Ganpatipule is a small coastal town 20 km north of Ratnagiri. With a name, pregnant with a legend, this is a small town that disconnects you from your mundane life and lets you soak in the abundant nature. You can choose between beach, cliffs, dense foliage and roads that pass through thousand shades of greenery.
Let me share what we enjoyed in Ganpatipule:
Beaches @ Ganpatipule
If you are located on Konkan coast, you can never be far from a beach.
We landed in Ganpatipule late evening after a long drive across Konkan coast. Even then, the sound of sea waves did not allow us to stay indoors. We stepped out for a stroll on the beach. Here for the first time, I realized that each beach has its own language. Birds like Kingfishers flew around looking for food. Some fishing boats were resting on the beach. After Goa beaches, the Ganpatipule beach looked deserted – of course, we were a bit away from the main town at Malgund.
It was when we were driving back from Jaigad fort that we saw the lovely Malgund beach and the cliffs surrounding it.
Next day we had the opportunity to visit the town and see the small but crowded beach right in front of the Ganpatipule temple. It was like a commercial beach with street food stalls lining the beach, with locals and tourists occupying all the benches and with people playing with the sea waves. The beach is not too wide and on a high tide day, the waves would be very close to the temple walls.
Rivers heading to the sea
Here and there you meet small rivers and streams, full of water, heading towards the sea. In the morning we saw so many fishing boats parked on the banks of one such river. It was a lovely scene to soak, standing on the bridge over a river. Sea was visible on the horizon and the stream full of boats merging with it. By the time we returned in the evening, the river had swollen and there was no sign of banks we saw in the morning. The colorful boats added their glamor to the muddy rain waters.
Just about 15 km or so north of Ganpatipule is one of the many forts of Shivaji in Maharashtra. Jaigad fort is located on top of a cliff that gives a strategic view of the sea. Anyone approaching the land can be seen from quite some distance and I assume dealt with. Before I could stand and admire the unusual architecture of Jaigad fort, I admired the perfect location. I also wondered about the potential threats that came from the sea route for which so many forts had to be built along the western coast of India.
Jaigad fort is in an abandoned state of existence. There is a mandatory ASI board that warns against any damage to the fort, but it itself is in need of some protection. We entered the gate through a high gate passing through the chambers meant for gatekeepers. We landed in a ground surrounded by a fort wall. The size of this fort is not too big. Many big and small structures were scattered on the ground as ruins. The monsoons had left their yearly mark of moss.
A lonely tree stood there like a watchman keeping an eye. In the center, a well like structure caught my eye. – not because it was any better, but because the colorful young leaves created an interesting pattern on its brown walls. A structure in the middle that might have been a palace or a storehouse was standing – as if to fall a bit each day.
We climbed the walls of the Jaigad fort using the steep slippery stairs. Walking carefully on the walls with raindrops falling on my head, I reached a bastion that was partially covered. The view from its open windows was breathtaking. The coast in front was a series of hills neatly placed into the sea.
The bay like formation kept the fort invisible for the seafarer but gives an unobstructed view of the sea from the bastions. At another angle, I could see the interplay of earth and water complimented by the clouds in the sky. Now, of course, there is a large industrial setup that you get to see from here. I only wish the place was maintained a bit for visitors to enjoy these vistas.
A small Ganesha temple stands in the middle with a typical Maharashtrian style dweepstambh in front. The temple is the only living part of this fort that otherwise stands neglected. There was no security guard, no visitors and it sounded like one of those abandoned places where people meet away from the prying eyes.
Temples in and around Ganpatipule
Ganpati is the leading deity of this region though the temples dedicated to Shiva can also be seen.
Lambodara Temple, Ganpatipule
This is the Ganesh temple that gives the town its name. Standing bang on the Ganpatipule beach this is a simple yet aesthetic temple. The Ganesha here is in the form of Lambodara – or the one with a big belly. You can only see his belly shaped stone image, rest of the body is hidden.
Pule means sand and since the Ganpati was found in the sand, the town got its name Ganpatipule. It is believed that there are 8 Ganpatis guarding the 8 directions. This Ganpati at Ganapatipule is guarding the western direction.
You must try the Modak that you get around temple here.
Karhateshwara Temple, Nandiwade
This small temple dedicated to Shiva sits on a cliff where the waves come and hit hard. They strike the rocks on the edge, they sprinkle themselves on these rocks before returning to be a part of the sea. It is a phenomenon that you can sit and watch for hours.
The temple structure indicates and the people there confirm that Karhateshwara temple is an ancient temple. It is a small one-room temple with a Shivalinga that is supposed to be Swayambhu. The story that the priest told us goes like this – the Shivalinga came to the shore as the waves would bring it here. The local fishermen would throw it back into the sea, but it would come back every time – sometime in the fishing net and sometimes with the waves. Finally, fishermen left it on the cliff and the local cows started visiting it and bathing it with their milk. This is when the villagers got the message and they built the temple around the Shivalinga. Not a new story but you can always interpret it as the story of faith.
I was intrigued by the ancient looking Deepstambha that stood almost like a lighthouse on the edge of a cliff. I wondered if all the lamps were lit, it can be the lighthouse for ships in the Arabian sea.
Shri Jaya Vinayaka Mandir
Jaya Vinayak is a new temple built by the Jindal’s who run a coal-based thermal power plant in the vicinity. This is a lovely temple. I almost felt I am walking in some old temple during its hay days. Manicured lawns, ponds full of lotus flowers and an absolutely clean premises.
Dedicated to the popular deity of the region, Jaya Vinayaka temple has a large image of Ganesha and his vehicle rat in a standing position. The reliefs of Shiva family are carved on the outer walls of the temple. The geometry of its design tells you the architect’s understanding of cosmic principles. It was a delight to walk around this temple. It would not be too much to say that I want all temples in India to have the same level of cleanliness and maintenance.
Lakshmi Keshav Temple, Kolisare
We drove to Kolisare and I could not see any temple. Our driver then pointed a small temple hidden in the trees below. We could hear a stream passing by. We trekked down to the temple and were pleased to see a group of temples.
The Lakshmi Keshav has an ancient image in stone. For the first time in India, I saw a board outside the temple explaining the idol. It pointed the fours signs of Vishnu – Shankh or Conch, Chakra or Wheel, Gada or Mace, Padam or flower. It pointed the Lakshmi carved on one side of the main Vishnu idol giving temple its name – Lakshmi-Keshav. On the other side is carved Bishnu’s Vahan or vehicle Garuda.
I spoke to the priest and he said the idol belongs to a temple in Kolhapur. During various attacks on Kolhapur, the idol was moved to its current location. In fact like most stories, idol chose to be here next to this river. It has been here for last 400 or so years as per the priest and the idol is way older than that.
Prachin Konkan Museum
From the time we starting driving towards Ganapatipule, we could see the huge boards promoting Prachin Konkan Museum. I was impressed, to say the least. Never in my life have I seen a museum, that too, a museum in such a small town being promoted so well. I had kept a couple of hours aside for the museum. We walked to the ticket counter. There was more to be impressed about when I was told that a guide would take us around the museum. The lady started by talking like a recorded machine, I understood she was probably doing this many times a day.
However, as we started walking around, disappointment started setting in. There were life-size dioramas showing the rural life of a Konkani village. We had seen something very similar at Bigfoot museum in Goa. I do not want to see badly made caricatures of professions. I want to see the real things, real old things.
At the end, there was a collection of sea shells where another guide told a bit about shells with repeated warnings to not take pictures. There was nothing so spectacular that a picture would have done some damage. They did have a decent collection of shells to buy and we did pick up some.
Overall, Ganpatipule was a pleasant surprise with a laid back life and abundant nature.
Other things to explore around Ganpatipule include Ratnagiri and Marleshwar – Stay tuned for dedicated travel blog posts on them.
Recommend you to read following travel blog posts on Places to visit in Konkan, Maharashtra.