Konkan

Beach football at Palolem beach at Canacona. Located in South Goa, Canacona is a corruption of Konkan and the only place on the Konkan coast which is actually named Konkan. This southernmost region of Goa bordering Karnataka came under Portuguese rule as late as 1794 and has undergone far less colonisation compared to the rest of the state. Similarly, Palolem, and its neighbouring Patnem’s, beautiful beachfronts opened up for tourism only about 20 years back as quiter alternatives to the busy beaches of Central and North Goa.

Being on the fringes of Goa, Canacona survived much of the onslaught by Portuguese iconoclasts on Hindu Temples. This region has some of the finest Hindu Temples which are also beautiful icons of Konkani architectural heritage. The Mallikarjuna Temple is one of the oldest in Goa and is situated amidst beautiful natural surroundings in a valley completely surrounded by mountains. The temple is believed to be constructed during the middle of the 16th century.

A wonderfully carved wooden window from the 18th century Mallikarjuna Temple at Palolem, South Goa. The iconography is of the Hindu God Kartikeya seated on his mount a peacock. Mallikarjuna is a popular name in Southern India for Lord Shiva. Kartikeya and Ganesha being Shiva’s children, they are often represented in the artwork of Shiva Temples.

Flower sellers looking for buyers in the narrow lanes of Gokarna. Gokarna is by far the most ancient pilgrimage for Hindus on the Konkan Coast. It has mention in the great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Visiting Gokarna gives us an window into how much of the Konkan Coast would have been culturally before the arrival of the Portuguese in Goa. Gokarna means Cow’s Ear. It is believed that Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow (Prithvi, the Mother Earth) here. It is also located at the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini.

A beautiful graffiti in the lanes of Gokarna. Located on the northern tip of Karnataka’s coast, Gokarna is one of the most authentic places to experience rural Konkan life. Gokarna survived the Lusitanisation of neighbouring Goa and only recently has been “discovered” as a quieter alternative to Goa’s highly commercial mass tourism industry.

A woman sitting on the verandah of her house in Gokarna. The town’s charm lies in its old world atmosphere, reminding me of RK Laxman’s fictional Malgudi. The town was once populated only by priests, farmers and fishermen. The routine life was interrupted only during major Shiva festivals when pilgrims from across India descended on this small town. That idyllic pace of living i still the zeitgeist of Gokarna.

A shop selling typical touristy accessories in Gokarna. John bags, costume jewellery, smoking bongs, postcards, leather bound books, graphic T-shirts and loose cotton garments are now ubiquitous throughout Goa and a few of them have trickled into neighbouring Gokarna. These shops however close shutter during the monsoons when it is a lean off season for tourists.

Children playing with a tree trunk on the deserted Kudle beach during peak monsoons on the Konkan coast. This is a stark contrast with the bustling tourist season when shacks line the beachfront catering to largely foreign tourists looking for a cheaper and quite alternative to Goa.

One of the prime rivers on the Konkan s the Sharavathi River. It originates in the Western Ghats and thunders along a mountainous route creating spectacular rapids and waterfalls. India’s most famous waterfall, Jog Falls, is created by the Sharavathi river. The River turns brown during the monsoons from the flooding and inundation along its banks. This region of the Konkan is one of the wettest and mean annual rainfall ranges from 6000 mm on the western side to 1700 mm on the eastern side of the basin.

Jog Falls or originally Gerosoppa Falls is the most famous tourist attraction on the Konkan stretch and easily India’s most famous waterfall. Jog Falls is created by the Sharavathi River dropping 253 m (830 ft), making it the second-highest plunge waterfall in India after the Nohkalikai Falls with a drop of 335 m (1100 ft) in Meghalaya. Located deep in the Western Ghats, the falls come to life after the monsoons when the waters of the Linganmakki dam are released.

One of the best preserved forts on the Konkan Coast, Mirjan is rarely visited by tourists and is a wonderful place to wander around in the monsoons when the fort gets a cover of greenery. The fort is built on a river, aiming to control the lucrative trade in spices with the interiors of Karnataka. It was built in the 16th century by Queen Chennabhairava Devi of Gersoppa.

A lone man with an umbrella in the fantastic ruins of Mirjan Fort. I visited the fort from Gokarna during the peak of the monsoons when tourist footfall in these regions are lowest. Margin is a nondescript village and no one in Gokarna’s bus stand could tell me about how to reach there. Finally they understood fort and told me that the place was known as “kotte”, Kannada for fort.

The famous temples of Krishna in Udupi, along with Guruvayur in Kerala, are two great centres of Krishna worship in southern India. Krishna is more popular in Northern and Western India where he has many legends associated with his childhood in Vrindavan and kingdom in Dwarka. The foundation of the temple is credited to the Vaishnava saint Shri Madhvacharya, who founded the (dvaita) sect of Vaishnava Hinduism and the Udupi Krishna Mutt in the 13th century.

Free lunch being served in the community dining hall of the Krishna Temple at Udupi. This service is the origin of the famous Udipi cuisine which has now spread to all parts of India. It adheres strictly to the Satvik tradition of Indian vegetarian cuisine, using no onions or garlic, as well as no meat or fish.

One of the many beautiful math’s surrounding the Krishna temple at Udupi. These are residences for Hindu monks and pilgrims and are beautifully painted with icons of Lord Vishnu. Seen painted here on the wall are the divine conch Panchajanya and discuss Sudarshan.

A beautiful mural of Lord Shiva and his consort, the goddess Parvati from the walls of the Anantheswara Temple in Udupi. The paintings are remarkably similar to the style of Raja Ravi Varma’s artwork from the turn of the 19th and early 20th century. Noteworthy is the depiction of Parvati wearing the saree draped in local Konkani style. Even Shiva is represented differently, having a beard, wearing a dhoti and holding a shield. The couple here are hunters, with Parvati’s appearance resembling the Roman goddess of hunt Diana. Both hold a bow in their hands and a quiver full of arrows.

Three camels and the monsoons at Malpe Beach near Udupi. Udupi, and neighboring Manipal University’s most popular hanging out place, Malpe has a panoramic view of the Arabian Sea and a jumping point for nearby St.Mary’s island, famous for its natural rock formations.

Hola! An Indian version of Baywatch at Malpe beach. I love this quintessential Indian way of having fun at a beach. Three Bengali ladies, immaculately dressed in beautiful sarees, having a great time getting their feet wet in the waters of the Arabian Sea.

The twin gated St.Lawrence church on the outskirts of Karkala, near Attur village. Also known as Attur church, it is one of the major Christian shrines on the Konkan coast of Karnataka. An earlier church was razed during the period of Mysore rule and this modern church was built in 1901. The church is the focus of a jatre (festival) which takes place each year during the last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of January, attracting thousands of devotees.

Karkala, along with Dharmasthala, Mudabidri and Sravanabelgola, are major enters of Jain heritage in Karnataka.. Largely popular in the western states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, Jainism reached the deep south when the first Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta retired to Sravanabelgola with his guru Bhadrabahu having renounced his empire to his son. Karkala saw some fair amount of Jain patronage and has some 18 basadis. This is Chaturmukha Basadi, one of the best preserved and built in 1586 AD.The name comes from its square (chatur) plan with four entrances (mukha).

Close up portrait of the Bahubali Monolith at Karkala. Unknown to many Indians, there are not one, but four Bahubali monoliths in India, all in Karnataka. The conic Bahubali is the one in Sravanabelgola, the Mecca of Jainism in the Deccan. Other monoliths are located in Vennur and Gommatagiri. The posture of all the statues are the same, depicting Bahubali (second son of Jainism’s founding tirthankara Rishaba) meditating in his birthday suit for a year, during which time creepers grew around his limbs. This statue was erected in 1430 CE.

A person praying at the Anantapadmanabha Temple at Karkala. It is one of Karkala’s old Hindu Temples with distinct Konkani architecture reflected in the slated gabled roofs. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, who is worshipped along with his mount, the eternal serpent Ananta. On both sides of the entrance are statues of dwarpalas (doorkeepers). The flagpole in the courtyard has the sun and the moon etched on it, an ancient symbol of eternity, meaning as long as the sun and moon stays in the sky.

Spectacular wood and stone architecture of the Saavira Kambada Basadi at Mudabidri. Located in Dakshina Kannada of Karnataka’s Konkan coast, Mudabidri is a small town noted for its Jain heritage. the town has 18 basadis (temples) of which the Saavira Kampada Basadi is the largest and best preserved. This magnificent temple was built in the Vijayanagara era around 1430 CE.

Snake stones, called Nagakal locally, are gathered in a corner of the Saavira Kampada Basadi in Mudabidri. The stones are shaped like a stele and engraved with multi-hooded or single hooded serpents on them. Such stones are offered by devotees on the fulfilment of a wish, generally childbirth. Snakes are an ancient fertility symbol in India. Temples, water bodies or banyan trees are places where such Nagakals were installed.

Detail of the beautiful brackets at the Saavira Kampada Basadi at Mudabidri, though architecturally they are more decorative than functional. The idols are those of Lord Vishnu with his consort, the goddess Laxmi sitting on his left thigh. However this is a Jain temple, and such representation of Hindu deities is common in many Jain Temples, a great example of the syncretism of the various philosophical schools of India.