A Honeymoon Trip With a Difference – Bekal, Mookambika and Kudajadri

Our first long journey after marriage, if you could call it the honeymoon trip was this one to Mookambika with a stopover at Bekal. It was a trip that happens once in a lifetime for the mood was so and the places quite exotic and mystic. When we boarded the train to Mangalore that night, we did not realize that this journey came true due to some divine intervention. In the first place, this may not have taken place at all. It was day when the entire Kerala came to a standstill thanks to some issue which demanded a bandh. My wife who was then working in Pathanamthitta just about made it to the railway station at Thiruvananthapuram, our boarding point, thanks to timely help from police and a friend.

Anyway our honeymoon trip was on. The next morning we alighted at Bekal railway station with the Arabian sea and the timeless Bekal fort lending a stunning backdrop to add a romantic touch. With help from a friend working in Bekal Resorts Development Corporation (BRDC), we managed to get a room in their office located inside the fort. Remember, this was way back in 1996, and tourism was yet to take off there. Bekal fort, built by Sivappa Nayik is an extremely important monument in the annals of Indian history but was yet to receive due attention in the tourism scenario. The beaches around was haven to smugglers and anti social elements. Yet my obsession with Bekal was too strong to succumb to these fears. My wife too was keen on this visit. The place had a lush green look and the weather salubrious, which we owed to December, the month we got married. The sea was blue and inviting. This famed fort has carved a niche for itself in the hearts of film goers with song sequences from many hit movies being shot here. The place had a deserted look which was in stark contrast to the scenes we see there now. This as mentioned was due to the notorious stories associated with the place. Our mood was exuberant and there was no room for despondency.

The fort being a protected monument is under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India. One could not say if there was a major attraction in this place which stood out. The ambiance was unique. The beautiful beaches and waters of the Arabian Sea coupled with the breathtaking Fort facing it makes this place a special one. We had a great time walking and frolicking around the fort premises. The lookout towers offer excellent views of sea from both sides. The fort walls had openings through which guns could be trained on invaders. It is not surprising that Bekal fort was the first choice for shooting some memorable song sequence from the film Bombay. The part of the fort stretching out into the sea offers some excellent views.

A dream could not last forever, which we realized to our dismay as it was time to move on. It was noon and no lodgings were available inside or outside the fort. Even hotels were not seen which gave us ample reasons to board a bus to Mangalore. After a brief stopover for lunch, boarded a bus to Kollur-Mookambika, which in fact was our main destination. It was 8.30 and the night was getting colder and darker when we reached Mookambika. The supper, which was pure vegetarian was ordinary but the taste of mango pickle still lingers.

The experiences we had the next morning are unforgettable. An age-old belief that newly married couples can lead a blissful married life if they take a dip in the Souparnika River inspired us. Souparnika originates in Kudajadri and flows along, hardly a kilometer away from the temple. The place had an ethereal beauty about it with stream rising out of the waters even in the cold weather. We took a dip together and came back elated. It was time to visit the temple. A local priest guided us in doing some rites. Shankaracharya started the Poojas and rites which are still done here. This is the only temple devoted to Goddess Parvati and is over one thousand years old.

As mentioned earlier the divine intervention happened again. This time it was in the form two young chaps who shared a room opposite to ours. We were looking for partners for the trip to Kudajadri and readily accepted their invitation to join them for the journey to the holy hills surrounding this divine place. The jeep journey being expensive we were also looking for someone who could share the travel expenses. After a bit of bargaining the driver agreed to Five hundred rupees which is nothing compared to the rate now. So the jeep which usually carried 6 to 7 persons had only four passengers. As the vehicle moved, the path changed from tarred to muddy and then to rocky. It was an experience which, may a time, I thought could turn me inside out. Any after a bone jarring ride of about 40 kilometers uphill, we reached Kudajadri.

The family members of the priests who stay here permanently welcomed us. They gave us tea and snacks. A novel penned, M.T. Vasudevan Nair, the legendary writer in Malayalam with the plot woven around this very background was retold by my wife who is an ardent fan of his. To my surprise, the scenes which unfolded here and the characters here behaved exactly the same way as she had narrated. In fact she had told this many times during the journey and the delight on her face was obvious.

There is pond fed by water flowing down from the forest tract on top of the adjoining hills. We trekked up the path enjoying the clear skies and salubrious climate amid the forest. After a climb for about half an hour, we reached the Sarvanjapeedom, where Shankaracharya mediated and Mookambika Devi appeared before him. There is an interesting story behind this episode. Shankaracharya wanted Devi to follow him to Kerala where there were no Devi temples. Devi obliged to Shankaracharya’s request and followed him subject to the condition that he never looks back. At a point Shankaracharya looked back since the sound of Devi’s anklets could not be heard. True to her words, Mookambika Devi told Shankaracharya that she would stay here and people could come here to seek her blessings. Finally, moved by Shankaracharya devotion, Devi told him that she would give darshan to devotees of Kerala at Chottanikkaara during morning and then return to Kollur. It not surprising that the Chottanikkaara temple opens at 4 am compared to other temples since Mookambika Devi comes to Chottanikkara during the one hour since the temple is open!

Our friends tried climbing up the peedam and were soon seen stepping down frantically. This was since a man with a saintly appearance was throwing abuses at them for having climbed the peedam which obviously was a sacred monument. Some pilgrims returning from a slope told that there was cave below which was worth seeing. It turned was the Chitramoola cave which Shankaracharya mediated and gained enlightenment from the Goddess of knowledge.

A person with all appearance matching that of a saint was meditating in the cave which was straight out of Amar chitra kadha pages. We were not sure if this was genuine one. Anyway lot of money could be seen at his feet offered by passersby. There is a waterfall here which added to the total effect.

It was time to go and we climbed back and then began the walk down to the jeep After refreshing, climbed into the jeep and began the decent to Mookambika. Quite tired after the hectic day, we retired to bed with a heap of joyous experiences floating into our dreams.

Satria Permadi

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