complete in 2009.

This palace contains many artifacts collected by the dutch, gifts from the Rajas, and all finds in the area during their reign. Mural paintings in rich colours are in plenty, along with the Dutch army personnel and the Raja of times. Paintings on the first floor contain Krishna lifting Govardhan Hillock, Coronation of Rama, Lord Vishnu sleeping, Lakshmi seated on Lotus etc.

There are two temples on either side of this Mattancherry Palace one of Shiva and other of Vishnu.


This Jewish synagouge was built in 1568 by Malabar Yehudan, and it is known as Paradesi Synagouge. Paradesi typically means foreigner in Indian language. The Mattancherry palace temple and Synagouge share a common compound wall. The Malabari Jews were prosperous traders, who may have been directly competing with the Portuguese, which might have been the reason for their persecution. The original Synagouge was destroyed and the present one seems to have been rebuilt under Dutch Patronage. In 1968 the syngaouge celeberated 400th year anniversary and today it is almost 440 years old. Maybe a full scale celeberation in 2012 for completing 444 years is overdue. The unique feature of this synagouge is that it is filled with different types of chandeliers and chinese ceramic floors. Photographs are not allowed inside which is strange, maybe with special permission from the priestess, who seems to managing the show.

Wellington Island being one of the Biggest Hq of the Naval command in India has a magnificient museum dedicated to its seamen, who fought valiantly battles for the British and help to safe guard our huge 12000 km coastline from Dwarka to Calcutta. The Naval strategic importance is being enhanced with Sea Bird. This musuem contains various exhibits including shell of cruise missile, uniforms, helicopter, various types of ammunitions and guns. There is an auditorium showcasing the achievements of our Naval staff and seamen during a bitter war with Pakistan and liberation of Bangladesh. The navy played an important role even in rescue operations immediately after the boxer day Tsunami in 2004. I was given a brief of the naval history by one retired wartime seamen, that is how I came to know the importance of Cranganore, which many localities too are unaware of. In modern times it is known as Kodungallore, where the famous apostle St Thomas Anthony landed in 52 AD.


This is currently under the jurisdiction of KTDC, it is run as a heritage hotel with a tariff plan equavalent to a 5 star hotel . The tariff plan during season is 10 K and off season is 6 K children will be charged extra @ 10%. We were unable to see this place due to barricading for a private wedding party. A ferry from marine lines of Ernakulam, near the high court can take one across to Bolghatty Isle. The route by road is long tedious. This dutch palace was built in 1744 by a dutch trader. Later the palace was leased to the British in 1909 and served as their residency till 1947.

I am still to complete the series on Gods own country…maybe a trip or two I will be able to complete my dedication and travelouge. I am lucky to have a friend based in Kochi to guide me, which enables me to probe further into the hidden mysteries of the past.

Kanyakumari, a tribute to Swami Vivekananda

The lands end, where both Sunset,sunshine and moonrise is visible from the sea. Virtually making it an ideal place for meditation saints to meditate on the rocks. This rock island invited Swami Vivekanada to meditate, and to obtain gyaan beyond human imagination. Kanyakumari was known as Cape Commorin during the British times. Kanyakumari signifies virginity of mind, body and soul for the locale populace.

Inorder to understand the history of construction of Vivekanada Rock memorial one has to dwell into the literature published by the Vivekanada Ashram. A unique national monument was conceived by Swargiya Eknath Ranade. Immediately a controversy seems to have arisen with Christian missionaries claiming it was place of Saint Xavier.

Prolouge :

Swami Vivekananda reached the lands end in December 1892. Swamiji had traveled the entire length and breadth of the country. He had suffered from hunger, from thirst, form murderous nature and insulting mankind. When he arrived at Kanyakumari, he was utterly exhausted and penniless to pay for a boat ride to take him across the sea on the island, he flung himself into the sea, and swam across the shark-infested strait and reached atop mid-sea rock on 25 December, 1892 ( Christmas day ) He spent three days there meditating, and returned to the shoreline on 28th December 1892. At last his task was at an end, and then, looking back as from a mountain he embraced the whole of the India he had just traversed, and the world of thought that had beset him during his wanderings. For more than two years hitherto he had lived in a seething cauldron, consumed with a fever, he had carried a soul on fire, he was a bundle of storm and hurricane.

Now on this mid-sea rock, There he meditated not on God but on Mother India who for Swami Vivekananda was Divine Durga incarnate. What a strange meditation ! It was as if all the pages of India's history opened up before him. The vast panorama of his experiences during his travels past before his mind's eye. He meditated on the past, the present and the future of India, the cause of her downfall and the means of her resurrection.

He felt in his heart of hearts that India would rise only through a renewal and restoration of that highest spiritual consciousness which had made her, throughout her history, the cradle of religions and cultures. He then, sitting at the last bit of rock in the Indian ocean, took the momentous decision to go to the West to give shape to his life's mission of spreading India's religion and culture throughout the whole world.

Protests :

Let us get back to the main story relating to the establishment of Vivekananda Memorial to celeberate century of his preachings ( 1963 ) When the proposal for a memorial for Swami Vivekananda spread to Kanyakumari residents in the latter half of 1962, suddenly the entire atmosphere in Kanyakumari got surcharged with conflicting interest between the Hindus and the Christians in the area. The very idea of a memorial to Swami Vivekananda was not taken sportingly by sizable population of the local Catholic fishermen. The fishermen managed to put up a big Cross on the Rock which was visible from the shore stealthily . This led to strong protests by the Hindu populace who said the Rock was a place of worship for Hindus due Swamijis meditation.

A judicial probe was ordered by the then Madras Government and the finding of this Commission was stated in unequivocal terms that the rock was indeed known as Vivekananda Rock, and that the Cross put up by the Catholic fishermen was a clear case of trespassing. Amid all this controversy and acrimony, the Cross was one day removed secretly in the night. The law and order situation turned volatile and consequently the Rock was declared a prohibited area with armed guards patrolling it.

The Government of Madras realized that the Rock was turning into an area of communal conflict with Hindus claiming it to be the Vivekananda Rock and Christians claiming it as St Xavier's Rock. The Government made it clear that although the rock was Vivekananda Rock, there would be no memorial constructed on it. The then CM of Tamilnadu, Shri M. Bhaktavatsalam, said that only a tablet declaring that the rock was associated with Swami Vivekananda could be put up, and nothing else.

Accordingly, with government permission granted, a tablet was installed on the Rock on 17 January 1963 to mark the birth centenary of Swami Vivekananda. But the voices clamoring for a full-fledged Memorial on the Rock did not die. In May1963, some Christian elements who were seeking vengeance for the earlier removal of the Cross from the rock, demolished the Vivekananda commemorative tablet and threw it into the sea.


The first obstacle that Eknath Ranade had to cross was from Shri Bhaktavatsalam who was then Chief Minister of Madras State. He took a stand that he would not allow the memorial to come up on the mid-sea rock on the flimsy ground that it would pose a hazard to the environment by spoiling the natural beauty of the Rock. He was also concerned about hurting the religious sentiments of the Catholic fishermen in the area. Bhaktavatsalam's view was also endorsed by Shri Humayun Kabir, the then Union Minister for Cultural Affairs, who too had to give his clearance for this project.

To that end, on Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri's advice, Shri Eknath Ranade camped in Delhi. In three days, he collected the signatures of 323 Members of Parliament in a show of all-round support for the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, which was presented to the Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who in turn directed both Humayun Kabir and Shri.Bhaktavatsalam to give their immediate clearance for the construction of the Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari.

Shri Bhaktavatsalam had given permission only for a small 15" x 15" shrine. Knowing his reverence for the Paramacharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Shri Eknath Ranade approached the latter for suggesting the design of the Rock Memorial. Shri Bhaktavatsalam unhesitatingly agreed to the larger design (130"-1½? x 56") approved and suggested by the Paramacharya of Kanchi! Which was inspired by Ajanta cave arches. Thus all political hurdles for the construction of the Memorial were removed in one masterstroke by the shrewd move of Shri. Eknath Ranade

People’s Movement :

Ranade fervently believed that the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was a national monument of timeless significance and that every Indian should be invited to contribute to its construction. Shri Eknath Ranade launched the campaign of sale of one-rupee folders throughout the nation, which were used to mobilize the donations of the common man, starting from as tiny an amount as one rupee. By launching such a national campaign for collecting just an amount of Rupee one from every willing citizen, Eknath Ranade succeeded in raising an amount of Rupees one crore. Thus by his grand vision he ensured that so many common people visiting the Rock Memorial could have a legitimate pride that they too had contributed to that splendid national monument.

He also approached and succeeded in persuading almost every State government to make a decent contribution towards the construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. What is amazing is that he succeeded in making even the States of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh participate in the work of construction of the memorial . All the State Governments put together made only a paltry a contribution of Rs.35 lakhs. It was solely on account of the outstanding leadership qualities of Eknath Ranade that the Vivekananda Rock Memorial mission never got entangled in any unseemly political controversy or agitation at any stage during the course of construction of the Rock Memorial from 1964 to 1970. All the petty politicians finally surrendered to his unconquerable spirit.

Eknath Ranade has recorded in telling words about his experiences in dealing with the Chief Ministers and politicians of India : "Leaders of every political party, whether in power or in the opposition became willing partners of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. The only Chief Minister who sent me back empty handed without contributing any amount to the Rock Memorial fund was the then Kerala Chief Minister Comrade E M S Namboodiripad. I can say this much about my abortive interview with him. It was like conversing with a sphinx. It was monologue all the way on my part. Only an empty stare from the other side!".

In the beginning, the estimated cost of construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was Rs 30 lakh. Then it increased to Rs 60 lakhs, then later to 75 lakh. Finally the total cost after completion worked out to Rs one crore and thirty five lakh. Just think what a great achievement it was to mobilize such a huge sum of money forty years ago and complete the work in six years!


The Vivekananda Rock Memorial was inaugurated on 2 September, 1970, and dedicated to the nation by V V Giri, the President of India. Kalaigner Karunanidhi presided over the dedication ceremony. There can be no doubt whatsoever that without the catalytic and stellar role of Shri Eknath Ranade, this grand national monument could never have been completed in such a record time. Emerson, the great American thinker of the 19th century said, "A great and timeless institution is the lengthened shadow of one man". If that be so, I have no doubt that the final verdict of history will be that the magnificent Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari is the lengthened shadow of Eknath Ranade.


There are two mid-sea rocks off the shore of Kanyakumari. One of the rocks is the Vivekananda Rock, on which a memorial has been constructed. There is another smaller rock, not very far from the Vivekananda rock, and many of the Christian missionaries laid their claim for constructing a small church or a statue of Jesus Christ on this rock in 1979. Eknath Ranade showed his clairvoyant vision by persuading Dr MGR, the then Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, agree to the installation of Thiruvalluvar statue on this rock. The foundation stone for the Thiruvalluvar statue was laid by Morarji Desai, then Prime Minister of India on 15 April, 1979. Eknath Ranade was a great statesman and he used the good offices of Prabhudas Patwari, the then Governor of Tamilnadu to make Dr MGR agree to this proposal. Like Mahakavi Bharathi, Eknath Ranade was a true nationalist and a true Tamilian rolled into one


Hundred acres of land was allotted to Vivekananda trust to construct the ashram and museum to propagate the teachings of Swamiji. This ashram is located approximately 3 kms from the Railway station and 5 kms from the local bus stand. The room tariffs are reasonably levied for the piligrims. The ashram contains a K V school, Ayurvedic farm, Prayer Halls, Museum, Sunrise beach, Ranade Memorial, Garden, Canteen, Shops and other basic amenities which include a browsing centre too.

“We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one's own feet.”

So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them.

Suratkal & Kaup beaches

Live your life so that your epitaph could read, No Regrets at all!

A trip to the virgin beaches of konkan coast can act as rejuvenating experience far away from the maddening crowd. No wonder my Bill and his family make it a habit to visit Mangalore and its non-polluted beaches once in 2 years at least from Paris.

Last time around when I visited Panambur and Ullal beaches I was not impressed at all. Ullal beach had a rustic look with lot of litters spoiling the looks. Panambur beach was smelling of Gasoline while you dip into the waves.

We decided to look further at Suratkal and Kaup beach, surprisingly it was refreshing. The water was clean and devoid of any petroleum smell. I hope the oil companies do not pollute the waters with their waste being dumped into the sea.

Both the beaches have a wonderful atmosphere, with lighthouse acting as guiding forces for navigation of ships. In Suratkal beach one finds golden sand, with rocks littered around the shores. At Kaup beach the lighthouse is situated on huge rocky terrain attached to the beach.

The visitors to Suratkal beach are primarily KREC students, and a few local residents. One can climb the lighthouse at Suratkal beach by paying an enterance fee of Rs 5 per head. It is lovely sight of the coastline and one gets to see the refinery at a distance, along with the harbour. The visit to the light house is allowed between 3.30 to 5.30 pm only. On clear weather days, one can view lovely sun setting in the west from Suratkal beach.

Kaup beach is preferred by the tour operators, because it has proper road access for maneuvering the vehicles, whereas Suratkal beach is inconvenient. Kaup beach has a bar and restaurant, for those who would like to have a swig. The rural atomosphere of Kaup beach is alluring. The intensity of the waves depends on the prevailing tide cycle. One has to definitely exercise caution exploring the waves, during the high tides.

Kaup beach lighthouse view is breathtaking. The entry is allowed on payment of a fee, and videography is charged exhorbitantly. The surrounding coconut tree groves along with the coastal topography is a great photographic locale. Many a kannada films have been shot in this location such as Subha Mangala, etc. The lighthouse is located on top of a rocky formation, almost similar to vivekanada rockmemorial. There seemed to have been a adjustant hillock fort during ancient times, which is destroyed.

Location : Suratkal beach is located 16 kms away from Mangalore City. One has to take deviation on the left as one reaches the KREC college ( which is now NITE ) and drive a km towards the beach on the tar road. There is not much parking area.

Kaup beach is located just before the Kaup town , one has to take a left turn to travel 3 kms, some share autos are available on the highway. Once again one can take a auto from Kaup town, where there is a pucca auto stand. There is plenty of parking space opp the beach. Kaup is located 45 kms away from Mangalore enroute to Udupi

Monday, June 22, 2009

St Marys Island, a virgin Isle

Vasco de gama landed in one of the many isle’s located in the vicinity of Malpe in search of spices from the Konkan coast. Malpe is one of the oldest fishing harbour on the west coast of India. It is situated 70 kms from Mangalore. If one wants to reach Malpe from Mangalore catch a Bus, since the roads are in various stages of repair from Mangalore to Udupi. Get down at the border of Udupi bypass, Kinimulki and then catch an auto who will charge you Rs 70/- to take you to the Malpe Jetty which is 10 kms away. Alternatively one can catch a local bus from Mulki sururban bus stand. If one wants to drive down then deviate on the NH47 the goa highway after hotel Sarovar to the left and travel straight to reach the gate of Malpe fishing harbour. Pay an entry fee and proceed near the yard, and turn left and reach dead end on the right there is Nandini Milk booth where the tickets for ferry is sold for Rs 70/- per head for up and down trip.

A ship building yard is located on the Malpe harbour and plenty of fishing boats are parked at the entrance to the harbour. If one is lucky he can get fresh catch at auction.

The journey to St’ Mary’s Isle is adventure filled with scenic beauty of distant Lighthouse Isle, the water is blue because of low pollution. One has to change ferry midway, and jump into smaller ferry. We have noticed there are no life jackets in the ferry, which I hope authorities will make it mandatory. Remove your shoes or leather slipper when you get down, one is filled with knee deep water.

“Look at the unique geographical formations, known as basaltic rocks which is a splinter from the molten lava. The unique hexagonal formation of the rocks is a very rare natural phenomenon. It is as if nature has carved a monument to celebrate the birth of human life on earth.” I consider St’ Mary’s Isle a virgin Island.

The name is derived from El Padron de Santa Maria, a Portuguese dedication to Mother Mary by Vasco de gama when he stepped foot on this isle in 1498 before landing on calicut coast. Mother Mary is hailed as Virgin mother, therefore I consider it as virgin Isle. Lol

St’ Mary’s Isle is a popular film shooting spot for kannada film crew. Puttana Kanagal introduced St Mary’s Isle to the world through his film Shuba Mangala. Puttana Kanagal is credited to be the first kannada director who took to large scale outdoor shooting and exposing the beautiful locales in all its glory. In the words of yesteryears actress Aarti “Kanagal will be always remembered by many, as he had a penchant for introducing new faces and many people who are big names today in Kannada industry owe their success to him. I have acted more than ten films with him which was an unforgettable experience for me. Kanagal was also among first to introduce outdoor shooting in Karnataka, and had an uncanny eye for spotting the most beautiful locales. “

I strongly feel that KSTDC or ASI should take charge of these beautiful set of Isle and begin landscaping the Isle to bring in more greenery on the Isle. The heat is sapping one needs to carry moisturer and sunscreen other one is bound to get sun burnt in Summer.

The rocks are slippery so one has to carefully trudge, never step on the wet spots one is bound to slip. There are some safe areas for swimming stick to those spot only otherwise the tide can sweep one off the feet. There are many tragic deaths in the past. One should be aware of the danger.

One should definitely venture and discover the Virgin Isle, St’ Mary’s Island @ Malpe along with visit to Sree Krishna temple @ Udupi. Accomodation facility is available on the NH 47 and Udupi town. Carry plenty of water and Juices. Enjoy your trip with lot of pictures and videos. The trip to these Isle does not cost much and it is ideal for family and friends to discover the wonders of nature.