Despite listening to stories about that place on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra, nothing could have prepared me for it.
As I cycled slowly towards Harnai beach, on my Mumbai to Goa solo cycling expedition, the first thing that struck me was the chaos. It was almost as if something extraordinary was happening, though it was just another normal day. After riding in relative quiet for days, it took me a few minutes to adjust to this.
Colourful boats rested lazily on the shore. Young kids played on the beach as the sun prepared itself to take a break from this part of the world.
And that is how I first locked my eyes with the Harnai fish market. For a fish market which is said to auction tens of millions rupees worth of fish every day, there was hardly any infrastructure. Fishermen came back with their day’s catch and it was auctioned off right on the beach.
It was as if letting the fishes travel any further ashore would ruin their flavour.
Every day through the entire year, this market-on-the-beach comes to life at 8.30am and 5pm. The signal is when fishermen return with baskets filled with mackerels, bombay duck, shrimps, squids and much more. Soon after, the fishes would have probably found their way into spicy curries across the homes and restaurants of the Konkan coast.
The biggest attraction of this Konkan beach with black sand is the way the market operates. Fisherwomen in their traditional outfits scream at the top of their lungs trying to attract buyers. The buyers on the other hand walk around the market maintaining a skeptical look.
After haggling a lot, deal is reached. But the buyer cannot handover the cash just like that. The wads of currency are placed discreetly in the hand of the seller and a handkerchief hides this transcation.
The fish market has some company; Harnai is the place where Suvarnadurg island fort is situated. The smaller inland fort of Kanakadurg is quite close to where the fish market pops up. Further south is Murud beach (not to be confused with Murud Janjira close to Alibaug), which is quite popular with weekend travelers from Pune.
Even if you are on a visit to other attractions close to Harnai, make the fish market a part of your ‘must-do’ list. This eccentric place is almost like a metaphor for India. Yes, it is loud & chaotic but its colour & character will charm you over. And one day you might return, like I plan to.
Watch this video to see what the fish market looks like
How and when to get there:
Harnai is close to Dapoli which is well connected both with Mumbai and Pune. You can hire a taxi from either of these cities to get to Harnai. Similarly, the coastal destination is well connected by buses. Once you reach Dapoli, Harnai is another 17kms away.
If you prefer trains, Harnai is about 35kms from Khed which is the closest railway station on the Konkan Railway route.
The fish market operates roughly between 8.30 -10am in the morning and 5 – 6.30pm in the evening. Though it functions through the year, you are better off avoiding the monsoon.