Sea, sand and sunshine

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Sea, sand and sunshine

For those of us who wish to escape the maddening city life and spend a couple of days just relaxing and rejuvenating, Karwar is an ideal place. Even Rabindranath Tagore was highly impressed by the beauty and serenity of this small town, so much so that, the place grew on him, prompting him to pen his first poems at the age of twenty two, while staying with his brother here. 

Tagore wrote about his enjoyable experience : “The sea beach of Karwar is certainly a fit place in which to realise that the beauty of nature is not a figment of imagination, but reflects the joy of the infinite and thus draws us to lose ourselves in it. Where the Universe is expressing itself in the magic of its laws, it may not be strange if we miss its infinitude; but where the heart gets into immediate touch with immensity in the beauty of the meanest of things, is any room left for argument?”

The coastal town of Karwar is situated at the mouth of River Kali, where it merges with the expansive Arabian Sea, in Uttar Kannada district, about 50 km from Bangalore.

The sea calls
The name Karwar is believed to have originated from its reference in Konkani as kone, meaning a corner piece of land near the sea and the Kali river. It is also known as Kadwad, meaning the last area. The Baithol Port of Karwar has long been recognised as a sheltered natural harbour and was used from time immemorial by foreign traders, including the Portuguese and the British.

The Sadashivgad Hill Fort on the north side of the river is believed to have been constructed during the 17th Century by the local king Sadashiv Nayak and was supposedly used by Shivaji for some time. The East India Company established its base in Karwar in 1649. Uttara Kannada district was part of the Bombay Presidency from 1862 till the reorganisation of the States after independence. During World War II, Karwar was an Indian naval training centre, which continues at present as a naval base, a little away from the town, and is called Seabird.

The Tagore Beach, as it is known today, is a beautiful natural bay, with small hills and islands in the background. One thing that strikes you is the cleanliness of the beach. The sea is shallow here and the gentle waves caressing the shore is soothing. One may find many tiny crabs burrowing into the wet sand after every wave recedes from the shore. The beach is ideal for long walks and some fresh air.

The Warship or Maritime Museum is actually an old warship, which is said to have been used in World War II. The ship is fixed on the land, near the beach, around which there is a garden. In many sections, life-size models of naval staff performing their duties are installed. There is also an audio-visual presentation in one of the rooms that talks about the activities of the Indian Navy.

An aquarium is located at walking distance from the ship, which displays many rare species of sea animals. Next, we drive down the highway, cross the long bridge over the Kali river and reach the famed Sadashivgad Fort, which has been built on a small hillock on the banks of the river.

Karwar’s sandy and rocky coastal stretch is home to a variety of rich flora and fauna with distinctive morphological characters on par with the marine ecosystem. This makes these shorelines more conspicuous and rich in biodiversity profile.

The sandy shore lying adjacent to the rocky stretch is full of pebbles, boulders and small rocks submerged in water during high tide and forms an ideal environment for macroflora (macro algae). The rocky shore is dotted with crevices, cliffs, pools and other features which have increased the biodiversity by providing secured coverage for variety of organisms and seaweeds. In spite of environmental physical stresses like temperature, salinity, solar radiation, desiccation, tide and severe wave action, the biodiversity is relatively rich here.

There are two small islands close to the place where Kali river joins the Arabian Sea, the prominent one being the Kurumgad Island. Boats are available to reach this Island from the jetty at the base of Sadashivgad Hill. The island is a conservatory of rich biodiversity. It is extensively covered with mangroves and bushy trees. It remains as a secluded retreat with unspoilt natural splendour, except for a few small resorts at the beaches on the north-western side of the island.

The only manifestations of civilisation in the other parts are an ancient Narasimha Swamy Temple, an abandoned lighthouse, the remnants of an old fort’s walls and some cannons lying nearby. The island’s rich biodiversity provides immense scope for nature lovers.
Mangroves are unique inter-tidal ecosystem of tropics and sub-tropics which support genetically diverse groups of aquatic and terrestrial organisms.

These mangroves are also a haven for many varieties of birds, including bulbul, sun bird, rock pigeon, sea gulls and brahmi kites. We can notice several nests of seagulls on the high branches of the mangroves. Kurumgad Island is an excellent place to enjoy the seascape, the mangroves with waves splashing at their roots, several water birds and the spectacular sunset.

The Uttara Kannada District administration organises a cultural festival called the ‘Karavali Utsav’ every year on the Tagore Beach which lasts for about 3-4 days, usually in January. This biggest cultural festival of the city exhibits the richness of the Karwar culture by bringing together dance, music, tableaux etc.

The Mayura Varma Stage, named after the founder of the Kadamba dynasty who ruled Banavasi, usually becomes the platform for the performances. Many famous national and local artistes perform in the festival. Along with this, there are food festivals and exhibition stalls.

For those who love adventure, water sports and parasailing facilities are available. The festival is supposed to deliver a message of unity and bondage and help people, especially the youth, to understand the culture, besides giving an exposure to new talents. For foodies, there is the mouth-watering Konkan cuisine that promises to treat you to the best seafood dishes.

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