Monday, December 5, 2016

Beside The Seaside: Celebrating Beach Holidays!


Who doesn't love to be beside the seaside?

Me at the Kannur beach.

There is something very beautiful about beaches and oceans.

Those waves in the ocean rising above in full furore, they march towards the shoreline, bubbling and tumbling with all their worth, as if with a thousand stories hidden carefully in their heart, opening it all at once as they kiss the shoreline, then gradually dissolving and dispersing in fragments, in peace, only to rise up again in the distance. There is birth, death and renewal, and love, hope and understanding between everyone involved - all in a matter of seconds.

There is something about beaches. They are so inspiring and mesmerising just by being who they are. I have always loved sitting by the shore, on the warm sands or walking by them and staring into the sea, often blankly, into the faraway skies, feeling the mood - the chattering happy people slipping by, feeling my spirit beating in headlong exhilaration on those pure moments of freedom as if descending from a place where happiness is so easy to touch by.

Beaches, like nature, speak to us about the many shades and magic of life in their own language to all who are willing to hear.

Many pilgrimages in India and teerthas and temples are located close to beaches and rivers. I have been fortunate to have visited quite a few of them through my yatras. I thought of compiling a list of a few of the beaches that I have been to in the recent years and those that I have digital pictures of to put up here. So come along, remove your flip-flops and shoes, and breathe in the fresh sea air! Let's bask in the bounty of nature and revel in the beauty of some of these best beaches in India.

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DHANUSHKODI BEACH, RAMESHWARAM:

Around 25 kms. from the epic temple of Lord Shiva in Rameshwaram lies one of the most spectacularly scenic stretches of Tamil Nadu – the Dhanushkodi beach where I’d savoured the rough and angry Indian ocean merging with the calm and serene waters of the Bay of Bengal. The desolated town once left in ruins and abandoned by an enormously furious cyclone that hit the area in 1964 today grabs eyeballs from all over the world for being the elusive 'ghost town' as piped by guidebooks and travel enthusiasts.

Ghost town beach from Dhanushkodi, Rameswaram

If you are visiting the revered site of Rameshwaram, make it a point to visit this place, mysterious and mythical both at the same time. A place where Lord Ram had once commenced his journey to Sri Lanka, today the striking beach lies mostly isolated except a few hutments of fishermen folk who continue to make a living by catching fish from the ocean.


DWARKA BEACH, GUJARAT:

Located along the Kathiawad coast in Gujarat, there are some excellent beach shores in the Hindu pilgrim city of Lord Krishna’s town Dwarka. Even though the beach is adjacent to the famous Dwarkadhish temple which remains crowded the year round owing to the lakhs of pilgrims who visit the place, if you leisurely roam around you can find yourself great spots spotlessly clean and devoid of touristy crowds to experience the richness of nature coupled with a shot of tranquillity that these long stretches have on platter.

Rich coral world from Dwarka, Gujarat.
Here’s, one such stretch I found in Dwarka.

The gorgeous beach with crystal clear aquamarine water and coral reefs reflecting an azure blue sky and backed by dramatic cliffs with a lighthouse in the distance is quite a treat to the eyes.


ELLIOT BEACH, CHENNAI:

Chennai, along with a host of architecturally significant ancient temples, boasts of some lovely sandy beaches strewn all around anchoring the city to both the locals and the trippers alike.

Sun going down at Elliot Beach or Bessie's in Chennai.

Continuing from where the Marina Beach ends, the Elliot Beach (also known as Bessie’s) shore carries a historical legacy from the British era as it was the place where the former governors would frequent for their royal bathing and other relaxation activities. We visited the beach after bowing down our heads in the Ashtalakshmi Kovil which is just a stone’s throw away from the sea. The beach area was quiet, wasn’t very crowded and except for some plastic strewn around, it was pretty clean to spend a beautiful evening.

Among the tourist attractions nearby besides the Ashtalakshmi Kovil, is the Velankanni Church both easily accessible from the beach area and there are a host of restaurants lining the sandy stretch to keep you satisfied.


AGNI TEERTHAM, RAMESHWARAM:

To the eastern side of Ramanathaswamy temple is the Agni Teertham, a beach and one of the 64 sacred teerthams of Rameshwaram. It remains generally crowded with pilgrims all over the year who flock from all around the world to bathe in the sacred teertham with the belief that a dip here will absolve them of all their sins. The crowd is especially huge on full moon and no moon days as they are considered auspicious bathing days.


Wandering on the shores of Agni Teertham.

Owing to the religious significance, the mood on the beach resembles a spiritual mela with priests chanting mantras, devouts offering their prayers and the faithfuls performing various rites and rituals.

For the best experience of the beach devoid of the tourists, drift a little away from the main Agni teertham area towards the jetty side from where boats ply. Evenings and mornings are the best time to go for a walk here.


THOTTADA BEACH, KANNUR, KERALA:

A beautiful 800 meter long stretch of sand and surf in northern Kerala is Kannur’s desolated and pristine Thottada beach where you can head for a truly resting and relaxing time to unwind in nature and connect with your inner self. Shaded by swinging palm trees and clear skies above, this beautiful beach with golden sand and sun-kissed waters remains secluded and striking enough to take your breath away.

Magnificient sunset at Thotadda beach in Kannur.

Relatively untouched by urban expansion, the beach provides a buffer isolating the worldly from the peaceful. There is an instantly likeable village feel with homestay options right on the beach itself.

With nothing else to do, the beach is a perfect getaway to simply curl yourself up with a great book, watch the sunrise or the sunset, chill out on the warm sands, tune in to the melody of nature or strike a conversation with the locals and the tourists alike.


GANPATI PHULE BEACH, RATNAGIRI:

Ensconced by coconut trees kissing the canopy of the overhead azure blue of the sky, the beautiful beach in Ganpati Phule stretches along the Konkan coast in front of the 400 year old Swayumbhu (self manisfested) Ganesha temple in the town of Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. Essentially a temple town, the white sands of the beach are a favourite place where pilgrims throng to relax and rejuvenate in the lap of nature after paying their respects in the temple.

Peace at the beach in Ganpatiphule, Maharashtra.

MTDC hotel is a good hotel to stay in (which is where we had stayed) as it is just a stone’s throw away from the beach. The beach is dotted with shacks and small shops and apart from that you can find camels lazing around inviting you for a quick ride.

For the best experience however, I suggest you to get away to one of the sand trails away from the main temple area. That’s where the crowds are relatively thinner and therefore, peace here is at its maximum.


AARE WARE BEACH, RATNAGIRI:

Located at a distance of about 15 kms. from Ganpatipule town, lies a virgin beach, untouched and pristine, the Aare Ware beach. Connected by the Sakhartar Bridge, the Aare Beach is on Ganpatipule - Ratnagiri route through Bhandapule. The entire 7 km. stretch of the road accompanying the beach is heavenly with a 100 odd feet high cliff face jetting out above from the viciously lapping waters below calling for your attention.

Stunning Aare Ware Beach in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra

There are no amenities available as it’s relatively less known and lesser frequented but the view that one gets here is one of its kind.

For the best experience, chose your points well, let the breeze ruffle your hair, close your digicam and DSLR’s for some time and let the music of the waves seep in your senses.


MARINE DRIVE, MUMBAI:

An elegant ‘C’ stretch of 3 kms. long promenade in South Mumbai, Marine drive is THE place in Mumbai where people head to drown all their worries and stresses away in the roaring waters of the Arabian sea.

There is a seating area all along to sit and stare into the contrasting views of the faraway horizon on one side and the taller concrete structures on the other. Observing people from all walks of life converge into this melting kaleidoscope of the sea is also refreshing and an interesting way to spend time here.

Marine Drive promenade in the city of dreams, Mumbai!

Best time to visit the place is anytime during the day because every moment here is so deeply personal that it leaves you in awe. As the soft light fades away into dusk and twilight turns into night, the views become surreal with the entire circle glowing in a pearl-like luminescence of a queen.

If you keep walking up north, further from the Marine Drive, you reach the Girgaum Chowpatty, another famous landmark of Mumbai beaming with people and lined with snack and chaat shacks right on the sands.


BHATYE BEACH, RATNAGIRI:

A great way to spend an evening in the district of Ratnagiri in the Konkan coast of Maharashtra is by heading out to the cool and magnificent Bhatye Beach which is 2 kms. from the main town.

To get to the beach, one has to pass through the shady canopy of pine trees or ‘suru’ trees as they are referred locally. The beach attracts a lot of diverse people from Ratnagiri owing to its proximity to the town and hence sports a picnic jibe – there are food chaat stalls, coconut water shacks, bugee horse rides and other knick knacks to keep one engrossed and entertained. The clear blue waters stretching along the silvery sands coupled with the Sahyadri mountains in the distance and a lively atmosphere makes this place a must visit when in Ratnagiri.

Magnificinet twilight at Bhatye Beach, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.

Continue walking on the Bhatye beach and one reaches the Zari Vinayak temple at the end. If you are looking to rest your heels for the night, MTDC is a good option, also consider visiting the Mandvi beach which is just next to Bhatye, separated by a creek.


Which of these beaches have you been to?
Which are the other beaches that you would like to add to this list?


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