Gokarna, is one of India's most sacred places situated in the district of Uttara Kannada, of coastal region of Karnataka. A small town on banks of Arabian sea, and this coastline surrounded by natural beauty of five beaches (Gokarna beach, Kudle beach, Om beach, Half moon beach and Paradise beach) and hills along side, the traveler can choose his favourite for himself. This is not a place to hurry. Rather, one should just drift up the coast, enjoying the scenic beauty of this coastal area.
Gokarna - Sthala Mahime: (Importance)
Gokarna is adored as a Shaiva pilgrimage centre than a tourist destination, and as important as Kashi and Rameshwara pilgrimage places for hindus. The meaning of Gokarna is "Cow's Ear" (Go means Cow and Karna means Ear). Gokarna is located between the Gangavali and Agnashini river mouth and it is named for the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers. Devotees believe that Gokarna derives its name from the legend in which Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow.
Gokarna is also respected as "siddi kshetra", (The more you know of the religious practice, and the more you will honour and worship it. The more you study it, the more it will enlighten you and satisfy your heart). Gokarna acclaimed as "Mukti Stala" (After the death of a close relative, Hindus come here to perform their obsequies) of Karnataka along with the other mukti stalas such as Udupi, Kollur, Subrahmanya, Kumbasi, Kodeshwara, and Sankaranarayana.
Legend of Gokarna:
In Threthayuga, Ravana (Demon/Asura King of Lanka) reaches Kailasa and performed rigorous penance to get the "Atma Linga" from Lord Shiva, as Ravana's mother expressed a keen desire to worship the atmalinga of Lord Shiva.
After a long penance, Lord shiva gave the "Atma linga" to Ravana as a boon and instructs Ravana to carry it home by walk, that he should never place it on the earth even for a short while failing which the linga would get eternally embedded at the place were he broke his commands.
Lord Maha vishnu learned that Ravana will become all powerful by worshipping the 'Atma linga' and menace to the world and Ravana's conviction that nobody could defeat him, once he acquired the very power of Lord Shiva. Maha vishnu devised a plan to install the linga somewhere and as he thought that Lord Ganapathi was alone capable of doing it, he along with all the gods pleased Ganapathi to execute the plan. Lord Ganapathi accepts and reaches Gokarna as a Brahmin boy.
As Ravana was coming near Gokarna. Maha Vishnu who had known well that Ravana was punctual in performing his periodical rites (Sandyavandhana), hides sun with his Sudarshana Chakra (Wheel). Thinking that it was time to perform the evening rites, Ravana finds a Brahmin boy and asked him to hold the Atma linga in his hand till he came back after finishing the rites.
Lord Ganapathi agreed to hold the linga on one condition that he would do so till he would be able to bear the weight of Linga and that thereafter he would call Ravana three times and if failed to come to him by then he would place the linga on the earth.
Lord Ganapathi calls Ravana three times when he was performing his rites and places the linga on the earth and he vanished. The Atma linga at once got firmly entrenched in the earth. Ravana learned that he had been tricked by the Gods.
The depressed demon king Ravana was deeply agitated and tried to pull up the linga, but the linga did not budge a little. It resulted in his throwing the coverings of the Linga to Dhareshwar, Gunavanteshwara, Murdeshwar and Shejjeshwar temples. Ravana was unable to lift the Linga from the ground again and called shiva linga as Mahabala (you are too strong). And ever since the Linga illustrious as Mahabaleshwara.
Lord Shiva learnt all these from Vayu deva (Wind god), and came on to Earth with Godess Parvathi devi and his train of Gods, he visited these five places and worshipped the linga which had now taken five forms. He acknowledged that these five places would be his "Pancha kshetras" (Five Holy Places)
Main Temples to visit at Gokarna:
1. The Mahabaleshwara temple is the major temple. The deity here is two-armed, standing, and at least 1500 years' old. The temple enshrines Mahabaleshwar, in a square Saligrama Peetha. A small hole in its middle permits devotees to have a glimpse of the top of the Aatma Linga.
The other shrines are:
2. Tamra Gowri shrine.
3. Ganapathi Temple.
5. Aadi Gokarneshwara.
7. Koti theertha.
Beaches at Gokarna:
Gokarna is famous for its beautiful virgin beaches and breathtaking landscapes.
How to reach Gokarna:
- Gokarna Beach is the closest from Gokarna Town and is accessible by road.
- Kudle (Kuttle), a kilometre-long stretch of white sand fringed by palm trees, is the nearest; just about 20 minute walk from Gokarna.
- Om beach, Half an hour further from Kudle is Om beach, so named because it's shaped like the auspicious \ (Om) symbol.
- Half Moon smaller and lesser known beautiful beach.
- Paradise are smaller and lesser known, but equally great for a bit of sunbathing and swimming.
Gokarna is well-connected to Bangalore, Mangalore and Karwar. Regular buses ply from Kumata, Karwar, Goa and Mangalore.
Distance to Gokarna
1. From Karwar: 60 Kms
2. From Kumata: 32 Kms
3. From Bangalore: 460 Kms
4. From Mangalore : 225 Kms
5. Konkan Railway passes through Gokarna (10 km from the town)
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