Gokarna is a ancient temple town and center for Sanskrit studies. It is located in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka State. Gokarna means "Cow’s Ear" - It is believed that Lord Shiva has emerged from the ear of a cow. This town lies between the rivers Gangavali and Agnashini and situated along the Karwar coast by the Arabian Sea.
Gokarna is also mentioned in Shrimad Bhagawat Purana. This Shivitiestemple town is also called Kashi of the South.
It has been attracting for hundreds of years. Gokarna is also an important center of Sanskrit learning and houses Bhandikeri Math and Toggu Math. Many Hindus perform the last rites of a person here.
Gokarna is a town of contrasts as it a temple town and also a holiday destination. The place is full of palm and coconut trees. It is an attraction town with two main streets with shops and traditional tile roofed brick houses.
The Car Street, which runs through the heart of the town is a typical Pilgrim center, flanked by small business, Puja paraphernalia, souvenirs and food stuff. The maze of narrow lanes and alleys are reminders of tradition, which continues even today.
Brahmin priests go about busily with their religious duties. A walk through the main street would not take more than twenty minutes.
This is one of the major temples here. It houses the famous Atmalinga here. It is a very major attraction here. Before worshipping at the Mahabaleshwara temple, there is a custom that one has to bathe in the sea and pay respect to a Shivalingam, made out of sand.
There is six feet tall Atmalinga here enshrined in a square called Saligrama Peetha. It is opened for viewing once in forty years. Now only the tip of the Linga can be seen through a opening in the Peetha. Another Mythlogical reference to Gokarna describes how Ravana went to Mount Kailasa to perform penance and get “Atmalinga” from lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva handed the Atmalinga and instructed him not to place it on the ground till he reached Lanka.If he placed it down then it would establish itself on the ground. On seeing this other Gods got threatened and went to seek Lord Shiva’s help, who devised a plan with Lord Ganesha.
On his way back to Lanka, Ravana stops for a prayer in Gokarana. Ganesha disguises himself as a Brahman boy and tells Ravana that he will hold the Atmalinga till he finishes his prayers on the condition that he would hold it till he can bear its weight and thereafter he would call Ravana three times. If Ravana failed to come back in time he would place the Atmalinga on the ground. Before Ravana could come he places the Atmalinga on the ground it firmly gets attached to the Earth.
Ravana furiously with all his effort tries to extricate it resulted in his throwing the coverings of the Linga to Dhareshwar, Gunavanteshwara, Murdeshwar and Shejjeshwar temples (the last places is very near Karwar).
Other Temples In Gokarna
Four of the most beautiful beaches in India are located south of Gokarna. They are Kudle Beach, OM Beach, Half-moon and Paradise Beach.