Murdeshwar is a town in Bhatkal Taluk of Uttara Kannada district in the state of Karnataka, India. Murdeshwar is another name of the Hindu god Shiva. Famous for the world's second tallest Shiva statue, the town lies on the coast of the Arabian Sea and is also famous for the Murdeshwar Temple.
The origin of the name "Murdeshwar" dates to the time of Ramayana.
The Hindu gods attained immortality and invincibility by worshiping a divine Linga called the Atma-Linga. The Lanka King Ravana wanted to attain immortality by obtaining the Atma-Linga (Soul of Shiva). Since the Atma-Linga belonged to Sri Maheshwara, Ravana worshipped Shiva with devotion. Pleased by his prayers, Sri Mahadeva appeared before him and asked him what he wanted. Ravana asked for the Atma-Linga. Sri Rudra agreed to give him the boon on the condition that it should never be placed on the ground before he reaches Lanka. If the Atma-Linga was ever placed on the ground, it would be impossible to move it. Having obtained his boon, Ravana started back on his journey to Lanka.
Narada, who came to know of this incident, realised that with the Atma-Linga, Ravana may obtain immortality and wreak havoc on earth. He approached Sri Ganesha and requested him to prevent the Atma-Linga from reaching Lanka. Sri Skandapurvajaknew that Ravana was a very devoted person who performed prayer rituals every evening without fail. He decided to make use of this fact and came up with a plan to confiscate the Atma-Linga from Ravana.
As Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Sri Mahavishnu blotted out the sun to give the appearance of dusk. Ravana now had to perform his evening rituals but was worried because with the Atma-Linga in his hands, he would not be able to do his rituals. At this time, Sri Shashivarnam in the disguise of a Brahmin boy accosted him. Ravana requested him to hold the Atma-Linga until he performed his rituals, and asked him not to place it on the ground. Sri Vinayaka struck a deal with him saying that he would call Ravana thrice, and if Ravana did not return within that time, he would place the Atma-Linga on the ground.
Ravana returned to find that Sri Chaturbhuja had already placed the Atma-Linga on the ground. Sri Keshava then removed his illusion and it was daylight again. Ravana, realising that he had been tricked, tried to uproot and destroy the linga. Due to the force exerted by Ravana, some pieces were scattered. One such piece from the head of the linga is said to have fallen in present-day Surathkal. The famous Sadashiva temple is said to be built around that piece of linga. Then he decided to destroy the covering of the Atma-Linga, and threw the case covering it to a place called Sajjeshwar, 37 kilometers away. Then he threw the lid of the case to a place called Guneshwar (now Gunavanthe) and Dhareshwar, 16-19 kilometers away. Finally, he threw the cloth covering the Atma-Linga to a place called Mrideshwara in Kanduka-Giri (Kanduka Hill). Mrideshwara has been renamed to Murdeshwar.
The temple is entirely modernised with exception of the sanctum sanctorum which is still dark and retains its composure. The main deity is Sri Mridesa Linga, also called Murdeshwar. The linga is believed to be a piece of the original Atma Linga and is about two feet below ground level. The devotees performing special sevas like Abhisheka, Rudrabhisheka, Rathotsava etc., can view the deity by standing before the threshold of the sanctum and the Linga is illuminated by oil lamps held close by the priests. The Linga is essentially a rough rock inside a hollowed spot in the ground. Entry into the sanctum is banned for all devotees.