Beaches of Sindudurg
The sun is a bit harsh but I can hardly feel the heat, as the sea breeze comes calling, nudging past my cheek gently. The path ahead of me is littered with many thorny bushes, sprouting amidst the ruins of an old crumbled fort, but I walk ahead, interrupting some birds on the way. Exotic wild fruits hanging low from their branches look rather tempting, but I am careful to pick only the kokum fruits that lie ripe on the trees. The black kites circle the sky .
I look down from the craggy outcrop to see a breath taking view of the sea with green hills bordering the distant horizon. Devrais or sacred groves surround this little piece of hidden paradise where every leaf and seed is protected by the Gods of the Forest. I do feel an aura of protection as I walk around the fort aimlessly, discovering broken pieces of history.
I am standing at the edge of a cliff, the remains of an old Maratha fort in Nivti looking down at the pristine Bhogwe beach with white sands, as the waves of the sea eventually merge with the waters of the Karli River. Standing there, for what seems like eternity I can see many more beaches of Sindudurg hugging the Konkan coastline. Yonder is the fort of Sindudurg , built in the sea , lending its name to the entire region . And closer is the Nivti beach, leading up to vistas of Vengurla, with the faint outline of a lighthouse in the hazy distance. The fort, where I stand is a little sentinel to the Nivti beach, built by Maharaj Shivaji as an outpost to warn of attackers to the Sindudurg citadel.
There is hardly anyone on the road as I head downhill. Bushy stray dogs look warily at me as I wander around, looking for any sign of habitation. Finally I stumble upon a little thatched hut in the middle of nowhere and the family welcomes me inside and offers some home cooked meal. It begins to drizzle and the pleasant smell of the wet earth refreshes me .
My journey into Sindudurg takes me along the Konkan coastline, which is drenched in history and laced with myths and legends. Ravaged by wars, the coastline is dotted with several forts from the Maratha period but some of them today are mere crumbling walls. However the beaches spread out at their feet are sheer hidden treasures, unknown to tourists, with just a handful of fishermen heading to work amidst the waves. I am overcome with a sudden urge to walk down the shores of these nondescript beaches and lose myself in their tales.
Sitting on the white sands of the Mitbaon beach in Devgad, I wait for the sun to make its date with a new day. Staring at the horizon, I see dark monsoon clouds veiling the blue sky. Life slowly stirs in this tiny fishing hamlet. A pair of dogs stretches lazily. A lone boat, tied to a stump of a tree bobs along as the waves hit it. Elsewhere the echo of the temple bells ushers in the dawn. The clinking of the bells continues as a lone priest stands at the entrance of the shrine, overlooking the sea.
The villages form a pretty picture as the rains tumble down, painting the landscape in myriad shades of green. The wet earth blushes and turns a deep red, spreading its fragrance into the air. The mango orchards, some of them waiting to be plucked stand out ripe with fruits in these rain swept villages.
I continue from Mitbaon towards Vijaydurg, stopping by at the 300 year old Rameshwar temple on the way. The fort stands at the edge of the shore – a huge citadel, the strong hold of the Maratha empire built by Raja Bhoj in the 12th century, which was strengthened later by Shivaji after he captured it from Adil Shah of the Bahmani Sultans in the 17th century.
The walls of Vijaydurg open out into the sea , as the waters surround it on all three sides, referring to it as “ gheriya.” A creek flows for almost 40 kms around it. I walk past the massive bastion or the Sadashiv Buruj and enter the main gate .Just hiding behind a huge rock is a secret passage that takes you out of the fort .Canon balls litter the ground . A couple of kids play inside a lone boat. Some fishermen are busy making their nets. I pick up some vada pav and carry on with my journey.
Finally I am at Sindhudurg, the fort. From Malwan beach , one of the beaches of Sindudurg, I gaze upon the 400 year old ocean fort, lying afloat in the waters like an anchored ship. Speaking to the locals, I hear that there are more than 15 families which live inside the fort, built across 44 acres of land in the Kurute island. The naval headquarters of the Marathas , Shivaji built it with 32 turrets , while the wall of the fort stretches over a mile against the horizon. A footprint and a palm relic of the king along with a shrine dedicated to him are some of the tourist attractions here..
Every wave here tells a different story. I move on as my trail takes me into remote coastal hamlets where I stay with families in their homestays and head out to the beaches in their own backyards. In Vengurla, I watch fishermen cast their net into the sea. In Tarkali, I lose myself in the golden hues of the sunset.
I journey along, stopping by stunning locales, beating the heat and soaking in the sea and the breeze, realizing that there is more to Sindudurg than just beaches and forts. In Dhamapur, I head out on a backwater cruise.
In Venkurla, I pray to the Guardian deity and the God of Ghosts at the Vetoba temple. In Pinguli, I meet a puppeteer whose ancestors were spies in the Maratha army. And in Sawantwadi, I meet the queen.
But for me, it is the beaches of Sindudurg – the sun, the sands, the shores and the solitude is what makes Sindudurg special. Meditating on the calm, quiet waters, watching the clouds create shadows on the secluded beaches, following a boat until it disappears into the sunset, listening to the call of the seagull as it flies over the waves and basking in the glow of the morning sun – these are some moments that take me back there.
Sindhudurg is a district in Maharashtra near Goa , which was carved out of the earlier Ratnagiri district. Rich in history and nature, tourists can choose from forts, palaces, virgin beaches, plantations and forests . It is well connected by road and rail and the closest airport is in Goa. You can go there any time, including the monsoons when the entire landscape looks refreshed.
There are mainly home-stays and three star hotels here – most of the home-stays are rustic homes converted into hospitable homes. I was hosted here by Culture Angaan. Sindudurg is rich in fruits and nuts, as the king of fruits, mangoes , especially the alphonso is grown here in plenty.