Ganapatipule is a popular beach for a weekend tour in Maharastra, especially during the monsoons. Like the Kashid beach near Alibaug, this is beach of white sand. It has a twin beach named Bhandarpule which gives you a spectacular top view as you drive towards Ganapatipule. There are several other beaches in the vicinity among which another twin beach ‘Aare-Ware’ and the secluded beach of Malgund are worth viewing. Other attractions include the rarely visited Jaigad fort perched on a hilltop near the Jaigad Creek.
Ganapatiphule is famous for its Swambhu Ganapati Temple. The temple is frequently visited by devotees as well as tourists looking for a beach holiday. The rock cut idol of Ganesha is around 400 years old and unlike other Hindu deities faces west and falls in the category of Paschim Dwar Devatas (West coast Gods). Since the rock formation was nature created and not man made, the idol is known as “Swambhu” (Self Generated). Such Swambhu Ganesh Statues are prevalent in Maharastra. At Amboli , we saw a similar statue (though much smaller) at Swambhu Ganapati Temple of Ragheshwar Ashram.
Among the popular legends the most common is that one gentleman escaping from a village feud stumbled upon this idol and later created a temple around it, which underwent renovations in the following years to come to the present state. Since the rock cut idol originated from Sand Dunes (Termed in Marathi “Pule”), the village has been named as “Ganapatipule”.
Journey To Ganapatipule
After spending two nights amidst mist and rain in the bio diversity region of Amboli, we started at 07:00 for Sawantwadi Road Railway Station in our prefixed Auto Rickshaw. It was still foggy in the morning with poor visibility. We reached the Railway Station with just minutes left to board the Sawantwadi Diva Passenger. I asked my friends to board the train, while I rushed to get the tickets. Luckily there was only one person in the queue. I barely had time to board the train after purchasing the tickets. It being 15th August, there was not much crowd in the train.
From Sawantwadi Road it takes around four hours to reach Ratnagiri. The line is a part of the famous Konkan Railway. The train journey is through a scenic landscape with several tunnels. It being rainy season the lush green landscape was a feat to the eyes. Often the train would pass through small ravines and multiple tunnels. After having breakfast and tea from the hawkers in the train, we reached Ratnagiri at around 13:00.
Ratnagiri is a port town in a district of the same name. Bordered by the Sahyadri Hills, Ratnagiri has some good tourist spots including the palace of Thibaw, the last king of Burma (Myanmar). We had Ratnagiri in our schedule too, but after visiting Ganapatipule.
We fixed an Auto Rickshaw to drop us at Ganapatipule. On the way we stopped to book a hotel for the day we will return to the town from Ganapatipule. The Hotel, named Regency was close to main bus Stand. So we also booked our return bus tickets to Pune and set for Ganapatipule.
There are two roads from Ratnagiri to Ganapatipule. One is the Bus Route which goes through inland away from the sea. The other is through the Zig Zag and Narrow Aare Ware Road which is a beautiful drive besides the Arabian Sea by passing the Aare Ware and Bhandarpule beach. One need to drive carefully in this route as it is a two way lane but the road is not very wide. Besides On One side there is the sea after a sheer drop. Aaare Ware and Bhandarpule beach are just adjacent to each other.
We reached Ganapatipule around 14:30. We checked into Atithi Lodge. Our rooms were on the ground floor which actually was not a smart decision. Especially my room being close to the garden I saw lot of unexpected nocturnal visitors in the night including a frog.
Ganapatipule Beach and Temple
Atithi Lodge is actually a home stay. Since Ganapatipule road side eateries has specific lunch hours, we left for lunch immediately after checking in. We had a delicious Malvani lunch consisting of Rice, Bangra / Pomphret / King Fish Fry, Fish Curry and Sol Kadi. The Malvan Fish Curry is very different from the Bengali Fish curry. Many of my Bengali friends back in Kolkata may not like this curry seasoned with extra turmeric powder and Coconut , but I find Malvani cuisines very delicious. Sol Kadi ( Kokum with Coconut milk) is a popular digestive which is served with the lunch.
We took a leisurely afternoon siesta and then went for a stroll in the beach. Like all religiously famous places in India, Ganpatipule has abundance of devotees visiting the temple.
The temple like much other similar structure has a Jagamohan (Assembly Hall) & a Biman (Tower shaped structure) in the back. The deity of the Rock Cut Ganesh painted in deep vermillion remains in the interior of the Biman. The Temple is painted with cream and marron colour. There are many sculptures on the outer wall of the Jagamohan. There are five small pillars on each side of the temple.The temple interiors and outer decorations looked to have undergone major changes from its original structures and the sculptures on its wall did not look much old.
Ganapatipule Temple is opposite to the M.T.D.C. Guest house. There is a huge gate which leads to the path of the temple. Just at the entrance of the temple there is a huge statue of a mouse. The Temple is situated just below a hill. A staircase has been cut in a circular fashion around the hill with proper stairs, so that devotees can do a “Pradakshinaa” around the temple.
There are several shops around the temple. On the portion on beach just in front of the temple, the holiday crowd was having fun. There were few camels moving around with tourists on their back. If you looked straight into the ocean with the crowd and the camels, all of a sudden you can get that typical Bengali “ I am at Puri” feeling.
Turn to your left and you will see that cliff line besides the beach with several rocks on the sand and you will come to reality and realize that you are indeed at Ganapatipule and not at Puri of Orissa. Like many other Konkan beaches, Ganapatipule is also infested with rocks. The monsoon has resulted in green silk like moss growing on these rocks which makes a pretty picture.
Lined besides the beach are bushes of Mangroves, which gets their replenishment from the sea waters. The Mangroves plays an important part in stabilizing the coastline, reducing erosion from storm, waves and tides using their spreading roots.
We walked till the left end of the beach where the cliffs and rocks have huge waves splashing on them. Realizing that the beach was suitable for some slow shutter shot (to get that “Ocean of Milk” effect), we immediately set down our tripods and got busy with our cameras. It was a good effort and although we did not get a proper sunset, the resultant photographs were quite satisfactory.
After having a nice round of Tea and Snacks, we went back to our hotel with our provisions of Mineral Waters, Chips and Biscuits. Branded Cigarettes were very costly here and available at one shop near the temple. In the night we had another round of Malvani food in dinner. Prior to retiring to our rooms we fixed up with an auto rickshaw for the next day tour.
Beaches adjacent to Ganapatipule
We got up early in the morning. However it being a cloudy day, we could not view the sun rise. We walked towards the right side of the beach. There were lesser rocks over here. Walking further down you will reach the back waters. There are several backwater regions near Ganapatipule. We had spotted one on the road from Ratnagiri just before Ganapatipule.
After a brief photo session, we strolled back for some breakfast. Unfortunately the sea town wakes up pretty late. Though it was around 08:30 n the morning, most of the eateries were closed. Those which were open had nothing ready.
Some road stalls were serving Vada- Pav. We were not interested in Vada – Pav in breakfast and ultimately settled down with a plate of Poha for each in an eatery. Poha is a nutritious snack made from flattened rice with turmeric, Coriander Leaves, Curry leaves. Green Chili, Tomato added to it with necessary spices and salt. In Bengal we have a similar dish which is known as “Chirer Polao”. The recipe is more or less the same.
By now sun was out and we set off to view some beaches around Ganapatipule hiring an autorickshaw. While driving towards Ratnagiri through the Aare Ware road, the road has several curves and hair pin bends. On the first hair pin bend we asked the driver to stop and got down to get a top view of the Bhandarpule beach.
If Ganapatipule is ideal for swimming and beach walking, Bhandarpule is ideal for having a top view. It is a long beach too lined with Palm trees. Since the Sun was out now, Bhandarpule looked grand with giant waves splashing on it. We got busy in taking some panoramic shots. Best time to get this shot is in the morning hours.
The backwaters makes its way through the beach itself, which makes the entry to the beach from the road a tad difficult, especially during high tides where you have to cross a big puddle of water to enter the beach by passing some local houses. The beach remains secluded even in peak tourist season. On its left are some huge rocks. From this place you get another view of the beach. The sea water splashing on them makes a pretty sight. Sometimes they splash literally on your face. There is one beach resort on Bhandarpule beach itself.
Back to our transport, we crossed a bridge over a stretch of backwaters. The monsoon clouds were still looming at one corner of the sky and the sun was playing hide and seek. We reached the Aaare Ware beach which starts just after the Bhandarpule beach. It is also a secluded beach, but getting to the beach is nearly impossible from the road. You have to go down through a steep downhill path to some huge rocks. Just after the rocks the actual beach starts, but there is no path to reach the sands from this place. Of course one can try going downhill from some distance ahead on the main road, but that path is too steep (in fact there is no path at all). Besides with slippery loose mud and wet grasses due to the rain it could be too dangerous.
So we contented ourselves sitting on the rocks and watching the sea waves splashing on the rocks much like Bhandarpule beach. There were quite a number of tourists here enjoying the waves. Sitting on the rocks I wondered if there is any easy way to reach the beach. Maybe during winter (when the backwater is bit shallow), one can access it walking from Bhandarpule beach.
After spending some more time, we returned back to our hotel. Post lunch of delicious fried prawns and King fish, we headed to the other side of Ganapatipule through the continuation of Aare Ware Road. This leads to some other beaches and the Jaigad Fort. There are several beaches which fall on the way but the most worth mentioning is the Malgund beach, 3 km from Ganapatipule. The beach is just besides the road and secluded. There are some accommodation facilities at Malgund too, and because of its seclusion some prefer to stay here instead of Ganaptipule. The beach is horse shoe shaped. We saw some people leisurely strolling on the beach.
Malgund is famous for being the birthplace of Krishnaji Keshav Damle alias Keshavsut, who is considered to be father of modern Marathi Poetry. His ancestral house at Malgund has been converted into library & cultural centre.
Jaigad Sea Fort
Perched on a hill looking over the confluence of Sangameshwar / Shastri river and Arabian Sea is the ancient sea fort Jaigad, built for guarding the Jaigad Creek ( the confluence point). On the opposite bank there exists another similar kind of Sea fort named Vijaygad alias Tavasal Fort, built for the same purpose.
Jaigad is around 20 km from Ganapatipule. Surrounded by trench on its eastern and northern direction, the walls of the fort are surprisingly more or less intact. Just besides the main gate is a huge bastion, which once housed a guest house, now in ruins. Just besides the entrance there is another gate which leads to the trench.
Although nowhere near to the vast structure of VijayDurg or SindhuDurg, yet Jaigad fort has its own charm. The best time to visit is it during the monsoon when the interiors of the fort becomes lush green and is a feast to the eyes. There are stairs to climb up the ramparts and you can take walk around, occasionally stopping at the sentry posts and enjoying the view. Marching on the walls looking over the sea, I ran wild my imagination almost enough to be time transported to 1713.
This was the year when Kanhoji Angre, The Naval Commander of the Marathas took it over. The fort was originally believed to be constructed by the Sultan of Bijapur. Legend says that while constructing the fort, the ramparts were kept falling apart. Like many other folk tales (from where our Hindi Films gets the ideas), it was decided to have a human sacrifice made to please the Gods. A local named Jai said to have volunteered for the cause. Some reference says he volunteered alone, some says his wife also volunteered. Ultimately he was placed in a niche in the wall and the structure was built around it. Since then the wall did not collapse! The fort was hence named Jaigad after him.
Well in 21st century, it is hard to believe such a story. However, I can bet if you spend one moonlit night alone in this fort, the atmosphere may very well make you believe it.
There is Ganapati Temple too inside the fort and some building remains. One building in the centre has yet its walls are intact. This may have been the soldier’s quarters.
Damaging of Eco System at Jaigad Creek.
Walking on the Ramparts with the greenery around, the only eyesore is the Chimney’s of the Jindal Coal based thermal power plant. From the reports I have read in the newspaper and from several environment conscious group, this Thermal Plant along with Chowgule Ports & Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd has been causing severe damage to the eco system of the Jaigad Creek, damaging its animal life and devastating the mangroves in the area. The Government has been so far deaf to the pleas.
It is quite evident as you look at the Jaigad port with Ship floating in the creek standing from the rampart of the fort. There are huge red patches of land near the port suggesting mass deforestation not to speak of irreversible damage to the flora and fauna. The Fly ash from the Chimneys is supposed to have serious adverse effect on the Mango Production. We could also see one huge Bund. It said that 100 hectares of mangroves were affected, when officials closed down all but one sluice gates cutting off tidal water to the mangroves.
Jaigad Light House
It is mentioned in many websites and in even some guidebooks that the Jaigad light house was built by John Oswald, (Chief Inspector of Lighthouses in India) in the year 1832. However, the website of Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships says that the Cast Iron Lighthouse Tower was erected in 1932. The tower and equipments were supplied by BBT, Paris and erection carried out by M/s Chance Bros., Birmingham. There is signboard inside the lighthouse which also gives similar information.
Earlier in 1896, the light was shown from the bastion of Jaigad Fort. It was shifted to the land on an Iron frame structure in 1899.
The Light house is open to visitors from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m , except on Sundays. We had timed our visit keeping this in mind. After climbing up to the top through a long circular iron staircase, the view was breathtaking with the greeneries and sea around apart from the Jindal’s Factory in the centre as an irritating eyesore.
The Final destination was the centuries old Karhateshwar Temple, which is around 3 km from Jaigad in the village of Nandivade. Karhateshwar is a form of Lord Shiva. The temple is rectangular shaped house with a two tier roof studded with Mangalorian Tiles. There were many Pillars in the temple area, similar to that seen in the temple premises of Ganapatipule. Here the colour has long faded out and we could see clearly that the pillars were actually made of sand stone over which they were plastered later on. The interior of the temple was peace and quiet. There was no restriction of photography here. From the temple a flight of stairs went to a small beach.
We returned from the temple to Ganatipatipule by the afternoon.
Prachin Konkan Open Air Museum
On our final day at Ganapatipule we lazed out a bit, getting up late in the morning and taking a late breakfast and lunch. Apart from taking an evening walk in the beach, we visited Prachin Konkan, which is an open air museuem, established in 2004. The campus is over three acres and it depicts the early social life in the Konkan region.
In natural environment life sized statue are build scattered over the area on the open or inside different type of huts. These include fisherman, hunters, traders, village headman woman selling fish and many others. The huts had several items and utensils used in ancient Konkan. There was a temple too. Many flowers were grown in the garden. In the garden, each tree symbolizes one sun sign.
The museum displays several paintings for sale, houses a store selling authentic Konkan spices and several wooden handicrafts. There is also an in house restaurant serving local cuisines. There is model of the Jaigad fort too, and a model boat showing Shivaji Maharaj and one of his general firing a canon from a boat. The tour was a guided one and the local guides did a good job too.
Next morning we left Ganapatipule by an Auto rickshaw which we had previously arranged to come from Ratnagiri and pick up back to the town. We were back to hustle bustle of a town after spending time in secluded beaches of Ganapatipule and Bio Diversity region of Amboli. After checking in the hotel and viewing the crowded street from the Balcony, I suddenly felt that I have woken from a dream and back to the reality.
Later we did a half day city tour of the town. There are some significant places to see at Ratnagiri among which the Thiba Palace and house of Lokmanya Bal GangadharTilak are worth visiting. At Thiba Plalace King Thibaw, last king of Burma (now Myanmar) under house arrest in 1935. The House of Lokamanya Tilak depicted the simplicity of this great freedom fighter of India. I wish to write separate blogs on these building in details. There was a view point named Thiba Point from where you get to see scenic view of Backwaters
Finally there was the Ratnadurg Fort. Perched on a hill overlooking the Arabian sea, the fort looks grand from outside. The interior is bit of disappointing with no remains of nay structure, except a much renovated temple of Goddess Bhagawati. However, the scenic beauty of the sea as seen from the sea is beyond word to describe. Besides The old and new jetty, the rugged Konkan Coastline is best seen from here.
Back in the town, followed by a refreshing bath and well deserved afternoon Siesta, we boarded a Non AC Luxury Bus for Pune after a bit of confusion of locating the transport. It was raining again and I intentionally left my window open. My seat was the first on the left and it being a single one, I was at my liberty to soak in the droplets of rain falling on my face. Listening to Bryan Adams “I wish it would Rain down” on my Mp3 player, I felt fast asleep as the bus headed towards pune
How to Reach
From Mumbai it takes 7 hours by train to Ratnagiri( 373 kms). By Bus it takes 8 hours. From Pune you get only Bus Service, Hire an autorickshaw to reach Ganapatipule from Ratnagiri.
Where to stay
There are all kinds of outlets at Ganapatipule from luxury to Budget. MTDC resorts is the best place to stay, though I would advise to not to opt for the Konkani huts as they are quite far and you need to do a bit of walking.
What to eat and Shop
If you are vegetarian or allergic to Seafood Cuisines it is a pity. Ganapatipule is the best place to try out authentic Malvani dishes. However, there are all varieties of food available in the joints for all kind of people. Try buying wooden handicrafts and Konkani spices, which are the specialty of the area.