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Konkan Railway This is the modern pride of 150 -year -old tradition, the technological triumph that has made a holiday paradise of little visited parts. Travelling on the Konkan Railway is a treat. Station yourself at a window of, say, the Karla - Trivandrum Netravali Express and marvel at the engineering of 2,000 bridges over some 1,5oo river and streams, and 92 tunnels through the Sahyadri.

The Konkan Railway has launched coastal Karnataka economy tours as a premier effort to bring unexplored coastal Karnataka on the tourist map of India. Coastal tour is something that one looks forward to. A relaxing time in the company of splashing waves of the sea, beautiful golden sand of the beaches beckoning one and all, the shades of coconut trees and famous places of worship.

Surrounded by the Karavali coast on one side, the Deccan plateau on the other and Sahyadri ranges on the third side, Uttara Kannada and Udupi districts are of immense natural beauty and eco-tourist paradise.

The tour takes one to the famous Gokama Temple and beach, the highest Jog Falls, gigantic rock formations of Yana, tallest Shiva statue of Murudeshwar, Maravanthe beach, Udupi, beautiful Om beach etc. Eighty kms.

North of Udupi, the Moogambika Temple located at foothills of the Kodachadri hills, is one of the most important centres of Shakti worship in South India. Sri Adi Shankaracharya is said to have consecrated the deity - Moogambika, slayer of demon Mookasura, on a Sri Chakra, which is installed in a copper roofed, gold crested temple that is said to be 1000 years old.

A breathtaking journey, traversing through the beautiful Konkan Coast also called Karavali, with Konkan Railway. Konkan region is one of the most visited places in India. The whole of the Konkan region has a coastal belt along which the Konkan Railway track runs. The Konkan railway runs through the gorgeous destinations of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka.

A Maze Of Tunnels
The journey is breathtaking. Travelling by train on a 30-metre high embankment, you suddenly shoot through a tunnel over 3-km long, emerge for a brief moment on terra firma, then rush on to a bridge over a deep gorge. In winter, a stream bursts below you; in summer, the red earth snakes endlessly on.

Catch your breath for a moment; for suspended 50 odd metres above the ground, the train travels downwards into yet another tunnel, this one more than 6-km long. In about three minutes you are out again, crossing a bridge over 65m high, the height of a 15-storeyed building. The landscape of the Panval River below defies description.

You are in Ratnagiri district in southern Maharashtra on the Konkan Railway, the largest railway project in the world in the last five decades and the largest in South Asia this century. The Rs. 2,000-crore railway project connects the coastal areas of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, opening up the picturesque West Coast of India to the train-travelling tourist for the first time.

For the Indian Railways, it's the last frontier. The network has been expanding at the rate of 1,000 miles a year since the first line was opened from Boribunder to Thane on April 16, 1853. But though the tracks spanned 53,596-kms across the subcontinent by the time India became independent in 1947, there was one important missing link. The broad gauge line from the south reached Mangalore by 1907, but the more direct 1,000-kms coastal route between Mumbai (Bombay) and Mangalore remained unbridged.

There are 53 stations on the line, the more important ones being Veer, Khed, Chiplun, Ratnagiri, Rajapur Road, Sindhudurg, Mapusa Road, Goa, Udupi, Mangalore, among others. From southern Karnataka, the Konkan Railway has built a connection with Kerala on the central railway line that extends to Kochi (Cochin) and Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum).

Konkan is a thin strip of land, about 50 kms at its widest between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats or the Sahyadri mountain ranges. This belt has had strong links with seafarers from the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Due to these links the region has inherited a mix of cultures. Apart from fertile soil, ample natural resources and mineral wealth such as bauxite and silica sand, the region also boasts an annual average rainfall of 3500 mm.

Perhaps this natural wealth is what drew Vasco Da Gama to Konkan in 1498, leading to Portuguese colonisation of Goa for four centuries and more. In December 1961 Indian troops marched into Goa and liberated the state. At noon on January 26, 1998 the first train from Bombay passed the soft soil Pernem tunnel. Shortly afterwards the train pulled in at Madgaon, covering a distance of 590 kilometres and creating history. You could now travel from Bombay to Mangalore along the West Coast and reach Kerala on a route that was so far just a dream.

Konkan Railway Bridge Discover Goa with 105 km. of the Konkan Railway line running through it. From Mumbai it takes only 12 hours overnight to Goa, about half the time it takes on a grimy and uncomfortable bus journey. While beaches like Calangute, Vagator and Dona Paula, are the first areas that tourists gravitate to, but Goa has far more to offer to the visitor. Panaji, the capital, only a small fishing village until four centuries ago, is one of the most beautiful in the country, rising on the wooded terraces of the Altinho Hill, and sloping down to the Mandovi river.

Here where red-tiled cottages blend with casuarina and coconut palms and Kunbi women in colourful sarees mingle with priests in white robes, the atmosphere everywhere is redolent of the past. Even the Secretariat is a 14th century palace, Idalcao, built by the Sultan of Bijapur, Adil Shah. As for the Central Jail, across the Mandovi, it is really the 17th century Aguada Fort!

On the outskirts of Panaji is the ghost city of Old Goa, with its majestic churches; among them are the Bom Jesus Basilica, with the embalmed body of St. Francis Xavier, Se Cathedral, with the biggest bell in the world, the Chapel of St. Catherine, constructed in 1510 on the very spot where Alfonse Albuquerque defeated Adil Shah.There are temples too, including the one at Pernem, which has a spring with medicinal properties and the 12th century Mahadeva temple at Surla.

There is the 800-year-old Kalikadevi temple at Kansarpal, 14 kms away from Mapusa and the Sri Mahalsa temple at Mordal too, popular with people of all faiths because the deity Gomantaka is believed to fulfill the wishes of all her devotees. Visit the Shanta Durga Temple at Kavalem with its impressive idol of Goddess Durga, flanked by Vishnu and Shiva, and the 400-year-old Sri Mangesh Temple at Priol with its lofty stambha (lamp tower), a feature unique to Goan temples.

Discover Karnataka with Konkan Railway running through 273 kms of coastal Karnataka, a whole host of destinations have opened up to tourists. Mangalore, the palm-fringed port that forms the end of the Konkan Railway line, is located near the backwaters formed by the coverging Netravathi and Gurupur rivers. Eleven kms away is the Ullal beach with a picturesque seaside village situated at the mouth of the two rivers entering the sea.

From Mangalore you can visit 1the Sultan Battery, a remnant of Tipu Sultan's fort, which once guarded his naval station here. You can take excursions to Dharamsthala, noted for the Manjunatha temple, Ghati Subrahmanya, a popular pilgrim centre, Karkal, famous for its 13-metre high monolithic statue of Lord Gomoteswara, or you can laze around at the beach resorts of Maravanthe and Malpe.

If religion is what interests you, Udupi, where Konkan Railway has a station, is a well-known spot for pilgrims, one of south India's holiest Vaishnavite centres. The Hindu saint Madhav (1238-1317) was born here and the Krishna temple and mutts he founded draw people in lakhs. The largest numbers arrive in late winter when the town hosts a series of spectacular car festivals with gigantic chariots being drawn through the streets.

You may also, while in Udupi, take a boat from the nearby fishing village of Malpe beach to St. Mary's Island, where Vasco da Gama placed a cross in the 1400s, prior to his historic landing at Kozhikode in Kerala. An added attraction of a trip to Udupi is the piquant cuisine, now famous both in India and abroad. The masala dosa, the crisp stuffed pancake made of fermented rice flour was first prepared by brahmin hotels in this town.

There are many other places of interest - Mookambika Temple of Goddess Parvati, with its Swayambhu idol near Bijur; Sri Murdeshwar Temple near Kaikini; Kodagu (Coorg), the smallest district in the state, and the most beautiful hill station, with its coffee plantation and orange groves; the Nagarhole game sanctuary 77 km. away; the Kokrebellur and Ranganathittu bird sanctuaries, and of course, Shravanabelagola, a popular Jain pilgrim centre, wedged between the Indragiri and Chandragiri hills.

Here, the 1,800 year-old statueof Lord Gomateswara stands 17 metres high, and is one of the tallest and most graceful monolithic statues in the world. Once in every 12 years, on the occasion of Mahamastakabhishekha, this colossus is anointed with milk, curd, ghee and saffron.