The headquarters of Uttar Kannada, Karwar approaches after a thrilling journey through 160km along road meandering gaily through the scenic sylvan settings, from Hubballi. This undulating stretch of road is graced by wild animals which inhabit the region galore. This area is characterised by beautiful hills and valleys. It was the chief town of the North Kanara district in British India. Karwar is a seaside town situated on the banks of the Kali River which is on the west coast of the Indian peninsula. The town lies about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of the Karnataka–Goa border and 519 kilometres (322 mi) north-west of Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka.
Karwar is known by the nearby southern villagers as Konkani word "Kone", Marathi word "Karwan" meaning the corner of the landmass before the river Kali. Karwar derived its name from the nearby village of Kadwad, which was prominent during the British Raj. The present Karwar is a new settlement. During the pre-Indian independence era, Karwar was spelt "Carwar".
Karwar was an ancient site of sea trade visited by the Arabs, Dutch, Portuguese, French and later the British. Ibn Battuta passed through this route during his journeys.
Cintacora, as it was known to the Portuguese, was a very old port and was also known as Chitrakul (Chittakula) and Sindpur. When Sadashivgad was built in this area, the village also came to be known by that name.
A fort existed at Cintacora which was captured and burnt by the Portuguese in 1510. They called it Pir fort due to the Muslim Dargah (Tomb of a Sufi Saint Shahkaramuddin) they found there – that was known in Portuguese as Forte de Piro or Pito.
The creek at the mouth of the Kali River was a trading center from early days. It came into greater prominence after Sadashivgad was built and the Portuguese realised the advantages of its sheltered harbour.
In 1638 a rival English trading body, the Courteen Association, established a factory at Kadwad village, 6 km east of present-day Karwar. It was frequented by traders from Arabia and Africa. Baitkhol port (the current civil port of Karwar) was famous for its natural harbour. The name Baithkhol is Arabic term, Bait-e-kol, meaning bay of safety. Muslin was the chief commodity along with pepper, cardamom, cassier and coarse blue cotton cloth. In 1649 the Courteen Association united with the British East India Company and Karwar became a Company factory. British East India Company used Karwar port to build fighting ships like Britannia (during 1715) with 18 guns, to defend Bombay, mainly from the attacks of Maratha Admiral Kanhoji Angre.
Kingdom of Mysore
In the Treaty of Mangalore signed in 1784, between Tipu Sultan and the East India Company, one finds reference to Karwar and Sadashivgad written as Carwar and Sadasewgude respectively.
Karwar was a part of the Maratha Empire during the 18th century. After the defeat of the Marathas in the Third Anglo-Maratha War, it became a part of British territory. It was a part of the Bombay Presidency until 1950.
The British Empire
The British made Karwar their district headquarters in 1862 under the Bombay Presidency. The renowned Bengali poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who visited Karwar in 1882, dedicated a chapter of his memoirs to this town. The 22 year old Tagore stayed with his second brother, Satyendranath Tagore, who was the district judge in Karwar.
Significant and picturesque, the historically important fort Sadashivgad is now a popular tourist destination located by the Kali river bridge at the confluence of the river and the Arabian Sea. Kot Siveshvar, a fortress in proximity of the town of Karwar, is an attraction that visitors should stop by if their itinerary permits. The fortress, built by Bijapur Sultanate, falls within a small village named Siveshvar. According to historians, Kot Siveshvar was constructed to safeguard the northern extremes of Canara. Though the site is in dilapidated condition now, a well, a Muslim graveyard and a tunnel located at the eastern gate are still visible.
Situated on the shores of Arabian Sea, Karwar also has an enchanting beach with the fir tree groves providing a cool canopy. The beautiful waters are sporadically scattred upon with placid islets, known as the Oyster Rocks about 11 km from the city of Karwar. A light house can also be seen here. These islets play a considerable role in maritime activities and a number of domestic and foreign ships can be seen here, moored around them most of the times.
The ravishing river kali adds to the charms of the valley. The ruins of Shivaji’s Fort known as Sadashivagarh stands on a bridge across this river. Exhilarating launches are conducted on the river to make the visit all the more memorable.
The important monuments here are the Durga Temple at Sadashivagarh and the Darga of Peer kamruddin. There is also a modern Caustic Soda Factory at Binaga.