Gokarna is a village in the Uttara Kannada district of the Karnataka. It is a Hindu pilgrimage centre as well as a tourist destination in India. Gokarna is a temple town, and is referred to in a number of Hindu historical literature. Around the town lie a number of beaches, and these serve as a major attraction for travellers. Gokarna is famous for its beautiful beaches and landscapes. The main beaches in Gokarna are the Gokarna beach (Indian Beach), Main Beach, Kuddle Beach, Om Beach, Half moon Beach and Paradise Beach. Gokarna Beach is mainly used by Indian pilgrims. Main Beach is a long open beach, also known for surfing. Kuddle and Om are around 6 km from Gokarna town along a muddy hill; they are accessible by rickshaw or foot. Half moon and Paradise are beyond Om beach and are accessible only by foot or boat. Om beach is named so because it is shaped like the auspicious Om symbol. Distance from Yana to Gokarna, Karnataka is 45.9 km and takes around 1 h 17 min. Gokarna to Sirsi, Karnataka is 84.8 km and takes around 2 h 12 min via Kumta-Sirsi Road.
Legends in the Sahyadri Khand of the Puranas indicate that the State of Kerala was reclaimed from the sea by the Warrior-Sage Parashurama who came from the North (of the Vindhya ranges) after his wanderings in which he killed the kshatriyas 21 times and threw his axe, the weapon by which he annihilated the kshatriyas, in the sea to prevent the erosion of the land stretching from Gokarna to the Southernmost tip of India.
Gokarna is also mentioned in the Shrimad Bhagawat Purana as being the home of the two brothers Gokarna and Dhundhakari and the Bhagawat also gives details of the difference in their temperament and nature and their exploits.
Another mythological reference to Gokarna describes how Ravana, the demon-king of Lanka received the atmalinga, from Shiva, after he had performed a penance at Mount Kailash. Shiva instructed Ravana that the atmalinga should not be placed on the ground as it would establish itself where placed on earth. On his way back to Lanka, Ravana stops for his evening prayers at Gokarna. To prevent Ravana from getting a weapon as powerful as the atmalinga, Ganesha, in the disguise of a Brahmin boy, tells Ravana that he will hold the atmalinga until Ravana finishes his prayers. As soon as he receives the atmalinga, Ganesh promptly puts it down. Ravana tries to extricate it resulting in throwing the coverings of the Linga to Dhareshwar, Gunavanteshwar, Murudeshwar and Shejjeshwar temples.
Tamil saints Nayanars like Appar and sambanthar praised the deity in their hyms tevaram
The earliest history of the city is not known. It was a center for India's traditional and ancient Ganja Culture. A sect of brahmins fled from the Gomantak to escape forcible conversions by the Portuguese and British and settled in and around Gokarna in 15th century. It was part of Sodhe and Vijayanagar kingdoms. Later when Konkan region including Goa was occupied by Portuguese, it became part of their rule. Few temples were destroyed by the Portuguese in 1714 and then rebuilt later in the 18th century and also under the supervision of Guru H.H. Shrimat Anandashram Swamiji in 1928.
How to Reach Gokarna
Gokarna is about 453 km from Bangalore, 240 km north of Mangalore and about 59 km from Karwar. It is between the Gangavali and Agnashini rivers and situated along the Karwar coast by the Arabian Sea. It is near to college towns Suratkal and Manipal.
Gokarna can be reached by buses and maxicabs from Kumta(36 km), Ankola(25km) and Karwar(59km) on national highway 17( NH-17 ). Karnataka state road transport corporation also runs long journey buses from many cities like Goa, Bangalore and Mangalore. Private buses(Vijayanad RoadLines-VRL, Sugama, SeaBird) operate night journeys from the capital city of Bangalore to Gokarna daily. It can be reached by train run by Konkan railway on Mumbai to Mangalore route. The railway station is 6km away from the town.
Gokarna is also an important centre of Sanskrit learning and houses Bhandikeri Math and Toggu Math. It is a place where sanksrit knowledge is passed from generations in Brahmis families. Many Hindus also perform last rites of a person here.
Mahabaleshwar Temple (Maha: great, bal: strength) is a famous Shiva Temple and it houses the atmalinga. Named so after Ravana referred to the linga's great strength.
Mahabaleshwar Temple is situated at the western end of the main street. The main deity here is two-armed, standing, and at least 1500 years old. The idol of Lord Ganesha also is ancient. In the sanctuary is a stone linga, encased in brass, placed on a coiled stone serpent. The floor of the hall in front has an intricate engraving of a giant tortoise.
- Maha Ganapathi Temple built in honour of the boy Ganapathi, who deceived the demon Ravana.
- Uma Maheshwari Temple
- Bhadrakali Temple
- Varadraj Temple
- Tamra-Gauri Temple
- Venkataramana Temple
Kotiteertha is a man-made tank that is used for immersion of idols and ritual bathing. It is surrounded by temples.
Shivaratri festival is celebrated here with great enthusiasm. Each year a team builds up two great temple chariots which are used during the Shiva Ratri festival. The two great temple chariots lead a procession through the town's narrow streets, while priests and pilgrims chant hymns in praise of Shiva. More than a hundred people are needed to pull the chariots with thick ropes while priests conduct religious ceremonies inside. During the four day Shiva Ratri festival the small town of Gokarna is visited by up to 20,000 pilgrims.
Beaches in Gokarna
The drive up the winding path that leads to Gokarna is a scenic one, with the rocky mountains and Western Ghats on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other.
Gokarna is also famous for its beautiful beaches and landscapes. The main beaches in Gokarna are the Gokarna beach, Kudle Beach, Om Beach, Half moon Beach and Paradise Beach(also known as Full moon). The Gokarna beach forms the coast of the town while the other four beaches lies towards the south of Gokarna. Kudle and Om are around 6 km from Gokarna town along a muddy hill; they are accessible by rickshaw or foot. Half moon and Paradise are beyond Om beach and are accessible only by foot or boat. Om beach is named because it's shaped like the auspicious Om symbol. Om beach is the only naturally Om shaped beach. Two other beaches Paradise and Half Moon are smaller and remote beaches.
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Temples in Gokarna
Gokarna is a ancient temple town and center for Sanskrit studies. It is located in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka.