Meeting Lord Shiva in Murudeshwar
BY MANALI ROHINESH
Goa is known for its beaches, afternoon siestas, cashew feni and bebinca (a special Goan dessert) but not many know of Mangalore, which is conveniently tucked between Goa and Kerala. In comparison with the other two locations, which are better known and much explored, there is a certain rustic charm about Mangalore. Tourists have to still discover the untouched beaches here and they are unlikely to, because these places will be only known to the people in the know - someone like me - for whom Mangalore is a 'native place'.
What a pity, but it's a situation that the locals are not in a hurry to change. Well, Goans are used to having tourists in their midst, but Mangaloreans have yet to see the hordes pour in. They are content to carry on without having to put up with semi-naked (sometimes completely naked) foreigners flock to their beaches. The pace of life has remained unchanged. True, there are far more vehicles plying between villages and no bullock carts, but bus stops are in the heart of busy markets, where fresh produce is spread out for the eyes to linger on and the mouth to savour, later on.
But with the Konkan Railway cutting across the length of the Konkan Coast, there is much more to explore than ever before. This railway line is a mammoth operation, winding through hills and makes its way into and out of 12 tunnels and over rivers and pretty little villages. Along this line, is a village called Murudeshwar. One has to travel a few kilometres into the interior and suddenly, you can smell saltwater in the air. That's when you know, you are nearing a beach and it is one of the many hidden, jewel-like stretches of sand with noticeably fewer people, than would have been the case, had this been a popular beach resort.
At one corner is a hotel built right on the water, with restaurants on three separate floors. So, this a lovely family picnic spot with people going on innocent boat rides for kicks. Water scooters and other aqua sports have yet to haunt this place. But as you round a corner, you see a church and Shiva temple, opposite the beach. So people can combine religion with a great day outdoors. There is temple gopuram coming up which is 24 floors high and since we are on an upward slope, the workers on the facade of the temple look like ants scurrying around. But what comes up next is huge and breath-takingly awesome.
As the car finally comes around the last curve, we see the Shiva statue, which has been built out of a single stone found right there in the sea! The statue looks to be at least 100 feet high but carved with so much attention to detail - the long shapely fingers, intricately knotted hair, the serpent coiled around its neck and the tiger skin he's seated on. Then we realise, there are more of these life-size statues of Gods and demons around this central statue. There was also a beautiful chariot being driven by a hero of one of the epics. It was Krishna driving Arjun to do battle with his cousins, the Kauravas. This was a scene from the Mahabharat.
What's astounding is that this complex winds up from the beach and climbs up a steep incline, on the very edge of which is the Shiva statue. Towards the seaward side, a railing cordons off visitors from pitching into the sea below. Work is still in progress here, as stone masons are busy at work, carving the many stories, that our culture abounds in, into the walls of the hillock on which the Shiva statue is seated. Tourists are still allowed to go around and take a look, free of cost. Who knows, once it's completely done, tourists may have to pay to view these marvels.
This is one beach with attractions of a different kind!
Facts: There is a guest house in the complex besides the hotel on the water. Also present is an exhibition hall on the beach. This is not a state government initiative but a private one! The builder is a construction magnate named RN Shetty, who also helped build part of the Konkan Express Railway line. The idols, though, have been carved by Kashinath & Sons.
BY MANALI ROHINESH