By The Arabian Sea

A trip through coastal Karnataka in South India was an exciting and unforgettable experience. The restless sea was like a woman in love – now crashing with insatiable passion against unyielding rocks, now hugging the yellow beaches in an intimate caress! . There was much to see in South Kanara , but we limited ourselves to a stretch between Udupi and Murdeshwar. My friend and I had arrived early in the morning from Bangalore .

From Udupi we drove along the coast. It was a 120 km drive to our destination. The National Highway ran between the vast open sea and its golden beaches on the left, and the lush greenery of rice fields and coconut palms on the right. In some areas, the sea was only an arm’s length away, and boards displayed prominently, warned people to stay away from the water. But the waves beckoned, and we stopped to wiggle our toes in the water

We passed through Marvanthe, where the river and sea flow on either side of the road, and then blend at a point. There are several beach resorts in this area to suit all tastes. Sea food restaurants where one can feast on fish, crabs, prawns and lobsters, and for the strictly vegetarian, there are exclusive restaurants too.

We motored through Bhatkal the “little Dubai ” of the south, where all kinds of foreign goods are available. It is said that every house in this village has one or more members in the Middle East . The houses are lavishly built and very colorful, and the women are decked in heavy gold jewelry partially hidden by their burkhas.

Murdeshwar -on – Sea is a lovely place to visit in any weather. The imposing statue of Shiva on a dark foreboding hill, presides over the village and draws worshippers and tourists from all over. The monolith is so large, that it can be seen from the trains traveling on the Konkan Railway. One must climb a number of steps to reach the top. We saw a crippled middle-aged devotee painfully negotiating the steps for Shiva’s blessings. There are other statues also built on the rock, depicting scenes from The Ramayana.

Murdeshwar has many guest rooms overlooking the sea. It is a beautiful place to spend a holiday. The restaurant juts into the sea, and is built on stone pillars. When the weather is good, boat rides on the sea make for adventure.

A tiny village called Mavinakatte is our next halt. In two large sheds, village women were busy making handicrafts from a grass called lavancha, botanically known as Vetiveria zizanoides. The grass takes an entire year to grow, but only the tangled mesh of roots is used. The products made from these roots are many. There are hats, slippers, purses, wall hangings and various showpieces that find markets abroad. Hats or slippers when worn ensure tranquility. The root is a wonder drug for digestive complaints. This is exclusively a women’s enterprise.

On our way back we stop at Othinane, a Forest Beach Resort to watch the sunset. This is peacock country, and a bird obliges with a full-fledged dance of love. There are steps leading down to the beach. This area is safe for swimming. The entire expanse of water is luminous with the colors of the setting sun.

We drove back to the Temple Town of Udupi, where we stayed for a couple of days. The ancient Krishna temple with its seven mutts, is the centre of Madhwa Philosophy. The mutts are like seminaries where young Brahmin boys study the Scriptures. We saw many bare breasted boys in white loin cloth and a sacred thread across their chests. Their heads were tonsured, except for the little top knot, which they sported like a badge of honor. No one objected to us entering the temple.

That was the night of the Full Moon. The driver took us to an interior village. He was keen on showing us a cock fight.

“It is an illegal sport,” he said, “But it happens anyhow. You stay in the car and watch through binoculars.”

They were lovely birds fattened on a diet of paddy and grain. Knife blades three inches long, were tied to the right spur. Pushed into the arena, they ruffled their plumes and flew at each other in a blur of feathers, wildly cheered on by the crowd. It was a fight to finish until one bird had its windpipe slashed by the opponent. Just then, a police jeep drew up. The crowd scuttled away and so did our driver who whisked us off.

The following day saw us at a water buffalo race called Kambala. This sport is peculiar to the region. It was held in a fallow field with stagnant water. The buffalos specially reared for the races, were yoked together, and connected to a long beam with a perforated cross bar at the end, which dipped into the mud. The driver supported his legs on the cross plank, and held on to an attached vertical rod with his right hand. With his left hand he took hold of one buffalo’s tail. The race was won by the pair that raised the muddy water to the highest height on the white standard.

There was much more to see in South Kanara , and we were determined to return for a longer visit.


Fact File

Getting there:

Luxury buses from Bombay or Bangalore.
Train from Bombay
By Air to Mangalore, and then by bus or taxi to Udupi (60 kms.)


At Udupi:

Karavali Hotel
Phone: (0825) 2522862 or 2522851(4 lines)

Hotel Hariprasad International
Phone: (0825) 2522851(4 lines)
Tariff:     Deluxe A/C Double room – Rs. 1200 per night.

At Murdeshwar:

R.N. Shetty Residency (Yatri Nivas)
Tele: (08358) 260060
Tariff:     Family Suite A/C Rs. 3500 per night.
Deluxe Double room A/C Rs. 1500.


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