The small temple town on the west coast by the shores of the Arabian Sea lying off the grid, Gokarna is where time slows down even now here and there. This place is steeped in religion and of course speaks of some amazing beaches, if one is looking to be away from the maddening crowd found in Goa, then this is the place to be, the alternate fulfilling destination. I had spoken about the beaches in my other article( read here ) but this write up would be dwelving into the historical significance of the town of Gokarna.
India has a large number of significant towns/cities that are world famous for their religious significance but then there are a substantial number of small towns all over the Indian subcontinent that are so religiously significant yet hardly well known the world over . Gokarna falls under this category. I can almost imagine the religious significance of this town decades back when the world had not discovered the pristine beaches of Gokarna and the religious significance of the temple was what used to draw individuals out here .
Gokarna town holds a deep historical religious significance, the town is deeply associated with Lord Shiva and it is said that the town was so named on account of the convergence of two rivers Aganashini and Gangavali and the place where the rivers converged resembled the shape of the ear of a cow.
In my view there are following main religious temples
- Mahaganapati temple
- Mahabaleswar temple
- Bhadrakali temple
- Venkatramana temple
- Kothi theertha temple
- Tamrara Gauri temple
I have visited only three out of the above list and would be able to talk about those, the remaining temples would be spoken as an update to this article when I am able to visit them
The temple is one of the most non imposing temples for the visitor. There is no grand entrance and is in fact situated just next to the main narrow road going towards Mahabaleswar temple. However, this is a very historically significant temple. Legend says that Lord Ravana who was said to be the greatest devotee of Lord Shiva wanted him to stay at his kingdom instead of Kailaish and hence upon his forceful insistence Lord shiva who could not refuse a devotee transformed himself into an atmalingam (divine soul) , however the condition was put that he could not place the atmalingam on the ground before reaching his kingdom. Lord Ganesha who was Lord Shiva’s son decided to ensure that the Lord came back to Kailash and hence he tricked Lord Ravana in the deep forest to place the atma lingam on the ground where finally came up the Mahabaleswar temple and the main character who played his part in ensuring that Lord Shiva did not have to leave Kailash, Lord Ganesha had his temple constructed just a kilometer away. It is said that the posture of Lord Ganesh which is a standing posture is seldom seen and there are more five temples along the coast which show Lord Ganesha in the standing posture with the idol made of black granite rock.
For me this visit on that particular morning in the early hours was very fulfilling, there were no crowds of devotees yet and the local populace was out visiting the temple for early morning prayers. There were women selling flowers that were to be offered to the god along with incense sticks and fruits and the entire vibes both inside and outside the temple was very positive.
Sri Samasthana Mahabalseshwara deva temple Known as the dakshin Kashi (kashi of the south) , the Mahabaleswar temple is a very old religiously significant temple . it is one of the major Hindu pilgrim centers in South India. Continuing the tale of the legend, as Ravana could not lift the atmalinga after it had been placed on the ground he called it Shiva Mahabala (Shiva too strong) and hence the name of Mahabaleswar originated. The six-foot-tall shiva lingam enclosed in a square covering can be seen only once in 40 yrs. The temple is quite large with smaller temples all around the perimeter. The main sanctum of the shrine is in the Centre within which the inner sanctum is again separate and independent the outer sanctum. Devotees can feel the top of the aatma lingam though a small hole in the shape of a Shiva lingam through which the main idol is bathed (that is what I understood as I participated in this particular ritual )
I was inside the temple again early in the morning and the devotee rush had not yet begun so I had the place to myself to gaze upon the various carvings and inscriptions. The entry to the main sanctum has a dress code and for males one has to be upper bare bodied and barefoot. The ritual is explained by numerous helping staff who by symbols can at least guide one what needs to be done inside the inner sanctum
I firmly believe that one needs to visit these kind of religious places when the crowd is minimal in order to imbibe the positive vibes that are generated out here. One can also get the priests to perform special puja on certain payment basis and religious offerings can also be purchased. the temple is well maintained and staffed by sufficient number of people. it is an old temple and has got its set of rules and rituals that are followed quite strictly but in case one is visiting Gokarna, a visit to this temples is a must and try to be here early in the morning when the prayers are offered by the main priest.
The Bhadrakali temple located a kilometer away from the Sri Mahabaleswar temple is dedicated to Devi Uma , wife of Lord Shiva . The temple does not have very imposing gateway and is located adjoining to the main street itself, the interior of the temple is impressive and has an inner sanctum as well.
The gate of the temple has got statues of lions and warriors depicting the power of the goddess Bhadrakali. The statue of the goddess is seen in her ferocious avatar holding weapons. There is a sense of peaceful aura within and if one visits this place after the Mahableswar temple one cannot help but notice the simplicity and peacefulness out here. Definitely a must visit of Gokarna.
So these are the three shrines that I visited one fine early morning and the visit left a deep impact on me and made me resolve to once again come back to these temples and use the opportunity to learn more about them and spend time just sitting within their precincts feeling the presence of something and someone superior to all of us .
It is quite easy to reach Gokarna view excellent road connectivity, however from Gokarna town in case one needs to visit the beaches , the auto rickshaw is very expensive.
There are lots of staying options in Gokarna town.
Avoid the town for temple visits during religious festivals, in case one is not comfortable with crowds.
Summers are hot out here so avoid visiting in peak summer.
Avoid short clothes view the temples do have a dress code for both men and women.