71. BHATKAL, KUNDAPURA, BARKUR

We leave Murudeshwar and drive south. The first town that we come across is Bhatkal. A sculpture depicting gold jewellery welcomes you to the town.

Bhatkal is a Muslim-dominated town and is sometimes called mini Dubai. This is the home to the Nawayath Muslim Community who speak a version of the Konkani language called Nawayath which has a vocabulary of substantial number of Arabic words. The tone and the accent however is Konkani. It is said that a large number of people here have their roots in southern Yemeni region of Hadhramaut.

The names of the places in the town, the signboards and just about everything in the town looks Muslim and at times Arabic.

We visit the fishing harbour and the Lighthouse at Jali. The fishing harbour is a busy place.

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 The night we stayed in Bhatkal was the night of the supermoon. The moon looked good from Bhatkal.

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Looking back, I feel we did not do justice to Bhatkal. We should have done a bit more of exploration but the town or the people in the town look secretive.

From Bhatkal the next town down south is Kundapura but there are many smaller places along the way. Shiroor, Baindur, Bijoor, Maravanthe etc. The seaside of these small places is really nice though not commercially developed.

We keep driving till we miss our way and end us at a place called Gangoli.

We intended to be at the Kodi beach near Kundapura. There is a huge geographical mess created here by the rivers, creeks,islands, rocks, estuaries etc. Geting around this maze requires a lot of time and we failed to get to the intended place. Never mind. No regrets.

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The reason we wanted to go to Kodi beach is to have a look at the Lighthouse. We try not to miss the lighthouses. They are the surest connecting dots to coastal travel.

Will you be surprised to know that the controlling office for all of India’s Lighthouses is in NOIDA and nowhere near the seas? Now, that is democratic politics.

We pass by the lighthouse without noticing it. We return and do the same drive again. No. It is not there although the Google map shows it. On our second return we find it. Why did we not seen it earlier? One, we were looking at these seagulls who came too close and two, the lighthouse is too close to the road. There is no way anyone seating in a car could see it.

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By this time it is time to eat some food. We find our way to Kundapura city. We  had been recommended a restaurant in Kundapura for the authentic local food.

I think the Shetty guys serve the same food in Mumbai as well as Kundapura.No change.

This part of the world is called Tulunadu. You dont mess up with these guys. If you watched Hindi movies in the 1970s and 1980s you will understand what I mean. We had a villain simply called Shetty. He did not have a first name and that made him all the more dangerous.I was never frightened of Prans and Prem Chopras from up north. They only talked. This bald guy called Shetty could break all the unbreakable things. He had the audacity to challenge the-then He-Man called Dharmendra which the other villains did not dare to do. Think about it.

Incidentally ‘Tulunadu’ comes from the speakers of a language called Tulu. Those of us who think that there are only 4 south Indian languages need to go back to school again. Linguistic scholars consider Tulu a more advanced language than the other 4 in certain respects.

Let us shift gears from Languages to Birds. 8 Kms south of Kundapura you will come across a place called Thekate. Take a left turn and drive 1.5 Kms. You have reached a place called Malyadi. It has an old abandoned clay quarry whcih has turned itself into a birding area.

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The accumulated water and a large variety of trees surrounding the quarry has created an enviornment conducive to existence of a large number of bird species. We could look at about two dozens in a short span of time.

Veena had these four captured. Upper two are aquatic and the lower  two arboreal.

From Nature let us go to History and enter through this arch into a much neglected territory called Barkur.

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After the town of Brahmavar south of Kundapura take a left on the highway through a huge gate and you will be there. This is another huge geographical confusion in the midst of which flourished a town called Barkur, encircled in the map.

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According to the Wikipedia article on Barkur, it was a ‘flourishing port’ in the 15th and 16th centuries. The current Google map shows a different picture. There must have been massive silting of river Seetha on the banks of which Barkur is situated.

Anyway Barkur was an important place in the history of Tululand and therefore we try to look around for some monuments. We wander around without any assistance from anyone. Language is an issue. The roads are narrow and there appears to be a general apathy towards the past among the general public.

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The above is an important temple. It is a stone structure, stine being used even for the roofing. Thisis called ‘Kallu Chappara’- stone roofs.

There is a tank opposite the temple which might been a part of the temple once but now a public road separate both. The tank has a peculiar vegetation growing on the surface and looks weird.

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Here is another stone temple:

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The place is an important pilgrimage centre for the Mogaveera community who orignate from the area around the place.

Barkur is supposed to have 365 temples. Possible. What we could see were a few of of them. Some new, some old and some combinations of both. In the picture ot the bottom you can see a Deepstambha (light tower) made of stone,obviously ancient and a temple which shouts at you saying that it is newly built.

Apart from the temples which are intact one can easily see many stone articles which are obviously parts of temple related structure. Only an expert in architecture and history can comment on this. At any rate the place needs some attention.

Here are some more stewn across the town:

There is one area called ‘Fort’ which appears to have received some attention from the ASI. At least they have a signboard there and a rude watchman who sems to be totally against people visiting the place. You can however peep in and see this:

Here is a place attached to a temple where the ‘rath’,the God’s vehicle is stored. It will probably be used once in a year when the Deity is taken out in a procession.

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What I am trying to show is not the ‘rath’ but the construction material which is widely used in coastal India in western and southern parts. These are the woven coconut leaves whcih are called ‘mall’ in Konkani.The weaving can be done before the leaves are fully dry.

As early as 50 years back this was an important material especialy for claddings during the monsoons as protection to the walls from windy rains. The advent of plastic seems to have made it largely obsolete.

Text by Suryakiran Naik

Pictures by Suryakiran Naik & Veena Naik

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