In shades of blue...

In shades of blue...

The salts of the sea tickle your nostrils and the breeze lifts your spirits. The rivers alternate with the seas and the air is filled with legends and myths. Set amidst beautiful beaches, these tales are told by gods and goddesses, kings and demons giving many a town a history and an identity. We let the stories seep into us as curses, boons, penances and dreams punctuate our journey .
We are in Tulu Nadu or Dakshina Kannada, driving down the Karavali coastline and listening to the songs of the sea. The Netravati and Gurupura rivers meet at Kudla and in that confluence is our first destination. Mangalore emerging into a bustling cosmopolitan town is a mosaic of several cultures brimming with stories.
To begin with, the tale of the Mangala Devi temple with its quaint tiles. The temple doors are just opening as we enter. The setting of the legend is under water for this is where the goddess kills a demon Andhakasura. When Parasurama in a different era reclaims the land from sea and performs his penance, he builds a small temple here. The same temple buried under the mound is dreamt by a king Bangaraja in another era. He immediately rebuilds the temple and calls it Mangala Devi. The bells ring as we leave the temple and the priest tells us that this is not just a story, but the identity of Mangalore.

At Udupi
The sea breeze takes us down to Udupi, near the Malpe beach where every wave tells a story. The moon cursed by his father in law, a storm in the sea and an idol that turns on its own are just some of them.
The Krishna temple built by Madhvacharya in the 13th century has its own lore about the idol which is said to have passed through a storm before reaching Udupi. Legend has it that this idol of Balakrishna was kept in Rukmini’s garden by Arjuna. Over a period of time it was completely covered by gopichandana (sandal paste)
After several years, a sailor loaded it in his boat as ballast and as the boat neared Malpe, it was suddenly caught in a storm. According to the legend, the captain saw Madhvacharya on the shore  who waved a cloth to silence the storm. The captain offered him all the riches in his boat but the seer asked for the lump of gopichandana. The idol was brought to Udupi where the temple and the Math were later built.

Land of five rivers
We cross more bridges and backwaters and come to the land of the five rivers, also called Kundapura.
And then comes our truly out-of-the blue experience. The NH 17. With the Maravanthe beach and the Arabian Sea on your left and the Souparnika river on your right, these blues can only uplift your mood. A lone boatman persuades us to come boating, but the afternoon sun deters us.
We cross several yellow boards of Karnataka tourism that takes you down various detours. Several of them lead to Ganesh temples as it is believed that the god is protecting the coast from natural calamities. Our next stops are a couple of ancient towns where legends from the Ramayana resonate.
Murudeshwar looks like any another sea town. A few colourful boats dot the Arabian sea as the fishing folk carry on with their routine. But the towering statue of Shiva at 120 feet takes it to a different height. We walk up the steps to the temple which is guarded by a couple of life-size elephants. The ancient temple is being restored.
We move on to Gokarna which is linked to Murudeshwar by a legend. There are more beaches than temples in Gokarna as foreign tourists throng here.
Probably it has something to do with its history as well. It is said  that a sect of brahmins fled from the Gomantak (Goa) to escape conversions by the Portuguese and settled around Gokarna in the 15th century.

Story of Gokarna
Gokarna means cow’s ear and there is a story behind the unusual name as it is believed that Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow (symbolising Mother Earth) in Gokarna. However, its location at the ear shaped confluence of the two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini probably gave the name.  
Ravana, in a quest to become immortal gets the Atmalinga from Shiva, under the condition that it should never be placed on the ground as it will get embedded there.  
As Ravana nears Gokarna, Vishnu blots the sun with his Sudarshana Chakra to make it look like evening. Ganesha guised as a boy approaches Ravana and agrees to hold the Atmalinga until he performs his rituals.  
But when Ravana returns,the boy is gone and the Atmalinga is on the ground. Vishnu then removes the illusion and it is daylight again. Ravana, in anger  tries to uproot the Atmalinga. He throws the coverings away to Murudeshwara.
He calls the Linga Mahabala as he is unable to lift it  and the Mahabaleshwara temple is built in Gokarna.

The tourists walk on the beach unmindful of the sacred lore. There are four beautiful beaches here besides the Gokarna beach. Kudle, Half Moon and Paradise compete for beauty with Om beach which forms the auspicious symbol on the shore.
Finally we reach Karwar. A small nondescript town which straddles mountains and seas, comprising five islands, Karwar has even inspired Rabindranath Tagore to pen poems. Originally called Kadwad, it owes its name to the British who couldn’t pronounce it.
We stretch our limbs and  spend some quiet moments at the beach hearing the waves lashing at the rocks, thinking of the heady mix of the mythical, spiritual and historic influences and wondering if we are blessed to be here ...

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