Smell the sea, and feel the sky; Let your soul and spirit fly- Van Morrison. There are three great elemental sounds in nature; the sound of rainfall, the sound of wind in a primaeval wood, & the sound of the ocean on a beach. These three sounds bring an outburst of joy in me, so I decided to discover the third sound of nature. It has been quite long that I visualized the way ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times its sent away. All the same, I was in a dilemma which waves to choose for bare feet & salty hair. And my mother was at a rescue, and she casually suggested visit Udupi and Gokarna. The idea of sandy beaches and the refreshing sea breeze convinced me to pack my bags for Udupi.
Snuggled between the Western Ghats mountains and the Arabian Sea, lies Udupi in the lush green Konkan Belt; along with beautiful plum-fringed beaches, it also carries a scent of mustard, sizzling chillies, roasted peanuts and curry leaves.“Udupi” has been derived from the word “Udupa” meaning Moon in Sanskrit and is associated with the establishment of the ancient Chandramouleshwara temple. Its coastline extends over 320 kilometres, perfect for a tranquil walk along the sandy shores, to enjoy the simple laid back lifestyle, and mouth-watering Udupi culinary delights.
Since my mom was already holidaying in Bangalore at my brother’s home, planning a lazy beach bum vacation was apt. Here I may sound greedy as I added Gokarna in my trip, why to miss that beach when I am already halfway. Booked an early flight to Bangalore from Delhi, along with a cab which will continue with us along the whole trip. Though you can also pick a direct bus to Udupi, a round trip costs around 1050 INR (approx).
I suppose the roads are to be the most beautiful part of the journey. As the 9hrs drive from Bangalore to Udupi is one of the most scenic drives, full of green forage & tall swaying coconut & palm trees. I was awestruck gazing at the picturesque scene, where the sunlight played along with the lush greenery. There are few routes to drive till Udupi, but Shiradi Ghat or Charmadi Ghat is the most scenic one. We reached our destination late evening, so checked into our hotel-Karthick estate which was along the highway itself. However, there are multiple choices to stay in Udupi from budget hotels or motels at the cost of 700 INR/per night to other resorts going up to 6000 INR/night. I passed the evening at the hotel, as was exhausted due to the long travel. Took in a delicious Udupi veg Thali for dinner & hit the bed early.
I shrugged my weariness with a filter coffee to kick start my day and quickly got dressed to explore the flavours of this quaint town has to extend. Udupi is not only renowned for its culinary tradition but is also known for its steeped history & mythology. Udipi is a pilgrimage centre, called as Rajata Peetha and Shivalli. Besides being the temple city, it’s been named as Lord Parashurama Kshetra. Some other thing that made Udupi famous is Kanakana Kindi (it’s a small peephole in Udupi Shree Krishna Temple, through which Lord Krishna gave Darshan to saint Kanaka Das). I mark off my tour with Sri Krishna Temple, the Matha with a typical Kerala style architecture, along with eight mates that surround it dates back to the 13th century. As we neared the Matha, divine devotion and radiating spirituality could be learned through the chants.
The temple opens as early as 4.00 am, but visiting time is from 5.30 am till 9.30 pm. Vaishnavite saint Shri Madhvacharya founded this seat of worship, & one unique charm of the temple is that- the idol is worshipped through an intricately carved window with nine-hole called the Navagraha Kindi. At that place was a long queue of the devotees; so we took the VIP entry, which cost me 250 INR/per person. We did Darshan of Lord Balkrishna, took Prasadam offered at the retort. To a more considerable extent than Matt, I was interested in the food which originated from that place. I gave direction to a Mitra Samaj restaurant in a Udupi’s temple square that serves since 1949, for breakfast. The restaurant uses no onion or garlic. The taste of Goli Baje, which is a Maida savoury, deep-fried in coconut oil and served with freshly ground coconut chutney was soul-filling. However, I ordered the Kadubu Olle, made by Rava batter and steamed in the leaves of a native palm, and dished out hot with chutney. Indeed a mouth-watering start of a day!
We then headed towards Maple beach, one of the most sought after beach of Udupi. Yet, before I could get the sight of the shore, the foul smell of fishery caught my nose. Well, ignoring the scent I moved ahead on the white sand of the beach, dotted with swaying palm trees & several street hawkers on the sidewalks. I decided to walk on the shore, while the cold waves were touching my feet and millions of seashells scattered along the path. As a little child, I held my mom’s hand & started to walk along the stretch. I wanted to sit for a while, but it was scorching hot, the sand on the sea beach began to burn under my feet, and then I walked upon the pavement. On the sidewalk of Malpe beach stood a man with a small wooden cart selling Churu-Muri or spiced puffed rice. It’s a part of delicious street food in Udupi. It’s just so incredible. While munching Churu-Muri, I spotted boating point from where the ferry was talking people to St.Mary Island.
St. Mary Island is an inhabited island, open exclusively for tourist visits. Also known as Coconut Island and Thonsepar, are a set of four little islands in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Malpe in Udupi. It is situated just 4 miles from the Malpe beach, 30min ferry ride to reach the Island. This Island is renowned for its distinctive geological formation of columnar rhyolitic lava; a sub-aerial subvolcanic activity formed these basalts at the St. Mary’s Island. As per scientific studies, rifting of Madagascar around 88 million years ago lead to volcanic eruption resulting in this columnar rhyolitic lava creation. The historic fact states in the year 1498, Vasco da Gama landed at St. Mary’s Islands on his journey from Portugal. One of these islands, as a dedication to Mother Mary, was named O Padrão de Santa Maria, before proceeding to Kozhikode in Kerala. The exciting part of the beach was it is covered with seashells, not sand. The Island is beautiful and pristine, providing visitors with an endless coastal line of the sea-green water. The ferry timing is morning from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm, and prices are Rs 300/ person. The ferry is operational after Monsoon, around mid-week of September to May end. I travelled to St. Mary in December, but it still felt like summers damn hot & humid. But I will suggest not missing this gorgeous Island, hop on a ferryboat.
Quickly, my next destination was Hastha Shilpa-The heritage Village. Hasta Shilpa, literally translating to ‘Creation by hand’, is an open-air museum conceived by Vijayanath Shenoy in Manipal. It incorporates several heritage houses resurrected the age-old and extraordinary craftsmanship and masonry once prevalent in South India within the confines of the Village. Hasta Shilpa stands a quiet bastion to the brilliant South India architecture of a forgotten age. Only due to hot weather, I skipped my tour to the Hastha Shilpa, though if you are visiting Udupi, do make your time out for it. Their tour timings: 10 am, 11:30 am, 2 pm, 4 pm; Combo tours: 10 am, 2 pm, & the cost of the ticket is 200 INR/per person. Alternatively, I opted for Anupam for my lunch as it was nearby, somebody who likes experiential binging, this is the place to be. I fix up my carving for Chicken ghee roast & Neer Dosa. After lunch, I returned to my hotel before heading to my next destination.
Close to 5 pm, I went to one of the most beautiful beaches of Udupi -Kaupe beach. It is 10 kilometres away from the central city and is famous for its lighthouse that stands tall on the rocky hills. I went up the tower to soak myself in the breathtaking view of the coastline, the dotting fishing boats & the setting sun that broke into the thousands of colours from yellow to orange & red. The sand on the beach turned pale yellow, and water shimmering as the hues of the sunset spread across the ocean. The entire phenomena were ethereal, its the second most beautiful sunset I experienced after the Radhanagar beach in Andaman. I sat looking at the setting sun until it got dark. Later that evening, I proceeded to the Woodlands, to try Bisibele Bhath, known initially as Bisi Bele Hulianna, a dish made from spicy red gram, rice and vegetables. I desired to dine at the Woodland brand, made by K. Krishna Rao, an uneducated-Puthige matt trained-cook, who commenced the first Udupi cuisine-based Sri Krishna Vilas Hotel in 1927.
The Next morning I checked out early, as I wanted to visit the Chandramouleeshwara temple and Padubidri beach before heading to Mudureshwar. I made my way to Chandramouleeshwara temple, which is devoted to Lord Shiva. It’s an ancient temple which dates back to the 7th or 8th century. As per the legends, Lord Chandra (Moon) was cursed by Daksha Prajapati, so he performed penance on the holy pond of Chandra Pushkarni to appease Lord Shiva. The synagogue was constructed below ground level so must have a lake bed in ancient time. The architecture is marvellous with an intricate and elaborate carving on the walls of the temple. In the inscriptions, Chandramouleshwara has been referred to as “Mududeva.” After seeing the temple, we went Padubidri beach- it’s a hidden gem as not so popular and less crowded. It is the most beautifully maintained beaches in Udupi. There have been seating places on the beach & walking sideways for people to walk or sit. We sat for some time savouring the salty morning breeze, before leaving for Sri. Moombika temple at Kollur.
Sri. Moombika temple is more than 1200 years old built in Dravidian style, situated in the valley of Kodachadri. Its is approx 80kms from Udupi, and we had to cross Moombika wildlife sanctuary to reach the temple. The temple is devoted to Goddess Parvati, who is in the form of Jyotir-Linga which combines both Shakti and Shiva. The temple located along the banks of river Souparnika, where the idol is believed to be installed by Shri Adi Shankara. The idol is made of Panchaloha (Combination of Gold, Silver, Copper, Iron and lead). Kollur is regarded as one of the Seven Mukti Stalas created by Parashurama, and the other places are Udupi, Subrahmanya, Kumbasi, Kodeshwara, Sankaranarayana and Gokarna.
The temple is known as the centre of wisdom and knowledge, as Adi Shankara worshipped Goddess Saraswati intensely. In that respect, there are many beliefs regarding the origin of the temple; Goddess Saraswati first muted Kaumasura, a demon who had obtained special powers from Lord Shiva through penance and later killed him. After turning dumb, the beast was called Mookasura, and by killing him, Goddess got the name Mookambika. Another legend state’s in response to Adi Shankara’s dedication goddess appeared before Adi Shankara and agreed to travel with him to Kerala. The Goddess decided to accompany him upon one condition that Adi Shankara who leads the way should not flex back to check whether she is following him. If he looked back and checked her, the Goddess would stop there and will not go further. Along the path, when Shankara could not experience the presence of Goddess Saraswati, he turned around to check for Goddess, and she stopped her journey and remained at that spot as per her condition. After many begging and pleading by Shankara, the Goddess agreed to be at the Chottanikkara Temple in the mornings and come back to the Mookambika Devi Temple by noon.
There were a sizable number of visitors at the temple since it was the new year, but there is a token of 500 INR/person for the Special Darshan (a separate and shorter line to enter Sanctorum). Bookings for Seva and Prasad were taken from the counters after the Darshan. We ultimately pulled in our way for the Darshan before the temple got shut at 1.30 pm, as it would reopen from 3 pm till 9 pm. There are plenty of budget accommodation available in the locality if you wish to stay. We left for Murudeswar after our Darshan, on our way we had lunch in a pure Veg Udupi Dhaba.
Though I might have left out some beaches in Udupi or near Udupi, giving me all the reason to revisit the place. Not only the temple tradition gave the Udupi cuisine a strong foundation, but also bound the city besides.
How to Reach:
The nearest airport is Bajpe Airport in Mangalore, 48 km away from Udupi.
However, you can take a flight till Bangalore or Hubli too. From the airport connected can take taxi or bus to reach Udupi.
Mangalore Airport is closest to the temple is. You can avail pre-paid taxis from the Airport to Kollur. It is approximately 150 km from the airport and can be reached in three-four hours.
Udupi railway station is well connected with the rail network, which makes your journey comfortable and relaxed. Konkan Railway network is the central railway which connects the city with many other cities and states.
Bijoor (BIJR)is the nearest railway station, 20 km away from Kollur and Kundapura station at 40 km from Kollur. You can quickly get taxis from the station to Kollur. The stations have waiting rooms for passengers.
By Road :
Roads are well linked to major cities which can be covered with the availability of various luxurious buses and passenger buses. Bangalore (403Km), Mangalore (40 km), Jog Falls (191 km), Coorg (208 km) and Madikeri (192 km) are well connected to Udupi. You can also drive your vehicle.
Kollur well is connected by road from major cities. There are multiple direct buses, passenger & luxurious available to the temple.