Have you wondered If there could be a place which gives you the same vibes that you get in Goa but is less crowded? Of Course, as a traveller, your priority is to get some peace wherever you go but unfortunately the crowds make it quite a difficult task. Isn’t it? So today I am here to tell you about a place where you can go, enjoy beaches and you know the best part? It has less crowd than Goa!!
Now what is this place and where is it? What else is special about this place? Well, the place is Gokarna. It is a Small town lying on the coast of the Arabian sea, in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. When it comes to beaches and temples, Gokarna is a must-visit town, owing to its exquisite beaches and ancient temples that are also known for their architecture!
Table of content
- The reason behind Gokarna’s name
- Where is Gokarna
- Places to visit in Gokarna
- The Story of Atmalingam
- Mahabaleshwar Temple
- Mahaganapathi temple
- Tamra Gauri temple
- Venkatramana temple
- Uma-Maheshwari temple
- Om Beach
- Kudle Beach
- Gokarna Beach
- Half moon Beach
- Paradise Beach
- Mirjan fort
- Koti tirtha
- Ram tirtha
- Frequently asked questions
The Reason Behind the Name Gokarna
Gokarna is made of two words- Go means cow and Karna means ears. Gokarna means Cow’s ears. The reason behind this unique name is both geographical and sacred. The town of Gokarna is situated near the confluence of the Gangavathi and Aghanashini rivers that resembles the ears of a cow and that’s how Gokarna got its name.
Gokarna also finds it mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam. There is a legend that once Shiva was sent to patal lok by Brahma. He, later on, emerged on earth out of Cow’s ear in the present day Gokarna.
Hindu scriptures also define this place as Shatashrungi, place of 100s of horn-like hillocks due to the presence of small hillocks everywhere.
Where is Gokarna?
Gokarna is a Small town on the western coast of India in the Kumta taluk of Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. Gokarna is 285km away from the State capital Bangalore.
The easiest way to reach Gokarna is either by rail or road. There is no Airport in Gokarna and the nearest ones are Dabolim in Goa which is 140 km away and Mangalore International Airport which is 235 km away from Gokarna.
How to Reach it via Road?
If you plan to travel by Road then several buses will take you to Gokarna. KSRTC offers bus services from Bangalore, Mangalore, Panaji and Hubli. If you want to travel by yourself then NH-17 is your route.
How to Reach it via Rail?
The Nearest Railway station in Gokarna is Gokarna road which is about 6km away from the town and taxis, rickshaws and buses are available to fetch the tourists.
Other Railway stations that are present near Gokarna are Ankola, Kumta, Karwar and Mad-gaon.
Places to visit in Gokarna
Gokarna is primarily a Hindu pilgrimage site that is adorned with several beaches. The main attraction point in Gokarna is the Mahabaleshwar Temple which is famous for the Atmalingam.
1. The Story of Atmalingam
Before heading towards Mahabaleshwar and other Temples, let us know the story that tells you the significance of each temple in Gokarna.
Legend has it that the Atmalingam reached Gokarna due to Ravana, the demon King of Lanka. Ravana was a staunch devotee of Shiva and did several penances to woo him. Shiva, delighted with his tenacity, offers him a boon to ask for anything. Ravana, on hearing this, asks for an Atmalingam that he could take to his abode, Lanka. Shiva agrees, however, he puts a condition that this Atmalingam should not be placed on the ground as it will get fixed wherever it is kept. Ravana agrees and starts his journey to Lanka.
The Brahma and other demigods become concerned knowing that Ravana, with this Atmalingam, will have the power to destroy the world. With this concern, they go to Ganesha, Shiva and Parvati’s son, for help. Ganesha then goes to where Ravana was.
Meanwhile, Vishnu, the preserver of the Universe, plays his part and prepones the sunset that causes the dawn to appear beforehand. Ravana realises that it was his time for prayers and meditation and He was very particular about his prayers, he requests Ganesha, whom he met while travelling, to hold the atma lingam till he completes his prayer. Ganesha agrees to his pleadings but on the condition that if he (Ravana) didn’t come after being called thrice, he will keep the Lingam on the ground. Ravana agrees to this but as soon as he gets immersed in his prayers, Ganesha calls his name thrice and as per the condition, places the lingam on the ground and vanishes.
Once Ravana comes back, he is shocked to find the Atmalingam on ground. He tries to lift the Atmalingam but fails miserably. The place where the Atmalingam was placed is now known as Mahabaleshwar Temple.
2. Mahabaleshwar Temple
Mahabaleshwar Temple is a classic dravidian style temple built 1500 years back by the Kadamba dynasty. Every year, the Temple welcomes thousands of devotees during the festival of Mahashivratri. The temple faces the Gokarna beach on the west side of Arabian sea.
The devotees only get a glimpse of the top of the linga until the day of ashta-bandana-kumbhabhishekam in every 40 years when it can be seen in its entirety.
There is a Amrutanna prasada bhojana that offers rice papad and curd rice as prasad and you can have it as much as you can. The Bhojanalaya is open till 2 PM.
3. Mahaganapathi Temple
The Mahaganapathi temple or Dwi Bhuj temple is built in the honour of Ganesha since he played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Atmalingam. Ganesha was blessed by the trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma that every auspicious task would begin only with the blessings of Ganesha. The devotees, before offering prayers to Mahabaleshwar Temple pay a visit to Mahaganapathi temple to take Ganesha’s blessing. Built in a typical Konkani style temple, The Mahaganapathi temple is located 40 steps from the Athma Lingam Temple.
4. Tamra-Gauri Temple
Dedicated to Goddess Parvati, Shiva’s consort, the Tamra-gauri temple is located in the complexes of the Mahabaleshwar Temple.
The statue of Parvati holding flowers in devotion stands on the eastern side behind the Atmalingam. It is said that Goddess Parvati came here from Tamranchal Parvati following Shiva. The Goddess is seen here holding a balance, it is believed that she is weighing the virtues of Varanasi and Gokarna since both the places hold significance as Hindu pilgrimage. Gokarna is also known as South India’s Kashi.
5. Venkatramana Temple
This Temple is dedicated to lord Vishnu. This Temple was constructed to honour the acts done by Vishnu for the establishment of Atmalingam. It was him who led the early Sunset so that Ganesha could execute his plan.
It is a fairly large temple with Unique Shekhar in the form of a lotus flower. The pillars of its Mandapa are engraved with the stories from Vishnu Purana. The idol is seen facing the west direction. One of the striking features of the temple is the presence of Indian postal signage on the top along with its office on the first floor in the outer structure.
6. Bhadrakali Temple
Shree Bhadrakali temple, dedicated to Uma in her most ferocious form, Kali. She is considered as the protector of the town. The temple is adorned with two warriors and two lions at the entrance that defines the power and aura of the temple. The temple is at the entrance of the Gokarna town and is at a walking distance from the town center. For the devotees, Friday is the most auspicious day and hence you can find more crowd on that day of the week. However, when you visit the temple make sure to spend sometime in the temple complex to absorb the positive vibes in and around the temple.
Apart from these main temples, Gokarna is home to many other smaller temples such as Sagareshwar Temple, Indreshwar linga, Dattatreya Temple, Gautameshwar Temple, Veerabhadra Temple and gokarna temple.
Now as we are done with the spiritual side of Gokarna, let me introduce you to the chill side of the town ie Beaches. Gokarna houses a number of beaches that are cosy as well as less crowded. However, some beaches are difficult to reach owing to their location. However, for those who are interested in adventures like trekking, reaching these beaches would only add fun to your trip. So let’s get started!
1. Om beach
Sounds like a religious place? Well no. This is the most popular beach of Gokarna (and most crowded too). Owing to its design that resembles the Om symbol, the beach is named as Om Beach. Among all the beaches, this is easiest to access. Om Beach has several shops of food and items, restaurants and shacks due to the accessibility of roads.
2. Kudle Beach
This U shaped Beach is demarcated by hills on its side that makes access a bit difficult. However, it is still a popular site among tourists who love trekking. Since the access is not easy, it is advised that tourists either visit it in the day or in the early evening.
3. Gokarna Beach
Close to the Mahabaleshwar Temple, Gokarna beach is one of the most popular beach. The Beach is surrounded by hills that house the Ram tirtha. Conclusively, this is the religious bound beach of Gokarna. You can access to this beach directly from the main temple due to its proximity. You can see a statue of Adi Shankaracharya on the beach.
4. Half-moon Beach
A 20 minutes ride from Om Beach will take you to yet another remarkable site i.e. Half-moon Beach. The Beach resembles the shape of Half-moon and hence gets its name from it. If you are looking forward to spending some alone time or some quality time with your loved ones in a secluded place then this beach is an ideal spot for you. It is away from the city noise and commercialisation that makes it a peaceful region. Added to this is the clean water of Arabian sea that further adds to its beauty. Here, you can sit and gaze at the horizon for hours, getting lost in its scenic charm. The place will give you both serenity and relaxation.
5. Paradise Beach
To the south of Half-moon Beach, lies Paradise Beach. The Beach is surrounded by rocks and can only be accessed through boat or foot because of which it is a pollution free site. However, due to rocky terrain and weather, the beach is only open during peak seasons. If you wish to enjoy some seafood cuisine and also have some quality time away from crowd than Paradise Beach is your place. However, you may have to face a problem while convincing the boatmen to take you there.
3. Mirjan fort
Situated 22km away from Gokarna, Mirjan fort is a 16th century fort built on the banks of Aghanashini River near the Mirjan village. The Story of the origin of this fort is varying. Some say that this fort was built by Ibn Batuta, in the early 1200s and was later on annexed by the Vijayanagara empire. Another Anecdote states that this fort was constructed by Queen Chennabairadevi in the late 1500s to early 1600s, the pepper queen. Yet another story talks of the fort being built by a noble from Bijapur named Sherif-ul mulk to protect the Kumta town.
In the 17th century, the Fort was annexed by Queen Chennamma of keladi. In 1757 it was seized by the Marathas and later on by the Britishers. At that time, Mirjan fort served as a small Port for the export of wild nutmeg, cassia, salt petri and pepper.
Mirjan fort can be visited between 8am to 6pm and the entire tour of the fort is free of cost. The best time to visit the fort is between September to February when the weather is both cool and bright.
One of the most important sites in Gokarna, the Kotitirtha is a Rectangular water lake or kund spread around 6 acres of land. The lake is flanked with Temples, monasteries and coconut trees around it. In the middle of the tank is a Small Shivalinga called Koteshwar. As we walk further, several Hindu temples like Patta Vinayak, Vishweshwar Vithala temple, Veer Maruti temple, Gopal Krishna temple, Kali and Bhairava Temple surround the Kotitirtha. The Mahabaleshwar Temple is connected with the Kotitirtha through the Naga veethi road. The tall coconut trees above the Tank add a greenish hue to the colour of the lake.
Last rites and Pinda Dana are also performed in this tank.
Apart from Kotitirtha, Durga tirth, Naga tirtha, Kamandalu tirtha and Jatayu Tirtha are also found in Gokarna town.
5. Ram Tirtha
Near the Gokarna Beach, there is a temple atop the hill that overlooks the sea on all three sides. A natural source of water here gets the water to the temple tank called Ram kund. There is a stunning Ram darbar inside the temple. While praying inside the temple, you can feel positive energy around you. It is believed that this was the exact place where Sri Rama did penance to get rid of the Dosha of brahma-hatya when he killed Ravana. Only after this penance he reached Ayodhya.
Gokarna is a unique blend of Devotion and Relaxation. Here you can find spiritual bliss in the complexes of Mahabaleshwar, Mahaganapathi, Bhadrakali and Venkatramana temple. At the same time the beaches of Kudle and Om give you a refreshing experience while also giving you a scenic view. Paradise and half moon Beach on the other hand offer you some solace in the midst of a chaotic crowd. Gokarna is an idealistic mix of both Kashi and Goa, hence if anyone wishes to visit any such place that reminds you of these two marvelous places, then Gokarna is the right choice for you. Being less famous than goa, gokarna is also economically cheaper, letting you save some money.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to visit Gokarna?
The Best time to visit Gokarna is from October to February when the weather is less hot, however since this is the peak season, you may expect some crowds.
What activities can one do in the Town?
Since Gokarna is a town of beaches, temples and hills, you can indulge in a number of activities that are adventurous or relaxing. Surfing, Boating, Yoga, Trekking, Shopping are some activities that you can enjoy in Gokarna.
What are some places where one can stay in Gokarna?
Since Gokarna is fast developing into a tourist spot, Several hotels, accommodations and rest-houses are coming up in the Town. Some of the Accommodations where you can check-in are
- Mahabala valley
- Panchajanya stay
- Kudle Beach view resort
- SwaSwara resort
- Gokarna international Beach resort
Which are the best dishes in Gokarna?
Gokarna has some amazing eateries to try, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
A unique vegetarian dish patrode which is colossians leaves mixed with rice flour, spices and jaggery, deep fried and served with ghee is a must try.
You can try multiple types of cuisines in Gokarna from French, Spanish to Hebrew and continental. There are also Israel and Russian outlets such as Om D’s Cafe that serves Russian cuisine. Konkani Fish curry and other sea food are equally popular dishes that you will find in Gokarna.