Most people visit Harihareshwar for its temple. But even for those who are travelling there
Most people visit Harihareshwar for its temple. But even for those who are travelling therejust for the beach, a journey from Mumbai can sometimes seem like a pilgrimage in itself. The trip, if undertaken in a rickety state transport bus, can seem endless. But somewhat similar to the spiritual succour that pilgrims find at the end of their arduous journeys, the tourist is rewarded at Harihareshwar with a glorious view that is picture-perfect and worth every hour of the bus trip.
There is an almost Om-shaped beach here, like the one in Gokarna, but bereft of the hippies you will find there. Near the other end of the beach is the residence of the local deity, the Kalbhairav Temple. This side, always abuzz with people, lies close to a fishing village where the countryside meets the sea. It’s a sacred confluence of sorts and standing at the beach, watching the fishermen bring the day’s catch home, is a calming experience.
The long Harihareshwar Beach is deserted on weekdays. Its southern side is tranquil and placid. Although the clear waters look inviting and calm, there are strong undercurrents, as locals will obligingly testify to, based on mishaps in the past. Swimming is advisable only during high tide. Also, it is recommended that swimmers stick to the southern side of the beach if opting for beachwear.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
The Kalbhairav Temple is the nucleus of this temple town. Visit the temple in the mornings, retreat for an early noon siesta, and then visit the beach during late afternoon.
On the Beach
The northern stretch of Harihareshwar Beach sees few tourists on most week days. It has a couple of chaat stalls frequented by pilgrims and fishermen. Apart from munching the snacks on offer there and walking on the sand, there’s little else to do here. The sense of isolation is complete on the southern side of the beach, where the black sands and rock formations are usually all yours.
Harihareshwar Boating Point is a reason for excitement. Their small booth is just beyond the MTDC Resort as you climb down to the beach. Operating from morning till twilight, and mostly during season time, private entrepreneurs offer scooter rides (Rs. 250/ 10 mins) and family boat rides (Rs. 150 per person). Life jackets are also available.
The Kalbhairav Temple, consisting of idols of the Hindu Trinity as well as the Goddess Parvati, is shrouded in mystery as far as its year of construction is concerned. However, most believe the first Baijirao Peshwa reconstructed it in 1723. The architecture is fairly simple and the one-storeyed structure is located on a large compound facing the sea.
Harihareshwar’s favourite legend, passed down generations, is centred around Ganesh Gully. It’s said that a narrow cleft about three ft wide between two rocks, located just about 150 ft behind the Kalbhairav Temple, houses a Ganesh idol. It would require a lot of luck, and high tide, to catch a glimpse of it though.
The scope for shopping here is limited to the narrow street leading to the temple. However, there are two things that you’ll get in abundance – local sherbets and catchpenny pendants – which make for great souvenirs to carry home. The sherbets come in various sizes and in flavours such as jambhul, amrit kokum and amla. Sold next to these sherbets, you will find pendants depicting just about every symbol related to the Hindu pantheon.
WHERE TO STAY
The MTDC Resort (Tel: 02147-226036; Tariff: ₹1,850–2,300), located along the beach has Konkani huts set in a bamboo grove. Each room has an attached balcony, with sliding doors. Harihareshwar Beach Resort (Cell: 08087403696, 09930630456; Tariff: ₹2,500–3,500) is located near the Shiva Temple. Shiv Sagar Caterers (Cell: 09273147421; Tariff: ₹600– 2,000) offers four spacious but modest rooms. At the beginning of the temple road is Ganga Nivas (Cell: 08087574627; Tariff: ₹400–500), a homely stay option. Om Shree Hotel (Cell: 09823350982; Tariff: ₹1,500– 2,750) is close to the temple and the beach and is well-maintained.
WHERE TO EAT
Considering you’ll have to walk all around Harihareshwar looking for food if you feel hungry beyond the designated ‘supper time’ (read 9.30pm), you would do well to place your order at a gharghuti (a home serving food) in advance. The ones situated close to the temple, such as Prachitee, Mohan Kutumbe Restaurant and Kiran Wakankar’s of Mauli Beach Resort, serve only vegetarian food. But there are enough options if you would like to sample typical Konkani seafood. Shiv Sagar Caterers, close to MTDC, serves delicious Konkani cuisine, and specialises in prawn masala and crab curry. Vishranti Bhojanalaya, a 2-minute walk away from the bus stand, is set in a cosy, thatched veranda. Try their surmai thali (deliciously spicy Konkani flavour), comprising rice, fried surmai, fish curry, salad, sol kadi and chapattis. A little ahead is the Guru Geeta restaurant offering pure vegetarian food. MTDC’s restaurant Grasshopper Inn serves good food in an outdoor setting overlooking the sea.
The Quiet River Rage
Harihareshwar is the undisputed ‘devghar’, or house of god, in the Konkan. It is widely believed that Sage Vashisht declared this town to be the place where one can be freed from the cycle of birth and death and attain moksha (salvation).
Another interesting story lies behind the façade of the Kalbhairav Temple. Once upon a time, two demons were harassing the local Konkani folk. Lord Harihar, after whom the town is named, interceded on their behalf and his prayers were answered when the mother goddess brought the demons back to the path of righteousness. A yagna of thanksgiving was planned and Goddess Savitri was to perform the ceremonies, but she forgot all about it and didn’t show up.
Goddess Gayatri had to stand in for Savitri. Inexplicably, this angered Savitri so much that she turned Gayatri into a river and, for good measure, all those who attended the event into water to join Gayatri in eternal punishment. This gross injustice invited intervention from an even higher authority, Lord Vishnu.
He instantly turned Savitri into a river as well! And there you will find her flowing till today, into the Arabian Sea between Harihareshwar and Bagmandala.
Lesley A Esteves
When to go Monsoon (June–August) is when Harihareshwar is most green and beautiful, but November-February is best for a beach holiday
Location Situated in Raigad District, the temple town of Harihareshwar is set on a low cliff on the Konkan Coast where the Savitri River flows into the Arabian Sea, surrounded by the four hills of Harihareshwar, Harshinachal, Bramhadri and Pushpadri
Distance 220 km S of Mumbai
Route from Mumbai NH17 to Lonera Phata via Pen; SH97 to Shrivardhan via Goregaon; SH98 to Harihareshwar
Air Nearest airport: Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport, Mumbai (220 km/ 5.5 hrs). Taxi costs ₹5,000–5,300
Rail Nearest railhead: Mangaon (62 km/ 2 hrs). Although rail connections to Mangaon are poor, most trains plying bet ween Mumbai and Goa halt here. From Mangaon, a taxi costs about ₹2,000. There are also a few direct buses to Harihareshwar. It is best to take a bus to Shrivardhan (Rs. 80), and carry on by shared autorickshaw from there (Rs. 30). A special auto charges Rs. 500 from Shrivardhan
Bus Just two buses (fare ₹300) leave Mumbai Central ST Stand (Tel: 022- 23024076) for Harihareshwar. The one that leaves at 4.45am reaches around 12.00pm; the second bus leaves at 10.15pm and reaches at 5.00am. Book at least a week in advance. It’s easier catching a bus to Shrivardhan and then travelling to Harihareshwar from there
TIP Check bus timings at time of travel