Gokarna: Yet unspoiled and unsophisticated

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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: A sea shore amidst the unspoiled and unsophisticated nature
Om Beach

Gokarna is the home of the brothers Gokarna and Dhundhakari, as mentioned in the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana, so it 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).

Gokarna: A sea shore amidst the unspoiled and unsophisticated nature
Shiv Linga

The foundation has a slight hollow in the centre from where the devotees can witness the top of the Atmalinga. Lord Shiva is pictured in a standing position with two folded arms in 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 temple’s entrance who helped us with all rituals & 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.

Gokarna: A sea shore amidst the unspoiled and unsophisticated nature
Mahabaleshwar Temple

Many legends are associated with Gokarna; the most renowned one is that Lord Shiva gave Atmalinga to Ravana and instructed it would stay forever where it was first placed on the ground. So not to put the AmtaLinga on the floor till he reached Lanka, but Lord Ganesha came in the physique of a shepherd and planted it in Gokarna while Ravana was performing rituals. Once, Ravana could not remove it from the earth, but he pulled some pieces of the Linga and threw them in a different direction. In the mythological context, Hindu Puranas also say that when Lord Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, created Kerala, it was from Gokarna to Kanyakumari. 

Gokarna: A sea shore amidst the unspoiled and unsophisticated nature
Interior of the temple

Another legend states Lord Brahma, out of arrogance, because of his power to create the universe. And 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 in this book, “The Ramayana of Valmiki,” Vol 5, caught my attention that Hanuman was born in Gokarna. Apart from a random signboard on the way to Kudle beach, there is no concrete evidence about Hanuman being held in Southern India. Yet, we can play along with the myth and imagine the vast landscape would have been Hanuman’s playground. Hindus also perform the pious last rites of departed ones (muktistal) at Gokarna.

The architecture of the temple

Upon reaching my hotel, Stone wood Nature resort, I was pleased with my choice. The resort is on a hillside, tranquil and peaceful, with greenery. The resort is at an equal distance from all the famous beaches. We checked in and 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 are easy. 

Gokarna: A sea shore amidst the unspoiled and unsophisticated nature
Sand Wood Nature Resort

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 still need to book here; I will try next time I visit. But I try the cafe & the view is indeed unmatchable. The afternoon I spent exploring the resort. 

Gokarna: A sea shore amidst the unspoiled and unsophisticated nature

Later in the evening, I went to Om beach, and the beauty is something for you to explore and experience yourself; it cannot be penned. I enjoyed the beach’s quietness, less crowded and less polluted. We chose a bench under the tree & watched waves crashing on the shore. 

Gokarna: A sea shore amidst the unspoiled and unsophisticated nature
Sunset at Om Beach

There are four beaches in Gokarna Om, Kudle, Half Moon and Paradise- all are interconnected. A 6km trek starts from the Kudle to Om, half-moon to paradise, and then back. Instead, we hired a boat ride because time constraints could not trek.

Gokarna: A sea shore amidst the unspoiled and unsophisticated nature
Calm Evening at Om Beach

The water was shimmering in gold as the sun went down on the horizon, and waves rocked the boat as it motored away from the beach, slowly blending it into the rocks. We got to the half-moon beach, and at the far end were 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 it 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.

Gokarna: A sea shore amidst the unspoiled and unsophisticated nature
Trek to Kudle Beach

The next day we left late for Bangalore, and I desired to visit Kudle beach. Morning yoga is today a part of beach life in Gokarna. And I saw many people try out various asanas. Considerably, I realized the beach never gets old nor loses its effect on us. We can always discover nooks & crannies along the coast, which will forever alter the view.

Gokarna: A sea shore amidst the unspoiled and unsophisticated nature
Midway view between Om Beach & Half moon Beach

While driving back, what caught my attention was an intoxicating view of the cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea. It was between Om Beach and Half Moon Bay. I could have spent hours watching the magic of dawn.   Gokarna is the paradigm of beauty, spirituality and tranquillity. 

Gokarna: A sea shore amidst the unspoiled and unsophisticated nature
Sunrise at Kudle Beach

While riding back to Bangalore, I visited Mirjana Fort, 12km from Kudle beach, off NH 66 between Gokarna & Kumta. Marijana fort was built in the 17th century and is known for its architectural elegance and grand 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.

Marijan Fort

According to the first famous historical version, in the 16th century, Queen Chennabhairadevi of Gersoppa (under the Vijayanagara Empire) was initially accredited as 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 Bednar, 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.

Steps Leading to the fort from Tadri Creek

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 brings eternal joy to soul-Wyland.”

How to Reach

By Air :

Goa is the nearest airport to Gokarna, about 140 km away. From the airport, taxi services are available.

By Rail :

The nearest railway station to Gokarna is Ankola, about 20 km from Gokarna. Trains from several cities, including stops at the station. You can avail of taxi services from here.

By Road:

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 cities.


2 thoughts on “Gokarna: Yet unspoiled and unsophisticated

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