21 Jul Exploring Udupi – A Coastal Paradise
On a pristine coastline of the Arabian Sea in the southwestern state of Karnataka lies this tantalizing city of Udupi. Home to a rich cultural heritage, stunning beaches, rich bio-diversity and world-famous Udupi Cuisine, the city has been baptized by its travellers as the Coastal Paradise of India. Udupi will always remain to be a hidden gem for travellers seeking an authentic South Indian experience. In this blog, we will take you on an unexplored journey through the wonders of this Serene Beach Town, showcasing why this slice of coastal city should be on every explorer’s bucket list.
A Peek into its History
Udupi’s history dates back to ancient times, over the years the city is influenced by the legends of various dynasties, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, the Hoysalas and the Keladi Nayakas. The city gained its prominence as a major pilgrimage centre in the 13th century when the great philosopher-saint Madhvacharya, also known as Madhwa, set foot in this city. He established the Udupi Krishna Matha, a renowned Hindu monastery dedicated to Lord Krishna, in the year 1238 AD. The temple remains a focal point of Udupi’s cultural and religious identity. Udupi, like many other coastal towns, faced the influence of European traders and colonial powers during the 16th century. In the 18th century, Udupi came under the control of the Mysore Kingdom, which was ruled by the Wadiyars. Followingly, the British East India Company gained control of the region during the colonial era, and Udupi became a part of British India. After India’s Independence from the British rule in 1947, Udupi became a part of the newly formed state of Mysore (now Karnataka).
Culture and Culinary Delights
The Udupi Krishna Matha, is the epicentre of Udupi’s religious and cultural life, the temple continues to attract pilgrims from far and wide, fostering a deep sense of devotion and reverence among the locals. While the city is predominantly known for its Hindu heritage, Udupi also hosts a diverse array of religious beliefs. Alongside Hindu temples, there are several churches and mosques that welcomes to the Christian and Muslim communities. This interfaith coexistence exemplifies the harmonious nature of Udupi’s cultural fabric, with people of different faiths living together in mutual respect and understanding.
The primary language spoken in Udupi is Kannada. Additionally, Tulu is another significant language spoken in Udupi and the surrounding coastal regions of Karnataka and it holds significant cultural importance for the local communities. While Kannada and Tulu are the dominant languages, you may also find people who can communicate in other languages like Konkani, English, and Hindi, especially in urban areas due to the diverse linguistic backgrounds of the population and the influence of tourism and commerce.
Udupi is a city that loves to celebrate, and its calendar is adorned with a myriad of colourful festivals. One of the most vibrant events is the Paryaya festival, which occurs every two years and involves the symbolic transfer of the temple’s administration between eight Mathas (monastic institutions). The city comes alive with processions, cultural performances, and religious rituals during this grand occasion. Apart from Paryaya, other festivals like Makara Sankranti, Navratri, and Krishna Janmashtami are celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion. The streets are adorned with colourful decorations, and the air is filled with the sound of hymns and devotional songs, creating an atmosphere of joy and unity.
Udupi takes pride in one of its famous traditional dance-drama art form called Yakshagana. This traditional art is renowned for its colourful portrayal of mythological stories, historical events, and various epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The performances typically begin with a reference to the deities and a dance sequence called “Tala-Maddale”, which serves as a prelude to the main act. The narrative unfolds through dialogues, songs, and elaborate dance movements, accompanied by traditional musical instruments such as the Chande (a percussion instrument) and Maddale (a stringed instrument). The performers, known as “Yakshagana artists” or “Yakshagana Bayalus,” wear elaborate costumes and makeup to depict various characters. The costumes are richly adorned with bright colours and ornaments, creating a visual spectacle that transports the audience into a different world.
Udupi’s culinary delicacies are loved not only in India but relished everywhere across the world. The city gave birth to the Udupi cuisine, which primarily revolves around vegetarian delicacies. Introducing the world to dishes like Masala Dosa, Idli, Vada, and its signature Udupi Sambar. What sets Udupi Sambar apart is its distinct taste and the special blend of spices used in its preparation. It is made primarily with Toor dal (split pigeon peas) and a variety of fresh vegetables like drumsticks, carrots, beans, eggplant, and pumpkin. The vegetables are gently simmered in a fragrant broth until they become tender and infused with flavours. With its rich history, unique blend of spices, and hearty flavours, Udupi Sambar continues to be a beloved dish, not just in Udupi but also in homes and restaurants all over India and beyond, delighting food enthusiasts with its wholesome and comforting taste.
Tourism – Temples & Beaches
For spiritual seekers and history enthusiasts alike, Udupi offers a plethora of temples and religious sites that leave visitors awe-struck. Udupi Sri Krishna Matha, as mentioned earlier, is a significant pilgrimage site, known for its unique style of worship and the daily rituals performed by the Ashta Mathas established by Saint Madhvacharya. The Krishna matha is surrounded by Astha matha which is a group of eight mathas built by eight disciples of Madhavacharya. Travellers to Udupi, also visit the Gomateshwara statue a Jain religious site located in Karkala, it stands about 17 meters tall and dates back to 983 AD. Another place of interest is the St. Lawrence shrine, which is a Roman Catholic Church that was built in 1759 by the Portuguese explorers. Over the centuries, the shrine has evolved and undergone renovations, reflecting a blend of Indo-Portuguese architecture. It stands as a historical testament to the cross-cultural interactions that shaped Udupi’s past.
Udupi boasts some of the most picturesque and pristine beaches in India. With golden sands, gentle waves, and mesmerizing sunsets, Udupi’s beaches offer an idyllic escape for travellers seeking tranquillity and natural beauty. Following are some of the famous beaches in Udupi –
- Malpe Beach
- Mary’s Island
- Kapu Beach
- Kodi Bengre Beach
- Trasi Beach
Beyond temples and beaches, Udupi is also a hub for eco-tourism and wildlife enthusiasts. Udupi takes pride in its “sacred groves” or “devara kaadu”, which are small patches of forests protected due to their religious significance. These groves play a vital role in preserving the region’s biodiversity. For travellers seeking a rendezvous with nature’s tranquillity, a visit to Kudlu Falls is a must. Located in the Western Ghats, the waterfall cascades gracefully through lush greenery, offering a picturesque backdrop for nature enthusiasts and photographers. The journey to the falls is an adventure in itself, passing through dense forests and scenic landscapes.
Udupi, beyond its spiritual significance, is a treasure trove of vibrant culture and diverse ecosystem. From the lush Western Ghats and sacred groves to the pristine beaches, the city provides a mesmerizing range of experiences for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. The coastal city boasts a seamless blend of religion, culinary delights, festivals, and traditional arts that exemplifies the warmth and inclusiveness of its cultural ethos. As the city continues to evolve, travellers to this coastal paradise must embrace the significance of the city’s natural heritage and participate in its conservation efforts, representing the soul and spirit of the native people who call Udupi home.