“Rome of East”
Arriving to India on an MSC cruise ship and disembarking in the harbour of the bustling multicultural town of Mangalore, along the west coast of the subcontinent, means visit a stopping-off point between Goa and Kerala.
Named after the ancient temple of Mangaladevi at Bolar, 3km from the city centre, Mangalore was one of the most famous ports of South India and frequented by Arab traders.
It was already well known overseas in the sixth century as a major source of pepper. Mangalore’s strong Christian influence can be traced back to the arrival further south of St Thomas. Some 1400 years later, in 1526, the Portuguese founded one of the earliest churches on the coast, although today’s Rosario Cathedral, with a dome based on St Peter’s in Rome, dates only from 1910.
Closer to the centre, on Lighthouse Road, fine restored fresco, tempera and oil murals by the Italian Antonio Moscheni adorn the Romanesque-style St Aloysius College Chapel, built in 1885. Mangalore’s tenth-century Manjunatha temple is an important centre of the Shaivite and tantric Natha-Pantha cult. Thought to be an outgrowth of Vajrayana Buddhism, the cult is a divergent species of Hinduism, similar to certain cults in Nepal. Enshrined in the sanctuary are a number of superb bronzes, including a 1.5m-high seated Lokeshvara (Matsyendranatha), made in 958 AD and considered to be the finest southern bronze outside Tamil Nadu.
Mangalore’s twentieth century Kudroli Gokarnanatha Temple is another temple dedicated to Shiva, built in the Chola style with white marble flooring. Udupi (also spelt Udipi), on the west coast, 60km north of Mangalore, is one of south India’s holiest Vaishnavite centres.
The Hindu saint Madhva (XIII century) was born here, and the Krishna temple and maths (monasteries) he founded are visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year.