Monday, May 4, 2015

Gokarna, The Dhakshin Kasi

According to the Legend, even a glimpse of Gokarna , one of the holiest shrines of Lord Shiva ,  bestows immense blessings to the Devotees. It is considered as Dhakshina Kasi, as Holy as Varanasi and the Temple Tank, Koti Theertham ,as Holy as River Ganga.

Gokarna is located in the Uthara Kannada district of Karnataka state. It is on the Karvar coast of Arabian Sea.It is about 60 Km from Karvar, 250 Km from Mangalore,160 km from Hubli and 450 km from Bangalore. This Temple town is close to Mangalore- Mumbai National Highway. Pilgrims fom Chennai can take the direct train to Hubli and then go to Gokarna by bus which takes around 4 hours. There are many choultries , Lodges and resorts in this town to suit various segments of pilgrims. Many foreigners visit this town as it is hardly 150 km from Goa, the Tourist destination. The nearest railway station, Gokarna Road is 6 km away from the town.The ocean with the roaring waves coupled with the sand bed and Camel rides attract them. The town,  overlooking both the Western Ghats and the Ocean presents a breathtaking picture to the visitors.

 The long journey by bus from Hubli can be less cumbersome by breaking it in the middle. We broke the journey at a choultry where the pilgrims were offered breakfast. Karnataka is known for its hospitality as most of the famous Temples feed the pilgrims twice everyday.

The Legend of this place traces back to the Ramayana period when the Demon King Ravana went to Mount Kailash and performed severe penance. His aim was to get back the Atmalinga stolen from him and thrown into the sea by Devendra. It was originally worshipped by Ravana' s mother for the prosperity of her son. Angered by the act of Indra, Ravana promised his mother that he would get back the Atmalinga from none other than Lord Shiva Himself. He praised the Lord with Shiva Thandava Sthothram and started offering his organs into the Homa Kundam. The Lord appeared in font of him and gave the Atma Linga to him and bestowed many boons with the condition that the Atma Lingam should not be placed anywhere in the middle until his return to Lanka.

On his way back Home, Ravana, on reaching the shores of Gokarna wanted to perform his evening prayers ( Sandhya Vandhanam ). There appeared Lord Ganesha in the form of a brahmin boy. Ravana requested Ganapathi to hold the Atma Linga in His hands until he came back after finishing the prayers. Ganapathi accepted his request with one condition that He would call Ravana by his name thrice and it was upto him to collect the Lingam before that  time. Otherwise he would place the Lingam on the ground.

Ravana could not return before the specified time and Ganesha called Ravana thrice quickly and placed the Lingam on the ground . Ravana chased the boy and gave a blow on His head. Lord Ganesha vanished from the scene and Ravana tried his best to lift the Atma Lingam but in vain. The Linga Murthi was deeply rooted by that time and Ravana could only feel the top of the Lingam and felt it as the ear of the Cow. Hence He named Him as Go karneshwara and Mahabaleshwara.
The west facing Temple was constructed during the period of    Mayuravarman ( 345- 365 CE) The Vimanam above the Sanctum is in Dravidian style. There is a prakaram aound the sanctum and a separate shrine for Goddess Parvathi ( Thambra Gowri). The Temple was visited by Vijayanagar Kings and Chatrapati Shivaji.

Koti Theertham
 The devotees take bath in the ocean and then in the Temple Tank, Koti Theertham and worship Sidhi Ganapathi at the Temple close to Gokarneshwara' s Shrine.Ganesa Muthi of this type is unique with two hands and in standing posture. Then they proceed to Gokarneswara Shrine where Pujas are held thrice in a day. The pilgrims are allowed to touch the Lingam inside the square pedastal and offer abhishekam.

As the place is regarded as pious as Kasi, devotees pay their respects to their ancestors by performing '" Pithru Karmas'" on the banks of Koti Theertham.

Maha Shivarathri festival in Feb-March draws very large number of devotees . The Chariot festival is held with the images of Shiva and Parvathi kept on the decorated wooden chariot.People pull the chariot with lot of enthusiasm accompanied with drum music.

The Main deity of the Temple is sung in Thevaram Hymns that date back to 6-7th century. Tamil Saint Gnanasambandhar sang a ' Padhigam'  for this place during his visit to Kalahasthi. It was Saint Appar (Thirunavukkarasar) who walked all the way to Gokarna and sang a Padhikam in praise of Lord Gokarna. He made reference to the sea shore on which the Temple stood. The Temple authorities should include this Historic incident in their publications and inscribe the Hymns on the wall of the Temple to preserve the ancient History related to it.

Among the Pancha Linga kshethrams of this region, the other four Temples are at Dhareshvar, Gunavantheshwar, Mrudeshwar and Shedjeshwar. 


  1. Wonderful description.
    Although I would like to read the Thevarams in praise of Gokarna, I wdo not want to trouble you; but I never would have thought that our Nayanmars visited this Temple.
    Thanks for the beautiful description and pictures.