The Gokarna temple is located in the coastal town of Gokarna in Karnataka between an ear-like confluence of the Rivers of Gangavali and Agnashini. The Hindu Saint Sri Adi Shankaracharya established the Shree Ramachandrapura Mutt in Gokarna who look after the administration of the Gokarna Temple.
Hence, Gokarna is also famous as Dakshina Kasi (Southern Kasi) and as the Bhookailasa. The region of Gokarna and its religious importance finds mention in several Puranas like the Bhagavata Purana, Sthala Purana, Guru Charitra and the Skanda Purana.
Gokarna Temple architecture features resemble the Dravidian style of construction. Inside the Sanctum, the main Atmalinga is in a square Saligrama Peetha with a small hole on the top. One can also view the top of the Linga from the hole.
The image represents Lord Shiva in a standing position and is 1500 years old. The actual Atmalinga is visible in whole only once in 40 years during the Ashtabandana Kumbhabhishekam. Gokarna Temple Complex also has shrines dedicated to Lord Ganapathi, Lord Dattatreya, and the Goddess Taamaragowri. The Kotitheertham or the Pushkarini is a small manmade tank present near the Gokarna Temple.
As per the legend, after returning from the Underworld (Sapta Paathala), Lord Shiva collected the essence of all of Brahma’s creations and created a golden deer with three horns and three eyes. Devotees also believe that the three horns were at Pushkar, Shaligram, and Gokarna. These three places are collectively the Siddhi Kshetras.
People believe that the Atmalinga which was here in the Treta Yuga was initially red in color. It became yellow in the Dwapara Yuga and turned black in the Kaliyuga. It is also a belief that the root of the Linga leads to the seven realms of the Paathala Loka (underworld regions inhabited by the Danavas, Daityas, Yakshas and Nagas.
People also believe that performing the death rites of the dead will grant them salvation or moksha at par with those at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
What is the history of Gokarna Temple?
According to the history of the Gokarna Temple, Mayurasharma of the Kadamba dynasty constructed the temple during the period of 345 – 365 AD. The Vijayanagara Kingdom Emperor Krishnadevaraya visited the shrine and weighed himself in Gold here. The great ruler Shivaji often prayed at the shrine.
The famous Kalidasa mentions Lord Mahabaleshwar as Lord of Gokarna in his 4th-century work, Raghuvamsha. The Nayanars praised the deity of the Tulu Nadu, Mahabaleshwar in their work Tevaram between the 6th and 9th century.
As per one legend, when Lord Shiva cursed Lord Brahma that nobody will worship him because of his lie about finding the end of the endless beam of light emanating from Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma cursed him back stating that Lord Shiva will go to hell. Devotees believe that after going to the underworld, Lord Shiva appeared out through a cow’s ear, a metaphor for emerging out of an ear-shaped place (Mother Earth) known as Gokarna.
Kaikesi, the mother of Ravana worshiped Lord Shiva ardently. She used to make Lingas out of the beach sand and pray to them daily. However, every night the Linga used to get washed away by the sea. Hence, Ravana promised to her that he will bring Lord Shiva’s Atma Linga itself to her.
Ravana went to Mount Kailash and performed severe penance to impress Lord Shiva. Eventually, Lord Shiva granted him a wish. Ravana asked for the Atma Linga from Lord Shiva as well as a wife as beautiful as Goddess Parvati.
Lord Shiva then took out the Atma Linga from his heart and offered it to Ravana but said that the Linga should not touch the ground until he reaches his destination. Otherwise, the Linga will become affixed. He also asked Goddess Parvati to accompany Ravana.
Lord Vishnu interrupted Ravana’s journey after disguising himself as an old Brahmin. When Ravana started boasting about how he received the Goddess as a boon from Lord Shiva, the Brahmin created an illusion in which the Goddess turned into an old and frail lady. Humiliated, Ravana left the Goddess and proceeded with the Atma Linga.
Lord Ganesha was aware of the evening bath Ravana would take. With the help of Lord Vishnu, who blotted out the Sun to give an appearance of dusk.
Lord Ganesha disguised as a boy passed him. Ravana called him and passed on the idol to him giving instructions that the idol must not be placed on the ground. The boy placed the idol on the ground before Ravana returned from his bath. Lord Vishnu unblocked the sun and it was daylight again. The place where Lord Ganesha placed the idol is known as Gokarna.
What is the significance of Gokarna Temple?
The significance of Gokarna Temple is that Atmalinga of Lord Shiva at Gokarna Temple is as sacred as the Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva in Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Gokarna Temple is one of the seven Mukti Sthalas of Karnataka. The other six are Udupi, Subramanya, Kumbhashi, Kodeshwara, Sankaranarayanan, and Kollur. Do you know that visiting Maharashtra will give you a chance to visit five jyotirlingam in 1 trip?
These places are together known as the Parashurama Kshetras. Devotees believe that these Temples stand on land of Parashurama from the sea.
The Gokarna Temple is also one of the 276 Paadal Petra Sthalams in India. Shaiva Nayanars believed these temples to be the greatest Shiva Temples in the 6th to 9th century CE. They are praised in Thevaram, divine songs sung in praise of Lord Shiva and composed by three Tamil poets named Thirugana Sambanthar, Thirunavakkarasar, and Sundaramoorthy Nayanar.
The region of Gokarna is also holy for the followers of Lord Dattatreya and the Adinath Sampradaya of the Nath tradition. Devotees believe that he resided here for 3 years and performed penance here. Lord Dattatreya was the Avatar or Incarnation of the Trimurti or the Holy Trinity of Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
What are the timings of Gokarna Temple?
Here are the timings of Gokarna Temple:
|Morning Darshan||6 AM||12:30 PM|
|Evening Darshan||5 PM||8 PM|
|Mangal Aarti, Udyana Bali||6 AM||12:30 PM|
|Sparsha Darshan||5 PM||8 PM|
|Amrutanna Prasada Bhojana or the Annadanam||12 PM||2 PM|
|Amrutanna Prasada Bhojana or the Annadanam (Evening)||7:30 PM||8:30 PM|
|2nd Kalam Pooja||7:30 PM||8:00 PM|
Gokarna Temple Dress Code
The devotees are requested to dress decently. Bermuda shorts, beach wear, miniskirts and other revealing wear are not allowed inside the gokarna temple premises.
What are the festivals celebrated at Gokarna Temple?
Some of the festivals celebrated at Gokarna Temple are:
The most important festival occurs in the month of February – March. It signifies the marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. Some also believe that this is the day when Lord Shiva absorbed the poison that turned him blue during the churning of Amrit episode in mythology. The festival lasts for 9 days, the 6th day being the day of Shivaratri. The devotees perform various special Poojas like Mahapooja, Rathotsava, Bhootabali, Tulabhara and other cultural programs like music and dance festival.
Devotees also carry out a Ratha Yatra on the last day of the festival. They carry the idol of Lord Mahabaleshwar in the Dodda Ratha, around the town among the chants of prayers and hymns. More than 100 persons pull the Ratha. Continous Annadanam also takes place during these days when lakhs of pilgrims visit the Temple to receive Lord Shiva’s blessings.
The Car or the Ratha festival occurs on the seventh day of the bright half of the month of February. It denotes the seventh day of the movement of Sun towards the northern direction of vernical equinox from Capricorn. It also represents the birth of Sun God Surya. Hence, in some places, it is also popular as the Surya Jayanti. The festival symbolizes the beginning of spring and the harvesting season. In Gokarna, devotees carry a grand Ratha Yatra of the God around the town and distribute special Prasadams.
The festival occurs on the day of the Karthik Poornima at Gokarna Temple. The Purnima is famous as Tripuri Purnima because of the legend of Lord Shiva destroying the three demon cities, collectively known as Tripura of the Tripurasura demon. Special Poojas like the Laksha Bilvarchana, Dhatri Homam, Vanabhojana, and Deepotsava also take place on this day.
On the auspicious day, the worship of Goddess Bhadrakali takes place in the Gokarna Temple. Devotees also take the idol of Sri Mahabaleshwar in a procession to the Bhadrakali Temple and bring it back amidst great chantings of religious mantras and bhajans. They also distribute Special Prasadam to the people visiting the shrine on the day.
The first harvest of Paddy (Rice) is the Kadiru Haranotsava. The festival and its rituals take place in a nearby village named Bankikodia. The villagers take the Utsava Moorthy (idol) of the Lord to the field and worship it. Following his blessings, they harvest the crop every year.
Besides these festivals, the Gokarna Temple also celebrates the Sharada Pooja, Ganesha Chaturthi, Ugadi, Krishna Janmashtami, Kaamadahana and Shiva-Ganga Vivahotsava.
What are the poojas and rituals of Gokarna Temple?
Here are the poojas and rituals that take place at Gokarna Temple:
- Sankalpa Pooja Mangal Aarti – The Mangal Aarti takes place for the day in the name of the devotee.
- Bilvarchana – The Archana also takes place for the Lord with Bilva leaves on behalf of the devotee.
- Ashttotara Bilvarchana – The Archana with Bilva leaves takes plce by reciting the 108 names of Lord Shiva on behalf of the devotee.
- Kumbhabhishek and Kshirabhishek Pooja – The priest bathes the Lord in cow’s milk and worships him on behalf of the devotee.
- Panchamrutabhishek Pooja – The priest also bathes the God with “Panch Amrits” that are milk, curd, ghee, honey and sugar among the recitals of several mantras and shlokas praising the greatness of Lord Shiva.
- Maha Panchamrutabhisheka Pooja including Rudrabhishekam – The Lord is bathed with “Panch Amrit” that are milk, curd, ghee, honey and sugar. The Rudrabhishekam is also performed after the bathing process is over. The Rudrabhishek Pooja wipes out all sins and purifies the atmosphere. It also removes all sorts of planetary related ill-occurrences.
- Navadhanya Abhishek Pooja – The deity is worshiped with Navadhanya meaning nine grains. Usually, these grains are Bengal Gram (Chana dal), Wheat, Horse Gram, Green Gram, Rice, White Beans, Sesame, Chick Peas, and Black Gram.
- Silver Nagabharana Special Pooja – The priest worships the idol of a silver Nagabharana (image of a snake with five fangs protecting Lord Shiva) on behalf of the devotee.
- Golden Nagabharana Special Pooja -The priest worships the idol of a Golden Nagabharana on behalf of the devotee.
How to reach Gokarna Temple?
Here’s how to reach Gokarna Temple:
- Air – Dabolim International Airport in Panaji, Goa is the nearest airport to Gokarna. It lies 150 km from the town.
- Train – Nearest railway station is Gokarna Road, 6 km from the town.
- Road – Devotees can arrive in Gokarna by taking any of the KSRTC buses from Panaji, Bengaluru, and Mangalore.
Where to stay near Gokarna Temple?
Many Hotels and Lodges provide a comfortable stay at nominal rates. Since the town also has a number of scenic beaches, a few beach resorts have also come up in the vicinity. Advanced booking is preferable as the town is usually packed with devotees during the festive and holiday season.
Where to eat near Gokarna Temple?
The devotees to the Gokarna Temple are served Prasada Bhojana every day free of cost in the afternoon and the evening at 12:30 PM and 7:30 PM respectively. A large number of small restaurants have also come up at the Gokarna Temple and nearby areas.
They mainly serve delicious South Indian cuisine, mainly vegetarian. Seafood is also available in certain places.
What are some temples near Gokarna Temple?
Some of the temples near Gokarna Temple are:
- Sri Maha Ganapathi Temple – The Temple is only a few meters away from the Mahabaleshwar Temple. The Temple is in honour of Lord Ganapathi, who took the form of a normal boy deceived Ravana and established the Atmalinga in Gokarna.
- Bhadrakali Temple – The Temple is 4 km away from the Mahabaleshwar Temple. As per the legend, Vishnu’s illusion freed the Goddess Bhadrakali, an Avatar of Parvati from Ravana.
- Bharat Temple – The Temple is for Bharat, brother of Lord Rama and is on a hillock near the Mahabaleshwar Temple. The Temple is present in the Temple for Lord Rama. One can also visit a theertham famous as Ramatheertham.
- The Pancha Kshetra pilgrimage – One can also visit the Pancha Kshetras of Dhareshwar (40 km), Murudeshwar (55 km), Guneshwar (40 km), and Sajjeshwar (40 km towards Goa) from Gokarna. The group of five temples is extremely holy and is a must for any Shaivite pilgrimage.