Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Ganpatipule Beach – The Cliffhanger Surprise in Ratnagiri

The gear drops into its slot with a deafening clanky protest, the bus seems to pause and then lurches forward, the engine screams like a beast in death throes and the entire body frame shudders. For a moment it appears the bus will pulverize into oblivion. The metallic grinding of the gears, the ear-shredding screams of the engine and the clattering of the window panes – it seems you are caught in Transformers movie set where Autobots and Decepticons battle each other. Wait a minute, did you just get airborne for a moment?
A version of the story appears in Asian Age Mumbai edition on 11th July 2016

Ganpatipule: A Surprise Beyond the Cliffs

The Ratnagiri Surprise beyond the Cliffs - Ganpatipule Beach

So far in your experience the drive to a beach has been, well, like a walk on the beach. To be fair, the drive to Rishikonda Beach beyond Vishakhapatnam does involve driving on a hill with the sea below but on the right you can see the stretch of sand between the elevated road and the waves - almost like a walk on the beach.

Sometimes over the cliffs, sometimes through the hills

But then you remember this is Western Ghats and here in Ratnagiri everything comes with a surprise. It seems the entire city of Ratnagiri sits on a hill and on the edges the vertical cliffs drop straight into the sea. You saw the waves lashing the foot of cliffs at Thibaw Palace and then again at Ratnadurg.

Lovely Monsoon Day - Greenery, Hills, Waves and Rain - all in one frame

In the July 2015 Outlook Traveller issue, Ganpatipule Beach is listed as a must-do destination in the rains with its heavenly display of light and shadows over the waves. The same issue also lists Thibaw Palace in Ratnagiri as one of the 100 must-do destinations in India. 

You are riding the reliable red Maharashtra State Transport bus to Ganpatipule beach about 25 kms north of Ratnagiri. You have always liked the bus services of MSRTC and have always wondered if the management of built heritage here could be taken over from Maharashtra ASI & Tourism and given to MSRTC!

Sitting on the right made you miss some views but still exhilarating

And then you grab the seat rails as the driver throws the bus into another hairpin bend even as he twists the gear stick until one of the gears again finds its place. It is the gearbox that is helping coax power from the old engine to climb these twisty roads on top of Western Ghats. And then what you see or rather what you cannot see make your hair rise on their ends. It seems the bus just turned on the edge of the hill – no, you cannot see the vertical cliffs below – and the view blows you away. It seemed for a moment you were suspended in the air over the hill as white surf churned up waves crashing into the side of the cliff below. The excitement levels just hit the red zone; you had never imagined India, besides having everything else, had roads too that snaked high over cliffs with roaring waves below.

On a rain swept day, the screaming bus ride high up on the hills by the sea is purely exhilarating. It is turning out to be a wonderful day in Ratnagiri as you experience extreme emotions. While the first half at Thibaw Palace filled you with all pervading sadness, few hours later, the thrilling ride to Ganpatipule has filled you with joy. There is more to come.

The Drop-point at Ganpatipule

The bus on the short route from Ratnagiri to Malgund, two kms away, drops you at the Ganpatipule checkpost. Ganpatipule is a village famous for its Swayambhu or self originated Ganesh Temple. The deity is considered the Paschim Dvardevta or Western Sentinel, one of the Ashta Dwar Devatas or Eight Welcoming Deities. Legend has it that Ganpati angry by the remark made by a local woman moved to Pule or Sand Dune from His original abode of Gule few kms away. And so the place got its name Ganpatipule.

Today you are more interested in the beach that provides front row seats to the incredible display of lights and shadows over Arabian Sea waters.

Gateway to Ganpati Temple at Ganpatipule

The sky is dark with another impending rain dance performance as you walk towards the beach. The same greenery and moss covered walls guide you towards the beach.

Life is a Beach - at Ganpatipule Beach Ratnagiri

You feel the child-like excitement as you step on the soft sand with the waves coming in. Right now you cannot make out the horizon as clouds hang low on the waters. The beach on both sides is fringed with hills. Coconut palms, mangroves, cashew trees from the waters to the hills provide a green canopy. The hills above, the water beyond and the clean and golden beach all seem to be enveloped in this mist.

Dog Day Evening at Ganpatipule Beach Ratnagiri

In the rain, there are more dogs on the beach than tourists. Just as much dogs seem to love monuments, it seems they enjoy the beach even more. Shacks are boarded up; the MTDC resort on the hill looks vacant. You walk into the distance through the lapping waves. Some rocks still survive on the sands even after the lashing by the waves all these years. Sitting on the sand with your back against a rock will be your front row seat to the promised show in the sky.

Take your seats as the show is about to begin

And then things start to happen rapidly.

The Grand Celestial Show at Ganpatipule Beach

Notice the silver sliver of a horizon
It is sunset time. The rain stops all of a sudden, and the mist begins to lift over the hills. The seemingly stone like impenetrable grey skies break up to give shapes to the clouds that start to float revealing an opening. As if on cue, sun appears through this opening in the sky.
God has lifted the curtain off heavens especially for you. You have bought all the seats in the theater. For the next fifteen minutes, you are treated to a celestial spectacle as the sun and the clouds and the water come together to put up a soul-stirring performance ethereally choreographed just for you.

What you witness is truly indescribable. Spotlights dance over the waters. Light and shadows play on the water. The clouds, the streams of light and the rippling waves create 3D effects that no Transformers CGI computer can render. And you watch all this amazed and wide-eyed. Nature has her way to exhilarate and absolutely stun whoever cares to stop and listen and watch.

Curtains come down on the Celestial Spectacle - Ganpatipule Beach 

The clouds move back in. Now this particular cloud seems to hang over the waters. God has brought down the curtains after the spellbinding performance. You don’t remember ever seeing such a play of lights and shadows from a beach and you have seen plenty of sunsets on the sea. It is quite possible that together with the cliff hanging drive to the beach, this light-shadow play phenomenon is unique to Ganpatipule Beach.

One Last Look

Skies take colourful hues even as the curtains come down on another marvellous day in Konkan. It is time once again to walk reluctantly from another surprise here in Ratnagiri. Monsoons in Konkan provide myriad of colours and sights. Ratnagiri is just the beginning. The canvas that is coast of Karnataka beckons.

Getting There: Ganpatipule is 25 kms north of Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. For spectacular views of the sea and surf take the Aare Ware road which is different from the NH-17 Mumbai-Goa highway.

Ratnagiri lies on the south west coast of Maharashtra on the Mumbai-Goa highway and is well connected by trains from Mumbai. Ratnagiri is about about 350 kms from Mumbai and 300 kms from Pune. In Ratnagiri you can hire auto rickshaws to take you around the town and to the fort. The Jijamata Garden will offer you spectacular views of Arabian Sea and Bhatye Beach. Other attractions are the Ratnadurg with its Lighthouse and Thibaw Palace, now turned into a museum.

Travel Trip: On the way to Ganpatipule from Ratnagiri, if taking public transport, sit on the left of the bus to see the amazing views as you soar high above the cliffs with sea stretching into the horizon and waves crashing below your feet.

Reference: Outlook Traveller, July 2015 page 97

Related Posts on this Blog:

1. The Anguish of Thibaw Palace
2. Lokmanya Tilak Birthplace

A version of the story appears in Asian Age Mumbai edition on 11th July 2016


  1. Evocative post,embellished with divine shots and enticingly inviting.Just makes one want to leave everything and be there. So what if the dogs provide the only company to this celestial long as Come with me now is playing, i don't mind!
    Waiting for your coastal Karnataka tale.
    Keep coasting and keep posting.

    1. Hi Mimosa aka Chui Mui,

      Yes, Ganpatipule was a find - the Outlook post said it offers light-shadow play on the waters and it seems, just for me, Mother Nature arranged the show. Now that is serendipity. The time is NOW to leave everything and go visit Ratnagiri and Coastal Karnataka - feast for the eyes and soul.


  2. An awesome place to visit and feel the cold breeze flowing. I love spending time there. Apart from this there are decent number of places to visit in Ratnagiri that one can really check out.

  3. Ganpatipule beach is one of the most beautiful white sand beaches amongst the Konkan beaches. With the Ganapati temple on the shores rendering a peaceful atmosphere, Ganpatipule is as close as you can get to a perfect holiday destination in Konkan.
    Visit Fred Travels for Konkan tour.

  4. You spin a vivid yarn. Felt as if I was there on that bus-seat peering over the cliff edge throgh the window rails and then walking on the beach gasping in awe..