Situated on the West coast of India, just above Kerala, the small city of Mangalore offers the best of several worlds. Its undulating landscape makes it a hill town, with majestic views of the valley. Being at the confluence of the rivers Nethravathi and Gurupura, Mangalore boasts of a rich riverine ecosystem. Thanks to the Arabian Sea, several unspoilt beaches dot the coastline along the city.
Ibn Batuta’s Manjarur subsequently came under the rule of the Chalukyas, the Hoysalas and the Alupas, before becoming a Portuguese colony. After a brief period under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, the city was annexed by the British into their territory.
Mangalore gets its name from Mangaladevi, the Goddess of Welfare, in whose name there is an old temple. For a city with such a hoary past, Mangalore is fast becoming a ‘new age’ city. Today, it is a bustling centre of commerce and tourism. It offers the traveler a host of special experiences, drawing from the cultures of Dakshin Kannada and Kerala.
We take you on a quick 2-day tour plan for the city, sampling the city best attractions. Read on, book your tickets and go!
St. Aloysius Chapel
This should probably be your first port of call in Mangalore. Built between 1885 and 1888, this chapel is attached to the famous St. Aloysius College. For me, the most arresting aspect of the church were the brilliant frescoes covering every inch of wall, ceiling and column space, and the oil canvases. Painted by the Italian Jesuit Antonio Moscheni, some of the frescoes depict the life and times of Jesus Christ. The friendly sexton will be happy to give you a short guided tour of the chapel. His narrative weaves romance into the story of the church and indeed, into that of Christ himself.
Next, head to this 1000 year old temple dedicated to the patron Goddess of Mangalore. Mangaladevi is believed to be a form of Shakti. While the faithful flock to this temple seeking boons, others visit it to marvel at its sense of history and the architecture. Intricate carvings and sculptures make it an interesting place, even for those who are not religiously inclined. The temple has been built entire in stone.
If you are looking for delicious trouble, head straight to Ideal Bakery. An old eatery that has become a cultural symbol of Mangalore, it is best-known for a quirky ice cream called “Gadbad” (which means “trouble” in Hindi). It has three outlets in the city today. Gadbad has dry fruits and nuts, layered with twin-flavoured ice cream. The whole thing is topped off with a jelly. Gadbad became a rage in no time, and continues to be so. Popular opinion has it that Ideal Bakery makes the best Gadbad in Dakshin Kannada. A lot of pretenders have emerged over the years, but Ideal is still the favoured destination for this delicious treat. Ask your hotel or a local to direct you to an outlet.
Ullal beach and dargah
Mangalore has many superb beaches in its vicinity. Ullal, 10 kms from Mangalore is one such. Unspoilt and devoid of tourists, the beach is a great place to wade into the water or sit on the sands in contemplation. Watch the fishermen draw in their catch at the end of a day’s toil and chat up with them. Build sand castles. Jog on the wet sand. And watch a glorious sunset.
Right next to the beach is a little-known dargah dedicated to Syed Mohammad Shareeful Madani, a saint who is supposed to have come to Ullal from Madeena. Settling down here, he dedicated his life to the service of the poor, thereby earning the eternal gratitude of the locals. The tomb in which his mortal remains are enshrined is peaceful and simple. Try to catch the qawwalis and sufi hymns in the evening. They make for an uplifting experience.
Yakshagana (meaning song of the yakshas or demi–gods) is a fascinating combination of music, dance, drama and mime. Inspite of its rich history and cultural significance, it remains unknown to the majority of tourists. However, it is a major draw for the local populace. Performances usually start late in the evening or at night and go on till the wee hours. Since Yakshagana is conduced in the open, the fragrance of the night, the breeze, the music and the unfolding drama on stage, all make for a mesmerizing experience.
Your hotel will be happy to direct you to the nearest temple. It’s a great way to wind up the day. And usher in the next.
Located at Boloor, this is where Tipu Sultan kept his ammunition (and hence the name “Battery”). At first glance, it looks like a section of a fortress, with the other parts missing. Built on the edge of the river Gurupura, it helped Tipu’s forces keep an eye out for invaders and fire at them from the vantage point. Doors lead to underground chambers where the ammunition was stored. Climb the steps and sit awhile at the top, taking in the quietly flowing Gurupura, the thick copse of greenery on the other bank of the river and the gentle breeze.
Cathedral of the Most Holy Rosary (commonly known as St. Rosario’s Cathedral).
Church records say that this is the oldest church in Karnataka and one of the oldest along the West Coast. Built by the Portuguese in 1568, it was reconstructed in 1910, retaining the original character and style of the building. A high domed ceiling, artwork along the walls, exquisite stained glass, quiet corridors and the candle-lit altar all make for a very spiritual and calm atmosphere. Away from the spotlight, this cathedral is a less-known relic of Mangalore’s Portuguese past.
Pilikula Nisarga Dhama
Legend has it that ages ago, tigers used to flock to a watering hole everyday in this area. And hence, the name Pilikula (“Pili” means tiger and ‘Kula’ means pond in Tulu). A man-made wildlife sanctuary of sorts, Pilikula houses lions, tigers, elephants, deer, bison and a whole range of reptiles and birds in a habitat similar to their natural habitat. Watch elephants bathe and lions stride majestically in their domain, and take in the beautiful birdsong. It is a delight to sit quietly and watch the animals go about their routine. You can easily spend hours here and lose track of time.
Pilikula has a small store that sells food products and artifacts made by the tribals residing in the area.
‘Mangalore tile’ factory
For several decades now, ‘Mangalore Tiles’ have been popular in the building industry. These elegant tiles lend a distinct charm to structures and have been used extensively in South India. The tile industry here is almost 140 years old. During its peak, factories used to manufacture close to 8-10 lakh tiles a day. The British loved these tiles, so much so that these tiles grace many colonial structures including the iconic Victoria Terminus railway station in Bombay.
A visit to a tile factory is sure to take you back in time. With declining demand, many factories have shut stop. This could be your last chance to see how these tiles are made, and get a first-hand sense of their charm.
Athree book store
To round up your trip to Mangalore, walk into Athree, a tiny bookstore tucked away near Jyothi Cinema. For books that give you an insight into local history, traditions, environment and culture, Athree is a great place. Browse through the wide range of books at leisure. Be sure to chat up with the owner of the store, a soft-spoken and erudite person. And carry away a book or two to cement your memories of a great trip!
Points to remember
- Mangalore has a very good local bus service. Travelling by bus is a good way to rub shoulders with the locals and feel the pulse of the place. Autos are available in plenty. To book taxis, check with your hotel.
- The best time to visit the city is from September to early March.
- Mangalore abounds in greenery and natural beauty. Be sure to take your camera along!
- Every place has its cultural sensitivities; please pay attention to them. It is better to avoid skirts, shorts and other skimpy clothes here.
- When visiting Pilikula Nisarga Dhama, please maintain silence and allow the birds and animals to be in peace. Use your camera discreetly.
Don’t miss out on the delightful seafood and other local delicacies such as ‘neer dosa’, ‘kori roti’ and ‘kotte kadubu’.