Location: Eastern Karnataka, India
Historical Importance: Pilgrimage center for the Hindus
Deity or any other importance: Lord Shiva in Mahabaleshwar Temple
Nearby places: Sri Maha Ganapathi temple, Gogarbha, Om beach and Kotitheertha.
Gokarna is town in North Kanara district of Karnataka. It is a famous pilgrimage center for the Hindus. The Mahabaleshwar temple, which is among the seven Mukti Shetras, is the cynosure of Gokarna. The town is located on the banks of the Arabian Sea and the coastline is encircled by five beaches, Gokarna beach being one of them. The rest are Kudle beach, Om beach, Half Moon beach and Paradise beach. Apart from its religious significance, Gokarna is a place profound with scenic beauty. The name ‘Gokarna’ means ‘the ear of the cow’ and it was named so to venerate the emergence of Lord Shiva from the ears of a cow. Gokarna is considered a “Mukti Sthala” and it is said that visiting this place rids people of all sins, even the worst ones. Therefore, thousands of visitors from all over India pay a visit to the Mahabaleshwar temple, to get a glimpse of the “Atma Linga”. According to the legend, this ‘Atma Linga’ was acquired by Ravana, the demon King of Lanka, from Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva had instructed Ravana not to place the ‘lingam’ anywhere until he reaches home or else the lingam will get rooted unto the ground forever. When the other Gods learnt about this, they decided to trick Ravana, as the ‘lingam’ could have lent him unimaginable powers. Their trick was accomplished and the ‘lingam’ got rooted in Gokarna. An angry Ravana tried to pull the lingam out, failing which he tossed the coverings to five different places. These places were then declared as “Pancha kshetras” (Five Holy Places) by Lord Shiva.
Things To Do
- Sight-seeing: There are number of temples scattered all around the town of Gokarna. Temple visiting will constitute most part of the sight-seeing.
- Outdoor activities: The Gorkana beach is ideal for surfing and people can also enjoy spending time on the beach. The beaches of Gokarna are composed and provide a great opportunity to enjoy the waters.
The Mahabaleswaram temple is a standing example of the magnificent Dravidian style of architecture. It was constructed by Mayurasharma, the King of the Kadamba Dynasty, who reigned between 345–365 CE. The Arabian Sea is located close by and all the pilgrims take a holy dip before entering the shrine. The deity, Lord Shiva, is 1500 years old, standing on a Saligrama Peetha. The famed “Aatma Linga” can be glimpsed from a small hole in the middle of it.
Other major attractions include the Sri Maha Ganapathi temple, Gogarbha, Om beach and Kotitheertha.
- The Sri Maha Ganapathi temple was built in the honor of Lord Ganapathi, who conned the Demon King Ravana and salvaged the “Aatma Linga”. He appeared in the form of a small Brahmin boy, to whom Ravana gave the lingam, as he was not supposed to place it on the ground and it was time for his evening rites. The boy (Ganapathi) agreed to it only on the condition that if Ravana was late he would call his name three times and if he failed to hear it, he will keep the lingam and go home. This plan came out successfully and the “Aatma Linga”, got installed in the land of Gokarna and came to be known as “Mahabaleshwar”. The idol is made of granite and devotees are allowed “Sparsha Darshan” (touching the statue). The temple stands on its own and is also famous as “Siddhi Ganesh”.
- Gogarbha is a hill, which literally means “womb of a cow”. According to the legend, the “Aatma Linga” that disappeared, took the form of a cow and built a permanent cave in the nearby hill, named “Gogarbha”. Mythology articulates that the cave used to be the passage for the sages to “Kashi”, the ultimate pilgrimage center for the Hindus. Till today, Gogarbha serves as a resting place for many sages.
- Om beach has attracted tourists from all over the world. The beach appears in the auspicious Om shape when observed from a plane or helicopter.
- Kotitheertha is a holy pond used to immerse idols. It is manmade and the devotees usually take bath before entering the “Mahabaleshwar” temple.
How To Reach
- By Air: Dabolim Airport in Goa is the nearest. Gorkarna is about 140 km from Dabolim and once you reach there, you can hire a taxi.
- By Road: Bus services to Gokarna are plenty. Buses run from Bangalore, Mangalore, Madgaon and also Dabolim. Most of the buses are owned by KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation). Alternatively, you can get a rented car or hire a taxi also from all these places.
- By Rail: The railway station in Ankola is the nearest major station. Visitors can hire a taxi from there to Gorkarna.