As we drove to Murudeshwar, in the jungle, I am inconsequential; however, I feel like I belong here. The trees do not care for me either, as they don’t avert their gaze or look disgruntled at my presence—instead, the towering trees just slanting over the ground. And the sunlight passes through any tiny holes illuminating the green background. I could hear the birds chirping along the way back to their nest. And the air tasted both sweet and fresh, at twilight.
We reached Murudeshwar by late evening, and it was a comfortable drive of 1hr 30min (60kms approx). Murudeshwar is undoubtedly a dream destination for all Shaivites and mythology aficionados. Equally well known for Kethapayya Narayan Temple, this temple is adjacent to the majestic statue of Lord Shiva. It is believed one of the Atma-Linga pieces fell on this plot of ground by the shore, where the temple was constructed. Fable has it that Raavan wanted to accomplish immortality and he worshipped Lord Shiva to receive the Atma-Linga (also referred to as the soul of Shiva). Lord Ganesha was requested to stop Raavan from taking the Linga back to Lanka. Lord Ganesh trait effectively in the physique of a shepherd boy and agreed to take care of the Linga, when Raavan was about to perform his evening prayer. Upon his return, it got late; meanwhile, Ganesh called out to him three times and then left the Linga on the land, which firmly got installed at that location. Ravan, knowing that he has been tricked, tried to apply all the force to uproot the Linga from the ground. All that immense force broke the Atma-linga into pieces, and it is said that one of the parts fell at Kanduka Giri, where Murudeshwar temple being constructed.
However, Murudeshwar also offers the most economical scuba diving experience in India. Whether looking for PADI certification or just scuba diving, this place has got it all. Netrani island or Pigeon Island is about 19km from Murudeshwar; an hour boat ride provides an enthralling snorkelling and diving experience. Since it was just night halt, we visited the temple in the evening & walked around the beach which was crowded with people enjoying various water sports. I desired to seat & watch the sea waves crashing on the shore, so we walked up to the Naveen beach restaurant- a sea-facing eatery. Mom and I sat on the balcony, ordered some snack & tea as we watched the twilight. Later, we had a quick dinner & hit the bed. We left for Gokarna early morning, as wanted to reach the Mahabaleshwar temple before noon.
Gokarna is a charming old city suited to all whether laid back, frivolous or devotees- it holds something for everyone. It is a place to spend a quiet time by the sea in unspoiled and unsophisticated nature. It amused me that the local has adapted to the presence of both the worshiper & the wanderers. For me, it was strange to see a priest, a cow & backpacker walking on the same side of the road towards the beach.
Gokarna is the home of the brothers Gokarna, and Dhundhakari as mentioned in the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana so is part of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage centres. Gokarna means cow’s ear since it is considered that Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow, but the fact is an ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini. The major attraction is The Mahabaleshwar Temple, which was constructed in the 4th-century CE in the Dravidian architectural style. The Atmalinga is enshrined in the synagogue on a square Saligrama Peetha (pedestal). The foundation has a small hollow in the centre from where the devotees can witness the top of the Atmalinga. Lord Shiva, is pictured in a standing position with folded two arms is a carved stone image. The stone image is supposed to be 1500 years old. At the temple, you have counters for Seva & Prasadam, and we met a priest at the entrance of the temple who helped us with all ritual & worship. The temple had a serenity that made me sit there for some time & soak in the calmness. We then went to Maha Ganapathi temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha as he deceived the demon Ravana and saved the Atmalinga. A granite image of Ganesha known as “Sidda Ganapati” is placed. The top of the head of the deity has a hole, said to be a mark of a violent blow inflicted by Ravana.
There are many legends associated with Gokarna; the most renowned one is that Lord Shiva gave Atmalinga to Ravana and instructed that it would stay forever where it is first placed on the ground. So not to put the AmtaLinga on the ground till he reaches Lanka, but Lord Ganesha came in the physique of a shepherd and planted it in Gokarna while Ravana was performing rituals. Once put Ravana could not remove it from the earth, but he removed some pieces of the Linga and threw them in a different direction. In the mythological context, Hindu Puranas also says that when Lord Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu created Kerala, it was from Gokarna to Kanyakumari. Other hands Lord Brahma, out of arrogance arising out of his power to create the universe, sat penancing to save himself from the curse of Shiva, Lord Shiva appeared in front of him from the ears of a cow. The most exciting fable as per this book, “The Ramayana of Valmiki,” Vol 5 caught my attention, that Hanuman was born in Gokarna. Apart from a random sign-board on the way to Kudle beach, there is no concrete evidence about Hanuman being born in Southern India. Yet, we can play along with the myth and imagine the vast landscape would have been Hanuman’s playground. Hindus perform the pious last rites of departed ones (muktistal) too at Gokarna.
Upon reaching my hotel, Stone wood Nature resort, I was pleased with my choice. The resort is located on a hillside, tranquil and peaceful with greenery all around. The resort is at an equal distance from all the famous beaches. We checked in had breakfast. Since I chose an offbeat stay location close to shore, you can choose to stay in the town where road access and food is easy. And if you want to touch your gipsy roots, you can visit a night at the beach-Half-moon beach would be ideal for a night under the stars. Budget travellers can opt for zostel or lodges also. There is this famous Namaste Cafe, which my brother suggested, but we did not book here, will try next time I visit. But I try the cafe & the view is indeed unmatchable. The afternoon I spent exploring the resort.
Later in the evening, I went to Om beach the beauty something for you to explore and experience yourself; it cannot be penned. What I enjoyed about the beach was its quietness, less crowded and less polluted. We chose a bench under the tree & watched waves crashing on the shore. There are four beaches in Gokarna Om, Kudle, Half Moon and Paradise- all are interconnected. A 6km trek starts from the Kudle to Om to half-moon to paradise then back. Instead, we hired a boat ride as due to time constraint could not trek. The water was shimmering in gold as the sun went down on the horizon and waves rocking the boat as it motored away from the beach, slowly blending it in the rocks. We got to the half-moon beach, at a far end was a couple of eateries. We sat there watching the moon climbing up in the sky beside the innumerable stars, while the waves crashing on the shore resonated music to the ear, making all so unreal. A magical moment of heaven, we were gazing. While going back to the hotel, we saw the lighthouse light swinging back & forth- a beautiful sight.
The next day we left late for Bangalore, as I desired to visit Kudle beach. The morning yoga is today a part of beach life in Gokarna, and I got to see many people try out various asanas. Considerably, I realized the beach never gets old nor loses effect on us, and we can always discover nooks & crannies along the beach, which will forever alter the view. While driving back what caught, my attention was an intoxicating view of the cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea, between Om Beach and Half Moon Bay. I could have spent hours watching the magic of dawn and sunset. Gokarna is the paradigm of beauty, spirituality and tranquillity.
While riding back to Bangalore, I visited Mirjana Fort, 12km from Kudle beach, off NH 66 between Gokarna & Kumta. Built-in 17th century, this fort is known for its architectural elegance, and it has splendid military and commercial past. The fortress is located on the banks of the Aganashini River. On the Tadri Creek just at the turn of the river. The fort is then approached through a series of broad steps that lead to the interior of the fort. According to the first famous historical version, in the 16th century, Queen Chennabhairadevi of Gersoppa (under the Vijayanagara Empire) was initially accredited, Mirjan Fort. She ruled and also lived in the fortress for 54 years. The port at Mirjan is 32 kilometres (20 miles) to the southeast of Karwar. During her reign, the port was used for shipping pepper, saltpetre and betel nut to Surat. Gersoppa, a district annexed to Bednur, was renowned for the pepper exported from this region. Therefore, the Portuguese gave the epithet “Rani, the Pepper queen” (“Rainha de Pimenta” in Portuguese) to the Queen of Gersoppa. Though there are many variations to the dating of this fort, this is historically correct.
With immense memories captured in my camera, I journeyed back home. This trip made me believe that -“The ocean touches the heart, inspires the Imagination and bring eternal joy to soul-Wyland.”
How to Reach
By Air :
Goa is the nearest airport from Gokarna about 140 km away. From the airport, taxi services are available.
Mangalore airport is the nearest to Murudeshwar about 153 km. From the airport, Taxis service is available.
By Rail :
The nearest railway station to Gokarna is at Ankola, about 20 km from Gokarna. Trains from several cities including stops at the station. You can avail taxi services from here.
Murudeshwar railway station is connected to the significant railhead in India. Murudeshwar railway station is just over 2 km from the town and can be reached by buses and auto-rickshaws.
Gokarna is well connected by road. KSRTC buses ply regularly from various cities of Karnataka. You can also board a bus from Madgaon and other towns of Goa for Gokarna. Coaches, including AC luxury, ply regularly between both the cities.
Private and state-run buses connect Murudeshwar to significant states.