Another weekend arrived, and once again my friends and I were wondering how to make the best out of it. Assignments, deadlines, tests and work, that’s what the prior week had bestowed upon us. To beat the stress, we all desperately needed a thrilling excursion. Being a Delhiite, I was always eager to explore places in South India, and getting admission in Manipal University in Karnataka seemed to be an excellent opportunity to do so. After a lot of debates and arguments, Bekal Fort, which lies 16 kilometers south of Kasaragod town in Kerala, was finalized upon for a weekend getaway. It takes approximately 4 hours from Manipal to reach there by road. Though the place didn’t sound very appealing to me, I was fascinated by the idea of visiting the lush green God’s own country. Little did I know that a single visit to that massive fort was going to leave an everlasting impact on my mind, making it one of the most memorable trips of my life!
Getting up early on a Saturday morning was a pain in the neck! But we had to return to Manipal the same day, so we could not afford to delay the departure. We hired a private car and a driver and began our journey at 8 o’clock. As I peeped out of the window during the journey, I didn’t notice anything unusual about the view. I had traveled on those roads ample number of times, and they were as usual, rough and irksome. Puddles filled with rainwater on roads made the ride more uncomfortable. Unlike Delhi-Haryana-Punjab highways, there were no dhabas scattered along the roadside. Only a few motels and restaurants could be seen. At 10 o’clock we reached Mangalore, where we stopped for breakfast. The view outside the window changed the moment we crossed the Karnataka border. The breeze became colder than before, which brought a relief from the humid weather. The verdant green carpets unfolded themselves as I saw innumerable palm groves and banana trees growing into each other. The bluish-green sea looked so inviting, that one could just surrender oneself to it. Soon we reached our destination; the ultimate and the most-preserved fort of Kerala. For those who have seen the Mani Ratnam movie Bombay, it will be easy to picture Bekal, as it was the place where the hero Arvind Swami used to meet his beloved Manisha Koirala. The picturesque location in the melodious song Tu Hi Re, is none other than this monument of historical relevance. Circular in structure, the Bekal Fort built in red laterite spreads over 35 acres of land that runs into the Arabian Sea. It was built by Sivappa Naik of the Ikkeri dynasty in 1650’s and conquered by Hyder Ali of Mysore in 1763 A.D. It was then captured by Huzur of Canara during Tipu Sultan’s reign, and later by the British. There is no palace inside, and the fort is said to have been built only for defense purposes. The remarkable features of this fort are a zigzag entrance, openings on the outer walls for defense, tank with its flight of steps, an observation tower and underground tunnels. There is a storehouse inside the fort for keeping ammunition that is managed by the Archaeological Survey of India and is closed to the general public. Huge cannons used to be placed few centuries ago on the tall observation tower, from where even the smallest movements of the enemy could be seen. I could see from there a wonderful view of the splendid Arabian Sea, and nearby towns of Kanhangad, Pallikare etc.
Another feature of this fort which impressed me totally was the co-existence of a mosque and a temple. Just outside the fort is an ancient mosque built by Tipu Sultan. And a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman is at the entrance, which attracts thousands of devotees.
After walking several miles on the passage to the fort, and clicking numerous pictures, we moved to the Bekal beach which is 1 kilometer away from the fort. Utilizing 19 acres of land, it has been developed as an exotic beach location by the Bekal Resorts Development Corporation (BRDC).The beauty of the crystal clear water, accompanied by the purity of the sand mesmerized me completely. For the first time I had seen in India a beach so beautiful and serene, unperturbed by the disorderliness of the rowdy crowd and filth.
As I walked along the sea shore, enjoying the scenic view of the enormous Bekal Fort on the east, and an unceasing sea on the west, smells of freshly caught fish and crabs grabbed my attention. I spotted a fisherman with almost a dozen of fish lying inside his basket. It took me back to my memories of Dil Chahta Hai, with Aamir Khan gulping a big fish down his throat, and soon I discovered myself posing in Aamir style for a picture(without swallowing it, of course).
There were benches where people of all age groups could be seen relaxing and enjoying the cool sea breeze. One could hear the vivacious laughter of children playing in the nearby children’s park. Eating a delicious Keralite meal at a shack in close proximity was the icing on the cake!
And finally came the moment when we had to bid adieu to this exotic excursion, and the souvenir of God’s own country. Amidst the city life full of hassles, we often forget to admire the beauty of the nature. We fail to notice the significance of admiration of natural world present in the poems of Wordsworth. We crave for a holiday abroad, when our own country attracts tourists from all over the world! With these heavy thoughts in mind I looked at Bekal, and promised to come back again for a longer stay. Though the trip lasted only for a day, but the memory will remain forever! How to Reach: Nearest railway station: Kasaragod, on the Kozhikode-Mangalore-Mumbai route. Nearest airport: Mangalore about 50 km from Kasaragod ,Karipur International Airport, Kozhikode, about 200 km from Kasaragod Where to Stay: There are many hotels and lodges accessible in Kasargod, which can be chosen depending on the budget. Best time to visit: Throughout the year.