Gokarna is a small temple town where main temple and deity is Lord Shiva, also known as Mahabaleshwar. This temple houses what is believed to be the original image of Lord Shiva’s lingam. There are many other temples as well all over this small town surrounded by Arabian Sea on three sides, located 10 Kms inside from the National Highway 17. The main towns near Gokarna are Ankola & Kumta.
Gokarna is historically known as one of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage centres. This town is no longer just a center of pilgrimage though massive number of devotees still visit the town for the purposes of offering prayers and worship to Lord Shiva. There are many boards placed inside the temple with the description that males have to remove their shirt and banyan for Lord Shiva darshan. Due to its laid back unspoiled and rustic nature, many younger western tourist started visiting Gokarna about a decade ago. Foreigners are not allowed inside the temples.
The well known beaches around Gokarna are Gokarna beach, Kudle beach, Om beach & Nirvana beach. Not all beaches have good road or vehicular access. Om beach sounded pretty excited to me when I heard that it is in the shape of “om”. So I went there walking 5 Kms from the town taking the beautiful Gokarna-Om beach trail. I found that its “om” shape is due to the rocks there that divides the beach in two halves and go from the shore to inside the sea making two small crescent shaped beaches. Gokarna is a hippie place and many foreigners have got settled there now or spend months here.
The Mahabaleshwar Temple here is built in Dravidian architectural style with granite stones and has the “atmalingam” enshrined in it on a square pedestal. It has a small hole at its center from where devotees can see the top of the “atmalingam”. The deity, a carved image of Lord Shiva, is also deified here in a standing position and is said to be 1500 years old. I am happy to have changed my decision at the very last moment about visiting Gokarna.