From the serene village of Nivati, the island fort of Sindhudurg, located in the town of Malvan is a 3 hour drive in an auto-rickshaw. We had booked the vehicle till Kunkeswar with enroute halts at Sindhudurg fort and Tarkarli beach. Our stay at Kunkeswar was booked at Saavli Resort. Although Saavli resort offered only lodging, the only other staying option at Kunkeswar is at Bhakti Niwas whose accommodation was very Spartan. Bhakti Niwas also did not offer in-house food facility.
The road is maintained well and very scenic. There is not much traffic up to Malvan town, but once you reach the town it is pretty crowded specially in the jetty. Boats leave for the Sindhudurg fort from this jetty.
The rough and unruly behavior of the boatman at Sindhudurg is very infamous. I found whatever I have read about them in blogs and travelogues to be very much true. The way they shout at people to embark the boat is extremely impolite and rude. You pay Rs 50 per head to take a boat ride full of 15-20 passengers, which means you get only 1 hour to move around the huge fort. This 1 hour includes the boat ride time too, which takes approximately 17 minutes one way! That means you have only 26 minutes time to see the fort! Also, if you are late by 1 minute, the boat will depart without you. You have to wait for the next boat and you can board that only if they have enough space to accommodate you.
We decided to hire an exclusive boat for two hours which cost Rs 500 for a total stay of 2 hours including the up down boat journey. It is a costly affair if you are alone, only possible if you are in a group. By the way, if you want a shade in your boat to protect you from the sun it will cost you Rs 100 extra! We chose to bask in the sun.
The journey through the blue waters of Arabian sea with plenty of boat around the Malvan Beach was beautiful. We reached the fort around 10:40. The boatman said that he would return by 12:20.
Sindhudurg fort does not have much interesting aspects as Murud Janjira or even VijayDurg in its interior. In 1664-67 AD, Shivaji Maharaj built this fort on 48 acres of island on a rocky island named Kurte. With a four km long zigzag line of 9 meters high and 3 meters wide rampart and with with 42 bastions, the Sindhudurg was a formidable structure.
Mostly in ruins, Sindhudurg fort houses the only temple of Shivaji till date, which is supposed to 315 years old. Surprisingly the deity inside has no similarity with the Shivaji Maharaj we know. It has no beard or moustache. Our guide demonstrated what is supposed to be hand prints & foot prints of Shivaji Maharaj. It is said that Shivaji Maharaj made these prints at the request of the fort’s architect Hiroji Indulkar. There are numerous palm trees inside the fort. Some 10 -20 families still reside inside the fort.
The walls of this fort are exceptionally wide and you can walk through the entire wall area. There is a huge underwater tunnel in this fort to a nearby village for escape in case of enemy attack.
The walls of the forts attracted me and looking at the spare time in hand I decided to take a stroll over the wall. It was indeed fascinating seeing the waves crashing against the wall. There is a small beach inside the fort and one has to climb down some stairs to access the beach through a secret door.
While returning I was two minutes late in reaching the entrance of the fort. It was 12:22 then. However the boatman threatened my other two friends that he will leave the boat without them, if they waited for me. Anyways things were settled peacefully and we came back to the Malvan Jetty at around 12:40.
Our auto driver came back from lunch. Since we were feeling tired, hot and humid after the Sindhudurg fort trip, we decided to drop our visit to Tarkarli beach and headed straight for Kunkeswar. We could see the temple of Kunkeswar from the road itself. On reaching Kunkeswar we came to know that Saavli Resort is 1 km in the outskirts of Kunkeswar and there are no shops around it.
It was 14:30 already, and we were not particularly hungry as we had a hearty breakfast of “Poha” at Sridhar’s Place and had been munching snacks throughout the tour. However, we decided to have some rations stocked with us and purchased some snacks and cold drinks from Kunkeswar.
Savli Resort was a bungalow in the middle of nowhere. The rooms were huge, well furnished with toilets having shaving light too! At Rs 650 it was a steal. There was no AC but at December, you really did not need one. The owner asked our duration of stay and then took the total rent in advance. Maybe he was not sure if we change our mind later and shift to Bhakti Nivas, which charged only Rs 200 per room.
The owner arranged for an auto driver for whom this was a part time job. He was a giant Konkani man wearing lots of golden necklaces. In the beginning, we had a bit of communication problem because of language. He was not well versed in Hindi and we had no idea of Konkani. Anyway, things got settled and soon we were standing in front of the enormous temple of Kunkeswar, overlooking the beautiful beach below.The Temple is surrounded by a fortified wall with a small waterbody running between the wall and the beach. You have to alight a few stairs to go to the beach.
There is no tourist activity in Kunkeswar, the beach had only some local children playing around while the adults carelessly strolled on the beach. This is one the most famous Shiva temple in Maharastra. During the auspicious festival of Shivaratri lakhs of pilgrimages pay visit here. A 3 day fair is organized too. We looked if there were stalls selling any books on the temple, but none was available.
A priest came to us and told the same story that we have heard several times in several version. His version was that some hundred years ago there was a ship-wreck near Kunkeswar, whence an Arab reached the shore sighting the light of this temple. He rebuilt this temple as a gratitude to lord Shiva. However, he was not sure of being accepted back in his land and thus committed suicide by climbing top of the temple (Although I was not sure as to how could he climb up the temple). The priest informed that this was originally built up by the yadavs in 1100 but was not sure whether Shivaji Maharaj used to visit this temple. The Kunkeswar Temple has many other small temples inside it. The architecture is typical South Indian design.
To get a better view of the temple you need to climb up the elevated hillock adjacent to the temple. The temple and the total stretch of the beach are visible from here. The afternoon mellow light on the temple makes it look more attractive. On the eastern side of the temple, there is a cave which has some interesting warrior carving, Ganesha idols and a Shiva lingam. I was curious to observe that some of the warriors were female.
The sunset was fascinating and I wished to pay a visit to the temple at sunrise too to get some better pictures. But next day we had plans to visit Devgad, Tara Mumbri beach and Vijaydurg, so I kept the plan for the last day.
We came back to the main market area to have an early dinner. Kunkeswar does not have much descent non-vegetarian options. So we decided to go for vegetarian food, missing the excellent cuisine of Sridhar at Nivati. We tried a local fruit juice named Kokum which tasted good.
Since we had left our auto driver after we reached the beach, it was time to look for another vehicle. There were none in the vicinity and it was getting late. In the end, we decided to walk to the resort. The road had several Mango gardens on its both sides. These were the world famous Alpansho Mango trees. Half way we were lucky to get a vehicle that dropped us to our destination. Waiting for another enjoyable day of Konkan sightseeing, we retired to our rooms.