After a hectic day one of our trip, we are not sure if we would have enough energy to wake up before sunrise to go to the Machilipatnam beach to catch the sunrise but travel is the best energy pill and though we slept at 12.30 AM the previous night, we were up and ready by 6 AM for a visit to the Manginapudi beach, 11 kms from Machilipatnam city.
Like all the other places we visited in this trip, Machilipatnam too has a history that goes back to 3rd Century BCE. Masulipatnam as it was known then, was one of the important ports of the Satavahanas. Wikipedia says Muslin cloth gets it name from Masulipatnam where the cloth was popularly traded in the days of yore by the Greeks. Machilipatnam, then became a Portuguese settlement in the 14th Century A.D, then the Dutch came in the 16th Century and finally the British.
With such a rich history to back it, Machilipatnam is, today, the headquarters of Krishna District. True to its status as a headquarter, the city is relatively clean and less crowded. A beautiful beach is an added attraction.
Morning hues of Manginapudi
The drive to Manginapudi tooks us about 15 minutes, the freshness of the morning made the drive all the more pleasant. May be because of its colonial history, there is a European feel to the city or may be it was all in our mind !
When we reached the beach, there was no sign of the sun, as it always happens, there was a huge cloud cover ! We weren’t expecting to see sunrise, our previous experiences at beaches taught us not to expect anything better but the sun hiding behind the clouds gave out some beautiful shades on the sky. A jet plane had just crossed the sky and the trail left by it was reflected on the shore, the clouds too seemed to have descended on the shore !
We did not remember seeing such scenes reflected on the shore and then it struck us that the Manginapudi beach was very flat, it does not have the slope that most beaches have just where the waves reach the shore. Even the sand is more firm and smooth, it looks like the wave pools that you find in amusement parks !
Though the sun had risen, the clouds seemed to have decided that it was not yet time for the sun to make his appearance before humans but the sun had other plans and sent out rays from behind the clouds illuminating the eastern side of the sky, the western sky was still in slumber, the sky on this side wore a darker shade of blue.
The waves were rather rough, probably the sea too was full of energy early in the morning. Soon, the sun shone from behind the clouds, lighting up the sea. The early morning blues gave way to shades of gold and silver !
Closer to the shore, people were having a fun time splashing in the waves, while far across the horizon, someone was busy riding the waves in search of their livelihood.
Some others drew peace from watching the soothing sight of the sun lit sea.
As the sun got brighter, we headed back and stopped for some early morning chai at the only tea shop at the beach. We sipped our tea, enjoying the sight of the sea, except for the litter, everything else was pleasant.
Any ideas on how we can get our people to stop littering?
Back from the beach, we had a quick breakfast at our hotel, breakfast at Vani Boutique hotel is complimentary. We were then ready to take leave of Machilipatnam city and set out to explore a slice of history of the place, starting with the Bandar Kota.
Before that, we bought a truck load of the famous “Bandar Laddu” or “Thokkudu Laddu”, you cannot leave Machilipatnam without tasting the Bandar Laddu !
Machilipatnam is also called Bandar, a named it acquired during the reign of Golconda Sultanate, Bandar in Persian means “port”. Headquartered in Hyderabad, the nearest port for the Golconda kings was Machilipatnam.
The Dutch established their settlement in the 16th Century A.D and built a small fort, which is today known as the “Bandar Kota” or Bandar Fort. Google Maps took us to the outskirts of Machilipatnam, we asked a passerby the directions and he told us that in the 40 years of his living in Machilipatnam, he had never heard about the Bandar Fort !
One more person told us there was no fort as such but if we drove further, we could see a few old walls. True to what he said, we did spot a few ruined walls with overgrowth, driving on, we arrived at what was left of the Bandar Fort.
The fort must have been some kind of an administrative building during the time of the Dutch, today it serves many purposes, it is a washing yard, a park, a playground, it seems to be everything except a place of historical importance !
The main gate was locked so we couldn’t go inside the fort. From between the gate railings, we managed to click these pictures.
Imagine the Dutch walking around here at a time when Machilipatnam was bursting with trade activity.
Near the fort buildings, there is a tower, which looked like some kind of a watch tower.
Further up, hidden behind over growth was what looked like a warehouse. The place was deserted and we were a little wary of venturing to there but nevertheless, we decided to have a look.
We spotted two kids who told us that during the British rule the building was used to store bombs !
Whether they really knew the history or it was just their wild imagination, we don’t know but it was fun listening to the kids tell us all kinds of stories about the place. They even told us till recently, one could find the bombs inside !
We peeped in through the gate railings and found an empty hall.
With the Machilipatnam port nearby, this must have been a warehouse during the Dutch period and probably an armoury during the British. Nobody, except those amusing kids seemed to have any idea !
Before more people began to give us curious looks, wondering what the two of us found so interesting about the abandoned buildings, we left the Bandar Kota, continuing our journey further back into history.
Business hub of the BC era
Machilipatnam had always been an important trade centre even before the Dutch stepped in. Way back during the Sathavahana period or probably even before that, in the 3rd Century BCE, Masulipatnam was a thriving port. The Greeks knew the port by the name Maisolos. It also served as an important port for the Kakatiyas and the Golconda kings and finds a mention in the journals of Marco Polo.
Of course, today, you wouldn’t find the ancient port but we still wanted to make a quick visit to the present day Machilipatnam port.
The port is a short drive from Machilipatnam city, as you reach closer to the port, you will find mangroves on either side of the road.
The road borders the backwaters until you the reach the port. We were a little hesitant to drive up to the port, considering security and permissions. Being a Sunday, the port was closed and we met the security guard who told us we could drive around if we wanted to but there was nothing to see.
We drove near a docks and could see a lot of fishing boats at the docks.
The port of today hardly resembles the trade hub that Machilipatnam was, once upon a time, this may not even have been the exact place where the ancient port was located. But, one can always imagine, Greek and Roman ships, Roman coins, people busy trading their wares !
There were a few boatmen who offered to take us on a boat ride to a nearby island, they told us it was very scenic but we did not take the offer because it was too expensive and we were also short of time. All that mattered to us was we managed to see a slice of Machilipatnam’s long history as a business hub.
- Machilipatnam is about 60 kms from Vijayawada and an important railway head.
- Vani Boutique Hotel is a good place to stay at Machilipatnam.
- You can find autos to Manginapudi beach. To reach the Bandar Fort and Machilipatnam port, you may have to hire an auto if you don’t have your vehicle.
- Bandar Fort does not have any timings, you will be lucky if there is someone to open the gates in the first place !
- We are not sure if the general public is usually allowed to visit the Machilipatnam port on normal days. The drive to the port is beautiful with the scenic mangroves and backwaters.
- Machilipatnam may not be your typical tourist spot but if you happen to be in Vijayawada or travelling to Machilipatnam for whatever reasons, these are the places you could visit. And, don’t forget the Bandar Laddu !
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