Most Indians know of Udupi as a type of 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. It lies on the coast, with the Arabian Sea to its west. The other two talukas are Kundapura on its north and Karkala, which on the west, at the foothills of the Western Ghats. To the south of Udupi is Mangalore, which is the headquarters of the Dakshina Kannada district.
The history of Udupi revolves around the story of the Krishna temple and matha (monastery, also spelt mutt)
While the temple is believed to have been 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 of Udupi city is an important educational and medical centre owing to the efforts of T M A Pai in the 60s.
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The weather is fairly equable throughout the year, due to the nearby Arabian sea. Temperature ranges from 30 to 35 degrees celsius in day time and is around 25 degrees at night. Humidity is normally high most of the time.
The rainy season is from June to September. At this time the monsoon shows its colours. Within seconds, you could find yourself soaked in rain water.
The best time to visit is October to March, when the weather is cool. April and May will be hot and June to September will be wet, so if you are visiting during this time, you will spend most of your time indoors. But then, April and May is when you get the ripe mangoes, and June to September is when the rains make the area green and beautiful, so life isn't fair.
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, Bangalore 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. Yeshwantpur-Karwar express is another train which connects Bangalore to Udupi and runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
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 and Maharashtra to Udupi. You may choose from Volvo (AC buses), Airbuses or KSRTC buses depending on your budget. Private buses generally have two stops in Udupi — the service bus stand at the centre of the city, and near Tiger circle at Manipal.
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 found on the street, 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
Sri Krishna Temple and Mutt, Ratha Beedi (Chariot Street), ☎ . 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 discourses held, located a short walk away. The Ratha Beedi is also a shopping street, interesting in its own right. Free.
Barkur, 16 km north of Udupi town. Barkur is a historic cluster of 3 villages where you can find the ruins of many forts, among them Simhasanagudde, Vijayanagara fort, and Nandana fort. You will also find many old Jain structures called basadis, in addition to many Hindu temples
Bengre Beach, near Kemmannu (Exit NH66 after Kallianpur Santhekatte and head towards Kemmannu). An estuary around 20 km away from Udupi town, you can see the sea on one side of the road and the river on the other.
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 one can get a nice view. It is 22km from manipal, MIT. ₹10 for the lighthouse. Beach is free.
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.
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. Free.
Pajaka Kshetra, Kunjarugiri, Udupi - 574 105 (around 10 km from the city centre), ☎ . , , 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.
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 4:30PM and from that island is 6PM. 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.
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.
Udupi has some great beaches, but thankfully, they aren't big water sports destinations like Goa, though there are some options. If you are the adventurous sort, you can head south to Mulki, Mangalore where the Ashram surf retreat combines surfing with spiritualism.
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 Rd. Roughly 35 km from Brahmavar, a white water rafting location. Dangerous place for swimming. Best time of visit is from July to late January.
Stay at a Houseboat, Paradise Isle Beach Resort Pvt. Ltd., Malpe Beach, ☎ , e-mail: , firstname.lastname@example.org. The trip takes you to Paradise Lagoon. Package includes all meals. It is not clear if packages of shorter duration are available - call to ask. The resort also offers normal rooms, and has some options for water sports as well. ₹14,000 for 2 nights, 3 days.
Manipal University, Manipal, 576104 Karnataka, India (around 5km from city centre), ☎ , e-mail: , email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. What used to be a forest has, thanks to the efforts of educationist T M A Pai, turned into an international university with colleges attracting students from all over the world. Particularly worthy of note is Kasturba Medical College that houses a hospital which is also a medical tourism destination
While Udupi, like any other city of moderate size, offers many opportunities to shop, and the Ratha Beedi area around the temple is a popular and interesting destination to buy what the city 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, altars, 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 are on many visitors' shopping lists in Udupi.
For your saree/dress purchases:
Kalsank Girija Silk, Badagupet, ☎ . For Kanchipuram, Dharmavaram, Banaras silk sarees.
Sai Ram Textorium, Opp. Sanskrit College, ☎ . Good shop for various kinds of dress materials.
Udupi is famous for traditional jewellery. Famous jewellers are:
Bhima Jewellers, 110 B, Maruti Veethika, Chitharanjan Circle, ☎ . Jewelery showroom
Swarna, Shankar Building, Mosque Rd, ☎ . This is one of the go-to shops for traditional Indian jewellery.
Snacks and packaged food
You can also buy traditional packaged food here. Wheat halwa and banana halwa that is made up of ghee and banana chips are well-known local specialities. 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.
Allwyn Stores, Vidyarathna Building, Near Bus Stand, ☎ . , Conveniently located, if you need to buy something in a hurry before setting off in a bus.
New Diana Stores, Diana Circle, opposite Syndicate Bank Towers, ☎ . This is good place to buy packaged foodstuffs.
Big Bazaar, Plot No. 88, 5D 6A, Opp. T.M.A Pai Hospital, Near Taluka Office, ☎ . A symbol of Udupi's modernization. The store is 40,000 sq ft in area and is equipped with escalators. Very popular and very crowded.
Nilgiri's, Himalaya Pearl, Udupi Manipal Main Road Kadiyali Kunjipettu Post, ☎ . Another of the supermarkets where you can supposedly buy everything. Nilgiri's is an over 100-year old brand, though the store is more recent.
Sampoorna Departmental Store, Ratha Beedi, ☎ .
Little Pai Super store, City Camp Building, Near Geethanjali Theatre, Vidyasamudra, ☎ . ,
The story of Matti Gulla
Vadiraja Swamy, a 16th century successor of Madhvacharya, was a great devotee of Hayagreeva, the deity that is reputed to be an Avatar of Vishnu in the form of a horse. He also had rivals who once tried to poison his food. But because he always offered his food to his god before consuming it, they effectively ended up offering poison to the deity. When said rivals realized their folly, they rushed to Vadiraja and asked for forgiveness and asked how they could make amends. Vadiraja, through his supernatural powers, gave them a few seeds of eggplant and asked them to plant them in Matti, a village near Udupi. The resulting variety of eggplant would be free of all "poison" - i.e. it would have a mild taste and be easy on the stomach. To this day, the variety of eggplant grown in Matti, known as Matti Gulla, is famous for these properties.
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 the avoidance of 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.
While the eat section of the Karavali article more than adequately covers the cuisine you are likely to encounter here, Udupi has some items of food that are unique to the place. One of them is the Matti Gulla (see infobox) a variant of eggplant. Ibbulle, a kind of musk melon is a speciality here. The best way to consume it is by turning it into rasayana, a kind of thick, pulpy juice. Ibbulle is such a localized fruit that there are people who've lived in Mangalore all their lives and have never heard of the fruit. Then there is Hayagreeva Maddi a sweet made of chickpea, coconut and jaggery that is offered as prasadam to Hayagreeva (see infobox) Golibaje, a traditional fried snack item made from maida (all-purpose flour) and yoghurt, is another speciality of Udupi. Also, try out the "Charmuri Upkari", a famous snack from the handcarts around Rathabeedi. The Ginger Soda is a famous drink available in many local shops.
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.
Meat-eaters will not be disappointed in Udupi either. Do not forget to try the famous non-veg dishes Kori Sukha (Chicken in spicy masala with grated coconut), Kori Rotti(Chicken curry with crisp rice roti) and seafood.
Udupi is, by and large conservative in its taste for food, sticking mostly to South Indian-North Indian-Chinese. If you are looking for international cuisines, Manipal is the place to go to.
7 Bees Cafe, Opp Mother Of Sorrows Church, K. M. Marg, ☎ . , , A famous fast food restaurant.
Akshaya Canteen (Shetra Hotel), opposite to Little Rock Indian School - Chanthar - Brahmavara (on the way from Udupi to Kundapur, at Brahmavara bus-stand 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 available here is good one. Many traditional food items like idly wada sambar, uppitu avalakki, rava vada, masala vada and other foods like maddur wada are very famous. It is worth a trip from Udupi to here to taste the food.
Basil Cafe, Princess Kirthi, Behind Manipal Edu Building, Manipal, ☎ . 11:30AM-11:30PM. Hangout place with a stylish ambience. Indian, Mexican and Italian.
Campus Veg treat, within Summer Park hotel complex near Gitanjali theatre. This is a multi-cuisine vegetarian restaurant. Try the Mushroom Handi Biryani.
Diana, Canara Mutual Building, Diana Circle (opposite the Fish Market), ☎ . , A 60-year old institution for 'fast food" Indian-style; the 'Channa Pathora', '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.
Dollops, Near State Bank of India, Tiger Circle, Manipal, ☎ . 11:30AM-11PM. A small eatery popular with students. Good food at cheap prices. Serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian items
Kushi, Santhekatte, on NH66 (near Robosoft Technologies). One of Udupi's most famous vegetarian restaurants, has been in existence for over 20 years. Also has 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.
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 'Golibaje, 'Dosa' ,'Idli' and 'Medu Wada' with 'Sambar' and Coconut Chutney. Accompany your meal with a hot cup of filter coffee, or a cold glass of badam (almond) milk
New Cinema Restaurant, Mythri Complex, Near Service Bus Stand (Near Alankar Theatre), ☎ . Vegetarian restaurant with reasonably priced food. Sweets made of pure ghee.
Parivar Sweets and Bakery, Sanskrit College Rd (Near Masjid), ☎ . , Famous for sweets made with milk and ghee.
Sri Venkateshwara Sweets And Condiments (Sanskrit College Road), Near Masjid, ☎ . Famous for sweets, bakery products and chat items.
Amanthrana, Shri Ramakrishna Lodge Building, Opp Githanjali Talkies, Near City Bus Stand, Udupi 576101, ☎ . Vegetarian restaurant famous for North Indian food, but serves South Indian as well
Thamboolam, Opp Kalpana theatre, ☎ . This is one of the few non-vegetarian restaurants in Udupi. Try the kori rotti here.
Woodlands, Dr UR Rao Commercial Complex, Near Adamaru Mutt Guest House, Tenkpet, ☎ . Another icon of Udupi, this is a vegetarian restaurant best known for South Indian food. Like every other restaurant in Udupi, it also serves North Indian food.
Attil (Attill), Laxmeendra Nagar, 2nd Cross, Udupi-Manipal Road, Manipal, ☎ . , Comparatively newly opened, Attil has been in existence since 2011. It has received rave reviews for its sea-food and chicken dishes.
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. Manipal, however, is a short hop away from the city centre, famous for its student population, and this is where you go if you want a drink.
You can try the unfermented toddy which is extracted early morning from coconut trees. This can usually be found near the beaches. Be very very careful about the quality and safety, however.
Cocks n' Mocks, End Point Road, Off SH65, Manipal. This bizarrely named "standing" bar serves cocktails and mocktails in addition to other alcoholic drinks (hence the name) You get your drink and food from over the counter at the roadside restaurant and consume them at one of the tables placed on the pavement. There is no seating. Cheap and very popular with the student crowd.
Dee Tee (Down Town Pub), Bhavani Hotel, Parkala Road (SH65), Eshwarnagar, Manipal (Manipal - 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.
Hotels are reasonably priced and cheap. Most hotels are concentrated around the city centre and the temple. The other option is to look for a hotel near Manipal, which is more expensive. The Paradise Island Beach Resort (see under "Do") is an option if you are looking for a beach holiday.
Fortune Inn Valley View, Madhava Nagar, Manipal, ☎ . Close to Manipal University. Facilities are good, but the price is way over what you'd expect in Udupi. ₹4,000-10,000.
Mango Suites Century, G B Panth Rd (off Udupi District Bus Stand), ☎ . Check-in: 12 noon, check-out: 12 noon. ₹1,400+tax.
Rukmini Residency (off Udupi District Bus Stand). Check-in: Any time, check-out: 24 hours. Good, basic hotel close to the Sri Krishna temple and city centre. ₹800.
To the west of Udupi lies the historic town of Karkala, which is a major religious centre for Jainism. There stands a 42 feet statue of the saint Bahubali (known as Gomateshwara), completely naked, as is the custom. At Moodabidri in Dakshina Kannada district, there is a Jain temple with thousand pillars (saavira kambada basadi).
There are many Hindu religious sites in the neighbourhood of Udupi. At Kollur in Kundapura taluk, there is a famous temple dedicated to the Goddess Mookambika. Further north is Uttara Kannada, home to many nice beaches like the Murudeshwar beach, around 150 km away, and Gokarna beach, around 250 km away. North of Uttara Kannada is Goa, which is around 5 hours by car.
- Hanging Bridge (Suspension Bridge) - around 15 km from Udupi near Kemmannu (Thonse). The best to visit is 5PM. The place is located near Kemmannu.
- Kudlu Theertha - a trek amidst the forest to the waterfall on the way to Agumbe via Hebri.