Gokarna is a small temple town on the western coast of India in the Kumta taluk of Uttara Kannada district of the state of Karnataka. The main temple here is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is also known as ‘Mahabaleshwara’. This temple houses what is believed to be the original image of Lord Shiva’s linga (Atmalinga). There are many other temples all over this small town. Gokarna is known as one of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage centres. It is also known for its unspoilt beach. Due to it’s laid-back, unspoiled and rustic nature, the tourist influx in Gokarna increased since a decade. Gokarna means cow’s ear. It is believed that Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow (Prithvi, the Mother Earth) here. It is at the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini. Gokarna is a temple town and a holiday destination. Gokarna is full of coconut, banana and other trees, blue seas and relatively clean sands. It is a laid-back town with two main streets lined with shops and traditional tile-roofed brick houses.
Legend: In Tretayuga, Ravana (Demon/Asura King of Lanka) reaches Kailasa and performed rigorous penance to get the “Atma Linga” from Lord Shiva. After a long penance, Shiva gave the Atma Linga to Ravana as a boon and instructs never place it on the earth on the way back even for a short while failing which the linga would get eternally embedded at the place where he broke his commands.
To deter Ravana from gaining supreme power by the worship of Atma Linga, Lord Vishnu along with other Gods devised a plan. As per the plan Lord Ganapati reaches Gokarna as a Brahmin boy. As Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Maha Vishnu who had known well that Ravana was punctual in performing his periodical rites (Sandyavandhana), hides the 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 Atmalinga in his hand till he came back after finishing the rites. Ganapati 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.
Ganapati calls Ravana three times when he was performing his rites and places the linga on the earth and he vanished. The Atmalinga 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 Dhareshwara, Gunavanteshwara, Murudeshwara and Shejjeshwar temples. Ravana was unable to lift the linga from the ground again and called the Shiva linga as Mahabala, one with great strength, and ever since, the linga illustrious as Mahabaleshwara.
*(All the above information are from Wikipedia.)
Airport: The Dabolim Airport in Goa is the nearest airport located at a distance of 160 kilometres.
Rail: Gokarna Road is the nearest railway station and is accessible by train from Karwar, Ankola, Kumta, Mangalore and Madgaon.
Road: The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation operates buses (KSRTC buses) from nearby towns like Karwar, Ankola and Kumta to Gokarna. There are various privately operated Buses to Gokarna. The town is close to the Kochi-Panvel National Highway.
Local: Auto Rickshaws are available for travel within the town.
Temples: The Mahabaleshwara Temple, Maha Ganapati Temple, Koti Teertha are the main temples and centre of Hindu pilgrimage here.
Mirjan Fort: Located at a distance of 22 km from the town this is a big fort associated with the queen the queen Chennabhairadevi.
Beaches: Gokarna is known for the beaches. The Gokarna main beach in town and Kudle beach are west facing. Om beach, Half Moon Beach, Paradise Beach (also known as the Full moon) and Belekan beach are south facing.
Tour Planner: Gokarna being a small town and the major attraction located very close to the town can be covered in a span of two days. Being a beach destination it is better to take some time and relax by the pristine beaches.