Bengaluru to Bekal: Forts and sea view
A tranquil weekend at one of Kerala’s hidden gems
Even a reluctant movie-goer like me is familiar with the iconic song sequence from director Mani Ratnam’s 1995 film Bombay. The hero, Arvind Swamy, arms splayed, standing on the moss-kissed walls of a fort, waves crashing against it, as the lead actress, Manisha Koirala, joins him dramatically, blue dupatta trailing in the breeze. I remember each scene vividly.
Before Swamy and his leading lady immortalized Shekhar and Shaila Banu’s love, as well as the fort, Bekal village was one of Kerala’s hidden gems. Luckily, it is still visited far less than the state’s other tourist areas.
We decided to explore this quiet village in Kasaragod in north Kerala for a no-rush, long-weekend vacation.
Our eight-and-a-half-hour journey began before dawn, with us stopping just for breakfast and to stretch our legs. Kasaragod has a great secret to share. It is said that when you travel through it, you will hear an astonishing seven languages. People speak Malayalam and Kannada, and in pockets you can hear smatterings of Tulu, Konkani, Beary and even a bit of Marathi.
We had chosen to stay at The Lalit’s property in Udma, a hamlet within Bekal. The property is off the main road and so quiet that the cries of mynahs and crow pheasants resonate loud and clear in the afternoon air.
The fort was the only place we had planned to visit in our “relaxation-only” holiday, and, like mad hatters, decided to finish this part soon after lunch. So, with drinking water and sturdy black umbrellas in hand (to protect ourselves from both the rain and the scorching sun), we drove to the fort, a mere 5 minutes from the resort. Surprisingly, there were many people, mostly locals, there in the middle of the afternoon.
Bekal Fort is said to have been built by the Chirakkal rajas, and was later taken over and rebuilt by Shivappa Nayaka of Bednore between 1650-70. Parts of the structure have crumbled, but a large portion is intact.
Set against the azure afternoon sky, the red laterite fort looked even more majestic. Some of the stones have darkened with age, some are covered in moss and weeds, but the fort and its surroundings are immaculately clean.
We walked along the fort walls and climbed up the ramparts, thinking of the battles that would have been fought there. The upper walls of the fort offer a stunning panorama of the beach and the Arabian Sea beyond. The sight of the spectacular expanse of sea, and the spotless beaches dotted with fishing boats, made our crazy mid-afternoon visit worth the while.
Later, we were told that the views were even better from Chandragiri Fort, just a 15-minute drive away, so we decided to explore it the next day.
Shivappa Nayaka built Chandragiri Fort as part of a chain of forts at the height of his power. Sadly, it is a mere shell today. The views, however, did not disappoint, offering sights of both the sea and the river. Towards the north of the fort is the Chandragiri Puzha, also known as the Payaswini river. One can see the river snaking down, cradled by coconut palms on either side, until it meets the Arabian Sea.
We travelled back towards Bekal, where Kappil Beach, at the base of the fort, was ideal for a stroll. As we walked towards the shoreline, the sun dipped into the ocean, throwing a hundred hues of orange into the sky—spectacular homage to the natural beauty of Kasaragod.
Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The author tweets from @SupriyaUnniNair.