Dec 16, 2009

Holysome Beaches!


As if to establish what I heard many of my traveler friends say time and again, we discovered one of the most superb Indian holiday destination when we were least expecting it!
The real thrill out of traveling does come when you discover something you did not map, just out of the blue. Or should I say in the GREEN? My hubby and I felt like we had hit a jackpot and our delight knew no bounds. As a newly married couple dutifully should, we, the clueless couple, had set off to visit our KulDaivata temple at Ankola for the first time.
For the uninitiated, Ankola is a small town in Karnataka close to Mangalore and also accessible from Goa. We chalked the route to the LaxmiNarayan Nagve MahaMaya Temple on our own. And Google came in handy again. Being a last minute plan to travel, as always, the only option was to hitch a ride in the next KSRTC Volvo bus to Mangalore or drive down. We obviously chose option A. The conductor and driver was such a co-operative crew that they thoughtfully took a detour and dropped us right at the majestic temple doors for an early 5am. Darshan.


Established in the 16th Century, the temple is truly unique in its grandeur with 500 feet long halls, Marble flooring, Copper-plate roof & Gold Kalashas
 Post- Pooja, with nothing else on the agenda, I felt the urge to explore the small coconut tree laced town. Lush green Rice, Paddy farmlands dotted the view. I felt a smile tickle my lips as we walked past pot-bellied grandpas snoozing like contented tabby cats in their recliners on the verandahs of their small, cozy cottages.  It almost looked like they were mimicking each other. The aroma of Sambar rid high in the air and I could actually imagine the Ammas meanwhile, dishing out Idlis for grandpa’s breakfast.
We trudged around with our backpacks in the early misty morn’ of August and the rain clouds seemed laden overhead. Kannada and Konkani are the only two major spoken languages here & perhaps a little bit English. With the colloquial intonation to the English words the language can easily be mistaken for Kannada itself! But the people are really warm and hospitable. Well-versant in Konkani, it was quite easy for us to find someone to speak to and figure out our way around. 
A whole new itinerary started to take shape when we were reminded by a helpful soul that the Gokarana Parthagali Kashi Matha, a pilgrimage center with great mythological importance was at a traveling distance from here. Cha-ching! Mythology has always been a hot favourite with me. So Gokarna here we come!
If we had headed straight for Gokarana from Pune then distance by road from Pune to Gokarna  is 521 km and takes approx 9 hrs, 59 mins by road.
We hunted for a cab but the only available means of transportation was a rickshaw and he charged us about Rs. 300 from Ankola to Gokarna (20 km away). It was high noon by the time we reached the Om- Jungle Beach Resort near Aum Beach. The rickety rickshaw on the rubble roads had shaken all the possible bones in my body. The route definitely needs a major make-over!
The journey left a frown creeping on my brows. But it was ironed out in no time too! Clear blue oceans and pristine green mountains, both at the same time in one panorama? A truly breath-taking and awe inspiring sight it was! A cool breeze ruffled my hair and the sun had pleasantly decided to be a mellow yellow that afternoon. The in-house Kerela Ayurvedic Massage Centre was all that I ever wanted right now! And I got it.
 
The gorgeous lawns were rich in flora, avian and even reptilian frends. The cottages for the guests were quite European in style, painted in bottle Green and white with wooden banisters and wide steps to the broad front porch, tall ceilings and red tiled roof. There was a small parlor before you entered the bedroom with an attached bathroom. The queen’s bed looked like a yummy white, sponge cake & after an early dinner of Prawns Fry, Pomfret Ghashi, Bhakri & Rice, I dived right in!
The next morn’ we trekked the trailing road down the mountain to the beaches of Gokarna.
Joshi Guruji of the Gokarna Mahabaleshwar Shiva temple enumerates the legendary tale. “ ‘Go’ in Sanskrit can also mean Mother earth and ‘Karna’ means ear. As the mythological story goes, Lord Shiva emerged from within the earth to the outside, exiting from its ear. Thus the name! The ‘Atmalinga’ that Lord Shiva had trusted Ravana with was rested at this spot through trick played by Lord Ganesha who stands just 40 steps away from the atmalinga. The 6 feet tall Atmalinga was immediately safely ensconced in the ‘Shaligram’ and sealed into the ground, protected from going to Ravana again.”
After this synopsis of the lengthy mythological tale we and Guruji proceeded for the Shiva Lingabhishek. The entire experience gave me Goosebumps time and again. A sheer thrill to sit down on the rocky floor of the cave-like temple and participate in the grand Abhishek- Pooja, offering baskets and baskets of Belipatra (Bel leaves), milk, honey, til & more! As if in acceptance, all that is offered seeps down through the opening in the Shaligram Peetha,. Only the tip of the Atmalinga can be seen and touched now through the Peetha opening. The Gokarna beach adjacent to the temple is scenic too.
However the twin beaches, Om Beach & Kudle Beach are a scream above the rest!
Just a 20 minutes walk away Kudle beach is a serene stretch of clean silver sands and blue-green waters. Almost virgin! Half an hour further down, Om Beach has emerged as a unique mix of being religiously symbolic as well as being the traveler’s heaven. I was left awestruck when we took a view of the beach from a hill top. The waves lashed against the shore and retreated. That’s when clearly, a gigantic Aum- auspicious symbol of Hindu religion, could be seen, formed in the sands.
Fell truly, madly, deeply in love with this wonderfully scenic beauty!
Gokarna is well connected to various cities around- Madgaon (125 km), Mangalore (225 km), Dabolim (140 km) and Bangalore (475 km) by KSRTC or railway.

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