Most Indians know of Udupi as the type of an inexpensive restaurant that generally serves vegetarian food in the South Indian style. Not many know of the sleepy coastal town from which this great cuisine originated, that does duty as the headquarters of the eponymous Udupi district in the Karavali, or coastal region of Karnataka. Still fewer know of its reputation as the location of a Krishna temple with rich history and a monastery established by the founder of one of the three main philosophical strains of present-day Hinduism. Many, however, have heard of Manipal, a major educational centre, and a suburb of Udupi, that attracts students from all over India and internationally.
Rather confusingly, the town of Udupi lies in Udupi taluka which in turn is in Udupi district. This article covers not only the town, but also its surrounding areas, the region roughly corresponding to Udupi taluka. The taluka is one of the three divisions of Udupi district and it lies on the coast, with the Arabian Sea to its west. The other two talukas are Kundapura, which lies to its north and Karkala, which lies to the west, on the foothills of the Western Ghats. To the south of Udupi is Mangalore, which is the headquarters of the Dakshina Kannada district.
The Udupi Sri Krishna Temple
The history of Udupi or Rajathapeethapura ( place of silver throne) revolves around the story of the Krishna temple and matha (monastery, also spelt mutt)
While the temple is believed to be in existence for over 1500 years, the idol was installed by the sage Madhvacharya in the 13th century. He is the founder of the Dvaita philosophy, which is commonly translated as dualism. In contrast to the older Advaita (non-dualism) propounded by Sankaracharya, Dvaita philosophy holds that the human and animate souls have an independent existence from the divine Universal Soul, of the Paramatma. The adherents of the Dvaita philosophy are generally Vaishnavites, who worship Vishnu in his various incarnations, among whom Krishna is one.
Legend has it that Madhvacharya used his divine powers to miraculously save a ship that was in the thick of a storm. The ship happened to have set sail from Dwaraka, the city that used to be Krishna's home, and was carrying an idol of him. The captain of the ship, in gratitude, gifted the idol to his saviour, who then went on to install it in the Krishna temple where he worshiped.
In the midst of propounding his philosophy and performing miracles, Madhvacharya also found time to establish a monastic order consisting of eight mathas (Ashtamathas) located in various places around Udupi. Each of these mathas were headed by one of his main disciples, and he decreed that after he passed on, they and their successors would head the main Udupi matha in rotation for two months each. One of his notable later day successors, Vadiraja of Sode Matha, who lived during the 16th century, changed the tenure from two months to two years. This practice, called Paryaya continues to this day. The handover to the new head of Udupi matha happens on 18 January on even numbered years, and is an occasion for much celebration and many religious ceremonies.
Politically, the city had an uneventful history. It was ruled by various feudatories of the Mysore kings till it was taken over by the British, who then made it part of the administrative district of Kanara, which was then divided into South and North Kanara. Udupi was part of the former. After independence, South Kanara became Dakshina Kannada, and in 1998, Udupi district was hived off from Dakshina Kannada, with the city as the headquarters of the district.
It had a nascent career as a financial hub till the 60s, with many banks being established here, but most of them got nationalized. Manipal, a suburb Udupi city is an important educational and medical centre owing to the efforts of T M A Pai in the 60s.
The weather is fairly equable throughout the year, due to the nearby Arabian sea. Temperature ranges from 30 to 35 degrees centigrade in day time and is around 25 degrees during the night. Humidity is normally high most of the time.
The rainy season is from June to September. At this time the monsoon shows its true colours in this area. Within seconds, you can find yourself soaked in rain water.
Udupi is well-connected with the cities on India's west coast. NH66 (formerly NH17) runs right through Udupi, connecting it to Mumbai and Goa to the North and Mangalore and Kochi to the South. Konkan Railway connects Udupi to the same cities. The city is around 406 km from Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. Rail connectivity with Bangalore is good, but travelling by road is a nightmare due to the poor condition of the roads near the Western ghat sections.
Mangalore International Airport is 59 km from Udupi. The airport is well-connected with major Indian cities and a few Middle-eastern destination.
Prepaid taxis (non air-conditioned) can be booked from the counter located inside the arrival terminal at ₹780 (as on 14-Jun-2008). They take approximately 1.5 hours to reach.
Goa's Dabolim airport is around 300km from Udupi. Getting in via Goa is not the most practical or convenient way to get to Udupi, but if you are planning to combine a vacation in Goa, this is a good option.
Udupi is a major station on the Konkan railway route. There are connections with Mumbai and Mangalore. Major trains including Rajadhani Express stop at Udupi Railway Station. A night train is available from Mangalore to Bangalore, known simply as the Mangalore-Bangalore express.
Udupi is located right on National Highway NH66 (formerly NH17) connecting Cochin with Mumbai. See Karavali#Get in about the lowdown on this route. This connects Udupi with Kerala, Coastal Karnataka (including Mangalore), Goa, and the Konkan region of Maharashtra. Drive in on your own only if you are used to driving on Indian highways. Alternatively, hire a driver or take a cab.
From Bangalore, you first need to come to Mangalore via roads which mostly pass through zig-zag hilly roads, or ghats. NH48 is the road that connects Bangalore and Mangalore, which passes through Shiradi Ghat. However, the ghat roads seem to get damaged every year, so make inquiries in advance and decide which of the four ghats is relatively passable and adjust that portion of the route accordingly.
Buses regularly ply from major southern cities to Udupi. You may choose from Volvo (AC buses), Airbuses or KSRTC buses depending on your budget.
Kanaka's window, Udupi Krishna temple
Buses, cabs and autorickshaws are ways to get around the city. Udupi has excellent city bus services run by various private companies. Buses generally start and end at the main bus stand. Bus stops are located throughout the city. Ask around. Tickets can be bought once you board or from the conductor just before boarding. Rates start from ₹5 per 2km.
Hired cabs are available, though they can't be hailed off the street. They are unmetered, but as a general guide, ₹15 per kilometer for an non-airconditioned compact car for short distances is a good starting point.
Autorickshaws can be, and are generally a cheap mode to travel. For autos, fares start at ₹20 for the first 1.5 km and go up by ₹14 every kilometer after that. This is assuming that they agree to go by the meter, which they generally do not. Nonetheless, this is a good guide to estimate the rate you should agree to.
Walking around the city when the weather is good is a nice experience. There aren't any footpaths though, so you will have to share the side of the road with autos and bikes.
Udupi has some nice beaches, lush greenery, the quaint charm of a small town and many temples. Many of the places to visit are not very well known to many people outside of Udupi. If you are an adventurous person who loves nature, there is a lot to explore in Udupi.
- Sri Krishna Temple and Mutt, Ratha Beedi (Chariot Street), ☎ +91-820-252 0598, . 5AM-9:30PM. This is the main attraction in Udupi. The Krishna Matha (or Mutt) was established by Madhvacharya in the 13th century. This is a complex of temples and monasteries located near the Madhva Sarovara, or Madhvacharya's pond. Madhva Sarovara has a "mantapa" or canopy at its centre, and the pond is often beautifully lit. Bathing at the Sarovara may or may not be possible. Inquire before taking the plunge. The main temple itself is constructed in the architectural style typical in Kerala and Dakshina Kannada, with multiple layers around the inner sanctum sanctorum, with no massive sikhara over it as is found elsewhere in South India. There are shrines to subordinate deities including Garuda and Hanuman. On special occasions, the temple area is beautifully decorated with flowers and lamps. The unusual feature of this temple is that the statue faces west, and away from the devotees. The reason for this, apparently, is that a lower-caste devotee named Kanakadasa was denied entry into the temple, so he tried worshiping from a small window outside it. The Lord was so pleased at his devotion that He turned around to face the window. The window is now known as Kanakana kindi, or Kanakadasa's window. Look for a massive Gopura (or tower) that has since been built over this window. Remember to take the blessings of the Temple elephant located outside the temple. To enter the temple, men have to take off their shirts and vests. Offerings can be made and "prasadam" can be bought inside. The temple offers free lunch to everyone at three dining halls, or Bhojana Shaalas. Outside the temple is the "Ratha beedi", or "chariot street". On major festive occasions such as the "Paryaya", the deity is taken in procession in temple chariots. The chariots themselves are usually stationed at Ratha beedi most times. All around the Ratha beedi are the headquarters of the 8 mathas, or Ashtamathas. These mathas are places of worship in their own right. There are other temples located around the area. In addition, Gita Mandira and the Rajangana, where cultural programmes and discources held, located a short walk away. The Ratha Beedi is also a shopping street, interesting in its own right. Free. (13.34112,74.75201) edit
- Kapu Beach (Kaup Beach), off NH66, driving south from Udupi. Lighthouse closes at 4:30PM. Nice, relatively unknown beach. There is a lighthouse from which once can get a nice view.Its 22Km from manipal, MIT. ₹10 for the lighthouse. Beach is free.. edit
- Malpe beach, SH65, near Stella Maris Church. Visit Malpe beach where you can take fantastic pictures of the sunset in the background of St Mary's island. Nice clean beach, not currently inundated by foreign tourists. Free. (13.3565,74.7015) edit
- Manipal End-point Park, SH65, Manipal. A small cliff that overlooks the Suwarna river. From this point, you can get a beautiful view of the sea as well as the mountains. Very popular with Manipal University students about 10 years back and is now locked. Free. edit
Volcanic rocks at St Mary's Island
- Pajaka Kshetra, Kunjarugiri, Udupi - 574 105 (around 10 km from the city centre), ☎ +91 820 255-9013, +91 820 200-9013 +91 94489-52913, . The birthplace of Madhvacharya, considered a holy place by believers. Has a temple dedicated to Durga, a memorial dedicated to Madhvacharya and some ponds, bathing in which supposedly cleanses one of all sins. Free. edit
- St Mary's Island, Off Malpe Beach (boats are available from Malpe fishing harbour). Rock formations created by a mixture of volcanic lava flow and waves. Legend has it that the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama landed here and claimed the island in the name of Mother Mary. The island also has a beautiful beach which is worth visiting. The last boat to that island is around 4:30 pm and from that island is 6:00 pm. The boat leaves only if there are around 30 visitors. Waiting time is about 30 minutes for a bus load of tourists to arrive before the boat leaves. It is best to do this in the evening. edit
- Udyavar Pithrodi, Udyavar (3 km from Udupi town. Take a boat to Pithrodi island). This is an island at the mouth of a river that is near Udyavar beach. Within 100 meters of the sea, you get an amazing view at the island. Beware of pollution from the nearby fishing mills though. Boatman may charge around ₹10 per person. edit
Udupi has some great beaches, but thankfully, they aren't big water sports destinations like Goa. If you are the adventurous sort, you can head south to Mulki,there is a great lace called carribean beach in chitrap mulki where you can relaxMangalore where the Ashram surf retreat combines surfing with spiritualism.
If the mountains are what you are after, turn east to Karkala, where Agumbe and other places provide some excellent trekking opportunities.
See if you can catch a performance of Yakshagana, a Bhoota Kola or a Naga Mandala. The latter two are essentially religious rituals, but a sight to watch. The Yakshagana is a genre of dance-drama that is native to the Karavali region. The performances are advertised only in local Kannada newspapers, so it might be somewhat difficult to catch them. Also, to fully appreciate Yakshagana, you need to understand Kannada or Tulu.
- White water rafting at Jomlu Theertha, Belve Village, Brahmavar-Hebri Road. Roughly 35 km from Brahmavar, a white water rafting location. Dangerous place for swimming. Best time of visit is from July to late January. edit
- Thekkatte, (From Udupi take the Highway towards Kundapur). 30 Min drive. This place is away from crowd and pollution. It has a beautiful beach where the tides are low and even kids can enjoy the water here. edit
Merchants at the temple. Shopping at Ratha Beedi
While Udupi, like any other city of moderate size offers many opportunities to shop, the Ratha Beedi area around the temple is a popular and interesting destination to buy what it is best known for. Most people who visit the temple combine their religious sojourn with a shopping expedition. On major festive events, the area around the Krishna temple comes abuzz with many temporary shops set up for the occasion.
Befitting Udupi's status as a culinary paradise, many of the items on the must shop list at Ratha Beedi are culinary. Snacks and juice extracts top the list. Spices and oils used in traditional Udupi cooking can also be bought here. Shops that sell vessels and other implements used to prepare Udupi-style cuisine are scattered all over the street. Among these are aluminium pans to make guliyappa and the aruvamane used to scrape coconuts.
Other items to look out for are wood handicraft items such as agarbatti stands, idols of deities, alters, etc. This is also a good place to buy Ayurvedic medicines and massage oils.
Clothing, particularly silk sarees but also other traditional Indian and western dresses, and Jewellery are the other two big items that ought to be on your shopping list in Udupi.
For your Saree/Dress purchases:
- Kalsank Girija Silk, Badagupet, ☎ 0820-2522810. It is an exclusive showroom for Kanchipuram, Dharmavaram, Banaras silk sarees. edit
- Kalsank Girija Fabrics, Badagupet. It is an exclusive showroom for dress materials. edit
- Sairam Textorium, Udupi. It is an exclusive showroom for various kinds of dress materials. edit
Udupi is famous for traditional jewellery. Famous jewellers are:
- Abharan, Corporation Bank Road, Udupi-576 101, ☎ +91-820 4297777,+91-820 2521267 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 10:30AM-6:30PM. Get a wide variety of jewellery edit
- Bhima Jewellers. Jewelery Showroom edit
- Swarna, Shankar Building, Mosque Road, Udupi 576 101, ☎ +91-825 23655, . This is one of the go-to shops for traditional Indian jewellery. edit
Snacks and packaged food
You can also buy traditional packaged food here. The 'Wheat Halwa', Banana Halwa that is made up of Ghee and the 'Banana Chips' of this place are well-known. Mango pickles from here are great as well. Purchase these items from any local store. Enquire in any of these local stores for other local coastal delicacies.
- Diana Stores. This is good place to buy packaged food stuff edit
- Sampoorna Departmental Store, car street. edit
- Little Pai Super store, near Gitanjali theatre. edit
- Big Bazaar, near Taluk office. The store is 40,000 sq ft in area and is equpped with escalators. It has brought a new dimension for shopping to citizens of Udupi. edit
- MY PLANET, ANUGRAHA COMPLEX (NEAR ABHARAN JEWELLERS), ☎ 08202521059. ONE STOP SHOP FOR BABIES & KIDS edit
The vegetarian cuisine of Udupi is famous all over India and among Indians abroad. For this reputation, it must thank the Sri Krishna temple and its traditions. The temple offers free food to everyone who wants to partake of it. The cooks have traditionally been the Brahmins belonging to the Shivalli sect, who, over the centuries, have perfected the art of cooking that adheres to "Satvik" principles. This requires, not just vegetarianism, but also that they avoid food like onion and garlic, as these are said to excite the baser senses. In spite of these limitations, the food of Udupi tastes great, with subtle flavours.
Starting from the middle of the 20th century, many people from Udupi (and the Karavali region in general) migrated to Mumbai for better career opportunities. Often, the migrants were bachelors who naturally craved food from back home, and a significant number were Brahmins who would not let go of caste related taboos against eating food cooked by non-Brahmins. The Udupi Restaurants came up in Mumbai to cater to this group of people. Very soon, these eateries, serving cheap, nutritious and vegetarian food became very popular and spread all over India. However, very few of these restaurants have stayed true to their roots - and today, you are likely to find the usual South Indian-North Indian-Chinese cuisines in those restaurants.
Golibaje: This traditional snack item is speciality of Udupi food. made from Miada and curd. Eat Golibaje from Mitra Samaja and you will never forget that taste!
- Mitra Samaja, Near the Krishna temple, within the temple complex. . Over fifty years old, it is a local institution. You can sample authentic Udupi dishes like 'Goli Bhaje, 'Dosa' ,'Idli' and 'Medu Wada' with 'Sambar' and authentic Coconut Chutney. However, this place looks dilapidated and run down. edit
- Diana, Diana Circle opposite Big Bazaar in Taluk Office. An institution for 'fast food" Indian-style; the 'Channa Batura', 'Banana Bonda' and 'Veg Noodles' are favourites. The Veg cutlets here also are yummy.In the weekends, this restaurant is packed with college students. Being situated at a busy junction affords good view of the bustle outside, especially when seen from the first floor section. Not to forget the famous "Gadbad" ice cream served at Diana's. Diana is famous for its Dahi Wada, Masala Dosa, Wada Sambar,Puri Kurma & Bombay Cutlet. Also the Kashmiri Pulao is excellent. edit
- Woodlands, near Adamaru matha choultry. It is well known for its south indian vegetarian food. This is an air-conditioned restaurant, which is a relief during the hot Indian summer months. Taste is so delicious that it is mostly packed by evening on almost all days. It also serves north Indian style vegetarian food. Gobi Manchuri is something not to miss out for. edit
- Hotel Kushi. Located at Santhekatte around 5 km from Udupi on N.H. 17, near to Robosoft Technologies, is a local and one of the most famous restaurant and an ice cream parlour. You can sample authentic Udupi dishes like 'Goli Bhaje, 'Masala Dosa' ,'Idli Vada Sambar' with the special Coconut Chutney. You can also try the Grape juice and the lassi which is very famous. This small eatery, has served the people for around 20 years. edit
- Amanthrana. is a famous multicusine vegetarian restaurant near Gitanjali theatre. edit
- Campus Veg treat, within Summer Park hotel complex near Gitanjali theatre. is a multicuisine vegtetarian restaurant which opened recently. Try Mushroom Handi Biryani over there. edit
- Thamboolam. is a famous non-vegetarian restaurant located near Kalpana theatre. edit
- 7 Bees, K. M. Marg. is a famous fast food restaurant. edit
- You can have the taste of "Charmuri Upkari" one of the famous taste of Udupi from different small mobile shops at Rathabeedi.
- Parivar and Sri Venkateshwara Sweets and Condiments located in Sanskrit College Road are famous for sweets, bakery products and chat items.
- Akshaya Cantee (Shetra Hotel), opposit to Little Rock Indian School - Chanthar - Brahmavara (on the way from Udupi to Coodapur, at brahmavara bustand take right turn toward Hebri, on the way to Hebri after Brahmavara 4 km journy). It is very famous and traditional managed small canteen. But food availabe here is good one. Many traditional food like, idly wada sambar, uppitu avalakki, rava vada, masala vada and other foods like maddur wada very famous. It is very worth to travel from Udupi to here to taste the food. edit
- Hot Spot, Near KM Marg Opposite Syndicate Bank. edit
- Do not forget the famous non-veg dishes Kori Sukha (Chicken in spicy masala with grated coconut), Kori Rotti(Chicken curry with crisp rice roti), Sea Fish delicacies.
Despite the overwhelming association with cheap vegetarian fare, seafood aficionados will find an unlikely sanctum sanctorum in Udupi. Thanks to the proximity to the sea, the quality of fish and the preparation is excellent. You will find fish that are abundant on the west coast, such as Chonak and Pomfrets here. During the right season, you will find prawns as well. You can partake of them either at restaurants like the ones mentioned above, or at little shacks next to the beaches. There are a couple outside Malpe Beach, for instance, where you can have an incredible fried Chinese pomfret for just Rs. 150 - which might be the best value meal you could have for this cuisine! Restaurants will have fish prepared in rava masala fry, butter garlic fry or just plain tawa fry; or of course as part of gravy preparations.
It is fair to say that Udupi, being a temple town, is not a great place to have alcoholic drinks, and this sleepy town is not known for a vibrant night life. You can always try the famous Ginger soda which is available at all local shops. You may also try the unfermented toddy which is extracted early morning from coconut trees. This can usually be found near the beaches.
- Akshaya Cantee (Shetra Hotel), opposit to Little Rock Indian School - Chanthar - Brahmavara (on the way from Udupi to Coodapur, at brahmavara bustand take right turn toward Hebri, on the way to Hebri after Brahmavara 4 km journey). It is very famous and traditional managed small canteen. But food availabe here is good one. Many traditional food like, idly wada sambar, uppitu avalakki, rava vada, masala vada and other foods like maddur wada very femous. It is very worth to travel from Udupi to here to taste the food. edit
- Madhavendra Juice Centre. Here you can try different on the spot prepared flavoured soft drinks at which is located in Car street on Tenkapet Road.
- Mitra Samaja Here you can try authentic filter coffee (coffee brewed from beans grown in South India, boiled with milk and sugar). If you want a cold drink, try "Badam Milk" (milkshake flavoured with almond and sugar).
- Pancharatna Paradise, Court Road. edit
- NEW CIEMA RESTAURANT, NEAR ALANKAR THEATRE, ☎ 2520807. SOUTH INDIAN CUISINE AND PURE GHEE SWEETS edit
- Down Town (MANIPAL), Dsharath nagar (Manipal - Udupi). 10 min drive from udupi. Beautiful place to dine. Has an attached Sports Bar and a lounge. A place with decent crowd where you may party the whole night. It's limited till 12Am these days edit
- Vaishali Pav Bhaji Center, Opposite Sanskrit College, Near Car street. If you ever want to have a chat or quick bites like vada pav or pav bhaji, then there is no better place than Vaishali Pav bhaji stall. Very well known among the locals for its mouth watering taste. edit
- Parnakuti Homestay, On the edge of Manipal overlooking valley, ☎ 91-0-9342759000. checkin: Any time; checkout: 24 Hour. Parnakuti Homestay has series of rooms overlooking valley on to Arabian sea! Close to nature, away from hustle bustle of city living, this place is a paradise for peace seekers. Rs. 2000. edit
- Hotel Udupi Residency, Near service Bus Stand, ☎ 91-820-2530005. checkin: Any time; checkout: 24 Hour. Udupi Residency is centrally air-conditioned, and all 33 rooms have a full range of amenities, from attached baths, air-conditioning and dining facilities to cable television and Internet access Rs. 1039. edit
- Hotel Kidiyoor, Near Bus stop. checkin: 24 hrs. 850. edit
- Hoode Kemmanu Houseboats. just 13 km from Lord Shri Krishna Temple. edit
- Mango Hotels, Udupi (The Smart Executive HOTEL), GB Panth Road (off Udupi District Bus Stand), ☎ 0918202593311, . checkin: 12 noon; checkout: 12 noon. USD 25. edit
- Rukmini Residency, (off Udupi District Bus Stand), . checkin: Any time; checkout: 24 hours. INR 800. edit
Religious Places around Udupi
- Udupi Sri Krishna Temple & Ashta Mathas
- Kollur Sri Mookambika Temple
- Kumbashi Sri Vinayaka Temple
- Gomteshwar Jain temple (50 km away)
- Bahubali Jain temple
- Parshwanath Jain temple with thousand pillars (80 km away)
- Murudeshwar Mahadev temple (150 km)
- The small village of Barkur has many temples and is an architectural delight, situated near Brahmavar
- St.Lawrence shrine, Karkala (37 km east of Udupi)
- Milgres Cathedral, Kallianpur (5 kms north)
- Mount Rosary Church, Kallianpur (5 km north)
- Kaup (30 km). Also houses a functional light house.
- Murudeshwar beach (150 km). Shiva temple on beach and a fishing hub.
- Gokarna Beach (250 km towards Goa)
- Bengre Beach - an estuary around 20km away from Udupi town. Take the highway towards Kundapur, after 5 kms at Kallianpur Santhekatte get off the NH17 to the left and head towards Kemmannu. Bengre is an estuary wherein you could see the sea on one side of the road and the river on the other. There is a shack you could go to that serves fresh toddy and fish to go with it.
- Hanging Bridge (Suspension Bridge) - around 15 kms from Udupi near Kemmannu (Thonse). The best to visit is 5:00pm. The place is located near Kemmannu.
- Kudlu Theertha - a trek admist the forest to the waterfall on the way to Agumbe via Hebri.
- Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary
- Carribean Beach (chitrap),mulki - around 2 kms from mulki main bus stand, here you can see the river kissing the sea forming a delta.a best place for family to relax.
- St Mary's Island
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