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Gokarna- The temple beach town of Karnataka

The beautiful beach of Gokarna

Gokarna, (North karnataka) June 19 (UITV): Gokarna, a small town popular for its pilgrimage spots in Karnataka has grown into a tourist destination over the years, for its stretch of mexmerizing sandy beaches. With the arrival of foreigners streaming in, it no longer remains a sweet temple town, but a prospering vacation spot that is as relaxed as Goa, only less commercial. In fact, regular Goa visitors have now shifted on to Gokarna’s flawless beaches where the crowds are less and the beaches remain unspoiled. In fact, this trend has divided Gokarna into two parts, one that is for the religious devotee who comes to seek blessings of Shiva, and the other of the unworried tourist looking for some peace in nature’s behest far from the city rushes. Due to its growing reputation, specific hotels and restaurants have developed in Gokarna. The temple town is now a developing beach destination that provides uniqueness to various kinds of tourists with its universal beauty and its history soaked in mythology.

Being a temple town, Gokarna has many mythological tales associated with it. It also holds mention in the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana.The name Gokarna is made of two words, gau meaning cow and karna meaning ear, translating to cow’s ear. The reason for such a name is associated with its roots in mythology and also its geography. According to one legend, the reason behind naming the place as  Gokarna is because it is at the confluence of two rivers Gangavati and Aghanashini and this looks like a cow’s ear. The other, more interesting legend takes us back to mythology. According to this one, Shiva was sent to Patal Lok (under the earth) by Brahma. He later emerged from the earth out a cow’s ear and that is why the name.

Mahabaleshwara Temple

The temple of Mahabaleshwara is the chief tourist spot for pilgrims coming to Gokarna. Its acceptation is very high because of the legend associated with it. The temple is dedicated to Shiva and has what is called an atmalingam which is believed to be one of the most powerful lingams of the 12 jyotirlingams. The atmalingam is housed in this temple and pilgrims come to seek its blessings. Shivratri is celebrated with much fervour in Mahabaleshwara Temple for the magnitude of Shiva's lingam.

Maha Ganapati Temple

The legend of the Mahabaleshwara Temple is responsible for the Maha Ganapati Temple too. Since it was a young Ganesha who tricked Ravana by taking the atmalingam from him, this temple was built in his honour. Shiva too blessed Ganesha that any auspicious ritual will begin by first praying to him. Therefore, one should first visit the Maha Ganapati Temple and then head to the Mahabaleshwara Temple nearby.

Curiously, this is one of the few temples where you will find the idol of Ganesha in a standing position with two hands rather than his sitting form with 4 hands. The idol is of black stone and symbolises a young Ganesha who was successful in getting Ravana to let go of the lingam. This has to do with the fact that he was disguised as a young, human boy and not the divine son of Shiva when he tricked Ravana.

Bhadrakali Temple

Another temple to include in the course during the trip in Gokarna is a visit to the Bhadrakali Temple that is dedicated to Uma. The importance of this temple is based on the similar story of Shiva and Ravana which is connected to Mahabaleshwara temple. It is said that when Ravana prayed to please Shiva, he had two wishes in mind. When Shiva was pleased with his penance and asked him what he wanted, Ravana did not just ask for the atmalingam, but also wished for a wife more beautiful than Shiva’s wife Parvati.

Shiva gave him Uma, the most beautiful woman who Ravana carried on his shoulder. When he reached Gokarna, Vishnu disguised as a Brahmin met Ravana. and asked him about her identity. To show Vishnu just how beautiful she was, Ravana placed Uma down so that he could see her face. Vishnu with his powers, changed Uma into a worn out and old and woman. Ravana got distressed at this and left Uma in Gokarna itself. Vishnu then asked Uma to reside in Gokarna where she came to be worshipped at the Bhadrakali Temple as the mother goddess Dhumavati.

Shree Venkataramana Temple

All the temples in Gokarna revolve around the same legend and the people who were part of it. The Shree Venkataramana Temple is no different. It is believed that the very reason Ravana wanted to pray after reaching Gokarna is because Vishnu used his powers to cast a shadow on the sun that make it look like it’s dusk. This caused Ravana to offer his evening prayers even though it was still noon. Therefore, the Shree Venkataramana Temple is dedicated to Vishnu for all his help to make Ravana not have the atmalingam forever. It is said that the temple is at a spot from where Vishnu can see the other temples associated with this legend and also protect the lingam. He watches over these temples to keep them safe just like he played a key part in the occurences.

Gokarna Beach

After visiting in Gokarna, it is time to visit the popular beaches of the town that are one of the best in the country. There are a total of five beaches in Gokarna and each of them is known for its distinct charm. Most pilgrims head to the Gokarna Beach while tourists on vacation prefer the others.

Om Beach

The beach gets its name from its shape that resembles the religious symbol ‘Om’. It is a well know among the locals and tourists who come here to unwind. The beach is crowded with locals also during the weekends. Om Beach has places to eat and shop on the beach and there are hotels and huts as well due to its receptiveness by road.

Kudle Beach

Another popular beach in Gokarna is the Kudle Beach that is both rocky and sandy reached by little trekking yet popular among foreign tourists. Just like Om Beach, Kudle Beach too has living quarters,restaurants and huts. However, since it is not very easily accessible, it is best to visit the beach during the day or early evening.

Paradise Beach

True to its name, Paradise Beach is less crowded compared to Om and Kudle because it isn’t easily accessible. it accessible by trekking by a boat ride. The beach is not just sandy, it is filled with rocks as well and it is best to walk carefully to avoid falling or slipping. Not everyone really knows about it and many visit Paradise Beach just for its seclusion.

Half-Moon Beach

Half-Moon Beach again gets its name due to its shape that resembles the crescent moon. The beach is a 20-minute walk from Om Beach and there are two ways to get to it. Therefore,  it is less crowded, especially during off-season when there is hardly a soul here. During peak season, you may find a few huts on the beach that offer accommodation. Even so, it is a welcome change from the commercial beaches so do visit it if you have the time.