September 26, 2016

The Western Sentinel

Far away from the dusty, tired roads of Mumbai, is the home of the Western Sentinel. The Guardian God of the West sits on his mountainous abode, looking into the west, a fact rarely heard of in Indian Temple Architecture. Our Gods look to the east; to look at the rising sun, to welcome a new day. In Ganpatipule however, he looks to the west, looking intently at the sea, perhaps aware of the dangers that could come our way; once again.

When you land here, you can feel the world slow down around you. Even the train station has none of the urgency one can think of. Straight from an R. K. Narayan novel, the station wakes up to welcome the trains and then go back to sleep again. At Ratnagiri, you can find the last memories of a forgotten Burmese King, held by the British, never to see his homeland again. Bit by bit, over the years in exile, he tried to recreate a piece of his home but it was never the same again.

The sea is treacherous around here; but beautiful. The beaches are quiet; devoid of humans and therefore of filth. It quietly rolls over the sands and within kilometres you can see the colours change from pristine white to jet black. Time moves slowly, allowing you to embrace it and feel every moment caress your cheek as it passes you by. The sea is calm and rolls incessantly into the night, playing music that can only be heard in silence. The stars come out in the night, visible without the incessant cover of smog over Mumbai.

The mangoes are everywhere. You can feel their presence as you drive by and the price does not frighten you off. The food feels distant and different from what you would have expected but then this is how cuisines develop locally and if you can find those small restaurants where the proprietors still make the day’s serving, you know you are in good hands. The most famous place to stay is the MTDC hotel and like most Government hotels the rooms are large and spacious and there ends the story. But the view remains outstanding from every single room.

But everything revolves around him. Everything, even the name itself, reminds one of the existence of the hamlet. He is not one who has the riches of his week-long avatars of Mumbai, neither does he have the imposing architecture of the Northern and the Southern Gods. He sits patiently, listening to the bells and to the sea.

Ganpatipule is not for the movers and shakers, it’s not for the throngs of followers. It’s for those who want to pause, even if for a bit.