Many visitors only come to MANGALORE on their way somewhere else. As well as being fairly close to the Kodagu (Coorg) hill region, it’s also a stopping-off point between Goa and Kerala, and is the nearest coastal town to the Hoysala and Jain monuments near Hassan, 172km east.
Mangalore was one of the most famous ports of south India. It was already well known overseas in the sixth century as a major source of pepper; the fourteenth-century Muslim writer Ibn Battuta noted its trade in pepper and ginger and the presence of merchants from Persia and Yemen. In the mid-1400s, the Persian ambassador Abdu’r-Razzaq saw Mangalore as the “frontier town” of the Vijayanagar empire, which was why the Portuguese captured it in 1529. Nowadays, the modern port, 10km north of the city proper, is principally known for the processing and export of coffee and cocoa (mostly from Kodagu), and cashew nuts (from Kerala). It is also a centre for the production of beedi cigarettes.
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 centre, 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.