Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Eight Wonders of Coastal Ratnagiri!


You drive up mountains and glide down green valleys and all along yearn to finally reach the ocean front. Just as you wonder if the journey is on forever, suddenly the ocean meets your eyes. You remain transfixed! Situated on the gorgeous western coast of India, the Ratnagiri district is home to some of the most stunning landscapes. Thanks to the presence of the majestic Sahyadris range on one side and and the beautiful Arabian Sea on the other. The sandy beaches, rocky outcrops and small but vital estuaries along the Ratnagiri coast are ideal spots to reconnect with nature. Add to this the friendly and ever helpful people and the yummy Konkani cuisine. A combination that you don't want to miss! Here are The Western Routes' EIGHT most favorite destinations around coastal Ratnagiri!


A newly hatched Olive Ridley Turtle making its way to the sea. Photo: Anshul Khandelwal

Ever wondered how it would be to witness an Animal Planet like moment when tiny turtle hatchlings, make that journey from the hatched egg to the sea? Between February to April, nature enthusiasts can actually experience this rare event on the Velas beach in Ratnagiri district. A local NGO from Chiplun, Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra, started this project in 2002 and in the first year they protected 50 nests of Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and released more than 2700 hatchlings in the sea. Now, Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra, has joined hands with the Gram Panchayat at Velas and the local Forest department office to organise a unique Turtle Festival each year. The villagers are actively involved in the conservation of these turtles. They offer their homes as home-stays to the tourists who come to Velas during the festival. Once in Velas, you can also visit the Himmatgad fort or take a ferry boat from Bankot to the beautiful Harihareshwar Beach.

Check out the Olive Ridley hatchlings making their way to the sea!


The Kadyawarcha Ganpati Temple in Anjarle. Photo: Kedar Champhekar

Anjarle is one of the most secluded beaches in the Konkan belt. The 2 km stretch is full of crystal like scintillating white sand and sparking clean water, surrounded by an array of palm trees. Adjoining the beach is the traditional pastoral Anjarle village. Anjarle is also known for the legendary Ganpati Temple. The Kadyavarcha Ganpati (temple on a cliff) is one of the well-known prehistoric temples of India and dates back to 1500 A.D. It is known for its architecture. The temple has a very beautiful primordial d├ęcor with stone staircases leading to the temple’s Kalas (mast) on the top. There is also a fishpond in front of the temple alongside a shrine of Lord Shiva. The Ganesh Idol here is rare and locally called as “Ujwya Sondecha Ganpati” (trunk turned to the right side), a very rare sight for the devotees. This Ganpati is also known for wish fulfilling powers, traditionally called as “navsala pavnara Ganpati”. Hence in the customary dialect, it is referred as ‘Jagrut Daiwat’ or a very lively God.

Murud, Karde & Harnai

One of the beaches between Murud and Harnai. Photo: Vinit Godbole

Have you ever been to a fish fight (fish, fishing and trading)? You can experience one at Harnai village, around 12 km from Dapoli. Being one of the natural harbors, it is an ideal wharf for fish trading. The fish auction at Harnai village is one of the most sought after events in the area and is a daily custom held between 8 am to 10 am in the morning and 4 pm and 7 pm in the evening. The market is known to sell different varieties of fish like Pomfret, Surmai, Tiger Prawns, Squids, Lobsters, Mackerel, and many more. The fish quality is high and has lured many travelers and photographers. Tourist can also indulge in the fish fest of betting and auctioning. Apart from the auction, Harnai is also known for the magnificent Harnai Fort located on the northern front of the village.

Some glimpses from the Fish Auction at Harnai Beach. Photos: Vinit Godbole

The Murud & Karde beaches are known for its marvelous, mesmerizing, and friendly  Dolphins. The Murud-Karde beach stretch is situated around 12 km from Dapoli. The coastal hamlet of Murud serves a variety of yummy fishes cooked in local masalas (seasoning) that are known world-wide. The area is also a culturally rich coastal community acknowledged for its Diwali and Holi celebrations. Head to these twin beaches to indulge into some touristy things like water sports and boat rides or simply for the breath-taking sunset or being in the company of the affable Dolphins.

Velneshwar & Hedvi

Photo: Raphael Baumann

Around 20 km south of the famous Guhagar Beach and to the north of the Shastri River lies the idyllic village of Velneshwar. The quiet, coconut-fringed beach offers tourists the ideal opportunity for swimming or just relaxing without any tourist disturbance. There is an old Shiva temple in the environs which is often frequented by pilgrims particularly during the Maha Shivratri festival. A few kilometers away from Velneshwar is Hedvi, which is known for its unique Dashabhuja Ganapati. Standing 3 feet tall and carved in white stone, the ideol, is beleived to be from the Kashmir region and has ten hands, hence the name ‘Dashabhuja’. While in Hedvi, do not miss experiencing the water rising to almost 30-40 feet at one point along the beach. This is called as Brahman Ghal. It is a rare natural phenomenon where the sea water has created a gorge in the black rock patch, which is around 20 feet deep and 2 feet wide. When the sea water gushes in the vertical column, it rises through the gorgre for almost 30-40 feet!


Ganpatipule Temple. Photo: Raphael Baumann

‘Ganpatipule’ – the name itself suggest the place of Lord Ganesha. Ganpatipule is one of the ‘Astha Ganpatis’ (Eight Ganesha pilgrim centers) of India. The idol is believed to be nearly 400 years old is ‘swayambhu’ or self-created. The divine abode is blessed with sparkling beaches, and jagged coconut palm and mangroves along the coastline. The picturesque 12 km stretch is an ideal place to rejuvenate and immerse within the self and nature. The silver sand, swaying palms, glittering beach, and the beaming moon is meditative in itself and ought to leave you spell bound. The narrow red mud roads and vegetation of mangoes, jackfruit, betel nut, and bananas along with thatch-roofed dwellings bring travelers closer to their true home.  For adventure lovers, this place offers paragliding and other water sports. Over the years Ganpatipule has emerged to be one of the most visited beaches along the Konkan coast. During tourist seasons, the beach gets crowded around the temple. A simple solution is to walk a bit south away from the crowd and find a patch which is devoid of any tourists!


The Aare Beach from the road which goes on to Waare Beach. Photo: Bhavpreet Ghai

Aare and Ware are little twin beach brothers, naked and virgin. The beaches are safely tucked away from the crowds which throng the Ganpatipule beach. Aare Ware beach is situated en-route from Ratnagiri to Ganpatipule. If you are travelling from Ganpatipule, you will first witness the beautiful Ware beach that is about a kilometer from the Aare beach. You have to take a meandering path through the village to get to the Ware Beach. At a certain stretch of the beach, there is a belt of dense Suru trees, which looks like a stunning emerald on the white sand alluring the travelers. The sunset point from the hilltop near Aare beach is a breathtaking view covered by the blue sea from all three sides.


A panoramic view of the stunning Ganeshgule Beach. Photo: Raphael Baumann

Gulyaacha Ganpati Pulyaalaa Gela is a famous proverb that goes with the primordial temple of Ganeshgule, which is anticipated to be about 400 years old. The shrine is unique in itself, as, it is a South-facing temple, which is very rare in India. The temple premise has a 70 feet deep well with steps to go till its bottom. A myth states that water use to surge from the navel of Lord Ganesh and one fine day it just stopped flowing. Hence Ganesha shifted from Gule to Pule. The temple is situated on a hillock that is about 40 feet from the seashore. Ganeshgule beach has a 2 km shoreline with crystal white sand. This lazy beach is scarcely developed and is a nice respite after a strenuous day. 

Check the sun setting at the Ganeshgule Beach!


The entrance to the Purnagad Fort. Photo: Vidyuth Singh

Maharashtra, a land whose sheer size and diversity fascinates people, is also known for its warrior history and forts. Purnagad is one such fort. The majestic structure with its grand entrance, huge walls guarding the bastion, beautiful ancient carvings are sure to leave you awe-struck. The fort has a sphere of four entrances. Its main entrance door is engraved with pictures of the Sun, Moon and Lord Ganesha alongside which there is a giant statue of Lord Hanuman covered with shendur, an orange colored paste. A nice walk on the walls of the fort will give you a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area with its scintillating azure sea, Suru Ban trees, and the Muchkundi river creek at its base.
The legend goes that the fort was named Purnagad because it resembles the size of a full stop or when the construction of the fort was complete Shivaji Maharaj decided not to reform its further extension and called 'purnaviram' hence the name Purnagad. Similarly, there is some evidence which also suggests that the fort was constructed by Sakhoji Angre, son of Kanoji Angre. But historical debates notwithstanding, the fort is stunning and the ruined state adds to the charm!

A lone fisherman at the Purnagad beach. Photo: Raphael Baumann

This article was taken from Routes & Trails January 2013 issue which is an online magazine by The Western Routes. Read it here

To know more about these destinations and if you want to include these in your trip, click here

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