Glowing In The Dark
By Joan Pinto
As you drive towards Kunkeshwar, you spy its sloping dunes peeping past palm trees. Close up, it’s just what you don’t expect. It’s a stretch of open, beautiful beach that no one seems to visit, not even the pilgrims at the Kunkeshwar Temple. The temple’s tower-like, multi-coloured monolith reaches for the blue sky and gives the beach its name — Kunkeshwar, meaning Lord Shiva.
Legend has it that an Arabian trader’s dhow got caught in a storm off the Kunkeshwar Coast a few hundred years ago. He prayed for help, and would’ve drowned if not for the lamp light in the then tiny Shiva temple, which Yadava rulers had built in 1100. The light guided him to the safety of the shore and he built a new temple there as an expression of his gratitude.
There is indeed much to be thankful for at Kunkeshwar. There’s the sunset, when the sun appears like a red, shimmering tikka on the forehead of the horizon. There are the delicious hapus mangoes, popular across the world, waiting at the orchards at Devgad, just a few kilometres away. There is the white sand and the somewhat hushed whispers of the waves, all of which you can take in by yourself in the magnificent solitude of the beach. But the best gift of all comes your way in the night, when the waters of the sea shimmer because of phosphorescence. Occasionally, a few porpoises leap up with the waves, and the night is suddenly magical, as if a fairy has moved her wand somewhere, leaving behind a trail of twinkling stars.
Kunkeshwar is an hour’s drive from the nearest big town, Devgad (27 km). Like the tiny villages that precede it, Kunkeshwar is an idyllic, pastoral place. Unlike the others though, it lies on the coast. Come down the road from Jamsande on SH4, past the village of Illeye. The road then winds towards Kunkeshwar Temple and the beach. Here, it’s lined with matchbox-sized stalls selling food, flowers and temple offerings. Except for a hotel for pilgrims known as Bhakti Niwas, located behind the beach, all the hotels are at least 2-3 km away; the nearest is at Jamsande. More hotels are to be found at Devgad. Autos are the most convenient mode of transport here; the minimum fare is Rs 20 (to go around the village). They charge Rs 200 and above to Devgad or Vijaydurg. Though State Transport buses stop at a designated place in the village, the drive is long because of the number of halts.
Locals say the water is safe to wade in at Kunkeshwar but it’s best to be close to the shore if you plan to swim. There are no lifeguards here. Keep your beachwear conservative as it’s a temple town; besides, the place isn’t acquainted with tourists. It’s also a good idea to keep to the side of the beach that’s away from the temple. At high tide, step carefully over the rocks to the right of the beach, as most of them are then partially covered in the water.