59. RANAGIRI

I had visited Ratnagiri a number of times in the past but had never found time for anything other than the official work related places. This time it was a different world. The purpose of your being to a place appears to determine what the place has to offer. From Lawyers’ offices and Petrochemical plant to a fort, a palace and an aquarium is a huge difference.

In the territories that the British ruled, among other things, the Brits seem to have had perfected the art of deposing the local royalty and banishing them to faraway places for fear of the reversal of their actions on account of public backlash. The Kabaka of the landlocked Buganda kingdom (now part of Republic of Uganda) was held in captivity in the Seychelles islands. The Sultan of Zanzibar was banished to Bombay, the last Mughal Emperor of India spent his last days as a prisoner in Mandalay, Burma and as if to reciprocate the last king of Burma’s Konbaung dynasty spent his last days at Ratnagiri. This story is part of the memorable novel ‘The Glass Palace’ by Amitav Ghosh.

Thibau Palace was the residence of the king and named after him , provided courtesy the British. Located close to a cliff overlooking the sea, it is a nice place to stay but not under duress and thousands of miles away from your people.

Ratnadurg or Bhagawati Fort is among the main attractions of the town. A largish fort houses a temple to Goddess Bhagavati. It is in an excellent condition but the most of the masonry appears to be new, thanks to Tourism department.

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The fort has a couple of statues. Kanhoji Angre, probably the only major naval warfare personality from India in the pre-independence history and his mentor King Shivaji .

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This is the famous or infamous kadelot point. For those who do not know Marathi, Kadelot means ‘pushing from a cliff’ or ‘throwing from the cliff’, among the favourite punishments particularly for those who betrayed the King or the Kingdom.

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The views from the top of the fort are quite nice and pretty.

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To the opposite side of the fort is located the Lighthouse. It can be approached by a narrow tarmac road on a steep climb. No, it is not the time for the visitors. Come later.

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There is another tower related to the lighthouse. There is a hunting bird seated on the tower. Do you see it. Enlarge the picture and see, it is a Kestrel.

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It is time to move on to my favourite place on earth. The fish market. Here we do not intend to buy fish.Not all hotels allows you bring your own fish and then this is a wholesale market. Here you buy by the truckloads.

This boat has brought a huge load of fish and sorting is on. It will not help. They caught a shoal of what is locally called ‘dhodi’, a low value fish with not much of a market. Nobody is enthusiastic about the catch. Selling this off is going to be a problem.

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A few steps away  an auction is going on.

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There is a feverish bidding for the ‘A’ grade Mackerel, 8 pieces per Kg. A lot of 32 Kgs goes for INR 3700/- , less 10% trade discount. Still very expensive but there is demand for this type.

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I would prefer the smaller and tastier ones although a bit difficult to clean and eat. The smaller ones are in a lot of 20 Kgs and would be much cheaper. Incidentaly a large number of the labourers here and on the boats are Hindi-speaking northerners, not the traditional Konkani fisherfolks. They are not conversant with the fish varieties.

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These are the young ones of the Tuna, not a popular fish in India. The Japanese would kill for this.

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I found this black coloured fish for the first time. I had not seen it earlier. There were only two pieces . No information came forth.

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Now, how about this fish? Do you like it?

And how about this?

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The first ( set of three) is called Lion Fish and the latter two are called FLOWER HORNS.The one below is called Sea Horse.

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Before you misunderstand this, let me clarify that the last three are not the fish brought for sale in the market. They are found in the Aquarium at Ratnagiri. A small but commendable place escpecially for the young ones. Not that older ones are any wiser in these matters.

Lokmany Bal Gangadnhar Tilak was born in Ratnagiri. He made a large contribution to India’s freedom struggle in the early days. He also contributed extensively to pre-independence Indian journalism. The house in which he was born has been preserved very nicely here.

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Very close to the Thibau palace , on the cliff , the municipality has constructed a small park. In the evenings thr Ratnagirians throng there. It is worth going there for the sheer beauty of the sunsets.

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Text & Pictures : Suryakiran Naik

 

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