Friday, November 15, 2013

Kasargod, Bekkal and Me

Close to the waters of Arabian Sea
Ever watched the movie 'Bombay'? Remember the song 'Uyire' (Tamil)...'? Romantic couple standing on top of a lengthy wall projected to sea; waves from Arabian Sea hitting the rocks and splitting into thousands of droplets in the background... Wondering what I am about to say?

Kasarkode - History

A view from the beach

Kasarkod is the northern most district in Kerala. This place was a popular trade centre in between 9th and 14th century. Arabs called it - Harkwillia.

During Perumals rule these areas were part of Mahodayapuram (The Kodavalam inscription of King Bhasakara Ravi II is a fine testimony). After the decline of Perumals, by 12th century AD, these areas fell into the hands of Mushikas, Kolathiri etc. During this time Bekkal became an important port town in Tulunadu and Malabar.

Rise of Vijayanagar Empire formed new questions in front of Kolothiri (Nileshwaram was one his capitals); eventually Vijayanagar annexed this area. Following Talikotta war and subsequent decline of Vijayanagar, this region came under Ikkery Naiks.

Somewhere I read that, the characters appearing in Theyyam - popular folk dance in northern Kerala - represent those who had helped Kolathiri to fight against Vijayanagar. Kolathiris tried to regain the control; however these skirmishes finally came to an end with the rise of Hyder Ali and Mysore.

Hyder Ali conquered Bedanoor (Bidnur) - capital of Ikkery Naiks - in 1763AD. However, his attempt to capture Thalassery Fort was foiled. Later Mysore under Tipu Sultan annexed much of Malabar. Situation changed in 1792. According to ‘Sreerangapattanam Treaty’ signed by Tipu Sulthan, Malabar came under British control. After his death even ‘Mysore’ came under Company.

Pallikere Beach
During the early period of Company’s rule, Kasaragod was part of Bombay Presidency. Later in 1882 these regions were transferred to Madras Presidency and in 1947 joined with Indian Union. Reorganisation of states in 1956 made Kasarkode as part of Kerala.

As per various claims around 7 languages are popularly in use here - Malayalam, Kannada, Tulu, Beary bashe and Konkani.

Bekkal - History

Outer Walls

Spreading over 40 acres (1,60,000 metre squares) Bekkal Fort is located in between National Highway and Arabian Sea. This is considered as one of the largest forts in Kerala.

According to K P Padmanabha Menon, "The eldest of the male members reigned as sovereign Kolathiri. The next in succession, the heir apparent, was the Thekkelamkur. The residence assigned to him was the Vadakara fort. The third in succession was the Vadakkelamkur in charge of Vekkolath fort. This V(B)ekkolath fort is identified by some scholars as the present Bekal."

H A Stuart - Handbook of South Canara (1985) - states tha, "Several forts were built by the Shivappa Nayaks of Badnore between 1650 and 1670. The two forts of Bekal and Chandragiri were originally under the Kolathiri or Chirakkal Rajas until the time of Shivappa Nayaka's invasion. Perhaps, the Bednore rulers might have rebuilt and improved it."

You can see the fort walls behind
As per some records, Shivappa Nayaka of Bednore constructed the Bekal Fort in 1650AD.

Kanjagad, Pallikere beach and Bekal Fort

Paper boats???

I reached Bekkal - from Mangalore side - in Kannur express coming from Bangalore. Train was one hour late. As per the plan, I decided to visit Bekkal first and hence got down at Kanjagad Railway Station. I was running out of money - by mistake one ATM card was locked out and other one is empty for all practical purpose.

What to do? From Railway Station, I walked towards Kanjagad SBI branch to finance my further journeys. After walking for a while, I saw the blue board of SBI. Walked in, filled the withdrawal form, and joined the long queue to reach cashier’s desk. When my time came, I gave the signed withdrawal form to her.

"I don't have it with me"
"Then we can't give you money, how we know that you are the same person?"
"I have an Id card with me."
"In the absence of passbook, we can't give cash against a withdrawal form."
"But I have ID card"
"You can meet the manager"

I waited and went to Manager’s cabin. Same questions, same reply.

Finally he asked, "Your account is in which branch?"
"Ernankulam Main"
"We can't do anything as the account is with other branch."

Well I came out, suddenly I remembered about my mobile and did an online transfer - another 1 hour or so my empty ATM got replenished (so am I).

Washing the shores for a long time
I was wondering, what will happen to a person who is in immediate need of money - far away from his home branch and don't have an ATM? Can't the banks do some help? After coming back to Bangalore, I shared this doubt with my friend who is currently with Bank Of India. His reply was simple - you need to show your ID card, bank can verify it and can also go for signature verification. Well, can't that SBI branch think about it?

After having lemon juice, I boarded a bus to Bekal.  Before boarding I asked them whether it will go to Bekkal fort or not. They told you can get down at Pallikere beach; fort is right just after the beach.

They were right; fort is located at one end of the beach. Problem is one need to cover the entire beach to reach there.

I spend some time in the beach. A lot of boats were there in the sea, in search of fish. From a distance it looked like black coloured paper boats.

Taking rest, I am going next.
One can see the fort from the beach itself. I walked towards it. On the way many people were sitting in circles and cleaning their nylon nets. Honda's and Suzuki's engines were sitting idle here and there in that hot sand. Interestingly, in most of the fishing arbours and beaches I went, these two companies hold a duopoly over these engines. I think in some places I saw Yamaha also.

Walking, walking and walking. Finally, I reached in front of fort’s outer walls. To my horror, there was way to go inside!!! The only other way was a lengthy footpath circling fort’s walls (still under construction). As there was no other way, I followed the foot path.

It indeed provided a breath talking beautiful view of Arabian Sea. Waves were hitting on the sides of huge rocks and then splitting in to hundreds of small droplets, huge water body touching sky at the farthest end, boats painted in various colours were standing still in the ocean, huge walls of fort on the back side... beautiful.

I sat there, for a long time; if time permitted I was even ready to spend the whole day there itself. As we all now time will wait for anyone, and I am not an exception. I walked further and reached the other side. Here you can see the location of the song ‘Uyire...’ A group from Karnataka was walking through that area. When they left, I sat there – alone – for a while. Then a couple from Salem came there and after taking some pictures of them (as per their request) I walked towards the gate.

After walking here and there for a while, I finally settled in a bench placed under a tree.

I like to sit here for a long time.
Mercury was raising non-stop. More people were coming in, mainly in groups of 3 to 5. Then came a group of teenagers. One guy took his girlfriend on his shoulders and walked all the way to the top of watch tower located somewhere in the middle. They were very much exited.

Other than the big walls and a watch tower there is nothing much to see inside the fort.

It’s time to go, this time through the front gate. From a nearby bus stop,an old Kerala RTC bus took me to Kasargod town.


Splitting in to a thousand spears

Good road, bad road, and finally I were in the bus stand. My next destination was ‘Malik Deenar Mosque’ – probably the oldest mosque in Kasargod district. After checking with multiple people I finally find a person who knew where the mosque is. Even though mosque is located some kilometres away, I preferred to walk.

After crossing the Railway station some one or two kilometres more. In front of the mosque, there is football ground. When I reached there one tournament was about to start. This is not the football of 11 people and 90 minutes - but sevens (seven people and 20/30 minutes). This version of football is very much popular in northern Kerala – Palakkad above districts. Once can see the flags of prominent powers in world football - favourites are Argentina, Brazil, Italy, France, Germany etc – flying here and there.

I watched the matches for a while, and then went to mosque. This mosque is located close to an estuary. I spent some time in the premises and had a brief chat with security man. He was very much eager to explain mosque’s history and other related events.

Wonderful - Near Bekal fort
After saying bye to the guard, I went back to watch the football and sat there for a long time. Slowly sun set in the south, and I wake up and took an auto to Railway Station. From there Train would take me to Calicut and then will take me to home.


Inside the fort
Places to visit:
Ananthapura Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Ranipuram, Madhur Temple, Malik Deenar Mosque, Bekal Fort.

How to Reach?

By Bus:
Kasarkod is accessible form Mangalore, Kannur etc.

By Train:
One can use Kasarkode station or Kanhangad (for those who are coming from a distance, in train to visit Bekkal)

By Air
Nearest Airports are Calicut and Mangalore

Howz this?

Cannon Holes? 

Ohh.. finally i got my food

Fort has only outer walls?

I am standing in front of front gate

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