Coastal Karnataka, is a strip between Kasargod and Karwar and between the Arabian Sea and Western Ghats. Including Malnad stretch is in many ways a geographical and cultural area that has many peculiarities and specialties!
Rich green vegetation, hilly geography with many ups and downs and plains, heavy rainfall, hot climate, a short and mild winter. A wide ethnic variety and food variety – have all lent a special dimension of dynamism, smartness and cultural specialities in this region. This area is full of rivers and rivulets . Even amidst extremes, the climate is enjoyable and inspiring.
Rice, aracanut, coconut farming and fishing are the basic occupations besides rubber, cashew, sugarcane, grain and grams crops are growing in importance. Localised specialties like jasmine flower, Udupi brinjol (gulla) are also important. The scenes of the paddy fields surrounded by forests, groves, hills and streams are very beautiful.
Language variety and ethnic variety are two outstanding features of this area, for a long time. Tulu, Konkani and Kannada are the three main languages of this area. Tulu, an old branch of Proto-Dravidian language has vast and rich folk literature and now, since few decades, has made significant progress in the written literature. Kannada has a number of variants, the Kota and Havyaka variants being the two significant ones. There are sizable communities speaking Marati, Malayalam, Hindi and Gujarati. Konkani which is also widely used, has atleast half a dozen variants in it.
Many waves of migration took place to this area since the 10th Century. Coastal Karnataka was exposed to western influence since 16th Century. All these linguistic and ethnic aspects have shaped the present cultural scene of the area. Prasidda Ullal Darga – A famous Muslim piligrim center
The religious variety of this area also presents a rich mosaic. Vedic, Jain, Christian, Muslim religions are prevalent here with large number of followers. Various tribal and ethnic communities (scheduled groups) have their own rituals, beliefs and ceremonies.The Bhuta (Spirit) worship, Naga (serpent) worship can be considered very special forms of worship of this region. The Coastal region has a large number of shrines, temples, Bhuta-gudis (spritual abodes), Bhajana Mandirs (Bhajan singing semi-temples), churches, mosques, serpent abodes etc. The total of all these may be three thousand.
Kollur, Gokarna, Idagunji, Udupi, Subramanya, Kateel, Dharmastala, Madhur, Ullal Darga, the churches at Karkala and Mangalore are some of the important religious and piligrim centres.
The Jain temples at Moodbidri and Karkala have earned these places the name ‘Jain Kashi’. The relics at Barkur, the gigantic monolithic Bahubali statues at Karkala, Venur and Dharmastala, the Kadri temple and the Lokeshwara statue there are some of the historically significant tourist attractions. The ‘Uru’ wooden idols at Mekkikatte are probably only one of their kind.
(Inside Mangalore Church)
Tiles, Beedi and Banking are three ventures that have become famous worldwide. Four major banks and another important bank of the country are from this area. Udupi and Mangalore hotels have spread all over the world and popularised Udupi-Mangalore food varieties. This area is known for private enterprises in every field and now hundreds of small and big industries are coming up.
Like Yakshagana and Bhuta worship, Kambala (buffalo race) is a prestigious folk sport here. Probably originating from a ritual, Kambala is now organised on modern lines with detailed rules and big awards and prizes. Cock fight (Koli Anka or Koli Pade) is another ancient sport.
Private education is one area in which this region has made major strides. The human resources supplied by this area to the country and to the world, are large, varied and regular. Traditional education in various forms was present here since long. The modern educational system was brought in by the Christian missionaries and the British rulers in the 19th Century and since then it has grown quite remarkably in quality, size and variety. This area is one of the most literate areas in the country. General education has reached the nook and corners of the region. Along with the general, professional colleges like those for Allopathic medicine, Ayurveda, engineering, management, nursing, industrial training, interior decoration, home science, social work etc have come up. Professionals, employees and entrepreneurs from this are both popular and successful all over the world.
Long and varied contact with outside world and dynamism natural to a coastal region, along with other historical factors have made this area more mixed and modernized than many places. Yet coastal Karnataka is retaining and fostering in rural life in Yakshagana,Bhutakola, festivals, rituals food and in languages, yet marching forward, modernizing in the process, in possessions, features and specialties.