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“Rome of East”
Arriving to India on an MSC cruise ship and disembarking in the harbor 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, 2 miles from the city center, 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 center, 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 center 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, 37 miles north of Mangalore, is one of south India’s holiest Vaishnavite centers.
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.