Most people visit Harihareshwar for its temple. But even if you are travelling there as a bonafide beach buff, a journey from Mumbai can sometimes seem like a pilgrimage in itself. The trip, if undertaken in a rickety state transport bus that was clearly built as a tribute to a tin can, is apparently as endless as it seems to be. 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’s picture-perfect and worth every hour of a rambling bus trip.
Once the bus deposits me at Harihareshwar, I climb up a small hillock and glimpse an almost Om-shaped beach like the one in Gokarna, but grandly bereft of the hippies one finds there. There are hardly any footprints on the brown sands. Waves lap at the shore, so gently that it seems as if you are standing by a lake. The sea’s magnificence is in full view only from atop the rocks dotting the shore.
Near the other end of the beach is the residence of the local deity, the Kalbhairav Temple. This side is always abuzz with people, and lies close to a simple fishing village where an intrinsically rural countryside meets a bracing sea. It’s a coming together of sorts and standing at the beach, watching the fishermen bring the day’s catch home, you are bound to feel blessed.
The long Harihareshwar Beach is deserted on weekdays. The southern side of the beach is tranquil and placid, almost like a lake. Although the clear waters look inviting and calm, there are strong undercurrents, as locals will obligingly testify based on mishaps in the past. Swim only during high tide, and refrain from venturing too far out. Since it’s a religious town, we recommend you stick to the southern side of the beach if opting for beachwear.
The Kalbhairav Temple forms the nucleus of this temple town. The best bet would be to visit the temple in the mornings, retreat for an early noon siesta (it needs to be emphasised that life in Harihareshwar is ‘slow’), and then visit the beach during late afternoon.
On the beach
The northern stretch of Harihareshwar Beach sees few tourists on most weekdays. It has a couple of chaat stalls frequented by pilgrims and fishermen. Apart from munching the snacks on offer there and walking on the beach, 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 the sole reason for even minor excitement here. 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 75/ 5 mins) and ‘family’ boat rides (Rs 400 approx/ 10 mins). Life jackets are also available. There is no phone at the booth but it’s easy to locate. On a water scooter, you can ride into the sunset, and it’s quite a thrill even though the controls are usually handled by an operator.
The scope for shopping here is limited to the narrow street leading to the temple. Two things you’ll get in abundance, which you should also carry back home, are local sherbets and catchpenny pendants. The sherbets, contained in innocuous if slightly fishy looking bottles, come in various sizes (priced between Rs 40- 60), and in flavours such as jambhul, amrit kokum and amla. Also sold next to these you will find pendants depicting just about every symbol related to the Hindu pantheon, be it the trident, Om or Lord Shiva against a psychedelic backdrop.
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
Journey Time By road 51/2 hrs By rail 33/4 hrs + road 2 hrs
Route NH17 to Lonera Phata via Pen and Mangaon; SH97 to Shrivardhan via Goregaon and Mhasla; SH98 to Harihareshwar
When to go Monsoon (June-August) is when Harihareshwar is most green and beautiful, but November-February is best for a beach holiday
Near Kalbhairav Temple
Tel: 02147-226036, Mob: 08879222040
STD code: 02147
By Simar Preet Kaur