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

suryakiran.naik@gmail.com

 

49 ALIBAUG (2)- Kihim, Thal-Vaishet, Alibaug, Aksa , & Nagaon.

In the last post we travelled up to Sasawane on the Alibaug coast. There are a couple of interesting seaside places before we reach the Alibaug town. The first one is the Kihim beach. This spot is very popular with the week-end crowd revelling. The next is Thal. Generally known for its fertilizer plant which used to be called Thal-Vaishet project. Of late, Vaishet has been dropped. So be it.

We go to Thal looking for a boat to visit the twin islands offshore called Khanderi (also called Kanhoji Angre island and currently under the jurisdiction of Indian Navy)  and Underi ( also called Jaidurg) Out of the two Underi is very close but is inconsequential, abandoned and un-inhabitated. Khanderi is partly fortified and has a lighthouse.  and some naval presence. It has a small resident population as well to attend to the temple of Sri Betal.

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There are no specialized boats available to visit the islands. The fishermen spare their boats and the personnel as and when they are free or when they are engaged well in advance mostly on Sundays. The day we visit the fish catch is extremely good and everyone is busy.  ‘Come on Sunday’, They don’t have time now.

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We walk towards the islands with a view to catch a closer glimpse. There is a long, concrete slipway for the fishing boats to dock. From the end of this slipway Underi is hardly 100 meters. The area around the slipway has a good amount of Mangroves and we see this phenomenon here.

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These are the plastic and cloth shreds of evey shape , size and colour rejected by the ocean and brought ashore by the waters of high tide. Here they get entangled in the mangroves and make them look bizzare.

 

You can see a number of crabs and a few wading birds here at low tide. The crabs in the picture are not an edible species.

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Here is a fisherwoman drying Ribbonfish and in the background is the Thal-Vaishet RCF fertlizer plant.

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The next place to the south is Varsoli. This is a beach, a fishing harbour and has  this bridge to nowhere. It is not new and it is not connected on either side.

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This golden fishis caled Mandeli.

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This very small watery low-value shrimp is found in large quantities in some parts of the ocean. Very rarely sold fresh, most of the catch is dried and sold, localled called ‘jawala’.

dsc_3460 It is time to move on to Alibaug proper.

Alibaug was founded in the 17th Century and is named after one Mr.Ali who was not a muslim but a Bene Israeli  and a rich man owning large tracts of orchards. Kanhoji Angre, Shivaji’s admiral is credited with the founing of the town or in any case bringing it importance and fame. He has his memorial in the centre of the town.

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In the background is a statue of King Shivaji.

Another monument in the town is a sculpture of a fisherwoman, very appropriate given the importance of fisheries to this district.

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The city had a sizable population of Bene Israeli jews in the past. They  occupied parts of Alibaug and a vilage caled Nagaon across a small creek to the south. A street in the town is still known as Israeli Lane and has a Synagogue maingtained in good condition.

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The main draw at least for the tourists is the Kolaba fort. It is a costal fort meaning it is not a sea fort or a fort on an island. However at high tide it is a sea fort. At low tide one can walk to it, making it a coastal fort.

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Nobody seems to know much about the origins of the fort and who constructed it. The information provided by the ASI is from the time of its occupation y Shivaji or on behalf of him.

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The fort could hold 1000 foot and 700 Horse of the Maratha army. This will give us some idea of its size.

Some parts of the fort particularly the two temples are in good shape to-day largely due to they being is use. The water in the tank is not in use and hence is in bad shape.

A portion of the fort is disjointed with a gap from the main fort.

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The approach to the fort and walking around is a simple matter not requiring an exertion.

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An image of Ganapati in the front seem to have remained intact during the British regime.

dsc_3569 The view of the town from the fort is beautiful with the foothills of the Sahyadris in the background.

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We have found accommodation at a place called Nagaon which is about 6 kms from Alibaug. Nagaon has a beach but not a great one but between Alibaug and Nagaon is the Aksa beach which is quite good.

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One can see new mangrove plants taking roots on the beach which is enviornmentally a good sign but may suggest a doom to the beach.

24.10.16

Delayed by 8 days.