Considering the 300-year old fort with its ramparts looking out at
the by turns becalmed and furiously lashing sea, was occupied in succession by
the Vijaynagar kings, Tipu Sultan and the rulers of the Raj, its origins are
anything but romantic. However, Tipu and Co are long gone, the sea remains and
the fort has had Mani Ratnam happen to it. In Ratnam’s Bombay the hero and
heroine tryst at this very place… the result: the Bekal fort is pure
It is also straight out of a picture postcard, the fort. A circular
structure of red laterite, tinged black over the years by the aggressions of
Nature, Bekal fort stands on a 35-acre headland, 130 feet above sea level.
Militant ramparts, peep-holes, beautifully built-up steps leading to a cove,
sunsets that hold all the drama one wishes for, all make the fort an ideal spot
to picnic, to walk the grassy knolls, to chill…maybe to shoot a movie.
It’s not just the fort, either. Bekal today is just a quiet seaside
hamlet, flanked by the forest-covered Western Ghats in the east and the Arabian
Sea in the west, with the Talapadi and the Trikaripur rivers flowing in the
vicinity. To one side of the imposing fort lies the shallow Bekal Beach,
over-run more with vast colonies of bashful crabs than humans. There is the
Bekal Hole Aqua Park, a small pier with pedal boats and water cycles on offer,
the estuary in the background. Kappil Beach, a mere ten-minute drive from the
fort is another secluded beachfront. The Kodi cliff to one side of this beach is
worth the (not too arduous) climb for a great view of the sea.
Other tourist attractions include Anandashram, the spiritual centre
founded by Swami Ramdas in 1939 and a haven of trees, flowing water and shady
nooks. Chandragiri Fort is a 17th century fort, more ruins than fort now, but a
climb up the steep incline affords a spectacular view of dense palm groves to
one side and the Chandragiri river with its serene waters to the other, the
Arabian sea beyond. The Malik Deenar Mosque is a jewel in the crown of this part
of Malabar, a major centre for Islam on the western coast of India. Set on the
lip of a hill overlooking the sea, the main building of the old mosque which
houses the dargah of the maulvi Malik Ibn Deenar. The 9th century Ananthapuram
lake temple is the ‘moolasthanam’ (the original abode) of Ananthapadmanabha, an
avatar of lord Vishnu, the powerful deity of the famed Sree Padmanabhaswami
temple at Thiruvananthapuram.
The lake surrounding the temple is home to an ancient crocodile
somewhat improbably named Babya who is fed on rice prasadam!
And then there are the Valiyaparamba Backwaters a two-hour drive
out of Bekal. Numerous little islands, narrow strips of beaches, densely packed
groves of palm and areca nut, and fed by four swiftly flowing rivers, this is
the Malabar’s contribution to the backwater wealth of the state.
Bekal is poised on the verge of Discovery with a capital D. True to
type, the Kerala government has identified, earmarked and started work on this
piece of paradise; the Bekal Resorts Development Corporation has leased land out
to two major five star hotel concerns. 2005 AD is when the boom is due to take
place…go check Bekal out now before it becomes discovered!
airport is 70 km away; Kozhikode, the Calicut International Airport, 140 km
away. Pallikere station, right opposite the Bekal beachfront is the route of the
Konkan Railway Line, so it is serviced by many trains on the Southern Railways.
The roads are good (part of Kerala’s tourist initiative, but of course) up to
Kasargode, (NH17 from Bangalore) which is 19 km away from Bekal.
As of now,
the best places to stay are in Kasargode: Hotel City Tower (04994)
230562/230563/230564; Hotel Apsara Regency (04994) 230124/ 220424; Nalanda
Resorts (04994) 782662/782925. E-mail: email@example.com
any time around the year. The fort has a pleasant breeze that somewhat cools the
place down in the heat of summer; it is achingly lovely when washed by the
Kerala monsoons, and just great during the less-than-cold winters.
Just an hour-and-a-half out of Bekal, The Bekal Resorts Development
Corporation runs a couple of houseboats on the Tejaswini river, from Kottapuram
in Nileswar to Kowal Kadapuram in Valiyaparamba. Go on a lazy cruise past nine
islets, verdant greenery and Chinese fishing nets; swim, laze about, stay a
night or two or more, aboard the 2-bedroom and single bedroom boats, all at
costs considerably less than what you would pay further down south of the state.
Sunset and short cruises cost around Rs 2,500 for a two- and- a- half hour
duration. The houseboats are popular floating conference venues; ayurvedic
massages are on offer, too.
For bookings, contact the Bekal Resorts Development Corporation.
Tariff range: Rs 3,500 to Rs 6,000. Contact: 04994-20445. Mobile: (0)9447010445.
E-mail: Bekalcruise@hotmail.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.