Malwan: A trip to Maharastra’s roots

Living in Mumbai, we keep hearing about the Konkan coastline that is supposed to border most of the west coast of India, and passes through 3 states. I was dying to see the places for myself, and experience the myth first hand. Complete with the characteristic vivid greenery, coconut trees and coral reefs, Malwan is a place that will give you a true sense of the Konkan coast.

Situated at about 514 km from Mumbai, it is the southern-most tip of Maharastra. From Mumbai, it is the easiest to access by road. By train, the closest station is Kudaal, from where a local rickshaw could bring you to Malwan. There is an MTDC beach resort in the nearby Tarkarli, which is a very good option to stay at if you don’t know anyone around. I happened to go with a friend who has a house in Anganewadi; about 12 kms away from Malwan.

The area is mainly famous for 3 things- the beaches, the cuisine and the Sindhudurg fort. Mine was a weekend trip, and travelling alone had taken up the whole of the first out of three days. On the second day, we drove to the closest beach- the Chivla Beach. It is a beautiful stretch of clean sands and clear waters bordering the Malwan town from North West. It’s a simple place, and there isn’t much to do, maybe read a book sitting on one of the rocks, or watch the sun go down. As we sat watching, a fisherman was making his boat ready for the waters and I realised that their boats are unyielding, dated and almost run down. It is a sheer pleasure watching them pull those boats into life and yell local slang to communicate with other boats. Post that, we went to the MalwanBeach- the most famous beach on the Konkan coast. There are a few bars and restaurants on the beach unlike most other seashores on the Sindhudurg coast. One particular restaurant called Khot is definitely worth a mention!

That brings me to the second quest of my trip- the malwani food. True Malwani cuisine is very distinctive from its Konkani and Goan counterparts. A superfluous use of a local fruit Kokum (Garcinia) and just a hint of coconut is what marks the deep colored gravy and bright fish curries, which are available aplenty in the small restaurants that dot the town. A must have, is the staple Solkadhi, a carmine colored brew made with coconut and Kokum. While we were discussing the prices of meals, our driver gave us an interesting titbit- every evening, seafood is auctioned on Malwan beach to the highest bidder. Thus, meal prices at the restaurants fluctuate accordingly! But the vegetarians need not fret- it is as much of a treat to eat the vegetable curries that still do carry the characteristic flavour. Most restaurants offer vegetarian fare as well, in fact, only a handful of all the places serve fish on a Tuesday, as the Malwani people believe it to be the day of fasting and eating only one meal for the gods.

After a lot of sumptuous meals of fish thalis, on our last day, we set out to explore the Sindhudurg fort, of which we’d heard so much about. Literally translated, Sindhudurg means Ocean Fort. The evidence of Shivaji and his braveness is palpable in the structure of the fort. The local guide regales the tourists with buried stories; it feels like a live trip into a history textbook chapter. A must do when in Malwan!

Before we left, I also wanted to have a look at the china clay pottery that Katta is famous for. Since Katta is a little way from Malwan, I managed to convince everyone to stop over on our way back. Perfectly proportionate vessels were lined up outside most hamlets in the village. They were made of red china clay bricks dug from local mines known to the locals as Chira. There was such a sense of perfect symmetry achieved by the potters, often so dispassionately!

The climate of Malwan is a lot like Mumbai, both being coastal towns. So, just like Mumbai, the summers tend to get extremely hot. The best time to visit would be any time when you have 3 days to spare, but I would recommend the rainy season, i.e, from June to October to see this place in its real beauty. Most of the people living in this area are educated- Malwan is believed to have 100% literacy. There are a lot of people like our driver, who live in the city to earn, but come back home whenever possible, to the waiting mothers and wives. It is not uncommon to find engineers, chartered accountants or management graduates who, having worked in metropolitan cities, have chosen to come back to their homeland to live a low-key and stress-free existence of fishing and rice farming. That’s what this place is- a beautiful place, full of rice farms, fishermen and beaches, where anyone could go to unwind!

Ekta Valecha

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