Gokarna is a peaceful hamlet by the sea in the state of Karnataka also known as a temple town, it is an important Hindu pilgrimage. The charming bends along the shoreline guarded by the hills of the western ghats with the thick cover of green vegetation add to the scenic beauty of the place. A small town by the sea with its laid-back lifestyle is a perfect getaway to escape and so we did escape to Gokarna.
What do humans escape from? Some escape after committing a crime, some escape from a depressed state of mind some escape any unavoidable situation, everyone has their own reason and a circumstance to escape. So what did we escape from? We escaped from the loud sounds of the Diwali crackers. Diwali is one of my favourite festivals but the loud crackers are too bothersome, so I decided to escape from the sounds this Diwali.
Although the Supreme Court has allocated a fixed time slot of two hours a day for every state this year we were not sure on the implementation. Neither we were ready to tolerate a few hours of the loud episode.
After a lot of research, we decided to celebrate Diwali in a silent way in the tranquillity of Gokarna. Gokarna is a small town, a beach town, a temple town, a mixed dose of rural Goa and Karnataka – an idyllic destination fit for our purpose.
I was mainly enticed by the extraordinary pictures of the Om beach and the panoramic view from various viewpoints in Gokarna. Our Gokarna trip during this Diwali was not only a successful escape but also highly rewarding.
Now you must be thinking its almost a month after Diwali and why am I writing of Diwali now. Gokarna is a wonderful place that definitely needs a mention and over and above I would love to share a unique way of Diwali celebration in this beach town. I am a little late in sharing this post as I was busy travelling to other places.
This was again an opportunity to explore another property of Jungle Lodge and Resort, the Om Beach Resort. This was our home during our stay in Gokarna. A green surrounding with traditional red-tiled cottages spread within and a restaurant building with the view of the sea at a distance. This property is located on a hilly slope at a little distance from the sea.
The steep slopes and the narrow lanes through the local houses resembled the streets of Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. Approaching close to the main road there were stores for musical instruments, copper utensils, tattoo parlour and other items giving the sleepy town a busy look and feel.
The Ganapati temple, the Mahabaleshwar temple and a few other temples line up the street leading to the main Gokarna Beach. The not so long stretch of sandy beach is a quiet place mostly prefered by the locals to sit back and relax.
We were there in the afternoon time walking on the clean beach along with the locals who also came to enjoy a beach time too. A big family was standing near the edge of the beach with the waves touching their feet. They seemed to be a family with many members from all age group standing hand in hand in some yoga posture. They surely were enjoying a good family time beside the sea.
There were fishermen boats lined up with heaps of nets piled up. They might be on the Diwali holidays or they might venture the sea at night, who knows? A mighty White-bellied Sea Eagle was roving above with its fixed glance on something below. A Common raven was curiously following its glide.
Within this calm scene, there was a little rush in the beach area where few people were busy decorating a certain part with Betel nut leaves, treetops, balloons and lights. They seemed busy to finish the decoration before its dark.
I was so curious to know what was the decoration for. After much speculation about this being a venue for a romantic beach wedding or a birthday party or any other festival, we went ahead to get our doubts cleared.
We interrupted them to ask in Hindi what was the decoration for? They gave a strange glance to show that they did not understand. Again we asked in English for what they are decorating the set? They replied in their language which we did not understand, so to confirm we interrogated again asking if it was the sets for the wedding? They nodded.
We got our answer and I was highly excited to think of such a beautiful setting with the sea in the backdrop for a romantic wedding. It was still afternoon and we could not wait for the wedding to start so we had to get back.
While on our way back to our stay there was a lot of excitement among the people in the town. The ladies and the kids were dressed up in gorgeous attire with fresh white scented garland dangling from their thick black buns and braids. There was a festive mood in the air. We were suspicious if it was a wedding for which the whole town was invited.
We assured ourselves that it was a small town and any big fat wedding will definitely have the whole town invited. The nod from the decorators was our biggest evidence in favour of our debate on if it was a wedding or any other function.
With time passing by, ladies in their glittery sarees and dresses were seen walking towards the beach. “O they are going to the wedding,” I said. With some more time and the darkness engulfing the total town, there were fireworks seen from the beach sky. We could see them from the restaurant building of our resort.
I could not hold back my excitement and wanted to walk to the beach a few kilometres away. So we started to climb down through the pitch dark steep slope. It was a new moon night so there was no light in the sky only than the stars twinkling all over. It seemed the sky too was celebrating Diwali lighting its star Diyas to light up the dark night.
The cell phone torch was not enough to cut this darkness to show us the way so we decided to buy a flashlight on our way back. Now we could not wait much longer to get engaged in one of my favourite pastime of stargazing as spending more time could result in the missing the wedding rituals. Not wasting much time we rushed to the beach.
There were fireworks near the setup, a good amount of crowd also gathered around. There was also police patrol near the area. Our curiosity rose again, what for there was police in uniform at a wedding?
As we came closer we saw it was no wedding but a rich silver palanquin (palki) resting within the decorated set. Men and women gathered around performing some ritual. Men from all direction were holding flashlights and some holding traditional torch with fire to light up the palki area.
Excitement for watching a beachside wedding vanished and immediately it turned on witnessing a new festival. Gradually the crowd started thinning and I could come close to the palki to see pretty women with the ritual thalis consisting of the Diyas, flowers and other items.
After performing the puja near the palki they were applying vermillion on each other’s face and Mangalsutra from their thali. When I asked them about the ritual and the palki they gave a blank look. I asked again which God it was when a young girl replied “Ishwara Parvathi”. And that was all the information I could gather on this beachside religious festival.
After these rituals were done the men with the lights accompanied by the priests carried the palki and walked through the beach towards the temple. We hurriedly followed them and after getting a few shots we headed towards the temple. By then there was preparation to welcome the palki back to the temple.
Men were in Veshti and women were in pure white saree with golden border. Some were drawing rangoli on the road while others were queueing up near the temple. The smell of the fresh Jasmine from the hair of the ladies was sanctifying the environment. Ladies were lighting the Diyas in front of their home.
I was elated to witness such a beautiful, noise-free and a unique way of Diwali celebration. Even if it was for the language problem that we could not communicate with the locals but it was clear that it was the Diwali celebration and as per our assumption the palki of Ishwara Parvathi is carried to the beach on this auspicious day for some ritual and then again brought back to the temple.
Apart from witnessing this new Diwali, we could also see a peaceful town with pristine beaches. The Om beach is the Om shaped shoreline giving the iconic mark to Gokarna. A picturesquely located luxury resort within the thick foliage cover very close to the Om Beach will definitely grab attention. I got an opportunity to capture this beautiful resort from the hill on the way to Kudle beach.
To reach the Om beach one has to climb down some 600 odd steps to meet the sea. While Kudle beach was just 150 steps below. From the step count, you can get a pretty good idea of the hilly terrain of this beach town. The half-moon beach and the paradise beach or the full moon beach is easily accessible by boat.
The Kudle beach is a secluded serene beach more popular among the foreign tourist. You get the feel of Goa beach here with the shacks lining up the beach. The small tamed waves hit the beach making it an ideal location for soaking in the saline waters. Tourists were spotted engaged in bathing and sun basking here.
The only thing that needs to be looked after was the approach way to the Kudle beach. Heaps of garbage is an eyesore with the staunch smell making it miserable. Awareness among the tourists and the locals as well as cleanliness drive by the authority is highly required to maintain the goodness of this virgin beach.
The beautiful sunset above the Kudle beach was again a remarkable sunset. We watched it from the road on the hill above the Kulde beach. It was again a new experience to watch the red sun gradually taking a dip into the calm blue standing on the rails of the narrow winding road in the humid evening.
This Diwali is unforgettable and will stay in our memory forever. We not only had the opportunity to see this beautiful town but also witness a unique way of Diwali celebration by the beach. We celebrated a happy, peaceful, noise-free yet exciting Diwali.